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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

Cindy Sheehan at the September March

Cindy Sheehan with Jesse Jackson in Washington D.C. on September 24, 2005
© Alexander Davidis 2005

For more photos, see Alexander's other photos:
The Anti-War March in Washington D.C.

'Caveman' Conditions in Texas Follow Rita
Associated Press Writer
Wed Sep 28,12:12 AM ET

PORT ARTHUR, Texas - Nearly four days after Hurricane Rita hit, many of the storm's sweltering victims along the Texas Gulf Coast were still waiting for electricity, gasoline, water and other relief Tuesday, prompting one top emergency official to complain that people are "living like cavemen."

In the hard-hit refinery towns of Port Arthur and Beaumont, crews struggled to cross debris-clogged streets to deliver generators and water to people stranded by Rita. They predicted it could be a month before power is restored, and said water and sewer systems could not function until more generators arrived.

Red tape was also blamed for the delays.

Port Arthur Mayor Oscar Ortiz, whose own home was destroyed by fire after the hurricane, said "we've had 101 promises" for aid, "but it's all bureaucracy." He and other officials gathered at a hotel-turned-command center, where a dirty American flag found among hurricane debris was hung on the wall.

John Owens, emergency management coordinator and deputy police chief in the town of 57,000, said pleas for state and federal relief were met with requests for paperwork.

"We have been living like cavemen, sleeping in cars, doing bodily functions outside," he said.

Temperatures climbed into the upper 90s, and officials worried that swarms of mosquitoes might spread disease.

The White House on Tuesday said President Bush had extended complete federal funding for debris removal and other government assistance through Oct. 27.

In Beaumont, state officials briefed Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry on relief efforts. Perry later visited Port Arthur, where local officials said it could be up to three to five days before people could return and three to five weeks before power is restored.

"There's always going to be those discombobulations, but the fact is, everyone is doing everything possible to restore power back to this area," Perry said.

About 476,000 people remained without electricity in Texas, in addition to around 285,000 in Louisiana. About 15,000 out-of-state utility workers were being brought to the region to help restore power.

Residents of some hard-hit towns were allowed to check on their homes but were not allowed to stay because of a lack of generators and ice.

About 2,000 Port Arthur residents who stayed through the storm were advised to find other places to live until utilities are restored. Ortiz said it could be two weeks before people are allowed back into Port Arthur.

After seeing a swarm of ravenous mosquitoes around his storm-battered home in Vidor, Harry Smith and his family decided to leave. They hitchhiked 10 miles to an emergency staging area and got on a bus to San Antonio.

"It can't be any worse than here," said Smith, 49, a pipefitter. "This is the worst storm I've seen in the 46 years I've lived here."

In Louisiana, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury President Hal McMillin said residents who come back would be without air conditioning, and risk insect bites and the mosquito-borne West Nile virus. A mandatory evacuation remained in effect for 10 southwestern Louisiana parishes.

"There's a good chance we could have an outbreak or something," McMillin said.

There were some signs of hope. In a Port Arthur neighborhood not far from a grocery store that reeked of rotten food, three Federal Emergency Management Agency semitrailers delivered ice, ready-to-eat meals and water.

"Without these trucks here, I don't think we would have made it," said Lee Smith, 50.

In Orange, people converged in cars and trucks outside a shopping strip for water, food and ice supplied by the private disaster group the Compassion Alliance.

"I know it's going to take some time, but we really appreciate this," Dorothy Landry, 66, said after waiting in the line. "I can't thank them enough."

Comment: While not as bad as the aftermath of Katrina, it seems not much has changed with the arrival of Rita. Once again, we are supposed to believe that the solution to these "logistical" and "paperwork" problems is to give over all authority for disaster relief to the Pentagon.

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Rita causes record damage to oil rigs
By Carola Hoyos, Sheila McNulty and Thomas Catan
Financial Times
September 28 2005 08:38

Hurricane Rita has caused more damage to oil rigs than any other storm in history and will force companies to delay drilling for oil in the US and as far away as the Middle East, initial damage assessments show.

Oil prices eased on Wednesday over concerns that demand for crude would be hit by the continued shutdown of refineries. US crude fell 27 cents to $64.80 a barrel by 06:44 GMT after losing 75 cents on Tuesday.

ODS-Petrodata, which provides market intelligence to the offshore oil and natural gas industry, said it expected a shortage of rigs in the US Gulf this year.

"Based on what we have right now, it appears that drilling contractors and rig owners took a big hit from Rita," said Tom Marsh of ODS-Petrodata. "The path Katrina took was through the mature areas of the US Gulf where there are mainly oil [production] platforms. Rita came to the west where there is a lot of [exploratory] rig activity."

Ken Sill of Credit Suisse First Boston said: "Early reports indicate numerous rigs are missing, destroyed or have suffered serious damage and several companies have yet to report. Rita may set an all-time record."

The US Coast Guard said nine semisubmersible rigs had broken free from their moorings and were adrift.

This damage could not have come at a worse time for oil companies and consumers. US crude futures on Monday fell 37 cents to $65.45 a barrel in midday trading in New York as refineries that were evacuated before the onset of Rita returned to operation.

Earlier in the day, Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabia's oil minister, said the market had not taken up the 2m barrels a day of spare capacity the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries offered last week. Speaking in Johannesburg, he blamed high oil prices on a lack of industry infrastructure, including rigs and refineries, rather than oil reserves. Rigs, which are movable and are used for exploration and development, were in short supply before hurricanes Katrina and Rita blew through the US Gulf in late August and September.

High oil prices and the desperate search for new oil supplies needed to meet rampant demand from the US and China have made rigs difficult to find and expensive to hire. Rigs cost $90m-$550m to construct, depending on how sophisticated the structure and how deep the water in which it will drill. A rig ordered today is unlikely to be ready before 2008 or 2009, analysts said.

As a sign of just how precious rigs are becoming to the market, Anadarko, the biggest US independent oil company, this week set a record by committing to a rig six years in advance; commitments in the past were made months ahead of time rather than years.

Initial reports from companies are ominous. Global Santa Fe reported it could not find two of its rigs. Rowan Companies reported four rigs damaged, with two having moved, one losing its "legs" and the fourth presumed sunk. Noble has four rigs adrift, with two run aground - one into a ChevronTexaco platform.

Comment: Don't worry, though - there will be absolutely no effect on the US economy, as long as everyone just conserves energy. Nevermind that many US residents cannot conserve energy - especially in the form of gasoline for their cars - if they want to actually get to work. The end result is that yet another stress has been placed on an already overstressed economy.

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White House Press Briefing: Save Energy! Turn Off Those Computers!
By E&P Staff
Published: September 27, 2005 3:05 PM ET

NEW YORK - At his daily briefing at the White House today, Press Secretary Scott McClellan went a few steps further than his boss in advocating energy saving steps that government workers and, by extension, all Americans should take. Whether the public interprets this as the onset of a Jimmy Carter-like "malaise" remains to be seen.

After asserting that, actually, the White House has been advocating conservation since 2001, such as turning up the thermostat in summer, McClellan said Bush aides have been "looking at additional ways that we can conserve energy. We'll also be sending out notices to staff about -- reminding them to turn off lights and printers and copiers and computers when they leave the office. We'll continue to move forward on more e-government, paperless systems that would reduce the use of faxes and copiers and printers and things of that nature, encouraging all government vehicles to try to consume less.

"That would include by people sharing rides in government vehicles, not letting cars idle, which wastes gas. We'll be sending out notices to staff to promote mass transit options, as well, letting them know about Metro stops and encouraging ride sharing, telling them where pick-up and drop-off points are at the White House, or reminding them of that, and just scrutinizing staff travel even more, so that people can videoconference where they can versus actually traveling, and things of that nature.

"And other areas -- the President did want everybody to look at the motorcade, too, to see what could be scaled back there, as well. So I think today we probably have a couple less vans than we normally would."

Alarmed, a reporter asked, "Press vans? The press vans will be there?"

"I think probably -- I think there is usually like four press vans," McClellan replied. "I think we're trying to do it in two or three -- staff and the guest van is combined. I think we can -- all steps that people can take will help, and that's why we look at all these measures."

Reporters also wondered whether the president would be willing to cut back on energy-costly trips on Air Force One.

Back 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it cannot be the basis of a sound energy policy."

That same year, Ari Fleischer, then the Bush press secretary, called reducing American energy consumption "a big no." He said Bush "believes that it's an American way of life."

Comment: Excessive consumption is "an American way of life". Well, that's all well and good - except for the fact that the excessive consumption of the US is fed by the suffering of other nations. A case in point: Iraq.

But, of course, for the Bush administration, having everyone turn off their computers is a good thing. Maybe they'll propose shutting down the Internet as an energy conservation strategy!

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Brown Shifts Blame for Katrina Response
Associated Press
September 28, 2005

WASHINGTON - A combative Michael Brown blamed the Louisiana governor, the New Orleans mayor and even the Bush White House that appointed him for the dismal response to Hurricane Katrina in a fiery appearance Tuesday before Congress. In response, lawmakers alternately lambasted and mocked the former FEMA director.

House members' scorching treatment of Brown, in a hearing stretching nearly 6 1/2 hours, underscored how he has become an emblem of the deaths, lingering floods and stranded survivors after the Aug. 29 storm. Brown resigned Sept. 12 after being relieved of his onsite command of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response effort three days earlier.

"I'm happy you left," said Rep. Christopher Shay, R-Conn. "Because that kind of, you know, look in the lights like a deer tells me that you weren't capable to do the job."

"You get an F-minus in my book," said Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss.

At several points, Brown turned red in the face and slapped the table in front of him.

"So I guess you want me to be the superhero, to step in there and take everyone out of New Orleans," Brown said.

"What I wanted you to do is do your job and coordinate," Shays retorted.

Well aware of President Bush's sunken poll ratings, legislators of both parties tried to distance themselves from the federal preparations for Katrina and the storm's aftermath that together claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Freudian Slip: actual Sky News tagline in aftermath of hurricane Rita.

Brown acknowledged making mistakes during the storm and subsequent flooding that devastated the Gulf Coast. But he accused New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, both Democrats, of fostering chaos and failing to order a mandatory evacuation more than a day before Katrina hit.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," Brown told a special panel set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the catastrophe. Most Democrats, seeking an independent investigation, stayed away to protest what they called an unfair probe of the Republican administration by GOP lawmakers.

"I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together," Brown said. "I just couldn't pull that off."

Brown also said he warned Bush, White House chief of staff Andrew Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin that "this is going to be a bad one" in e-mails and phone conversations leading up to the storm. Under pointed questioning, he said some needs outlined to the White House, Pentagon and Homeland Security Department were not answered in "the timeline that we requested."

Blanco vehemently denied that she waited until the eve of the storm to order an evacuation of New Orleans. She said her order came on the morning of Aug. 27 - two days before the storm - resulting in 1.3 million people evacuating the city.

"Such falsehoods and misleading statements, made under oath before Congress, are shocking," Blanco said in a statement.

In New Orleans, Nagin said that "it's too early to get into name-blame and all that stuff" but that "a FEMA director in Washington trying to deflect attention is unbelievable to me."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan urged Congress to undertake "a thorough investigation of what went wrong and what went right and look at lessons learned."

Brown, who remains on FEMA's payroll for two more weeks before he leaves his annual $148,000 post, rejected accusations that he was inexperienced for the job he held for more than two years during which he oversaw 150 presidentially declared disasters. Before joining FEMA in 2001, he was an attorney, held local government posts and headed the International Arabian Horse Association.

"I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," he said.

He said FEMA coordinates and manages disaster relief, but the emergency first response is the job of state and local authorities. Brown also said the agency was stretched too thin to respond to a catastrophe of Katrina's size. "We were prepared but overwhelmed is the best way I can put it," he said.

Brown described FEMA as a politically powerless arm of Homeland Security, which he said had siphoned more than $77 million from his agency over the past three years. Additionally, he said Homeland Security cut FEMA budget requests - including one for hurricane preparedness - before they were ever presented to Congress.

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., who oversees House spending on homeland security operations, said Congress has approved spending levels for FEMA and other preparedness programs far above requests.

In Miami, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters that Brown "speaks for himself and he's entitled to his point of view, and I don't have anything to add."

Brown's defiant demeanor Tuesday mirrored his comments after being dismissed from overseeing the Katrina response, when he accused the news media of making him a scapegoat and blamed local officials for the uncoordinated response.

He had been "just tired and misspoke" when a television interviewer appeared to be the first to tell him that there were desperate residents at the New Orleans Convention Center, and testified he had already learned the day before that people were flocking there.

No longer needing to maintain a cordial relationship with Congress, Brown didn't hesitate to punch back at lawmakers who questioned whether the government would learn from mistakes before the next disaster strikes.

"I know what death and destruction is and I know how much people suffer," Brown told Taylor. "And it breaks my heart. I pray for these people every night. So don't lecture me about knowing what disaster is like."

Yet Brown struck a conciliatory tone with Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who chastised him for not seeking fiscal or oversight help from Congress before the storm.

"I don't know how you can sleep at night," Granger said. "You lost the battle."

Brown, his voice dropping slightly, responded: "I probably should have just resigned my post earlier and gone public with some of these things because I have a great admiration for the men and women of FEMA and what they do, and they don't deserve what they've been getting."

Comment: Brown's highly emotional appearance before Congress will certainly have the desired effect: he will take all the blame, and the Bush administration will emerge unscathed from yet another disaster.

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New Orleans Police Chief Resigns
Associated Press
September 28, 2005

NEW ORLEANS - Police Superintendent Eddie Compass stepped down from his post four weeks after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city where he grew up and spent 26 years policing, saying he knew in his heart it was time to walk away.

His resignation follows the storm's turbulent aftermath, during which looters ransacked stores, evacuees pleaded for help, rescue workers came under fire and nearly 250 police officers left their posts.

"Every man in a leadership position must know when it's time to hand over the reins," he said at a news conference Tuesday. "I'll be going on in another direction that God has for me."

Compass, 47, gave no reason for leaving, saying only that he would be transitioning out of the job over the next six weeks. Neither he nor Mayor Ray Nagin would say whether Compass had been pressured to leave his job.

Nagin, who appointed Compass chief in 2002, said it was a sad day for the city of New Orleans but that the departing chief "leaves the department in pretty good shape and with a significant amount of leadership."

On the streets of the Algiers neighborhood, the first in Orleans Parish to be open to residents, some said Compass' resignation was a loss for the city.

"He was stretched beyond the limits of human endurance," said Ruth Marciante, pausing outside a Winn-Dixie supermarket. "Under the circumstances I think he did a superhuman job. I wish the next guy who takes that job a lot of luck."

But another Algiers resident, Donald De Bois Blanc, said he had complained to police about looting in the hurricane's aftermath, and gotten only shrugs in return.

"I don't think Compass did a terribly good job," he said. "The department was inept."

Lt. David Benelli, president of the union for rank-and-file New Orleans officers, said he was shocked by Compass' resignation.

"We've been through a horrendous time," Benelli said. "We've watched the city we love be destroyed. That is pressure you can't believe."

Benelli would not criticize Compass.

"You can talk about lack of organization but we have been through two hurricanes. There was no communications, problems everywhere," he said. "I think the fact that we did not lose control of the city is a testament to his leadership."

As the city slipped into anarchy during the first few days after Katrina, the 1,700-member police department suffered a crisis. Many officers deserted their posts, and some were accused of joining in the looting that broke out. Two officers Compass described as friends committed suicide.

Gunfire and other lawlessness broke out around the city. Rescue workers reported being shot at. Compass publicly repeated allegations that people were being beaten and babies raped at the convention center, where thousands of evacuees had taken shelter. The allegations have since proved largely unsubstantiated.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, the department confirmed that about 250 police officers - roughly 15 percent of the force - could face discipline for leaving their posts without permission during Katrina and its aftermath.

Even before Katrina hit, Compass had his hands full with an understaffed police department and a skyrocketing murder rate. Before Katrina, New Orleans had 3.14 officers per 1,000 residents - less than half the ratio in Washington, D.C.

The mayor has named Assistant Superintendent Warren Riley as acting superintendent.

On Tuesday, the state Health Department reported that Katrina's death toll in Louisiana stood at 885, up from 841 on Friday.

It also was the second day of the official reopening of New Orleans, which had been pushed back last week when Hurricane Rita threatened. Nagin welcomed residents back to the Algiers neighborhood on Monday but imposed a curfew and warned of limited services.

Nagin also invited business owners in the central business district, the French Quarter and the Uptown section to inspect their property and clean up. But he gave no timetable for reopening those parts of the city to residents.

Comment: It seems that yesterday was a busy day with the emotion-drenched questioning of Michael Brown and the sudden resignation of the New Orleans chief of police. A federal official and a local official have now been sacrificed. That should adequately quench the calls for blood after the Katrina debacle. Someone had to go down to take the spotlight off of Bush. All that remains is the completion of Bush's "independent" inquiry where he will no doubt conclude that after thoroughly evaluating his own performance, he has decided that he did a fantastic job.

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'Peace Mom' Cindy Sheehan Meets McCain
Associated Press
Wed Sep 28, 1:10 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Peace mom Cindy Sheehan didn't change her opposition to the war in Iraq after meeting Tuesday with one of its supporters, Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam veteran whom she called "a warmonger."

Sheehan thanked McCain for meeting with her, but she came away disappointed.

"He tried to tell us what George Bush would have said," Sheehan, who protested at the president's Texas home over the summer, told reporters. "I don't believe he believes what he was telling me."

McCain, R-Ariz., also seemed disappointed in the meeting, which he said had been misrepresented as including some of his constituents. Only one person in her small delegation has ties to the state, and that person no longer lives there.

The two exchanged views about the war, and McCain described the conversation as "a rehash" of opinions already well known. He said he might not have met with Sheehan had he known none of his constituents was in the group.

Although McCain has criticized the handling of the Iraq war, he has supported President Bush's call to stop terrorism abroad before it reaches the U.S. Sheehan, whose son, Casey, died in Iraq last year, has energized the anti-war movement with her call for troops to be brought home.

"He is a warmonger, and I'm not," Sheehan said after meeting with McCain. "I believe this war is not keeping America safer."

"She's entitled to her opinion," McCain said. "We just have fundamental disagreements."

Sheehan's conference with McCain was one of several scheduled this week as part of her campaign to persuade members of Congress to explain the reasons for the war. She spoke before a massive anti-war rally Saturday on the National Mall and was arrested Monday demonstrating in front of the White House.

Sheehan and McCain had met once before, shortly after the funeral of her son. Sheehan said Tuesday that McCain told her then that her son's death was "like his buddies in Vietnam" and that he feared their deaths were "for nothing." McCain, however, denied he made such a statement.

Later, Sheehan cut short her appearance at the University of Maryland, leaving a rally after about 10 minutes.

Karen Pomer, a spokeswoman for Sheehan, said, "She's exhausted and she's not feeling well, but she intends to meet her obligations."

Comment: Perhaps McCain sneezed on Sheehan...

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Negroponte Says Terror Database Is Working
Associated Press
Tue Sep 27,11:51 PM ET

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - New York City police were led to a possible al-Qaida associate last month after a search of a federal terror database during a routine traffic search, National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte said Tuesday.

In a speech at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Negroponte offered the incident as an example of increasing cooperation between local law enforcement and federal agencies.

Negroponte spoke of success he said local law enforcement officials have had in working with the FBI-run Terrorist Screening Center, the government's new central database for terror suspects.

According to Negroponte, the New York City Police Department called the center last month because a routine search on a parking violation alerted officers that the individual might be a terrorist suspect.

"Sure enough, TSC database searches identified the subject as an alleged alien smuggler possibly associated with al-Qaida," Negroponte said. "Identifying terrorists who wish to do us harm, intercepting them when necessary and preventing attacks before they occur is a tall order, but it is the right order."

Negroponte said it was important for agencies from around the world to work together and share information. However, there are still issues that need to be addressed, including privacy and civil liberties.

The screening center was created in September 2003 by a presidential directive. It combines about a dozen databases from nine agencies that any government official - from a Customs agent at an airport to a state trooper watching for speeders - can consult to check the name of someone who has been screened or stopped.

Earlier this year, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said in an audit that the database was missing some names that should be in it and had inaccurate information about others.

Donna Bucella, the center's director, has said the problems have been corrected.

Comment: What a marvelous success story! The government suspected that an alien smuggler might be a terrorist, and sure enough, the Big Brother database confirmed that he could possibly be a terrorist! They better arrest and detain him indefinitely without charge - just in case he is actually a terrorist.

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Exuberance leads to asset drops: Greenspan
By Tim Ahmann
Tue Sep 27, 7:50 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Asset bubbles fueled by "market exuberance" invariably burst and policy-makers cannot safely pierce them, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Tuesday in what some economists took as a warning to bond market and housing speculators.

In a speech in which he once again defended the Fed's decision not to deflate the late-1990s stock market bubble, Greenspan said a successful monetary policy can be a victim of its own success -- by reducing economic volatility that in turn fosters greater risk-taking.

Comment: Translation: It's not our fault - the economy is in a precarious position because of the people.

He warned that protracted bouts of big risk-taking by investors are always followed by asset-price declines, and he said maintaining the U.S. economy's flexibility was essential to helping it weather the inevitable blows.

"History cautions that extended periods of low concern about credit risk have invariably been followed by reversal, with an attendant fall in the prices of risky assets," he told an economics conference in Chicago via satellite.

Comment: In other words, the US economy is in deep doodoo...

"Because it is difficult to suppress growing market exuberance when the economic environment is perceived as more stable, a highly flexible system needs to be in place to rebalance an economy in which psychology and asset prices could change rapidly," he said.

Comment: Read: The economy is not stable as Bush claims, and things are about to take a turn for the worse...

Nevertheless, it seems no one actually heard what Greenspan said:

Prices for both U.S. stocks and government bonds rose a bit after his remarks as traders showed relief he had not signaled higher-than-expected interest rates ahead.

The Fed chief, who steps down at the end of January after more than 18 years, said the U.S. economy's ability in recent decades to weather a series of shocks -- including the latest run-up in energy prices -- offered evidence of its increased flexibility.

"That greater tendency toward self-correction has made the cyclical stability of the economy less dependent on the actions of macroeconomic policymakers, whose responses often have come too late or have been misguided," he said."

"It is important to remember that most adjustment of a market imbalance is well under way before the imbalance becomes widely identified as a problem," Greenspan added.

Comment: Translation: The US economy has been in dire straits for quite some time - we've just been covering it up. But don't worry, that'll all change soon.

The comments reminded observers of Greenspan's now famous warning to stock market investors in a 1996 speech not to get caught up in "irrational exuberance."

Comment: And we all know what happened after that bout of irrational exuberance. Unfortunately, this time around the economy is in a far worse position than around the time of the tech boom. Many are predicting that the impending downturn will be worse than even the 1929 crash, and the signs indicate that such predictions are probably not that far off the mark.


Some economists have criticized Greenspan for failing to stem the stocks bubble in the 1990s. He also faces criticism for an ultra-low interest rate policy in recent years that some argue has fueled speculation in housing.

As he has in the past, Greenspan defended the Fed's decision to wait for the "eventual exhaustion of the forces of boom" in the 1990s, saying acting aggressively to deflate the stock market could have led to a "significant recession."

"Whether that judgment continues to hold up through time has yet to be determined," he said.

He raised the prospect the economy's greater flexibility in recent years could mean a better economic performance.

"If we have attained a degree of flexibility that can mitigate most significant shocks -- a proposition as yet not fully tested -- the performance of the economy will be improved and the job of macroeconomic policy-makers will be made much simpler," he said.

Comment: Greenspan's predicted post-crash comments: "Oops! I was wrong. Well, sorry folks. I'll just retire to my tropical island lair."

Some analysts said the speech appeared in part a "victory lap," but one in which Greenspan seemed concerned about the potential for market stress once he leaves office.

"As outgoing Fed chairman, he's clearly concerned about the asset cycle and the prospect the low concern on credit risk is going to be associated with a decline in asset prices down the track," said Alan Ruskin, research director at 4Cast Inc.

Greenspan did not refer specifically to the low risk premiums evident in the U.S. bond market -- a topic he and other Fed officials have addressed in recent speeches.

Those low risk premiums have kept long-term interest rates down, helping underpin swift housing price gains.

In a speech on Monday, Greenspan restated his view that "froth" was evident in some local housing markets, but said it was not yet clear if those speculative conditions would reach across the nation as a whole.

Comment: Given that housing all around the country is quite often overvalued at the moment, and that "smart" US investors have begun exhibiting irrational exuberance as they buy and sell homes as if they were daytrading tech stocks, we'd say the nation is drowning in "froth".

On Tuesday, he said "fostering an environment of maximum competition" was the best way to ensure economic flexibility.

In that regard, he said it was important to ward off misguided efforts to try to protect jobs through trade protectionism and other competition-inhibiting policies.

"Protectionism in all its guises, both domestic and international, does not contribute to the welfare of American workers," Greenspan said. "At best, it is a short-term fix at a cost of lower standards of living for the nation as a whole."

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Communist Cuba says US "economic war" hurting
By Anthony Boadle
Tue Sep 27, 4:57 PM ET

HAVANA - The intensified U.S. "economic war" on Cuba has meant more fines for Americans visiting the Communist-run island and foreign firms doing business there, a Cuban government report said on Tuesday.

Sanctions adopted by the Bush administration since June 2005 to speed change in Cuba by denying it funds included a ban on the purchase of Cuban cigars and rum by U.S. citizens, even in third countries, the report to the United Nations said.

Pleasure craft owners leaving U.S ports for Cuban waters face fines of up to $25,000 or five years in jail, it said.

"The blockade on Cuba is an act of economic war," the report said. Washington has enforced a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962, seeking to undermine the left-wing government of Fidel Castro, in power since a 1959 revolution.

Critics of the embargo say it has failed to bring change to Cuba and allows Castro to blame Cuba's economic woes on the United States. American farmers succeeded in amending it in 2000 to allow food sales, now averaging $400 million a year.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces the sanctions, fined 307 U.S. citizens in the first quarter of 2005, compared to 316 in all of 2004, for unauthorized travel to Cuba, the report said.

The number of U.S. tourists who visited Cuba dropped 40 percent last year to 51,027 from 85,809 in 2003, it said.

More dramatic was the drop in the number of Cuban residents of the United States who returned to visit, which fell 50 percent from 115,050 in 2003 to 57,145 last year.

Measures taken by the Bush administration to squeeze Cuba's economy included limiting trips to the island by Cuban Americans to once every three years. Cubans living in the United States are a vital source of cash remittances for relatives enduring economic hardship in their homeland.


The tightened restrictions were recommended by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba appointed by President George W. Bush to explore ways to hasten a democratic transition. They included naming a Cuba Transition Coordinator at the State Department.

"We are not waiting for Fidel to die. We are going to keep up the pressure," a U.S. State Department official said.

Comment: "We're not going to just sit around and wait for Castro to keel over. No sir, we're gonna enforce regime change in Cuba if it's the last thing we do!"

"Our policy is based on the fact that everything in Cuba is set up to vacuum up dollars. This is money going into the pocket of the regime," the official said.

Comment: You mean it's just like in the US where Katrina relief effort dollars were vacuumed up in mostly no-bid contracts by KBR, subsidiary of Halliburton?

Havana said Washington fined 77 foreign companies or subsidiaries of U.S. firms in 2004 for violating the sanctions. Others were dissuaded from doing business with Cuba, including shipping companies and deep-sea oil drilling firms.

The U.S. action that had the most repercussion in 2004 was a $100 million fine the Federal Reserve imposed on the Swiss bank UBS for illegally transferring new dollar bills to Cuba and three other nations subject to U.S. sanctions -- Libya, Iran and Yugoslavia.

This made it very difficult for Cuba to deposit its dollars abroad and refresh U.S. notes in circulation, forcing Havana to end the use of its enemy's currency as legal tender.

The Swedish airline Novair stopped leasing an Airbus 330 for flights from Europe to Cuba due to the embargo, the report said.

U.S. sanctions have cost Cuba $82 billion in damages over four decades, according to Cuban estimates.

Cuban officials say their one-party state, which has survived through the administrations of 10 U.S. presidents, is not about to go under.

"With or without the blockade, the Cuban revolution has a sure future,' Deputy Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said.

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High Court Selection Process Winds Down
Associated Press Writer
Sep 27 6:25 PM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - President Bush, close to nominating a successor to retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, has narrowed his list to a handful of candidates that outside advisers say includes federal judges and two people who have never banged a gavel - corporate attorney Larry Thompson and White House counsel Harriet Miers.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Tuesday that Bush had pledged to consult with senators about his selection and said, "I think we were essentially wrapping that process up as early as today."

He declined to say if the president had interviewed any candidates and wouldn't speculate about Bush's favorites, but legal analysts monitoring the selection process say others often mentioned are federal appellate judges Alice Batchelder, J. Michael Luttig, Edith Jones, J. Harvie Wilkinson, Priscilla Owen, Samuel Alito, Karen Williams and Michael McConnell. Also said to be on the list are Maura Corrigan, a judge on the Michigan Supreme Court, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Bush is expected to announce his nominee quickly after Thursday's anticipated confirmation and swearing in of John Roberts as chief justice.

Bush on Monday hinted he might choose a woman or minority member. But some outside advisers were intrigued by another part of Bush's reply. The president said he had interviewed and considered people from "all walks of life."

That raised speculation that Bush was actively considering people who were not on the bench - such as Miers, a Texas lawyer and the president's former personal attorney, and Thompson, a counsel at PepsiCo, who was the federal government's highest ranking black law enforcement official when he was deputy attorney general during Bush's first term.

"It could be someone outside of the legal judicial field like a Larry Thompson, or it could be a senator," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a public interest legal group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

Sekulow said he's heard Miers' name mentioned "fairly significantly" during the past two days. She doesn't have judicial experience, but she's a "well-respected lawyer - someone the president trusts."

"I think Harriet could certainly be in the mix," he said.

Two other judicial activists, including one with contacts at the White House, said they too had heard Miers' name mentioned, but agreed with Sekulow, who cautioned: "I don't think anybody has that crystal ball but the president."

Miers is leading the White House effort to help Bush choose nominees to the Supreme Court so naming her would follow a move Bush made in 2000 when he tapped the man leading his search committee for a running mate - Dick Cheney.

"Given the Cheney precedent and the president's well-known loyalty to his aides, it's certainly possible the president could turn to Harriet," said Brad Berenson, a lawyer who formerly worked in the counsel's office of the Bush White House.

"She's a very able lawyer who is the person currently charged with carrying forward the president's search for judicial conservatives, so she certainly understands what the president looks for in his nominees. I suspect she'd be confirmed quite easily."

All eight of the sitting justices were judges first, although Justice Clarence Thomas had only been an appeals court judge a year. The late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist never served as a lower court judge.

Elliot Mincberg, counsel with the liberal People for the American Way, said if Bush chooses someone without a judicial record, the White House should be prepared for the nominee to be peppered with questions.

"Choosing somebody who is not a judge would put that much more of a premium on straight answers to questions because there would be that much less for senators and the public to go on when looking at such a nominee's judicial philosophy," Mincberg said.

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Outgoing US Military Chief Warns Defeat In Iraq Would Invite Another 9/11
Sep 27, 2005

Washington - General Richard Myers warned Tuesday that a US defeat in Iraq would invite another September 11 attack and called for national resolve as he prepared to step down as chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff after four tumultuous years.

At his last press conference as the top US military officer, Myers said extremists were using terrorism to try to break US will and drive American forces from Iraq.

"As a nation, our best weapons are patience and resolve or, in one word, our 'will'," he said. "We simply cannot afford to lose the will to finish the job at hand."

Myers, who steps down Friday as chairman, spoke following a weekend of anti-war protests in Washington and polls showing growing public disenchantment with a war that has claimed the lives of more than 1,900 US servicemembers.

"I think we will be victorious and we'll help with victory in Iraq, but Iraq's going to be perhaps a longer-term issue," he acknowledged.

"It's an insurgency that has to be dealt with probably over a longer period of time in which the political and economic instruments of power are going to play a major, major role," he said.

He warned against withdrawing US forces before the Iraqi government and security forces are capable of handling the insurgency.

If US forces were withdrawn prematurely and al-Qaeda dominated Iraq, he said, "then in my view we would have lost, and the next 9/11 would be right around the corner, absolutely." [...]

Myers' four year tenure as President George W. Bush's top military adviser has spanned two wars -- in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and a bloody insurgency whose ferocity and tenacity took the US military by surprise.

He leaves a military that also is mired in controversy over abuses of prisoners and the indefinite detentions of hundreds of war-on-terror captives without Geneva Convention protections. [...]

As chairman, Myers has been a key link between US civilian and military leaders.

How influential he has been or what might change with his departure remains unclear, however. As Rumsfeld's self-effacing sidekick at Pentagon news conferences, he has rarely hinted at disagreements with his boss.

Some critics have faulted him for not showing greater independence, but aides say his style has been to argue his differences in private.

He was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs when hijackers flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, killing more than 3,000 people.

Less than a month later, he was in the top slot as US-led forces retaliated, toppling Afghanistan's Taliban regime with a swift and innovative campaign that combined US air power with Afghan insurgents on the ground.

Within two years, US-led forces had invaded Iraq on what turned out to be unfounded suspicions it had weapons of mass destruction.

Myers will be replaced on October 1 as chairman by Marine General Peter Pace, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

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Al-Qaeda No. 2 in Iraq dead
CBC News
Last Updated Tue, 27 Sep 2005 09:13:30 EDT
The second-in-command of al-Qaeda in Iraq is dead. U.S. forces confirmed on Tuesday that Abdullah Abu Azzam was shot during a raid in Baghdad.

Abu Azzam was a top aide to al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and was believed to have commanded day-to-day operations in Iraq. Abu Azzam had claimed responsibility for killing a number of Iraqi officials, including the governor of the city of Mosul. The U.S. military had a $50,000 US bounty on his head.

Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman, said U.S. and Iraqi forces, acting on a tip, raided a high-rise apartment building in Baghdad where Abu Azzam was located early Sunday.

"They went in to capture him, he did not surrender and he was killed in the raid," said Boylan.

It is not known whether Azzam was alone at the time of the raid.

The military had listed Abu Azzam among the 29 most-wanted supporters of insurgent groups in Iraq. He was known as the "amir" or "prince" of Anbar, the Western province that has been the heartland of Iraq's Sunni Arab-led insurgency.

"This shows that we are actively going after the network. We've taken down the number two in the network and that is going to have an impact," said Boylan. "And whoever replaces him as number two, we will go after him as well."

Zarqawi's group had recently declared "all-out war" on Iraq's Shia majority, in a bid to provoke unrest leading up to the constitutional vote on Oct. 15.

Washington has a $15 million US bounty on Zarqawi, who is believed to be hiding out in western Iraq.

Comment: We wonder whether Azzam will be as successful after his death as his boss Zarqawi, whose demise in March 2003 freed him from certain physical limitations and has permitted him to be everywhere at once coordinating the efforts of the Iraqi resistance.

It didn't take long for the deceased to be resurrected...

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Al-Qaida denies aide to Zarqawi killed in Iraq 2005-09-28 00:38:12

   DUBAI, Sept. 27 (Xinhuanet) -- An internet statement denied on Tuesday reports that the right-hand man of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted militant in Iraq, has been killed by US forces.

   The statement, posted in a web site usually used by al-Qaida in Iraq, said it could not confirm whether Abu Azzam has been shot dead by Iraqi and US forces in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

   Azzam, a financier and religious aide to Zarqawi, was killed in a joint US-Iraqi raid on his hideout in an apartment building on Monday, the US military said Tuesday.

   The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.

   Al-Qaida in Iraq, which is linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network, is one of the most feared militant groups in the country and claims responsibility for many of the deadliest attacks in Iraq.

   Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born militant, has a 25-million-dollar bounty on his head by US authorities.

Comment: So now we will have two ghosts leading the troops in occupied Iraq.

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The 'myth' of Iraq's foreign fighters

Report by US think tank says only '4 to 10' percent of insurgents are foreigners.

By Tom Regan |
The US and Iraqi governments have vastly overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, and most of them don't come from Saudi Arabia, according to a new report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS). According to a piece in The Guardian, this means the US and Iraq "feed the myth" that foreign fighters are the backbone of the insurgency. While the foreign fighters may stoke the insurgency flames, they make up only about 4 to 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgents.

The CSIS study also disputes media reports that Saudis are the largest group of foreign fighters. CSIS says "Algerians are the largest group (20 percent), followed by Syrians (18 percent), Yemenis (17 percent), Sudanese (15 percent), Egyptians (13 percent), Saudis (12 percent) and those from other states (5 percent)." CSIS gathered the information for its study from intelligence sources in the Gulf region.

The CSIS report says: "The vast majority of Saudi militants who have entered Iraq were not terrorist sympathizers before the war; and were radicalized almost exclusively by the coalition invasion."

The average age of the Saudis was 17-25 and they were generally middle-class with jobs, though they usually had connections with the most prominent conservative tribes. "Most of the Saudi militants were motivated by revulsion at the idea of an Arab land being occupied by a non-Arab country. These feelings are intensified by the images of the occupation they see on television and the Internet ... the catalyst most often cited [in interrogations] is Abu Ghraib, though images from Guantánamo Bay also feed into the pathology.

The report also gives notes that the Saudi government for spending nearly $1.2 billion over the past two years, and deploying 35,000 troops, in an effort to secure its border with Iraq. The major problem remains the border with Syria, which lacks the resources of the Saudis to create a similar barrier on its border.

The Associated Press reports that CSIS believes most of the insurgents are not "Saddam Hussein loyalists" but members of Sunni Arab Iraqi tribes. They do not want to see Mr. Hussein return to power, but they are "wary of a Shiite-led government."

The Los Angeles Times reports that a greater concern is that 'skills' foreign fighters are learning in Iraq are being exported to their home countries. This is a particular concern for Europe, since early this year US intelligence reported that "Abu Musab Zarqawi, whose network is believed to extend far beyond Iraq, had dispatched teams of battle-hardened operatives to European capitals."

Iraq has become a superheated, real-world academy for lessons about weapons, urban combat and terrorist trade craft, said Thomas Sanderson of [CSIS].

Extremists in Iraq are "exposed to international networks from around the world," said Sanderson, who has been briefed by German security agencies. "They are returning with bomb-making skills, perhaps stolen explosives, vastly increased knowledge. If they are succeeding in a hostile environment, avoiding ... US Special Forces, then to go back to Europe, my God, it's kid's play."

Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reports that President Bush, in a speech Thursday that was "clearly designed to dampen the potential impact of the antiwar rally" this weekend in Washington, said his top military commanders in Iraq have told him that they are making progress against the insurgents and "in establishing a politically viable state."
Newly trained Iraqi forces are taking the lead in many security operations, the president said, including a recent offensive in the insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar along the Syrian border – a key transit point for foreign fighters and supplies.

"Iraqi forces are showing the vital difference they can make," Bush said. '"They are now in control of more parts of Iraq than at any time in the past two years. Significant areas of Baghdad and Mosul, once violent and volatile, are now more stable because Iraqi forces are helping to keep the peace."

The president's speech, however, was followed by comments made Thursday by Saudi Arabia's foreign minister. Prince Saud al-Faisal said the US ignored warnings the Saudi government gave it about occupying Iraq. Prince Faisal also said he fears US policies in Iraq will lead to the country breaking up into Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite parts. He also said that Saudi Arabia is not ready to send an ambassador to Baghdad, because he would become a target for the insurgents. "I doubt he would last a day," Faisal said.

Finally, The Guardian reports that "ambitions for Iraq are being drastically scaled down in private" by British and US officials. The main goal has now become avoiding the image of failure. The paper quotes sources in the British Foreign Office as saying that hopes to turn Iraq into a model of democracy for the Middle East had been put aside. "We will settle for leaving behind an Iraqi democracy that is creaking along," the source said.

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Israel presses forward with offensive, despite Palestinian truce pledge
05:50 AM EDT Sep 28

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli aircraft unleashed a barrage of missiles early Wednesday and fired artillery into the Gaza Strip for the first time, pushing forward with an offensive, despite a pledge by Islamic militants to halt their recent rocket attacks against Israel.

Renewed fighting that entered its fifth day Wednesday has compounded Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's political problems. The violence had been expected to harm Sharon's chances in a vote Monday in the governing Likud party, where hardliners hoped to punish him for the Gaza withdrawal.

Sharon's narrowly won that challenge but an adviser said Tuesday he still may bolt the party if it refuses to support his political program.

The Israeli air strikes early Wednesday knocked out power throughout nearly all of Gaza City. The army said it targeted three buildings used for "terror activity" by the Fatah party, as well as two smaller armed groups. Palestinian security officials said there were no injuries.

Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said the army would attack Palestinian militants relentlessly to force them to stop firing rockets at Israeli towns.

The fifth straight day of air strikes came hours after Islamic Jihad militants declared a halt to their recent rocket attacks Tuesday and armed Palestinian groups pledged to honour a tattered ceasefire, seeking to end the Israeli offensive.

Tensions were further inflamed when Hamas militants released a video showing a bound and blindfolded Israeli businessman whom they kidnapped and later killed. The kidnapping appeared to signal a new tactic in the militants' fight against Israel.

Israel launched its offensive early Saturday in response to rocket fire from Gaza. It has carried out numerous air strikes in Gaza and arrested hundreds of Palestinians on the West Bank of the Jordan River, saying the operation will continue until the rocket attacks stop.

Israeli security officials welcomed the ceasefire declaration but said they wanted to see concrete results before halting the offensive. As the militants were meeting, a rocket landed in the southern Israeli town Sderot, causing no damage or injuries, the army said. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Late Tuesday, the army fired live artillery shells into northern Gaza for the first time in what it said was a response to Palestinian rocket attacks. The shells landed in an open area that the army said was used to fire rockets. No casualties were reported.

Israel had previously refrained from retaliating against Palestinian attacks with artillery because it is more imprecise than missiles and could cause many casualties in densely populated Gaza.

The new violence started after a blast Friday at a Hamas rally in Gaza's Jebaliya refugee camp killed 21 people, including a seven-year-old boy who died of his wounds Tuesday.

Hamas said Israeli aircraft had fired missiles into the crowd, which Israel denied. The Palestinian Authority has said the blast was caused when Hamas militants mishandled explosives.

In the vote Monday, widely seen as a referendum on Sharon's leadership and the Gaza withdrawal, the prime minister prevailed with a slim margin. His allies had said if he lost, he might leave Likud, call early elections and run as head of a new centrist party.

Sharon's political adviser, Lior Horev, said Tuesday that Sharon might still bolt the divided party if it refuses to back his major policies.

"Either the party stands behind him, or he has to choose a different way in order to push forward his agenda," Horev said.

Sharon's main rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the fight was not over and insisted he would prevail in party primaries next year.

Comment: The current escalation of violence on the part of Israel in Gaza was foretold by many chroniclers of Israeli butchery in the Occupied Territories. By removing the illegal Jewish settlers, Sharon has given his military buddies and partners in war crimes extended room to maneuver. Sharon, who is facing a battle in his Likud Party -- for his "concessions" to the Palestinians at that!!! -- used the first pretext offered by his friends in Hamas to put the new policy into practice.

But you can expect lots more analysis such as the article below in the weeks to come....

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Palestinian rockets hit Israel, none hurt:
Tue Sep 27, 2005

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Two Palestinian rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed near Israeli border towns on Tuesday, causing no damage or casualties, Israel media said.

The reported launches against Sderot and Kibbutz Erez came despite a pledge by the main Palestinian militant group Hamas to halt rocket salvoes that had prompted Israeli air strikes in Gaza and massive arrest raids in the occupied West Bank.

Another faction, Islamic Jihad, also said on Tuesday that it and other groups had recommitted to "calm" in Gaza, from which Israel withdrew this month after 38 years of occupation.

Comment: If all major Palestinian resistance groups have declared a cease fire in Gaza, exactly WHO is firing these impotent rockets at Israel and thereby providing Sharon with further excuses to persecute the Palestinian population of Gaza? We are reminded of the two SAS agents that were caught last week attacking Iraqi civilians and policemen and driving a "suicide car bomb".

"Hamas terrorist" with Star of David tatoo.

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ANALYSIS-New phase of conflict takes shape in Middle East
By Matthew Tostevin JERUSALEM, Sept 28 (Reuters)
28 Sep 2005 09:18:41 GMT

It is a moot point whether the Palestinian uprising is over. A new phase of conflict is already taking shape in the Middle East. Fighting still centres on the Gaza Strip following Israel's withdrawal from the territory after 38 years of occupation, but both sides concur that the West Bank is more likely to be the bigger battleground in years to come.

Comment: The implication here is that the occupation of Gaza by Israel is over, you know, that great concession made by Sharon. So ignore the fact that the Palestinians can't get in or out, aren't allowed into Israel to work, are in the world's largest prison camp. They're no longer "occupied"!

A truce in February largely cooled the uprising that erupted on Sept. 28, 2000, and the calm helped smooth Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip -- a move that Washington hopes will serve to revive peacemaking. However, fighting in recent days has added to pessimism over ending decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a land beset by war pretty much since history was written down. Israel pursued an air offensive in Gaza on Wednesday in response to rocket fire from the territory. It also had the aim, as Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz put it, of teaching the new "rules of the game". For Israel, that means at least the same tacit agreement as with Hizbollah guerrillas on a northern border that has been generally quiet since Israel left southern Lebanon in 2000. If they fire, they expect fierce air retaliation.

Meanwhile, the Gaza pullout has made it harder for that territory's militants to launch deadly attacks on Israelis by removing from range the 8,500 Jewish settlers and the thousands of soldiers guarding them. Rocket fire into border towns from Gaza terrifies Israelis, but rarely kills.


Quite apart from the military considerations, there is a very real desire among Gaza residents for a spell of quiet that could allow them to end internal disorder and make the territory a real testing ground for statehood. Hamas said it would end rocket fire from Gaza after Israel began its offensive and some other groups have followed suit. The Palestinian militants' argument is that the first five years of conflict drove Israel out of Gaza settlements. Next steps are the West Bank -- where Israel continues expanding Jewish settlements -- and East Jerusalem, areas also occupied by Israel since the 1967 war which Palestinians hope to have for a state. The official aim of Hamas is to go beyond that and destroy Israel completely. Militants reject disarmament, which Palestinians were meant to start under a "road map" peace plan and Israel sets as a condition for statehood talks. President Mahmoud Abbas shows no sign of disarming them by force, as Israel wants.

Comment: The goal of Israel is the genocide of the Palestinians. To accomplish this slaughter, the Israelis are demanding the Palestinians disarm -- in the face of the well-equiped and US financed Israeli army.

"Gaza is the first liberation, then comes the West Bank, then every inch of Palestinian land," stressed top Hamas official Khaled Meshaal as Israel evacuated Gaza settlers.

Israel believes it has had a taste of what may be to come. Sasson Nuriel, an Israeli abducted between his home and the West Bank settlement where he worked, sat blindfolded in front of a green Hamas flag in a video released on Tuesday that recalled those of Iraqi insurgents. Nuriel was killed and his body found on Monday.

"The film indicates that Hamas intends to continue with the kidnappings, but also that the main terror activity is moving from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank," said Amos Harel in the Haaretz newspaper. Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, has said Israel is also worried about technology for makeshift missiles moving to the West Bank and within range of major Israeli cities.

Comment: Makeshift missles vs the most highly developed missles, tanks, armoured cars, drones, and other weapons existing today. Of course, Palestinian children do throw rocks.


However, waging war from the West Bank, where Israel has arrested hundreds of suspected militants in recent days, is tougher than from Gaza. The army has far more control and access in the West Bank, where cities are divided by Israeli roads and settlements. There is also more than a grain of truth in the old quip that the Shin Bet, which runs networks of Palestinian informers, is the territory's biggest employer.

Comment: And is it hard to make the next step, that Israeli intelligence has infiltrated Palestinian groups and uses them to carry out false flag attacks on Israel in order to continue to justify their repressive "counter-measures"?

Militants acknowledge that Israel's West Bank barrier, condemned by Palestinians as a land grab for looping into occupied land, has made it harder to get suicide bombers -- their most effective weapon -- into the Jewish state. Tunnelling through the West Bank's rocky ground into well-guarded hilltop settlements is much more difficult than mining the sandy terrain of the Gaza Strip.

"It is not as easy to attack these settlements," said Nasser Abu Aziz of al-Aqsa Brigades in Nablus, clutching a cushion at a hideout as he explains how he hopes fighting will end so he can go back to his day job in Palestinian security forces. "If we have to fight, then I would concentrate on trying to find ways to get bombers in," he said.

Roads leading past the barrier to isolated West Bank settlements have been obvious gaps for militants to try to penetrate. Another potential soft spot is East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want for their eventual capital and Israel has annexed in a move recognised only by itself. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are able to move freely in Israel but, while some have been involved in helping attacks during the uprising, they have not played a leading role. Israeli security services now believe militants are targeting residents for recruitment as a way of getting a foothold on the other side of the barrier. In the meantime, barrier sections being built in Jerusalem split Palestinian communities and cut them off from services while Israel expands its Jewish settlements there and emphasises it will never give up the eastern part of the city. "That will be an explosive mix," said a recent report by the International Crisis Group think tank.

Comment: Yes, the myth of the mad, Islamic, suicide bomber. However, even if Palestinians are used in this way, we are convinced that it is Israel that really has its finger on the detonator. So many of these suicide attacks come at moments that are opportune for Israel that the careful and objective observer quite quickly comes to understand that it is Israeli intelligence that is the guiding hand.

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What You Can't Say About Israel in Australia

When the Truth Comes to Town

September 27, 2005

"Melbourne University Publishing should drop this whole disgusting project. If they proceed, I urge the Australian Jewish community, and particularly The Australian Jewish News, to treat it with dignified silence. That is our best response. If, God forbid, it is published, don't give them a dollar. Don't buy the book."

Federal Labor MP Michael Danby, Australian Jewish News, August 25 2005

I'm currently writing a book on the Israel/Palestine conflict with Melbourne University Publishing (MUP) and it's due to be released in May 2006. After sending my articles on the subject to various publications around the world, I was already used to Jews and non-Jews writing and calling with abuse and outright hatred. After my recent column on the Gaza withdrawal, a Sydney doctor emailed me and asked: "How well do you think you would be doing with a name like yours if Adolf would have won?" and "As far as your book goes, I might just take a page out of Hitler's book on that one."

"The degree of abuse and outright threats now being directed at anyone - academic, analyst, reporter - who dares to criticise Israel (or dares to tell the truth about the Palestinian uprising) is fast reaching McCarthyite proportions", wrote Robert Fisk in December 2000. "The attempt to force the media to obey Israel's rules is now international". The situation has only worsened since 9/11.

In late August, Jewish Federal Labor MP Michael Danby wrote a letter to the Australian Jewish News (AJN) and demanded MUP "should drop this whole disgusting project." He claimed that MUP head, Louise Adler, had made comments about Israel and himself that were plainly false. He wanted to "absolutely disassociate himself" from the book because it would be little more than a "propaganda tract" and "an attack on the mainstream Australian Jewish community."

The exact reason and timing behind his attack remains unclear though after Danby's refusal to answer some innocuous questions of mine in late 2004 ­ his right, to be sure ­ he seemed to be flagging his disapproval of even debating issues related to the Middle East question. This was true to form. He had slammed me in the past and has a long history of attempting to stop open debate on Israel-related matters.

Leaving aside the irony of a Jewish parliamentarian calling for the censorship of a book that didn't yet exist, it's worth remembering Danby is the member for Melbourne Ports, the electorate with the greatest numbers of Jews in Australia [Malcolm Turnbull's Wentworth is not far behind.] He sees his role as defender of the Israeli cause and he articulates what he believes his constituents want to hear.

Online magazine Crikey picked up the story and asked whether it was appropriate for an MP to call for a boycott of an unpublished book. A few days later, Danby responded to Crikey, denied he had called for censorship and labeled my views on Israel "disgusting." He cautioned MUP - at a time when Israel was "making a painful withdrawal from Gazaand when the prospects for peace are improving" ­ against publishing books that he thought inappropriate for the times. It begged the question: did Danby truly believe that publishing companies should only produce work that accepted the status quo on issues, rather than challenging or maybe demolishing them?

The intentions of my book are ambitious. I believe that the Israel/Palestine conflict is the defining foreign affairs issue of our time and yet remains woefully misunderstood. Danby and numerous pro-Israel supporters are clearly confronted by me posing questions about Australia's pro-Israel media, the Howard government's relationship with Israel and America, the role of the pro-Israel lobby, America's relationship with the Jewish state, my experiences in the Middle East, including through the Palestinian occupied territories and Jewish and Arab voices of dissent. I am a Jew who doesn't believe in the concept of a Jewish state, but then, I also don't believe in the idea of an Islamic or Christian entity either. There is surely room for a non-Zionist Jew to write about the true cost of Zionism both on Israel and the Diaspora.

A week after Danby's boycott call, the AJN was filled with letters, including one from Louise Adler. "I am dismayed that a fellow publisher such as the AJN gives space for proposals to boycott ideas", she wrote. "Danby's proposal is inimical to the central Jewish values of tolerance and open debate." Larry Stillman wrote that he fully understood the Danby agenda: "I suspect the book will be central of the predominance of conservative views in the Jewish community about the current state of Israel, Danby included."

The Melbourne Age entered the debate soon after, chastised Danby for denying he had called for my book to be banned and discovered yet more evidence of the MP's history of "venting sight unseen." "In the Jewish publication, The Review, he says of David Hare's Stuff Happens, 'I havn't seen the play, nor will I', then cans it based on a review he read." The leading broadsheet also compared the controversy to Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz's failed attempt to ban Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah.

By the following week, the AJN was filled with coverage. A large news story featured another Danby justification for his attack. "If I didn't tell people about it [Loewenstein's book] beforehand, knowing what his views are, would I be representing the people I represent?" he said. The paper's editorial entered the fray. Although critical of Danby's censorship call, the AJN "unequivocally rejects Loewenstein's view of a Jewish state as 'fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era'", the public should wait for the book's release "before we decide to consign it to the garbage heap of literature." The letters pages were filled with both supportive and critical contributions, including from Danby himself. My ideas "stink" and he was simply "doing what I was elected to do: speak up for the people I represent." He again disingenuously denied having called for censorship.

A few days later, I received an unexpected call from well-known Jewish comedian Austen Tayshus. He demanded to know why I was writing my book, suggested Israel was a poor, defenceless Middle Eastern state threatened with annihilation, compared me to a German Jew who collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War and asked why I had the right to air the community's "dirty laundry." I explained that he was clearly so insecure in his position that he felt the need to call and abuse me. I soon ended the call.

A few minutes after posting an entry on my blog about the initial call, I received another one from him. He said he would keep on calling me because I was an "ignoramus" and an "asshole." He suggested we have a public debate, which I declined. He suggested Palestinian Hanan Ashrawi as a moderator (after telling me earlier that she was a "terrorist.") The point of debating a man like this was negligible, for the simple fact that he didn't want to debate me - "a sad and lonely man", in his words - nor actually discuss the issues. He wanted to shout and rant. It may have made him feel good about himself. He clearly needed it.

I told the Green Left Weekly the real fear behind Danby's attack:

"These sort of people don't want discussion, because discussion is threatening. Discussion means that more people are aware, or might become aware, of what actually does go on over there: What does occupation mean, what does it mean that Palestinians often have to wait hours at checkpoints in searing sun, what does it mean that women often have to give birth at checkpoints and often die? They don't want people to know that, for obvious reasons, because it's shameful. And they know if more people find out that kind of stuff, their view about Israel and the relationship between Australia and Israel could change."

During this controversy, I received many supportive emails and even financial donations to my website. Mannie De Saxe challenged Danby to put his words into action:

"If Danby feels so passionate about Israel, and it is obvious that he does, why doesn't he take his supporters, all those vocal Zionists who, together with that publication which should be called the Israeli Zionist Times but is otherwise known as the Australian Jewish News, and move to Israel where Ariel Sharon has said that he needs all the Jews in the Diaspora to come and live to reduce anti-Semitism around the world."

I was extremely lucky that my publisher backed me 100% during this period. Many a publisher, I suspect, would have been scared to receive such vitriol months before the book's release. I received some ugly comments on my blog ­ "you're the nazi Anthony you fucking mental midget. Whose side are you on anyway? THINK about it toolhead" ­ but I remember what John Pilger told me recently; the more they attack you, the more you're having an effect and doing something right.

The difficulty in even raising questions related to Israel proves that serious debate is ever-more essential. The world is slowing waking up to the true reality in Israel and Palestine and Australians are joining the chorus of disapproval.

Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney-based freelance journalist and author. He can be reached at

He blogs at

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French tighten security after alert over Paris terror attack

SECURITY is to be tightened in France after allegations that a group of nine suspected Islamic militants arrested on Monday had been plotting a terrorist attack on a high-profile target in Paris.

The seven men and two women, who had been under observation by anti-terrorist investigators for two years, are suspected of planning an attack on the Metro, a Paris airport or the headquarters of the DST, the French domestic intelligence agency.

It is not clear if police were acting on intelligence of an imminent threat to national security when they carried out the arrests, but the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, warned yesterday that the risk of a terrorist attack was currently "at a very high level".

Mr Sarkozy used the news of the arrests to unveil a new anti-terror plan in which he pledged to increase the number of CCTV cameras on the streets, in airports, at train stations and near shops and banks.

Mobile phone operators and internet café owners will have to keep records of all users and calls under the proposed new law.

Mr Sarkozy said: "Terrorists are using the internet in an extraordinary way. We will target internet cafés because we realise terrorists are going to these cafés because they have guaranteed anonymity there."

The internet and phone-record measures will have a three-year time limit and will need parliamentary approval to stay in force after 2008.

Under the proposed law, the authorities will be able to step up passport controls in cross-border trains and to photograph vehicle number plates and passengers at motorway toll stations. Mr Sarkozy said the aim was to boost intelligence-gathering resources considerably, "to listen to everything and, if possible, know everything".

The minister also revealed that about ten French citizens "are in Iraq, ready to become kamikazes" and that others were at religious schools in Pakistan.

Networks suspected of sending French militants to Iraq are being investigated. Among the militants to have left France is one aged only 14, Mr Sarkozy said.

Monday's arrests were made in the Eure and Yvelines regions outside Paris. Police believe the suspects are linked to the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), Algeria's largest outlawed rebel movement, which is aligned to al-Qaeda. It is said to have contacted al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in July about carrying out attacks in France.

According to reports in the French media, DST agents launched the raids after receiving a confidential note from the Algerian authorities summarising the questioning of a suspect arrested in Algiers this month. The suspect, known only as "MB", was an alleged group member who indicated that attacks were being planned in France. His wife was said to be among the nine arrested.

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Military action against Iran 'inconceivable', says Straw
Staff and agencies
Wednesday September 28, 2005

The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, today said military action against Iran was "inconceivable".

Mr Straw said he hoped diplomacy could still end the international stand-off over the country's nuclear programme.

Western governments fear Iran is trying to build atomic bombs, and the US president, George Bush, has said all options for dealing with the issue are on the table.

However, Mr Straw told the BBC's Today programme: "The truth is, as Condoleezza Rice has said, military action in respect of the Iran dossier is not on anybody's agenda.

"All United States presidents always say all options are open. But it is not on the table, it is not on the agenda. I happen to think that it is inconceivable." [...]

Mr Straw also addressed the threat of terrorism, and said it was "impossible" to say whether the war in Iraq had made Britain more of a target for terrorists.

"I don't know is the answer ... and I don't think any of us know," he said. "It is impossible to answer that. But this international terrorism, al-Qaida based terrorism, goes back at least a dozen years."

Comment: Is military action against Iran as "inconceivable" as it is "impossible" to say whether the war in Iraq had made Britain more of a target for terrorists?

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Torturous Silence on Torture
By Ray McGovern

09/27/05 "ICH" -- -- Where do American religious leaders stand on torture? Their deafening silence evokes memories of the unconscionable behavior of German church leaders in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Despite the hate whipped up by administration propagandists against those it brands "terrorists," most Americans agree that torture should not be permitted. Few seem aware, though, that although President George W. Bush says he is against torture, he has openly declared that our military and other interrogators may engage in torture "consistent with military necessity."

For far too long, we have been acting like "obedient Germans." Shall we continue to avert our eyes – even as our mainstream media begin to expose the "routine" torture conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo?

Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman John Warner took a strong rhetorical stand against torture early last year after seeing the photos from Abu Ghraib. Then he succumbed to strong political pressure to postpone Senate hearings on the subject until after the November 2004 election. Those of us who live in Virginia might probe our consciences on this. Shall we citizens of the once-proud Old Dominion simply acquiesce while Sen. Warner shirks his constitutional duty?

We have come a long way since Virginia patriot Patrick Henry loudly insisted that the rack and the screw were barbaric practices that must be left behind in the Old World, or we are "lost and undone." Can Americans from other states consult their own consciences with respect to what justice may require of them in denouncing torture as passionately as the patriots who founded our nation?

On Sept. 24, The New York Times ran a detailed report regarding the kinds of "routine" torture that U.S. servicemen and women have been ordered to carry out. This week's Time also has an article on the use of torture by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo.

Those two articles are based on a new report from Human Rights Watch, a report that relies heavily on the testimony of a West Point graduate, an Army captain who has had the courage to speak out. A Pentagon spokesman has dismissed the report as "another predictable report by an organization trying to advance an agenda through the use of distortion and errors of fact." Judge for yourselves; the report can be found here. Grim but required reading. [...]

I asked a Muslim friend recently what the Koran says about torture. After consulting an imam, she reported that the Koran does not address the subject because the Koran deals only "with human behavior." Do not we of the Judeo-Christian tradition also reject torture as inhuman and never morally permissible? [...]

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U.S. Assassinates Puerto Rican Independence Figure
By Bill Van Auken
09/27/05 "WSW"

The fatal September 23 shooting of Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios represents an act of state terror and cold-blooded murder by the US government. It is one more proof that in the name of a “global war on terrorism,” Washington has arrogated to itself the right to conduct political assassinations and act as judge, jury and executioner against opponents of US policies and interests.

Aged 72, Ojeda Rios was the leader of the Boricua Popular Army, also known as the Macheteros, a group that advocated independence for Puerto Rico. He was wanted on charges that he had participated in the planning of a 1983 Wells Fargo armored car robbery in Hartford, Connecticut, in which $7.1 million was taken. A fugitive for 15 years since fleeing house arrest in 1990, he was sentenced in absentia to 55 years in jail.

Ojeda Rios was alone with his wife in their home in the rural southwestern Puerto Rican municipality of Hormigueros, near the city of Mayagüez, when scores of FBI agents stormed his property, unleashing a rain of bullets. According to reports, at least 100 armed agents were involved, backed by helicopters and a squad of military sharpshooters brought to the island from Virginia.

The nationalist leader was struck by a single bullet from a sharpshooter’s high-powered rifle. While he suffered no wound to any vital organ, he was left to bleed to death on the floor of his home as FBI agents refused to allow Puerto Rican authorities and emergency medical teams anywhere near the house, maintaining a militarized perimeter for 24 hours.

Later, an FBI spokesman claimed that the agents who had surrounded the house and shot Ojeda Rios feared that the house could be wired with explosives and were waiting for reinforcements to fly in from the US.

Testimony from his wife and a neighbor, as well as the results of an autopsy, exposed as lies the FBI’s version of events. US authorities had claimed that federal agents had come to arrest Ojeda Rios, opening fire only after he had fired on them.

In a press conference Monday, however, the nationalist leader’s wife, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, testified, “On Friday, September 23, in the afternoon hours, our house was surrounded. Armed men penetrated our property and took our house by assault, hitting it in a brutal and terrible manner, firing with heavy weapons against the front wall of our residence.”

Hector Reyes, whose house is approximately 300 feet from that of Ojeda Rios, confirmed this account, saying that the US assault team began firing on the house as soon as the helicopters arrived on the scene. “The first shots were very powerful, not from a little revolver like they say he had,” said Reyes. [...]

An autopsy performed at the San Juan Institute of Forensic Sciences confirmed the sadistic character of the FBI’s assassination of Ojeda Rios. It showed that he suffered a single bullet wound entering beneath his collarbone and exiting his back.

“He did not die instantaneously,” said Doctor Hector Pesquera, who participated in the autopsy. “What I saw as a doctor was that they let him bleed to death.... In my opinion, there was enough time, a considerable time in which he was wounded and he did not receive the aid that could have saved his life.”

Puerto Rico’s Justice Secretary, Roberto Sanchez Ramos, concurred with this assessment, stating, “The information we have is that if Mr. Ojeda had received immediate medical attention after being shot, he would have survived.”

Ojeda Rios had been the subject of a similar FBI raid involving helicopters and scores of agents in 1985, when he was arrested in connection with the Wells Fargo robbery. He was subsequently jailed and tried for attempted murder for shooting and wounding one of the FBI agents during the arrest. A federal jury in San Juan, however, found him not guilty, its members accepting his argument that he had acted in self-defense against the government’s aggression.

The FBI and other US authorities never forgave nor forgot this humiliation. Now they have taken advantage of changed political conditions in the US—characterized by the “global war on terrorism” and the USA Patriot Act—to murder him. Clearly, if the agency had wanted to arrest a 72-year-old man, accompanied only by his wife, they could have taken him alive.

The assassination of Ojeda is a case of Washington deploying a death squad on what it claims as its own territory. This brutal killing serves as a warning of the methods the US government is prepared to use to suppress political opposition within the US itself.

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The Silent Coup 
By John Atcheson 

09/27/05 "ICH" -- -- While the media’s been dazzling us with wag-the-dog wars in Iraq and Jennifer, J-Lo and Jacko non-news here at home, a far more important battle has been taking place right under our collective national nose. 

In what amounts to a silent coup, an unholy alliance of corporate power brokers and conservative Republicans have spent the last five years attempting to hi-jack democracy and move the seat of governance from Pennsylvania Avenue to K Street. 

But you won’t read about this coup, you won’t see it played out on the evening news, and you won’t hear about it on talk radio. Why? Because the mainstream media are major combatants. 

At the center of this takeover is the K Street Project – an attempt to purge industry’s lobbyists of any and all Democrats, and to make sure that "...even the secretaries..." are "conservative Republican activists." 

They’ve just about succeeded. 

Over the past five years the relationship between government and industry has been transformed. Now, an assortment of K street Corporate shills write legislation, develop tax proposals, and formulate foreign policy, sometimes in their industry’s self-interest, sometimes at the behest of a few right wing ideologues in Congress or the Administration. 

This complicated dance between corporate and political power gets played out daily along K street, and a variety of devil’s deals that would’ve made our forefathers weep has become routine business. 

The grease that lubricates this new model of government is greed; the fuel that feeds it is money. Lots of it. And overwhelmingly, the hard-line, right-wing conservative branch of the Republican Party are both its architect, and its beneficiary. 

Thus, those that crow the loudest about patriotism, the flag, and moral values, do the most to subvert the political foundations and ethical precepts that shaped this nation. [...]

One result of this collision was that in 2004, Mr. Bush’s tax reforms gave the average millionaire a $123,595 cut, but cut the middle 20% of income earners by just $647. 

The K Street Consortium also explains why all of that $647 and more got eaten up by increased medical, energy, and educational costs. 

Take the Prescription Drug Plan passed in 2003. As many as 3000 lobbyists spending hundreds of millions ($116 million in 2003 alone) worked diligently to pass this Porker. The payoff for industry, according to a study by Sager and Socolar of Boston University, is that as much as 61% of Medicare’s costs will be pure profit for the Drug companies, an increase of as much as $139 billion (that’s billion with a b). 


Because the lobbyists from PhRMA – one of the most powerful K Street Players – made sure that the US was actually prohibited from using its buying power to negotiate for lower cost drugs under the new prescription drug plan. Net cost to tax payers? $720 billion over ten years. 

Or take the Energy Legislation: $66 billion dollars worth of pork, the majority of it going to the fossil fuel industry at a time when oil companies are earning record profits. This piece of K Street legislative pornography scarcely addresses demand, so the oil industry gets billions, and Americans get guaranteed high prices. 

But if the imperative for the K Street consortium is to simultaneously shrink government and provide corporate Pork, how do the Republicans propose paying for it? 

Easy. First, cut programs that benefit people, to help fund the pork. As Jonathon Weisman reported in the Washington Post, over the next several months, Republicans will try to cut Medicaid growth by $10 billion, trim $7 billion from the Student Loan program, sell out ANWR for $2.4 billion in oil revenue; cut the food stamp program by $600 million, among other cuts. 

Of course, no matter how much you screw the people, you can’t afford to give rich people massive tax cuts while you give trillions to industry. So, the second part of their strategy is to simply pass on the inevitable bill to our children. If the K Street Consortium implements their policy agenda, in ten years, every child born in the US will "inherit" $36,000 of additional debt. 

And that was before Katrina burst through levees weakened by budget cuts; before New Orleans and the gulf coast spun into a national purgatory as a crony-ladened FEMA bumbled around for five days. 

Since Bush and his K Street cronies refuse to delay their tax cut for the rich, we’ll have to cut more programs and shovel more debt onto our children and grandchildren to cover Katrina’s and Rita’s $200 billion plus price tag. 

So much for Republican fiscal conservatism. 

Ironically, the K Street Consortium not only hurts the average American, it hurts American industry. 

For example, when GM spends more than $1000 per vehicle on health care for their US workers, but Toyota spends next to nothing for theirs in Canada or Japan because they have universal health care, it’s hard for GM to compete, and it’s hard for the US to retain or generate manufacturing jobs. The same is true of cuts to education. The US worker is falling behind the rest of the developed world’s labor force in terms of skills so we’re losing one of our primary competitive advantages. And testing required under No Child Left Behind is all well and good, but when the testing reveals problems, the Bush Administration has not been willing to pay for improvements. 

Republicans accuse Democrats of being "tax and spend liberals." The reality is, Democrats do tax a little more, but they spend less, and Americans get more for their money. 

Republicans tax less but spend much more and the borrowed largesse goes to corporations and the likes of Ken Lay and Paris Hilton, while the debt gets passed on to future generations.  [...]

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U.S. Forces Leaving Base in Uzbekistan
Associated Press
Tue Sep 27, 5:30 PM ET

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan - A senior State Department official said Tuesday the president of Uzbekistan made it clear that American forces must leave their air base in the Central Asian country, and the U.S. intends to do so "without further discussion."

The demand came as relations soured following U.S. criticism of Uzbekistan's crackdown on anti-government protesters in May in the eastern city of Andijan.

"The Uzbek government made it clear that we need to leave the base, and we intend to leave it without further discussion," Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried told reporters after meeting with President Islam Karimov.

In July, the Uzbek government invoked a provision of the basing agreement with the United States that requires all American forces to leave within six months.

"We respect the deadline," Fried said, referring to the 180-day provision for leaving that Uzbekistan invoked July 29, according to a State Department official in Washington.

The former Soviet republic hosted the U.S. troops for operations in Afghanistan in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

U.S. officials did not immediately provide the number of U.S. troops at the Uzbek base.

The United States intends to pay a nearly $23 million bill to Uzbekistan for use of the base for almost four years.

Fried said the sum "is not a price for the right to have a base, it is a payment for material services provided by the Uzbek side."

"The United States and Uzbekistan have had a very difficult period in relations complicated by grave concerns regarding the human rights situation and events in Andijan," Fried said.

He dismissed as "ludicrous and non-credible" the allegations made by defendants in the ongoing trial of 15 men suspected of involvement in the May 13 Andijan revolt that the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent provided money to those who plotted the rebellion.

"We are not to be accused of an intention to establish an Islamic caliphate in Uzbekistan," Fried said, referring to the Uzbek authorities' claim that the defendants had planned to establish an Islamic state.

Uzbek authorities hope the carefully choreographed trial will refute accusations that government troops fired on a crowd of protesters in Andijan, killing hundreds, and support its contention that extremist Islamic groups from abroad encouraged the protest.

Human rights groups allege that the confessions were coerced through torture.

"I made it clear we support civil society and NGOs around the world," Fried said, commenting on the recent shutdown of two American aid groups in Uzbekistan. "I regret NGOs are under pressure from the Uzbek government."

The uprising in Andijan began when militants seized a prison and freed 23 businessmen who were on trial for alleged Islamic extremism. The attackers also seized a local administration building and took hostages, as thousands of demonstrators gathered in an adjacent square to press economic and social grievances.

Human rights groups and refugees who fled to Kyrgyzstan claimed that the revolt led to a brutal government crackdown that killed more than 700 people, mostly civilians shot while trying to flee. The government said 187 people died, mostly militants.

Karimov, a hard-line autocrat, has ruled Uzbekistan since the Soviet era.

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Indonesia clears way for fuel hike
Wednesday September 28, 2:28 PM

Indonesian legislators have cleared the way for a controversial fuel price hike this weekend, voting to cut back government subsidies despite growing public anger over the move.

Lawmakers voted more than three-to-one late Tuesday to slash the subsidies as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government tries to grapple with a budget shortfall.

With oil prices soaring globally, the subsidies were increasingly costly for the government. But there have been a number of sporadic protests across the country over the fuel price hike, due to take effect on Saturday.

The hike, the second this year, has sparked long lines and shortages at gas stations across the archipelago nation. It also helped push the rupiah lower in Wednesday morning trading.

Emir Moeis, chairman of the House of Representatives budget commission, told AFP that lawmakers voted 273-83 to restrict fuel subsidies to 89.2 trillion rupiah (8.7 billion dollars). Thirty-one legislators abstained.

"Frankly speaking, the figure of 89.2 trillion rupiah is still too large for Indonesia. The government could use the money for public infrastructure developments," Moeis said.

The planned increase has led to widespread but small-scale demonstrations by students and transport drivers.

Although the move is unpopular, particularly among the poor who rely on public transport and kerosene for cooking, many analysts say a cut in subsidies is an economic necessity.

High global oil prices have dealt government finances a double blow.

The government has snapped up dollars to buy more expensive fuel, putting the rupiah under pressure while also having to support increased subsidies to keep domestic fuel prices artificially low.

Limiting the fuel subsidy spending to 89.2 trillion rupiah for 2005 will keep the budget deficit at 0.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), analysts say.

The government has prepared a compensation program to ease the burden on the poor. Almost 16 million households will receive 300,000 rupiah (29.13 dollars) in compensation over a three-month period, officials have said.

Premium, the most commonly used automotive fuel here, currently sells at an official price of 2,400 rupiah per litre but local media reported that roadside sellers outside Jakarta were selling it at about three times that.

Widodo, the coordinating minister for political and security affairs, told journalists Tuesday the reported fuel shortages should be carefully studied to see "whether they are really caused by a high demand or because of hoarding."

Lingering uncertainty about the planned fuel price rise helped drive the rupiah lower in early trading, dealers said.

Bank Mandiri currency analyst Doddy Arifianto said a fall was expected given the strength of the dollar against major currencies including the yen.

"I would also say that there is also concern about fuel prices because the government has yet to decide the scale of the increase," he said.

An increase above 50 percent could trigger social unrest, he said.

At 9:30 am (0230 GMT) the rupiah was at 10,295/10,305 to the dollar, compared with Tuesday's level of 10,270/10,280.

Comment: This article gives us an idea about why the dollar remains so strong: artificially inflated oil prices mean that nations need to buy up more dollars to pay for their fuel needs.

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Typhoon Damrey toll mounts as floods sweep in
By Ho Binh Minh
September 28, 2005

HANOI - Flash floods spawned by Typhoon Damrey killed at least four people in Thailand on Wednesday and hard-hit Vietnam reported 22 swept away in similar torrents in its northern mountains.

The deaths took the known toll to at least 41 in Damrey's rampage across the main Philippine island of Luzon, the southern Chinese island of Hainan -- where the economic damage was estimated at $1.2 billion -- Vietnam, Laos and northern Thailand.

Despite waning after hitting land in Vietnam on Tuesday, Damrey -- Khmer for elephant -- was still pounding wide areas with heavy rain and a Thai official said water spilling from a breached dam threatened the northern city of Chiang Mai.

"Heavy rain broke the reservoir and the water will flow into Chiang Mai today. Right now, the city is throwing up walls of sand bags," said Prasert Indee, a senior official in the area.

Vietnam, where five people are known to have been killed, issued flood warnings after Damrey's 130 kph (80 mph) winds and 5-meter (16-foot) sea surges shattered sections of the network of sea dykes protecting a key rice growing area.

State television said soldiers had been sent to the mountainous northern province of Yen Bai to look for the 22 people swept away.

The area in Vietnam most likely to suffer floods was the province of Ninh Binh, 90 km (55 miles) south of Hanoi, the government's Committee for Flood and Storm Prevention said.

The lashing rains Damrey brought were swelling rivers very quickly and it ordered five other northern provinces to reinforce dykes yet further.

The rains also struck Laos, where the government said it had no immediate reports of major damage.

"We've had heavy rain all night and we are monitoring the flooding situation closely, but there is nothing major so far. Just some roofing gone," Lao government spokesman Yong Chanhthalansy said.


Vietnam's dyke system, built to withstand strong gales and protect rice fields in the north, buckled under the power of winds and sea surges.

Sections crumpled in four provinces, power supplies and telecommunications were hit and thousands of homes swamped, state media said.

The government said at least 180,000 hectares (445,000 acres) of rice in seven provinces were damaged.

But the typhoon did not hit the Central Highlands coffee belt further to the south and had no impact on crude oil output as Vietnam's offshore rigs are well to the south.

The government said in a statement read out on national television on Tuesday it was rushing emergency food and supplies to devastated areas to which 330,000 people evacuees returned only to find homes and rice fields under water.

Nguyen Thi Nguyet, general secretary of the Vietnam Food Association, said the government was expected to take food relief from national reserves and would have no impact on exports.

"Rice from the region's warehouses can be used to meet the food demand," she told Reuters. "Besides, the region is also harvesting a crop with higher yields this year."

The northern region incorporating the Red River Delta is Vietnam's second-largest rice growing area after the Mekong Delta in the south.

It produces about 36 percent of Vietnam's rice, which is used mainly for domestic consumption, and shrimp and fish farms in the area also suffered typhoon damage.

But the disruption to production in flooded areas will reduce supplies of vegetables and seafood to regional markets, including Hanoi, home to 3 million people where prices have already started rising.

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Mexico Rains Flood Homes, Kills at Least 3
Tue Sep 27,11:09 PM ET

MEXICO CITY - Intense rains throughout southern Mexico and parts of Central America have caused rivers to overflow, killing at least three people and forcing thousands to flee their homes, officials said Tuesday.

In southern Mexico, local officials declared a state of emergency in parts of Chiapas state and some 2,000 people were living in temporary shelters Tuesday.

On Monday, police officer Francisco Malpica drowned in a swollen river while trying to help several residents. In southern Guerrero state, a landslide buried a wooden home in Acapulco, killing one man.

In neighboring Oaxaca state, more than 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes and were staying in shelters.

In El Salvador, heavy rains on Monday flooded rivers, and one man drowned in the capital's Acelhuate River.

Two other people were injured when an electric wire fell on their vehicle. The rains flooded homes and cars, temporarily trapping some people in their vehicles. There were electricity outages in parts of San Salvador.

In Honduras, a landslide on a remote highway left 15,000 people trapped in several coffee-growing communities.

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British scientist calls US climate sceptics 'loonies'
Katrina, Rita et al. Global warming's smoking gun
By Lucy Sherriff
Published Friday 23rd September 2005 20:18 GMT

The chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Sir John Lawton, has called climate change deniers in the US "loonies", and says global warming is to blame for the increasingly strong hurricanes being spawned in the Atlantic.

In an interview with The Independent, Lawton said that global warming is "very likely" the cause of increasingly intense hurricanes, in line with computer simulations.

He told the paper: "If this [the arrival of Hurricane Rita] makes the climate loonies in the States realise we've got a problem, some good will come out of a truly awful situation." [...]

Lawton said that with two such large storms hitting the Gulf coast in such quick succession, the Bush administration should re-evaluate its position on climate change. He said if the "extreme sceptics" in the US could be persuaded to change their minds, that would be "a valuable outcome [of] a horrible mess". [...]

Some climatologists maintain that global warming is unlikely to have an impact on hurricanes. They argue that the increase in landfalls we are seeing now is due to a long term (50-70 years) cycle in Atlantic ocean temperatures, a phenomenon known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.

However, Sir John says that it is fair to conclude that an increasingly warm climate, caused at least in part by human activity, is also warming the oceans' surfaces, and increasing the violence of hurricanes.

"Increasingly it looks like a smoking gun," he said.

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China launches flu pandemic contingency plan 2005-09-28 16:56:04

BEIJING, Sept. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- China's Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday launched a contingency plan for enhancing national readiness against a possible outbreak of pandemic influenza.

    The contingency plan outlines the structure of national prevention steering and enforcement systems, logistics, emergency reaction and supervision.

    MOH urged all localities to draft their own contingency plans in accordance with the local conditions and make good preparations for a possible flu pandemic.

    Four levels of alert -- red, orange, yellow and blue -- will indicate the seriousness of a pandemic outbreak. 

    The most serious level, "red", will be announced in case of the consistent and rapid spread of new sub-type flu virus, or if the World Health Organization (WHO) announces the outbreak of a flu pandemic.

    Health authorities above the county level must mobilize all medical resources and set up temporary clinics in case a red alert is announced, and the MOH must release daily reports on the surveillance and control of the pandemic to keep the public well informed, according to the plan.

    The MOH is responsible for organizing and coordinating epidemic contingency work and, if needed, raising suggestions for establishing a national public health contingency headquarters to the State Council, says the plan.

    Meanwhile, health authorities above the county level should ensure the collection, registry and delivery of flu virus samples for testing, and the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) should establish a national system to manage the surveillance information of influenza and avian influenza.

    China has a weak basis for public health and medical services. The disease surveillance network needs improvment and the production capacity of vaccines and drugs is inadequate, said the information office of the MOH.

    A flu pandemic could arouse turbulent public pandemonium if the country is poorly prepared, it noted.

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Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
The Times Online
September 27, 2005

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its "spiritual capital". But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: "Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

"The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so."

Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions.

He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

The study concluded that the US was the world's only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from "uniquely high" adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested.

Mr Paul said: "The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America."

He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.

Mr Paul delayed releasing the study until now because of Hurricane Katrina. He said that the evidence accumulated by a number of different studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to social ills. "I suspect that Europeans are increasingly repelled by the poor societal performance of the Christian states," he added.

He said that most Western nations would become more religious only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God scientifically proven. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not enjoy majority support in the US unless there was a marked decline in religious belief, Mr Paul said.

"The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator.

"The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted."

Comment: When one looks at the history of organized religion and the true effects that it has had upon humanity over time, it is clear that the effects have been far from beneficial. If anything, religion has been and continues to be the ultimate COINTELPRO operation that was been unleashed against humankind.

Today we see the fundamentalist Christians in the US who are so fond of Bush. We see there are those in the halls of power that honestly believe they are doing "God's Work" by causing death, destruction, and mayhem in order to bring on Armageddon. We also note that despite this madness, many groups are slandered with the infamous "cult" label - except the organized religions. Yet when we consider the words and actions of such religions in light of the definition of the word "cult", as well as the effects they have on the planet as a whole, it is obvious that these blind devotees are absolutely The Most Dangerous Cult in the World.

To understand just how religion has been used to influence, manipulate, and control the masses for generations, first take a look at Laura Knight Jadczyk's review of the book The Lost Gospel:The Book of Q and Christian Origins. Then take a look at the results of Laura's historical research in her popular book The Secret History of the World. Religion is causing a lot more than just elevated murder and STD rates...

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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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