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

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©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte


Signs Economic Commentary
Donald Hunt
October 10, 2005

Gold continued its rise last week, closing at 478.30 dollars an ounce, up 1.3% from $472.20 at the previous Friday's close. Oil, however, closed at 61.84 dollars a barrel on Friday, down 7.1% from $66.24 at last week's close. The dollar closed at 0.8248 euros on Friday, down 3.9% from 0.8319 euros the week before.  The euro, then, closed at 1.2124 dollars, compared to 1.2021 the previous Friday.  That puts oil at 50.64 euros a barrel, down 8.8% from 55.11 at the previous week's close. Gold would be 394.50 euros an ounce, up 0.5% 392.66. The gold/oil ratio closed at 7.73, up 8.5% from last week's 7.13.  In the U.S. stock market the Dow closed at 10,292.31 on Friday, down 2.7% from 10,568.70 the week before.  The NASDAQ closed at 2090.35, down 2.9% from 2151.69 at the previous week's close. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note closed at 4.35%, up two basis points from 4.33 the week before.

Oil prices dropped last week as did U.S. stocks and the U.S. dollar. For oil and the dollar that signified a pause in steady growth over the last several months. For U.S. stocks, concern about a whole range of issues with the U.S. economy, including rising interest rates, rising inflation, falling consumer confidence and falling confidence by the public in U.S. political leadership put downward pressure on prices, pressure that does not seem to have an end.  More and more prognosticators are looking toward a sharp drop in U.S. stock prices over the next year. 

The likelihood of a severe crash has increased lately, not only due to economic fundamentals (which are bad enough) but also due to the fact that more and more people believe that one will take place. Here is Steven Lagavulin:

I want to highlight a handful of the many signs that are flooding in to indicate that the first significant "wave" of social crisis appears to be breaking upon us.

I've always been a believer that it is not always the actual facts and tangible problems that make a Crisis so much as it's a society's recognition of and response to those facts. I inherited this view from my time in the investment markets.

…The movement in Gold has been catching my eye of late, and after watching it rebound so smartly from the bashing it took early this week...well, I believe this is a major signal that things are slipping "out of hand" (which is actually a double entendre if you believe the price of gold has been manipulated down in recent years...). It appears that the broader shock waves from Katrina are now making themselves apparent to the public consciousness (I use that term loosely), sapping the insanely high feelings of "consumer confidence" that have prevailed in recent years, and introducing the sobering realization that the party may well be over. Because there are many methods used to enhance the public's sense of well-being, but all aim for the same result: pump the economy full of money. And it looks like the pump is finally being shut down.

Before I go much further, I feel the need to say (for what it's worth) that I'm not especially pessimistic by nature. A person's "written image" is almost always very different from their actual one (which might be for the best in some cases), and I certainly write about rather dark subjects in this weblog. But in truth, I don't take any delight in watching the world we know collapse. Like probably most of the regular readers of this sight, I have very mixed feelings about what we face. Yes, there's a part of me that has little love for modern Western culture, with it's isolation, anxiety, ambiguous anger and wage-slavery hypnosis....a culture which experiences perhaps more deeply than any other that we have a kind of hole inside, but then we can't for the life of us seem to grasp that there might actually be something better to fill that hole with than flat-screen TVs and Arby's 5-for-$5's.

But I also experience a healthy and understandable sense of dread over the coming collapse, precisely because I know that it will not unfold in the way I believe it will. So the purpose of this weblog has always been to help me see the approaching storm as clearly as possible, so that I can make the best effort I can to be prepared. Because I firmly believe that through the very act of striving to see things more clearly the solution or answer or course of action will present itself. And it usually does.

I've always had a very strong drive to see the truth in the world, which is why I became interested in financial markets in the first place: it seemed to be the only area in (worldly) human activity that encourages and rewards greater comprehension and understanding. But of course I eventually found that that wasn't really the case at all--or at least not at all times. A well-known quote by guru George Soros is telling:

"Economic history is a never-ending series of episodes based on falsehoods and lies, not truths. It represents the path to big money. The object is to recognize the trend whose premise is false, ride that trend and step off before it is discredited."

This became a kind of vision-statement for a whole generation of young turks who started trading their way to glory in the 1990's. A bizarre sort of ego-trip emerged from believing that you could somehow see through those "falsehoods and lies" better than anybody else. You would not be fooled. You would therefore be one of the "masters of the universe", to quote Tom Wolfe's descriptive summation. And certainly the lies were everywhere....

Of course the ultimate irony was, why the hell did anyone even want to enter into this system of perpetual falsehoods and lies in the first place? And actually, if you can grasp the deepest impulses which lie behind that question you'll have a handle on one of the essential "character-flaws" driving modern Empire Culture toward its destiny. And you may also discover the path beyond Marlin the Fish's paralyzing fear and anxiety of the unknown, and enter into a place of Hope...and even perhaps interestedness.

But I digress.... Where was I? Oh yeah...everything falling apart...wailing and gnashing of teeth..."there's no light...where is the light..."?

Pretty much everyone is feeling comfortable enough to dump on the U.S. right now, and the Neo-Con administration as well (Item #1, Item #2, Item #3). Dan Rather and at least a couple other reporters are getting the balls to openly talk about the "atmosphere of fear" that pervades the mainstream media (even the phrase "mainstream media"--shortened by many to just "MSM"--has come to mean "the PTB's Bi-atch"). Even reporter Judith Miller is waking up to the realization that her firm has had her playing the patsy for the losing team....

The hyper-inflation of the dollar is now an open assumption as well...most recently the Australian Central Bank is predicting a global collapse over it, and the IMF has announced it may be time to play hard ball with America's debt situation--which, for those of you familiar with third-world lending means a lot of those loans that went to pay for the flights and fancies of people in power will now start being garnished somehow from the individual taxpayers. Which seemingly justifies why the Bush administration would back the most massive debt-berg in human history with one hand while continually cutting taxes for corporations and wealthy taxpayers with the other. Because they know these chickens will be coming home to roost soon, and they don't intend to be "home" when it happens. C'est la vie en l'Empire....

Meanwhile the war that was declared over, and then went on to become unwinnable, is, I dunno...a complete friggin' free-for-all. And yet it's worth sending in 20,000 new troops from the 101st Airborne. And still another telling issue is the analogous chaos between the Neo-Cons and the Old-Guard at various military-intelligence agencies (even Newsweek called the CIA "an agency version of the Jerry Springer show"). We've probably all known someone that we'd describe as having "an air of chaos surrounding them, and following everywhere they go". That fits this administration to a T. Of course, when you know someone like this, the only rational thing is to keep as much distance between them and you as possible...because the vortex of chaos will suck you in, despite all your efforts to resist....

All in all, I've been growing more and more convinced in recent months that what we're seeing are the battle-lines of a broadly-drawn civil war within the Corporatocracy. On one side there's the Neo-Con administration, now backed-into an increasingly "loan-ly" corner, watching their troops desert, and facing the rising backbone of many formerly "third-world" countries (that phrase may become obsolete soon) and the Iranian Oil Exchange coming online in March. They may be feeling the need to gamble it all on one final, decisive act right now...or lose the reins of power altogether. On the other side there are the more complacent Captains of Industry, who undoubtedly never really felt quite the pseudo-religious fervor of the Neo-Con's they nominated to lead the charge. They may not really wish to stake the whole game on the coin-flip of World least not at this time, not at these odds. They'd probably like to draw back, wave the flag of humanitarianism, carpet-bag the U.S. as they buy some time, and then re-coup the ground they've lost on another day.

So why, then is the dollar rising? Marshall Auerback echoes Lagavulin's statement about the markets being based on perceptions of which lies are believed:

We conclude that today's dollar strength is simply another symptom of the incredibly trending and unstable market environment in which we operate.  What has prompted and sustained this shift in foreign private portfolio preferences toward US government securities, even as spreads between US government securities and comparable maturity foreign government securities shrank (and actually inverted in some cases), even as currency losses started to eat away at foreign investors returns, and even as US yields approached 40-year lows, (suggesting immense risk of capital losses should the level of US interest rates ever mean revert)? Was this simply the flip side of intense risk aversion to US equities and corporate bonds that built up in 2002?

There is no simple answer.  One is essentially speculating on the proclivities of speculators, rather than assessing underlying fundamental trends (rather like Keynes's old notion of the stock market being similar to a beauty contest, in which participants seek not to determine the most beautiful, but to adjudge which contestant the other participants will view as the prettiest). The expansion of market moral hazard, the so-called "Greenspan Put", have both played their respective roles, as have the Asian central bankers as "dollar sub-underwriters of last resort" (although this has been less a factor in 2005, as the statistics suggest a diminishing tendency on the part of these central banks automatically to recycle their surplus forex reserves back into greenbacks). 

But more generally, markets in the 21st century are rife with destabilizing speculation and possess no wisdom whatsoever.  As we have explained in earlier pieces, today's markets are driven to an unprecedented degree by a combination of impulses from an ignorant public and amplifying actions by herding institutional money managers who have left their brains on the doorstep.  Trend following portfolio managers have exacerbated a speculative bubble in the US bond market and have lifted the dollar against the euro in the process.

Nevertheless, Auerback has been prominent among those who say that reality can be ignored for a while but not indefinitely. Surveying the traditional ways in which such huge financial imbalances are corrected, Auerback sees many of these paths blocked.  He concludes, in his final column for

Ultimately, it would not surprise us to see various restrictions imposed in regard to the holding of foreign currencies and gold.  As recently as the early 1970s, Arthur Burns, then Fed Chairman, railed against the "unsound practice" of Americans having foreign currency bank accounts.  This notion may seem far-fetched in today's high-tech financial world, but the story of the US, particularly post-9/11, has been a steady erosion of economic and political freedoms.  As virtually every encroachment on personal liberty in the US these days is rationalized on the grounds that it constitutes a necessary measure in support of the "war on terror", we have little doubt that any such future restrictions would likewise be justified in this manner.

In any case, the strategic options for the US are beginning to close down.  The large relaxation of fiscal stimulus has largely been played out, especially after making allowances for the recent Hurricanes Katrina and Rita-related binges, (the sheer magnitude of which has finally induced some consternation amongst the hitherto somnolent Republican Congressional majority that has rubber-stamped the President's huge rise in discretionary budgetary expenditures).  Additionally, on the budget front, the US has lost a degree of flexibility as a consequence of misconceived tax policy.  Through four decades and through administrations as diverse as Lyndon Johnson's and Ronald Reagan's, federal tax revenue had stayed within a fairly narrow band.  From 1962 to 2002, when federal revenues were low they were around 17.5 percent of GDP, and when they were high they neared 20 percent. Once, they went even higher: to 20.8 percent in Clinton's last year, driven there by higher tax rates and by capital-gains revenue from the bubble economy. The 2001 changes pushed tax receipts down toward 16 percent - the lowest level since 1959.  The Bush tax cuts of 2001, 2003 and 2005 pushed it out of that safety zone, reducing it to its lowest level as a share of the economy in the modern era.   And they did so just when the country's commitments and obligations had begun to grow.

Personal savings have already gone negative, because of the spectacular increase in net lending to the household sector.  The housing boom has had much to do with this:  Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale, was ahead of most other observers in predicting the collapse of the tech-stock bubble of the 1990s and the personal-real-estate bubble a decade later. In a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, published in 2001, he and two colleagues observed that the housing boom intensified the savings collapse. Every time homeowners heard that a nearby house had sold for an astronomical price, they felt richer, even if they had no intention of selling for years. That made them more likely to go and spent their theoretical gains – in effect, allowing the housing sector to do their saving for them.  There are increasing signs that the housing boom is on its last legs, which does create doubts about the sustainability of this dynamic. 

Which leaves the external sector:  A far greater degree of dollar devaluation would seem to offer a conventional remedy to the problem of chronic US imbalances, but this entails a process of global rebalancing and cooperation that has hitherto not been evident amongst the relevant players in the international economy.  To be fair to the Asians in particular, America's current foreign policy stance certainly does not create a context in which this could occur easily. 

The US could introduce punitive tariffs against countries it deems to be conducting "unfair trade practices", such as China, but antagonizing a major foreign creditor hardly seems like a benign way of resolving this problem.  A less conventional, but somewhat less contentious course of action involves introducing non-selective import restrictions under the aegis of the WTO. 

Or the US could simply brazen out the current crisis through the expedient of debt repudiation, which could easily bring down the whole edifice of trade liberalization that has governed the global economy for the past half century.   Considering that the great bull market in US financial assets and, by extension, the dollar, has been largely predicated on the notions of trade liberalization and financial deregulation, it is hard to make a case for its perpetuation if and when these policies are repudiated by its longstanding champion.  In any event, none of these options are particularly attractive; but those hoping for a benign "market-based" solution at this juncture are probably Pollyannaish in the extreme.

The elite are speaking more and more openly of extreme outcomes.  Al Martin believes that the 2008 elections will be canceled due to the economic crisis:

It becomes more likely that this regime would use its Patriot Act powers to cancel the 2008 elections. They, of course, wouldn't come out and cancel them. What they would do is formulate some sort of incident where they could invoke Patriot Act powers to 'suspend' the elections, which would, in fact, be a permanent cancellation. I think anybody with any brains would understand it. Because the economic situation in the nation and, by extension, the planet, would likely be so dire by November '08 that the regime would feel compelled to remain in power to control the subsequent economic collapse.

Remember what Walker pointed out about likely economic collapse post-2009 because, simply put, Bushonian budget deficits could not be financed after that time. And there's no other way to generate the capital, so it would mean de facto repudiation of debt.

The actual economic crisis at that point might be a reason for "postponing" the election. Let's put it this way. If the Dow-Jones were trading between 3000 and 4000 by the Fall of 2008, they would declare a national emergency. Of course, it would be Bushonomics that caused it to happen.

The Bush Cheney Regime would probably feel absolutely compelled to remain in power. It would need to control the subsequent economic collapse because, if a politically hostile regime were to follow it, i.e. Democrats, they would feel that in a post-economically collapsed environment, given the mess that they would inherit, that they wouldn't have anything to lose by telling the American people the truth.

Unlike the decisions the Clinton Regime made in early 1993, a Q1 2009 Clintonesque regime would have nothing to lose by telling the people the truth about the Bushonian Cabal and Bushonomics and begin to indict people in order to deflect criticism and to give the people something to focus their attention on because it would take a massive educational effort to tell the American people what Bushonomics was all about.

During the Great Depression, for instance, Roosevelt heavily blamed both Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, particularly Herbert Hoover. Because Hoover had made the problem worse in 1930 by the Smoot-Hawley Trade Acts, which effectively brought U.S. trade to a standstill, thus making the coming depression far worse. But Roosevelt to some degree was being disingenuous because he knew it is not politically popular during perceived times of plenty and a strong economy to start to act with fiscal prudence.

Calvin Coolidge didn't want to do it. Neither did Herbert Hoover. Because you know it's politically popular to have debt finance consumption, which is at the very heart of Bushonomics. Eventually, however, debt finance consumption, when it no longer can be sustained, becomes a negative, i.e. negative debt finance consumption, which is Bushonomics. This leads to recessions, depressions and in this case, a likely economic collapse -- because we've gone far beyond where we have ever been before in terms of relative budgets, trade deficits and their relationship to GDP. The numbers are now so astounding – total debt-to-GDP is now approaching 350%. At the end of the Second World War, in September 1945, the number reached the then highest ever at 129%.

Classically, the debt-to-GDP ratio should not rise above 100% except in times of war, when wars have to be financed. But, in this regime, we cannot simply put it into words. It's hard to put it in a way that the unwashed would understand, the incredible extent of the fiscal deterioration of the United States, which has occurred over the past 5 years.

Not only are the numbers unprecedented, but they are clearly unsustainable. We have reached levels of debt in this country that, statistically speaking, no other nation in the history of the planet has reached. And yet we're still in business. The only reason we are still in business is because we are the predominant power. We are still 45% of the world's GDP. And the rest of the world must keep the United States in business. They must lend us as much money as it takes to finance Bushonian imprudence fiscally, i.e. in order to keep the United States in business because if the United States goes out of business, so does the rest of the planet.

I believe that if Bush-Cheney are not impeached within the next couple of months (with all the converging investigations going on that is not as far-fetched as it would have seemed a few months ago, but still hard to imagine) it will be too late.

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Gold May Extend Longest Rally This Year on Inflation Concerns
Oct. 10, 2005

Gold may extend its longest rally of the year, topping the highest prices since 1988, as investors stock up on bullion as a hedge against accelerating inflation, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Twenty-nine of the 47 traders, analysts and investors surveyed on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 from Sydney to New York recommended investors buy gold, which jumped $5.40 last week to $477.70 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold has risen 8.1 percent during the past six weeks as energy prices reached record highs.

"We're going to see elevated inflation trends over the short term,'' said Mihir Worah, senior vice president at Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co., the world's biggest bond fund, which also has about $500 million in gold out of $10 billion invested in commodities. "A lot of the hedge funds are selling crude oil and getting into gold.''

The current gold rally is the longest since a seven-week stretch that ended Dec. 17. Praxair Inc., based in Danbury, Connecticut, raised prices on industrial gases by about 15 percent on Oct. 5, two days after BASF AG announced plans to boost prices for all its chemical products in North America to recover higher raw-material and energy costs.

Gold futures for December delivery rose 1.1 percent in New York last week. The gain was expected by a majority of analysts surveyed Sept. 29 and Sept. 30. A rise in the spot price of gold to over $476, exceeding the 17-year high of $475.45 on Sept. 22, may push gold to $495 this week, said Frank McGhee, head gold trader at Chicago-based Alliance Financial LLC.

High Energy Prices

Bloomberg's survey has correctly forecast gold's direction in 43 of 76 weeks, or 57 percent of the time. Eight of the respondents in the recent survey said prices would fall and 10 were neutral. A futures contract is an obligation to buy or sell a commodity at a set price by a specific date.

Record-high prices for oil, gasoline and natural gas in the past month boosted costs for manufacturers and consumers. Investors sometimes buy gold as an alternative during periods of rapid inflation, which erodes the value of stocks and bonds.

Barclays Capital on Oct. 5 raised its gold price forecast, to $460 for the fourth quarter from $415, saying "the inflation scare in the air will continue to provide support for gold at historically high price levels.''

Gold priced in euros is up 7.9 percent in the past month, 9.4 percent in yen and 6.7 percent in Indian rupees.

"Gold has been appreciating against most if not all major currencies over the past several weeks, which signals worldwide inflation,'' said Alliance Financial's McGhee. Alliance trades about $250 million of gold annually. "Gold will continue to march higher over the next several weeks, if not months.''

Inflation Outlook

A Labor Department report on Oct. 14 probably will show U.S. consumer prices surged 0.9 percent in September, the fastest rise since January 1990, a separate Bloomberg survey showed. Crude oil prices reached a record $70.85 a barrel on Aug. 30, and closed Oct. 7 at $61.84. Retail gasoline prices in the U.S. reached a record $3.057 a gallon on Sept. 2, according to AAA, the nation's largest motoring organization.

"U.S. consumers are beginning to see $60 oil and $3 gasoline drive up prices across the board, and this will eat into their disposable income,'' said Stuart Flerlage, managing principal at Patronus Capital in New York. "As the picture gets gloomier for the U.S. economy, this will fuel the demand for gold as a neutral currency and hedge against inflation.''

Raising Prices

Jones Stephens Corp., a Moody, Alabama-based wholesaler of plumbing supplies to companies including Home Depot Inc. and Lowe's Cos., is raising prices on four cast-iron parts by 6 percent effective Nov. 1, and expects to raise plastic drain prices another 6 percent by year end, bringing the total increase this year to 18 percent, said Larry Waldron, vice president of sales.

"The toughest part of any situation like this is, the consumer is the one who lays out the extra money and probably won't get an 18 percent increase in pay this year,'' Waldron said Oct. 6 in a telephone interview. "We have homes in Alabama that were selling for $500,000 last week and this week are going for $550,000, with no changes.''

Jones Stephens may not publish an annual catalog of product prices next year because prices are changing too quickly, he said.

Surging energy costs since hurricanes Katrina and Rita smashed into the U.S. Gulf Coast helped spur inflation concerns, pushing gold traded in U.S. dollars up 9 percent this year. Inflation is climbing at annual rates of 10 percent in Argentina, 3.6 percent in the U.S., 2.5 percent in Germany and 3.5 percent in India.

It's Oil

"Consumer prices are rising because of oil,'' European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said Oct. 7. "They are already above the level that we feel serves price stability.'' Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher, in an Oct. 6 speech, said inflation shows "little inclination'' to slow.

With increased demand created by the wedding season getting underway in India, "gold should perform well in the near term, at least,'' said Ron Cameron, an analyst at Ord Minnett Group Ltd. in Sydney. "Both fundamentals and sentiment are currently in gold's favor -- a rare treat.'' India is the biggest buyer of gold.

Gold producers are not keeping up with growing demand.

Mine supply in the U.S., the biggest supplier after South Africa, was 148,000 kilograms (5.2 million ounces) in January through July this year, little changed from 147,700 kilograms in the same period last year, a U.S. Geological Survey said in an Oct. 6 report. South Africa's output last year fell 8.8 percent to 342.7 metric tons, the lowest since 1931. [...]

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Delphi files for bankruptcy
By David Bailey
Sat Oct 8, 8:52 PM ET

CHICAGO - Auto-parts maker Delphi Corp. filed for bankruptcy on Saturday, hurt by high wage and benefit costs. It was the biggest bankruptcy filing in U.S. automotive history and promises to have a broad impact across the industry.

The largest U.S. auto parts supplier, as expected, filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Subsidiaries outside the United States were not included.

The Troy, Michigan-based company has struggled since it was spun off from former parent General Motors Corp. in 1999, posting net losses of $741 million in the first half of 2005 alone. It had sought financing from GM and sharp cuts in wages and benefits from the United Auto Workers union to restructure unprofitable U.S. operations.

The Chapter 11 filing for reorganization potentially allows steep cuts in wages, benefits and jobs to go forward without the UAW's approval, marking a big setback for the trade union. The filing is also likely to deepen financial woes at GM, which shares many of the problems that drove Delphi into Chapter 11.

"We are going to be taking a hard look at every line of business," Delphi Chief Executive Steve Miller said.

Delphi, which makes almost every component found on a car, has about 185,000 employees worldwide. It has about 50,600 employees in the United States, including 25,200 represented by the UAW.

Recent UAW reports that Delphi proposed cutting wages by more than half to $10 or $12 per hour were "directionally correct," Miller said.


"I've been saying from day one that we need to be competitive with other suppliers or we will simply go out of business," Miller said.

He spoke of "a significant reduction" in U.S. employment but declined to be specific.

Delphi's filing listed assets of $17.1 billion as of August 31 and debts totaling $22.17 billion. It had revenue of $28.6 billion in 2004, including $12.7 billion from GM in North America.

The parts maker said it expects substantial cuts in its U.S. manufacturing operations. It plans to finance operations with $4.5 billion in debt facilities, plus other financing lines.

Delphi has arranged for $2 billion of debtor-in-possession financing from a group of lenders led by Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co..

Delphi's bankruptcy is among the 15 largest since 1980, based on rankings on the Web site.

Delphi said it plans to emerge from bankruptcy in early to mid-2007, after substantially cutting U.S. manufacturing operations and modifying labor agreements to reduce wages and benefits.

Under terms of its spinoff, GM may be liable for pension and retiree benefits for UAW workers at Delphi, though analyst forecasts of the cost to GM have varied broadly in the range of billions of dollars.


Analyst David Healy of Burnham Securities said GM will probably continue to get parts from Delphi on time, but the bankruptcy's financial impact on the automaker "should run into several billion dollars."

"It's not going to kill GM, but it's certainly not welcome," Healy said.

GM said the Delphi restructuring could "create operating and financial risks for GM," but added that the filing did not necessarily make it liable for post-retirement health-care and pension benefits for Delphi employees.

The range of exposure extends from potentially no material impact if guarantees are not triggered to $10 billion to $11 billion at the high end, with amounts closer to the midpoint more possible than either end, GM said in a statement.

The UAW called the filing "an extremely bitter pill."

UAW Vice President Dick Shoemaker noted that just a day before the filing, Delphi increased severance packages for 21 top executives, citing a need to make them more competitive.

"It's another classic example where 'uncompetitive' means that those people at the highest level get more, those that aren't fortunate to be at the highest levels get less," Shoemaker said.

Delphi hired Miller, a turnaround specialist, as chief executive and chairman in July with an aim of restructuring outside bankruptcy with the help of GM and the UAW. However, the transaction proved too complex, Miller said.

Bankruptcy law allows a debtor to seek the rejection of labor contracts and impose wage and benefit cuts, but in most cases issues are resolved before a company asks a judge to take that step, said Miller. He previously served as nonexecutive chairman at bankrupt auto parts maker Federal-Mogul Corp. and as chief executive of Bethlehem Steel.

The filing tops out a rocky year for Delphi, which probed accounting improprieties that forced out its former chief financial officer and five other executives and led to financial restatements and probes by federal regulators.

Delphi is the third large U.S. parts supplier to file for bankruptcy protection in 2005. Auto interiors producer Collins & Aikman Corp. filed in May and auto-body frames producer Tower Automotive Inc. filed in February.

Comment: It seems the bubble is beginning to burst. We suspect it will not be long before it will be very difficult for anyone - including Bush - to pretend that the US economy is in great shape...

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Slowing Is Seen in Housing Prices in Hot Markets
New York Times
October 4, 2005

A real estate slowdown that began in a handful of cities this summer has spread to almost every hot housing market in the country, including New York.

More sellers are putting their homes on the market, houses are selling less quickly and prices are no longer increasing as rapidly as they were in the spring, according to local data and interviews with brokers.

In Manhattan, the average sales price fell almost 13 percent in the third quarter from the second quarter, according to a widely followed report to be released today by Miller Samuel, an appraisal firm, and Prudential Douglas Elliman, a real estate firm. The amount of time it took to sell a home was also up 30.4 percent over the same period.

In another sign that the housing market might have reached a peak, executives at big home builders have sold almost $1 billion worth of company stock this year. [Page C1.]

Outside Washington, in Fairfax County, Va., the number of homes on the market in August rose nearly 50 percent from August 2004. In the Boston suburb of Brookline, Mass., where many three-bedroom houses cost $1 million or more, the inventory of homes for sale has increased in just the last few weeks, said Chobee Hoy, a broker there.

For-sale listings have also swelled throughout California, according to the California Association of Realtors. In the San Francisco Bay area, they have increased 16 percent in the last year, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said.

"We are seeing a market in transition," Leslie Appleton-Young, the association's chief economist, said.

Brokers said that some houses seemed to be on the market longer because sellers priced them too high, assuming that their value was still rising sharply. In other cases, people who otherwise would have waited a year or two to sell their homes - like empty nesters ready to move into smaller quarters - had listed them now out of fear that prices would soon fall.

The question remains whether all of this represents a momentary cooling off of some overheated housing markets, or it presages a more pronounced downturn that would end a decade-long boom.

Some economists and commentators have for years predicted the bursting of a real estate bubble, and previous slowdowns have turned out to be relatively brief pauses before prices started accelerating again.

But with mortgage rates now rising, the cost of gasoline hovering at or near $3 a gallon and house prices in some areas out of reach for many families, brokers and analysts said they thought that this slowdown could be the real thing.

For now, the change remains a far cry from the bursting bubble that some have predicted.

In Massachusetts, for example, the median house price remained flat from July to August, and the median condominium price fell only slightly, according to the Realtors' association there. At the start of the year, prices had been rising at an annual rate of more than 15 percent.

If anything, some brokers said, the recent slowdown meant a return to a healthier, more sustainable market.

"What we had was abnormal," said Dottie Herman, chief executive of Prudential Douglas Elliman. "People get used to abnormal times and then when they're normal, they think there's something wrong."

Alexander Shakhov, 47, listed his two-bedroom house in Frederick, Md., an outer suburb of Washington, for $529,000 in July, and it remained unsold for the rest of the summer. A month ago, he reduced the price to $499,000 at the suggestion of a broker. A week ago, Mr. Shakhov accepted an offer at the lower price.

The market "is not as hot as the last two years," Mr. Shakhov, a scientist at a biotechnology company, said, "but I'm pretty happy."

He bought the house three years ago for $230,000. He now lives in Cleveland, where he has bought a home that is nearly twice as large as his Frederick house for less money.

The cooling off has forced both sellers and real estate agents to begin changing their attitudes about residential property, many said.

Houses that are priced too high are sometimes on the market for weeks or months now, rather than fetching even more money than their owners had imagined they could get.

In Manhattan, the average sales price of co-op and condominium apartments fell 12.7 percent, to $1.15 million, in the three months that ended on Sept. 30 compared with the second quarter, according to the Prudential Douglas Elliman report. The median sales price - which means half of homes sold for more and half for less - fell 3.2 percent, to $750,000.

Still, the average sales price was 10 percent higher this summer than it was a year earlier, according to the study.

Nationally, housing prices rose at the fastest rates since 1979 in the 12 months through August, the National Association of Realtors said last week.

But the changes that real estate agents have seen in recent weeks - increased inventories and longer sales times - have often preceded market slowdowns in the past.

One reason properties are remaining on the market longer is that sellers still expect to reap double-digit price appreciation each year.

"What will slow this market down, and has slowed certain segments of the market down, is overpricing," said Pamela Liebman, chief executive of the Corcoran Group, a large real estate firm in New York. "Back in the spring, there was such a frenzy that very pedestrian product was drawing multiple bids."

Some of today's sellers appear to be pricing their homes as if the frenzy were continuing.

"Their neighbors sold their house when the market was red-hot, and everybody thinks their house is better than their neighbor's house," said Maggie Tomkiewicz, the president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and a broker in South Dartmouth. "But when the neighbor sold, there may not have been five other houses on the market" in the area.

The slowdown has also jolted the thousands of people who have become licensed brokers in the last few years. Until now, many of them knew only galloping price appreciation.

"I've gotten these calls from newer agents saying: 'I've had this property on the market for 60 to 90 days. What do I do?'" related Buzz Mackintosh, an owner of Mackintosh Realtors in Frederick, who has been selling houses for two decades. "And I say, 'It's called, 'Reduce your price.' "

Indications of a slowdown have appeared before. Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, said the last time that average and median sales prices dropped below those the previous quarter at the same time that inventories and sales duration rose in Manhattan was in the fourth quarter of 2002. But by the end of 2003, the market had come back.

An important difference now, though, is that mortgage rates are creeping up, whereas previous comebacks have been fueled by ever-lower rates.

Comment: The other difference now is that the war in Iraq is spiraling out of control along with its price tag, two hurricanes have struck the southern US coast at a cost of tens of billions of dollars, and the Bush government is under some real pressure at the moment. The current situation is rather delicate. A "terrorist" strike against the US economy might be just the ticket to take everyone's mind off of the failures of the Bush administration and get them fired up for more wars.

On five-year adjustable-rate mortgages - a popular loan with a fixed interest rate for the first five years - the initial rate has risen to 5.59 percent on average, from 5.14 percent in June, according to

What is more, some mortgage lenders have started to tighten credit standards, making it harder for buyers to get loans.

"Low interest rates and easy credit standards are just about over," said Kenneth Rosen, chairman of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

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House narrowly approves bill to help US refineries
By Chris Baltimore
Fri Oct 7, 5:52 PM ET

WASHINGTON - In a cliffhanger vote held open by Republican leaders until they won, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by two votes on Friday a bill giving U.S. oil refineries incentives to expand.

The legislation, written by Republican Joe Barton of Texas, was barely approved, 212-210, even after Barton dropped a White House-backed provision that would have gutted clean air rules for refineries to expand existing plants.

The bill wants to add 2 million barrels per day of capacity by offering abandoned military bases for refinery construction sites. It also gives federal insurance to refiners whose projects are delayed by lawsuits or regulatory snags, and puts the Energy Department in charge of processing permits.

President George W. Bush commended passage of the bill.

"No refineries have been built in our Nation since 1976, and the recent disruptions in supply from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have demonstrated that additional refining capacity is critically needed," Bush said in a statement.

It was the first major House vote since Texan Tom DeLay was forced to step down as majority leader after being indicted on felony charges. Republicans won in a roll call vote that ran 44 minutes, far beyond the allotted five minutes.

Some 13 Republicans, mostly from Northeast states, ultimately voted with 196 Democrats and 1 independent against the bill. No Democrats voted for it.

Democrats in the chamber chanted "shame, shame, shame" as the final tally was announced.

When over two dozen Republicans initially voted no, DeLay, Barton, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and new Majority Leader Roy Blunt circled the chamber to cajole holdouts.

Republican Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland was the last to switch. With the tally stuck at 211-211, Gilchrest changed his vote, making it 212-210. Barton promptly shook his hand and Republican Mike Simpson, who presided over the vote, gaveled it to an end.

The rapidly shifting vote kept even senior Republicans at sea. "I didn't know what to expect," Hastert said afterward.

Several Democrats protested that the vote was held open. "I am informed that every member of Congress who is in town has voted," Democratic whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said at one point, when the tally was 210 yes, 214 no.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi also complained, saying the proceedings brought "dishonor to the House."

The bill was prompted by hurricanes Rita and Katrina, which plowed through the heart of the U.S. energy producing region and shut offshore drilling rigs and refineries.

Its most controversial item would have deleted part of the Clean Air Act known as "new source review" that requires costly new equipment to cut emissions when refineries and coal-fired power plants expand. Barton dropped it from the bill because of opposition from Democrats and moderate Republicans.

That plan "clearly needed more time for hearings" and could be considered by the House later this year, Blunt said.

The Bush administration said it supported the bill.

No new U.S. refinery has been built since 1976 and dozens of plants have been closed despite rising fuel consumption.

"We haven't built a new refinery in a generation. We need more," said Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican.

Democrats say refiners are loath to build new facilities amid record-high profits, while Republicans say permitting and environmental requirements keep them from expanding.

Democrats were unsuccessful in pushing an alternate bill that would create spare refineries that the federal government could activate during gasoline shortages.

The House also blocked a bipartisan plan by Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Sherwood Boehlert of New York to require an 8-mile-per-gallon rise in vehicle mileage to curb gasoline demand.

Other provisions in the bill include:

* Expanding Northeast Heating Oil Reserve to 5 million barrels, from current 2 million barrels;

* Limiting anti-pollution gasoline blends to six, from the current 17;

* Requiring FTC to prepare a report on the price of gasoline and heating oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange;

* Waives federal, state and local fuel additive requirements after a natural disaster that disrupts supplies;

* Gives Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to monitor offshore gas gathering lines to prevent anti-competitive practices.

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Republicans in Congress Propose Budget Cuts to Fund Storm Relief
By Carl Hulse
Friday, October 7, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Jettisoning earlier reservations, congressional Republican leaders say they intend to cut spending to pay for hurricane relief along the Gulf Coast, setting up a major confrontation over what programs to pick and how deep the reductions.

Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, chairman of the House Budget Committee, called on Thursday for across-the-board spending cuts and urged lawmakers to increase the savings Republicans hope to gain from a budget bill this fall to a minimum of $50 billion, from $35 billion.

"We'd better get started, and we'd better do it now," Nussle said.

Senate Republican leaders have joined in, directing their committee chairmen to find more than $35 billion in savings while establishing a task force to identify ways to pay for the back-to-back hurricanes.

"Congress needs to make tough choices to ensure that the federal response to these disasters is responsible," the full Senate majority leadership said in a letter to the chairmen.

It is a marked change in tone from the days immediately after Hurricane Katrina, when Congress rushed through more than $60 billion in aid and Republican leaders were lukewarm to the idea of spending cuts to compensate. But Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the mood had shifted when lawmakers focused on the monumental costs.

President Bush also contributed to the push for cuts when he told reporters this week that "Congress needs to pay for as much of the hurricane relief as possible by cutting spending," and promised to work with lawmakers to identify ways to save.

But getting behind the idea of cuts is much easier than enacting them. Democrats and some Republicans are certain to oppose many of the ideas, particularly those that would scale back spending on programs for the poor, among the hardest hit by the storm. The difficulty was illustrated Thursday when the Senate Agriculture Committee was forced to cancel a session to consider $3 billion in cuts - including $574 million for food stamps - after disagreements erupted.

"As usual, the prime targets are the poor and others who rely on federal programs for their health, education, disability, agriculture, and veterans' benefits," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the senior Democrat on the Agriculture Committee.

At the same time, lawmakers from Louisiana and elsewhere continue to clamor for more relief.

On Thursday night, as part of a package of bills, the House approved $500 million in aid to Hurricane Katrina victims. The aid, which would help states pay unemployment benefits to storm victims, would be financed by stopping federal payments for impotence drugs.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Finance Committee, assailed the White House at a hearing on Thursday with Treasury Secretary John W. Snow. Grassley accused the administration of trying to scuttle his plan to extend federal Medicaid benefits to hurricane victims whose incomes are at poverty level and to have the federal government pick up the full cost of those benefits for the next five months.

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Pentagon seeks power to gather secret intelligence in US
Sat Oct 8, 3:18 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is seeking authority to secretly collect information about US citizens and emigres, a department official told The Washington Post.

DIA General Counsel George Peirce said the agency was seeking to expand its powers to help recruit sources of intelligence information, the paper reported.

"This is not about spying on Americans," Peirce was quoted as saying in an interview with the Post.

"We are not asking for the moon."

"We only want to assess their suitability as a source, person to person" and at the same time "protect the ID and safety of our officers."

The CIA and the FBI already had such authority and the DIA needed it "to develop critical leads" because "there is more than enough work for all of us to do", he said.

The legislative proposal has been controversial on Capitol Hill and has drawn criticism from groups concerned with privacy and civil liberties, according to the report.

The House version of the intelligence authorization bill, which passed in June, does not include the provision.

But the Senate intelligence committee approved the new authority for the DIA last week and forwarded it to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which reviews sections related to the Defense Department.

Comment: This DIA is going to secretly collect information about US citizens... How is that not spying?

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Bush Call to Expand Military Powers at Home Seen as Unnecessary, Political
Niko Kyriakiou
OneWorld US
October 8, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO - President Bush recently suggested that the military be given broader powers to deal with domestic crises like Hurricane Katrina or a potential bird flu epidemic, but emergency response and security groups in the U.S. say the military already has the power it needs to provide both relief and protection to citizens, and question whether the president's real motives aren't political.

In mid-September, after Katrina and the subsequent civil disorder struck New Orleans, President Bush told the nation that the military should play a bigger role in such major domestic crises.

"It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces--the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice," the president said, in an address to the nation from Jackson Square in New Orleans.

But relief groups doubt whether giving the military police power in emergency situations would really increase Americans' safety.

"With images of soldiers in New Orleans carrying M-16s but no medical or relief supplies fresh in the public memory, the president would still have us believe that a military response is the preferred response," said Mary Ellen McNish, general secretary for the American Friends Service Committee, in a statement on the Committee's Web site.

The Committee, which has worked in disaster areas and war zones for almost 90 years, says the military is no substitute for trained relief and reconstruction personnel and accused the president of chasing after more money for the Pentagon.

"Relief work cannot be a military add on. Public safety is too important to be used in a ploy to prop up ballooning military expenditures and a failed foreign policy of global dominance," McNish said.

"The answer is not to embed disaster response even more deeply in the 'war on terror' bureaucracy," she said.

Earlier this week, Bush asked Congress to review the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the armed forces from engaging in police-type work within U.S. borders.

"I'm concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the United States and the world," he said at a news conference in the Rose Garden on Tuesday.

"One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move," he said. "So that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have." [...]

On Thursday, the U.S. senate added nearly $4 billion to a Pentagon spending bill to purchase vaccines for approximately half of the U.S. population.

The American Red Cross said it had not yet reviewed the implications of a change to Posse Comitatus and was not prepared to comment on it. However Jana Zehner, a spokesperson, said that the Red Cross was not dissatisfied with the response to Hurricane Katrina made by the police, National Guard, or the military.

Some security groups and military experts, for their part, have questioned what benefit granting the military domestic police powers could bring in responding to crises such as an avian flu pandemic.

"I cannot imagine U.S. troops surrounding a town where avian flu has broken out with fixed bayonets to prevent people from getting out of the town--that's just nuts," says retired army Lieutenant General, Robert G. Gard.

But Gard says the main argument against changing Posse Comitatus is that the military can already serve as police in domestic emergencies, although only in the gravest circumstances.

Under the current system, the military is allowed to offer all kinds of logistical support during domestic crises, but cannot engage in policing, says Gard, who is now the senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, D.C.. [...]

But in those rare cases when none of these security bodies are able to contain a problem, then the president--regardless of a governor's objections--may deploy federal troops to stop a breakdown in law and order, as permitted under the Insurrection Act.

"If you have a situation like New Orleans with chaos and looting--with insufficient local law enforcement to do the job--federal forces can be employed under the Insurrection Act," according to Gard.

Comment: Then why did it take Bush so long to deploy federal troops after Katrina? The whole world new about the chaos in New Orleans for days before any actions was taken...

In 1992 President George H. W. Bush invoked the Act by sending troops to Los Angeles to contain riots following the acquittal of police officers accused of the beating of Rodney King. Likewise, the current President Bush used the Act to override Possee Comitatus when he put armed, active duty troops in airports following 9-11.

Thus a weakening or removal of Possee Comitatus would not mean an increase in security as much as a change in command away from the states and to the president, Gard says.

Comment: In other words, power will be further concentrated into the hands of the wannabe fuehrer.

Many security experts believe the Insurrection Act should remain a final option. [...]

Problems also arise when the military act as police, Isaacs says, since their training does not prepare them for policing--in fact, it prepares them for the opposite: combat.

The military, in all likelihood, wants no part of the job, says retired Lieutenant General Gard.

"The last thing the active army wants to get involved in is policing its own citizens," he said.

With governors, relief groups, security groups, and in all probability, the military itself against the idea of expanding its duties to include domestic police work, it seems that President Bush stands relatively alone in his recommendation for expanding military power.

Unable to find logic in Bush's purported reasons for requesting that Congress review Posse Comitatus, some observers, like General Gard, attribute more political motives to the president.

"He's trying to recover from the fact that there was a failure, both local and nationally, in responding to Katrina," Gard said.

Comment: As usual, Bush is using the disaster in which he played an important role to push his own agenda.

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New Orleans Police Beating Caught on Tape
Associated Press Writer
Sun Oct 9, 5:58 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS - Two New Orleans police officers repeatedly punched a 64-year-old man accused of public intoxication, and another city officer assaulted an Associated Press Television News producer as a cameraman taped the confrontations.

There will be a criminal investigation, and the three officers were to be suspended, arrested and charged with simple battery Sunday, Capt. Marlon Defillo said.

"We have great concern with what we saw this morning," Defillo said after he and about a dozen other high-ranking police department officials watched the APTN footage Sunday. "It's a troubling tape, no doubt about it. ... This department will take immediate action."

The assaults come as the department, long plagued by allegations of brutality and corruption, struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the resignation last month of Police Superintendent Eddie Compass.

The APTN tape shows an officer hitting the man at least four times in the head Saturday night as he stood outside a bar near Bourbon Street. The suspect, Robert Davis, appeared to resist, twisting and flailing as he was dragged to the ground by four officers. Another of the four officers then kneed Davis and punched him twice. Davis was face-down on the sidewalk with blood streaming down his arm and into the gutter.

Meanwhile, a fifth officer ordered APTN producer Rich Matthews and the cameraman to stop recording. When Matthews held up his credentials and explained he was working, the officer grabbed the producer, leaned him backward over a car, jabbed him in the stomach and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade.

"I've been here for six weeks trying to keep ... alive. ... Go home!" shouted the officer, who later identified himself as S.M. Smith.

Police said Davis, 64, of New Orleans, was booked on public intoxication, resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and public intimidation. He was treated at a hospital and released into police custody.

A mug shot of Davis, provided by a jailer, showed him with his right eye swollen shut, an apparent abrasion on the left side of his neck and a cut on his right temple.

"The incidents taped by our cameraman are extremely troubling," said Mike Silverman, AP's managing editor. "We are heartened that the police department is taking them seriously and promising a thorough investigation."

Davis, who is black, was subdued at the intersection of Conti and Bourbon streets. Three of the officers appeared to be white, and the other is light skinned. The officer who hit Matthews is white. Defillo said race was not an issue.

Three of the five officers - including Smith - are New Orleans officers, and two others appeared to be federal officers. Numerous agencies have sent police to help with patrols in the aftermath of Katrina. [...]

"Our police officers are working under some very trying times," Defillo said. "So it's a difficult time, but it doesn't excuse what our jobs are supposed to be."

Many officers deserted their posts in the days after Katrina, and some were accused of joining in the looting that broke out. At least two committed suicide.

Conditions have improved - officers now have beds on a cruise ship - but they don't have private rooms and are still working five, 12-hour days.

Compass, the police superintendent, resigned Sept. 27. Despite more than 10 years of reform efforts dating to before he took office, police were dogged by allegations of brutality and corruption.

On Friday, state authorities said they were investigating allegations that New Orleans police broke into a dealership and made off with nearly 200 cars - including 41 new Cadillacs - as the storm closed in.

Comment: This story will be wonderful fuel for Bush's plan to use federal troops for "peacekeeping" operations on US soil.

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Bush Works to Reassure G.O.P. Over Nominee for Supreme Court
October 9, 2005

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 - After a blistering week, the White House is scrambling to control a conservative uprising over the nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court, with President Bush pitching his choice directly to the public on Saturday as his Republican allies plotted strategy to shore up support.

"Harriet Miers will be the type of judge I said I would nominate: a good conservative judge," Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address. He added, "When she goes before the Senate, I am confident that all Americans will see what I see every day: Harriet Miers is a woman of intelligence, strength and conviction."

It was the third time since he picked Ms. Miers on Monday that the president has come to her defense. His remarks came as Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who presides over confirmation hearings, offered a blunt assessment that was yet another sign that the nominee faced an uphill battle on Capitol Hill. Though Mr. Specter called Ms. Miers "intellectually able," he said she had a "fair-sized job to do" to become fluent in the language of constitutional law, which will be essential for senators who want to examine her judicial philosophy in deciding whether to confirm her.

"She needs more than murder boards," Mr. Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview, referring to the mock question-and-answer sessions most nominees use to prepare for their confirmation hearings. "She needs a crash course in constitutional law."

The conservative uproar over Ms. Miers underscores how difficult it has been for Mr. Bush to pull his own party together as he faces a variety of problems on other fronts: his administration's response to Hurricane Katrina; a leak investigation involving his chief political adviser, Karl Rove; the indictment of Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, who was the House majority leader; and, most recently, the decision by a top Justice Department nominee to withdraw amid questions over his ties to a Republican lobbyist accused of fraud.

Only a week ago, Republicans were saying they looked forward to a new Supreme Court nominee because it would give them something to rally around, providing a welcome distraction from the Bush administration's problems. But the nomination of Ms. Miers only served to roil a party that is already divided over domestic matters like Social Security and how to pay to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Now, having alienated his conservative backers, Mr. Bush must go forward on the Miers nomination alone, without the help of many of the advocates who led the charge for the last nominee, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Behind the scenes, Republican allies of the White House said they were trying to put together a public relations strategy to combat the mounting criticism over the Miers nomination. The effort, they said, would include administration officials, the Republican National Committee and conservative advocates who will carry onto television, talk radio and other forums the message that Ms. Miers, the White House counsel and a close confidante of the president, is a strong choice and that Mr. Bush will stand firmly behind her.

They said the White House was working to assemble a dossier that would back up its case about Ms. Miers' record of accomplishment, her legal qualifications and her conservative credentials. The administration was trying to assemble and review as much documentation as it could find about Ms. Miers's public record before she came to the White House, including details of her service on the Dallas City Council and her role as president of the State Bar of Texas.

Jim Dyke, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee who has joined the White House to help confirm Ms. Miers, said in an interview she was being seriously underestimated.

"President of the Texas bar association, president of the Dallas Bar Association, head of a major law firm, those are impressive credentials and they are being summarily dismissed," Mr. Dyke said. Asked about Mr. Specter's remark, Mr. Dyke said that as White House counsel, Ms. Miers already had "a mastery of the Constitution and constitutional law," and said she needed to do nothing more than any other nominee to prepare. He added, "There seem to be some unfair assumptions being made."

After Mr. Bush campaigned on a promise that he would choose justices in the mold of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, two of the court's most reliable conservatives, the selection of Ms. Miers has infuriated conservatives, who have assailed her as a crony who lacks the proper credentials, as well as a clear record on what they regard as some of the most important social issues of the day, including abortion, gay marriage and religion in public life.

One prominent conservative, the columnist Charles Krauthammer, ridiculed the nomination as "a joke." Mr. Krauthammer wrote, "The issue is not the venue of Miers's constitutional scholarship, experience and engagement. The issue is their nonexistence."

One conservative advocate, Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, said generating enthusiasm for Ms. Miers was proving difficult because "anytime we put out something positive about her it gets shot to pieces by all our allies and the blogs."

Already, the Senate's most ardent opponent of abortion, Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, has said he is prepared to vote against Ms. Miers, even if he receives a personal plea from Mr. Bush to support her. And while Ms. Miers does appear to be assuaging the concerns of some Republican senators as she meets with them, Republicans are hardly as effusive in their praise as they were early on for Chief Justice Roberts, whose resume - he argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court as an appellate lawyer - and ability to discuss intricate matters of constitutional law impressed them greatly.

"She obviously faces a challenge following John Roberts," Mr. Specter said. "But nobody expects her to be a second John Roberts."

Yet before the Miers nomination, some of Mr. Bush's closest allies on Capitol Hill said they did want a second John Roberts. Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said at one point that he would "be pleased if you could clone John Roberts." After seeing Ms. Miers this week, Mr. Sessions said he was "a little bit troubled" by the conservative criticism, but was taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"I think it's a valid concern of those who support President Bush that we get the kind of nominee that he promised and that he thinks she is," Mr. Sessions said. Of Ms. Miers, he said, "I don't really feel like I know her. I'd like to know more about her record."

With the Senate in recess until Oct. 17, Ms. Miers headed to Dallas, the White House said, to review files from the cases she had handled while in private practice so that she could respond to the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire. Mr. Specter said Republicans and Democrats were still negotiating the questions, but that he had given Ms. Miers the form used in the Roberts confirmation to get her started.

As Ms. Miers made the rounds on Capitol Hill, at least one Democrat, Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, said the nominee had become a victim of sexism. "They're saying a woman who was one of the first to head up a major law firm with over 400 lawyers doesn't have intellectual heft," Ms. Mikulski said.

Others, like Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said the criticism was elitist.

"I think people have a view of a Supreme Court justice, it's a healthy view, that you should be the best and the brightest," Mr. Graham said. "But to be the best and the brightest, in my opinion, is bigger than your SAT score and where you got your degree." [...]

Comment: Yeah, just look at Yale graduate George W. Bush...

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Groups unhappy with Bush performance: poll 2005-10-08 13:23:51

BEIJING, Oct. 8 -- Evangelicals, Republican women, Southerners and other critical groups in US President Bush's political coalition are worried about the direction the nation is headed and disappointed with his performance, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

That unease could be a troubling sign for a White House already struggling to keep the Republican Party base from slipping over Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, Gulf Coast spending projects, immigration and other issues.

"Politically, this is very serious for the president," said James Thurber, a political scientist at American University. "If the base of his party has lost faith, that could spell trouble for his policy agenda and for the party generally."

Sentiment about the nation's direction has sunk to new depths at a time people are anxious about Iraq, the economy, gas prices and the management of billions of dollars being spent for recovery from the nation's worst natural disaster.

Only 28 percent say the country is headed in the right direction while two-thirds, 66 percent, say it is on the wrong track, the poll found.

"There is a growing, deep-seated discontentment and pessimism about the direction of the country," said Republican strategist Tony Fabrizio, who believes the reasons for their pessimism differ for those in one political party or another.

Among those most likely to have lost confidence about the nation's direction over the past year are white evangelicals, down 30 percentage points since November, Republican women, down 28 points, Southerners, down 26 points, and suburban men, down 20 points.

Bush's supporters are uneasy about issues such as federal deficits, immigration and his latest nomination for the Supreme Court. Social conservatives are concerned about his choice of Miers, a relatively unknown lawyer who has most recently served as White House counsel.

"Bush is trying to get more support generally from the American public by seeming more moderate and showing he's a strong leader at the same time he has a rebellion within his own party," Thurber said. "The far right is starting to be very open about their claim that he's not a real conservative."

The president's job approval is mired at the lowest level of his presidency - 39 percent. While four of five Republicans say they approve of Bush's job performance - enthusiasm in that support has dipped over the last year.

In December 2004, soon after his re-election, almost two-thirds of Republicans strongly approved of the job done by Bush. The AP-Ipsos survey found that just half in his own party feel that way now.

The intensity of support for Bush's job performance has also dropped sharply among white evangelicals, Southerners, people from rural areas and suburban men.

"We've lost focus on where we're supposed to be going and not able to respond to the crises that affect the people of this country," said David Ernest, a Republican from San Ramon, Calif., who is angry about the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. "We're mired in a Middle Eastern adventure and we've taken the focus off of our own country."

Bush has tried to reassure conservatives about his Supreme Court nominee. He's also trying to counter critics of the war by tying U.S. efforts in Iraq to the larger war against terrorism. And he's made frequent trips to the areas devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita to offset criticism of the government's initial response to Katrina.

Of all the problems facing the country, the war in Iraq is the one that troubles some Bush supporters the most.

"I approve of what the president is doing, but it's a mixed decision," said Richard Saulinski, a Republican from Orland Park, Ill. "We should get out of Iraq. It seems like there's no light at the end of the tunnel. I just think we're dealing with a culture we don't really understand."

The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted by Ipsos, an international polling company, from Monday to Wednesday and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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America's sense of itself - its pride in its power - has been profoundly damaged.
By Dermot Purgavie, Veteran US Correspondent
8 October 2005

THIS week Karen Hughes, long-time political adviser to George Bush, began her new mission as the State Department's official defender of America's image with a tour of the Middle East.

She might have been more help to her beleaguered president had she stayed at home and used her PR skills on her neighbours. At the end of a cruel and turbulent summer, nobody is more dismayed and demoralised about America than Americans.

They have watched with growing disbelief and horror as a convergence of events - dominated by the unending war in Iraq and two hurricanes - have exposed ugly and disturbing things in the undergrowth that shame and embarrass Americans and undermine their belief in the nation and its values.

With TV providing a ceaseless backdrop of the country's failings - a crippled and tone-deaf president, a negligent government, corruption, military atrocities, soaring debt, racial conflict, poverty, bloated bodies in floodwater, people dying on camera for want of food, water and medicine - it seemed things were falling apart in the land where happiness is promoted in the constitution.

Disillusioning news was everywhere. In the flight from Hurricane Rita, evacuees fought knife fights over cans of petrol. In storm-hit Louisiana there were long queues at gun stores as people armed themselves against looters.

AMERICA, which has the world's costliest health care, had, it turned out, higher infant mortality rates than the broke and despised Cuba.

Tom De Lay, Republican enforcer in the House of Representatives, was indicted for conspiracy and money laundering. The leader of the Republicans in the Senate was under investigation for his stock dealings. And Osama bin Laden was still on the loose.

Americans are the planet's biggest flag wavers. They are reared on the conceit that theirs is the world's best and most enviable country, born only the day before yesterday but a model society with freedom, opportunity and prosperity not found, they think, in older cultures.

They rejoice that "We are No.1", and in many ways they are.

But events have revealed a creeping mildew of pain and privation, graft and injustice and much incompetence lurking beneath the glow of star-spangled superiority.

Many here feel the country is breaking down and losing its moral and political authority.

"US in funk" say the headlines. "I am ashamed to be an American," say the letters to the editor. We are seeing, say the commentators, a crumbling - and humbling - of America.

The catalogue of afflictions is long and grisly. Hurricane Katrina revealed confusion and incompetence throughout government, from town hall to White House.

President Bush, accused of an alarming failure of leadership over the disaster, has now been to the Gulf coast seven times for carefully orchestrated photo opps.

But his approval has dropped below 40 per cent. Public doubt about his capacity to deal with pressing problems is growing.

Americans feel ashamed by the violent, predatory behaviour Katrina triggered - nothing similar happened in the tsunami-hit Third World countries - and by the deep racial and class divisions it revealed.

The press has since been giving the country a crash course on poverty and race, informing the flag wavers that an uncaring America may be No.1 on the world inequities index.

IT has 37 million living under the poverty line, largely unnoticed by the richest in a country with more than three million millionaires.

The typical white family has $80,000 in assets; the average black family about $6,000. It's a wealth gap out of the Middle Ages. Some 46 million can't afford health insurance, 18,000 of whom will die early because of it.

The US, we learn, is 43rd in the world infant mortality rankings. A baby born in Beijing has nearly three times the chance of reaching its first birthday than a baby born in Washington. Those who survive face rotten schools. On reading and maths tests for 15-year-olds, America is 24th out of 29 nations.

On the other side of the tracks, 18 corporate executives have so far been jailed for cooking the books and looting billions. The prosecution of Mr Bush's pals at Enron - the showcase trial of the greed-is-good culture - will be soon.

But the backroom deal lives on and, in an orgy of cronyism, billions of dollars are being carved up in no-bid contracts awarded to politically-connected firms for work in the hurricane-hit states and in Iraq.

The war, seen as unwinnable, is becoming a bleak burden, with nearly 2,000 American dead. Two-thirds think the invasion was a mistake.

The war costs $6 billion a month, driving up a nose-bleed high $331 billion budget deficit. In five years the conflict will have cost each American family $11,300, it is said.

Mr Bush says blithely he'll cut existing programmes to pay for the war and fund an estimated $200 billion for hurricane damage. He won't, he says, rescind his tax cuts. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel says Mr Bush is "disconnected from reality".

Americans have been angered by a reports that US troops have routinely tortured Iraqi prisoners. Some 230 low-rankers have been convicted - but not one general or Pentagon overseer. Disgruntled young officers are leaving in increasing numbers.

Meanwhile, further damaging Americans' self image, there's Afghanistan. The White House says its operations there were a success, yet last year Afghanistan supplied 90 per cent of the world's heroin.

America's sense of itself - its pride in its power and authority, its faith in its institutions and its belief in its leaders - has been profoundly damaged. And now the talking heads in Washington predict dramatic political change and the death of the Republicans' hope of becoming the permanent government.

Comment: The more complacent, self-satisfied, arrogant, and smug the individual or country, the greater the shock necessary to crack and break down the filters blinding him, her, or it to reality. Americans are beginning to receive these shocks.

Yet in order to really see the world, their country, and the true role it plays in world affairs, Americans will have to be stripped of every one of their most sacred beliefs. They see themselves as the world's flag bearers for democracy when they are the financier and military enforcer of the most corrupt, violent, and tyrannical regimes on the planet. They train and sponsor torture, detain citizens of other countries, as well as their own, without charges, some in secret detention centres far from the eyes of international organisations such as the Red Cross. They believe their economy, completely controlled by a handful of monopolies, is the pinnacle of historical economic development; their press and media, which has served as a mouthpiece for an ever more restricted set of authoritarian ideas, the bastion of freedom of the press.

They believe they are free when in fact they are held in a once-gilded cage that has lost its brilliance, leaving only the bars and the ever more noticeable lock. They are aware that their country has become a symbol of tyranny around the world and are at a loss as to why. The true history of their country is unknown to them as they have bought the myth and its recurring appearance in Hollywood blockbusters and on Fox News.

Slowly, they are waking up and noticing that things aren't quite what the wing nut cheerleaders are telling them. If they are upset at the situation in Iraq, it is because Bush told them that it was Mission Accomplished, and yet it drags on with more and more American soldiers coming home in coffins.

How much further will they have to be shaken? What kind of shocks will they have to endure?

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Bush equates bin Laden with history's greatest tyrants
Japan Today
Friday, October 7, 2005 at 07:43 JST

WASHINGTON - U.S. President George W Bush said Thursday that al-Qaida was bent on building a "totalitarian empire" grounded in radical Islam, and put its leader Osama bin Laden on a par with Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin.

In a speech on terrorism, Bush said it was a "dangerous illusion" that the United States would be better off pulling troops out of a conflict which has cost nearly 2,000 U.S. lives [sic] and hammered his personal opinion poll ratings.

Seeking to reclaim authority on national security he enjoyed during his first term in office, Bush, speaking to the National Endowment for Democracy, portrayed al-Qaida as the latest in history's ideological threats.

"This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision : the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom."

Bush compared terrorist leaders to ideological "fanatics" Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Nazi tyrant Adolf Hitler, and Cambodia's Khmer Rouge kingpin Pol Pot.

"Evil men obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience must be taken very seriously and we must stop them before their crimes multiply," Bush said.

"We have seen this kind of shameless cruelty before, in heartless zealotry that led to the gulags and the Cultural Revolution and the Killing Fields."

Speaking in Washington's Ronald Reagan Building, dedicated to the man many Americans believe was instrumental in winning the Cold War, Bush made several comparisons between al-Qaida and communism.

"Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies.

"In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination, and they wish to make everyone powerless except themselves."

Bush also said that the United States had foiled three al-Qaida terror strikes on its soil since the Sept 11 attacks in 2001, and stopped terror groups casing U.S. targets and infiltrating operatives into the country.

The White House later said two of those foiled attacks had already been publicised. They involved U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, who is accused of plotting to set off a radiological "dirty" bomb, and Iyman Faris, a U.S. truck driver who has admitted plotting to blow up New York's Brooklyn Bridge.

Aides had styled the speech as an attempt to convince Americans that Iraq was a central front of the anti-terror campaign, and a crucial showdown with Islamic radicalism.

Bush took square aim at critics of his leadership in Iraq, amid a rising tide of public discontent over the course of the war, growing criticism in Congress and even calls to bring the troops home.

"Observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It is not justified," Bush said, arguing that Iraq had made "incredible political progress" and warned the idea that the United States would be better off out of Iraq was a "dangerous illusion."

"In Iraq, there is no peace without victory. We will keep our nerve and we will win that victory," said Bush, who also hit out at critics who say the Iraq war has increased U.S. vulnerability to terrorism.

"I'll remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001, and al-Qaida attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse."

But Bush's political foes were not convinced. Harry Reid, Democratic leader in the Senate said Bush risked making Iraq "a training ground for terrorists."

Senator Edward Kennedy said it was "foolish for the president to brag openly about disrupting al-Qaida plots."

"His 'bring it on' attitude hasn't worked, and such statements can only goad al-Qaida into trying harder," Kennedy said. (Wire reports)

Comment: For a response to this speech, please see the following article by Robert Parry....

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Bush's Terrifying Terror Speech
By Robert Parry October 10, 2005

George W. Bush's Oct. 6 speech demanding "complete victory" in the "war on terror" unnerved some Americans who saw a president who looked and sounded like an obsessed sea captain charting the ship of state into an endless storm.

To allay some of those worries, we are offering the White House a draft for a follow-up speech in which Bush can speak straight to the concerns of his doubters. Like another draft that we proposed last summer, we don't expect this one will get very far.

"My fellow Americans, I hear that many of you who watched my speech the other day came away a little spooked. Some of you thought I sounded crazy because I made it seem like we'd be at war in the Middle East forever.

"Some even wondered what it means to win a ‘complete victory' over ‘terror?' After all, ‘terror' is an emotion or a tactic, so how do you defeat an emotion or a tactic?

"Some historians also note that terror has been part of war for eons. It's even in the Bible, with one tribe's army slaughtering the civilians of another tribe. So how do you completely win a ‘war on terror' even if you fight for decades?

Civilian Dead

"Some of you also wondered how I could be so self-righteous, condemning some people who kill civilians to achieve a political goal when I did the same in invading Iraq. Some of you remembered those Iraqi men, women and children who died during my ‘shock and awe' bombing campaign at the start of the Iraq War.

"Like that Baghdad restaurant I had bombed because I thought Saddam might be eating there. It turned out Saddam wasn't around, but we did kill 14 civilians, including seven children.  ‘Isn't that a form of terrorism?' some of you ask.

"There were a lot of those stories during the invasion – and later, too, like when I ordered the Marines to retake Fallujah with the help of 500-pound bombs and other heavy ordnance. No matter how careful our troops are it's just inevitable that kids and civilians are going to die. That's why a lot of you think that war should be a last resort, never waged for frivolous or made-up reasons.

"Maybe that's why you shook your heads when I said, ‘When 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing, … this is murder, pure and simple.' Some of you thought it was a bit hypocritical to condemn evildoers for killing kids with bombs when I've done the same.

"The problem with that kind of thinking is what we call ‘moral equivalence,' which means holding me to the same standards as my enemies. That's a mistake because I represent what's good and my enemies stand for what's bad, what I like to call ‘evil.' Remember, after the Sept. 11 attacks, I told you my goal was to ‘rid the world of evil.'


"Even though I have no doubt about the morality of our cause, some of you are still miffed that I told you we were going to war in Iraq because of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and his ties to al-Qaeda when it turned out there weren't any.

"You also get annoyed when I keep saying that our enemies want to hurt us because they hate our freedom.

"Some of you insist that Muslims don't hate our freedom. It's that they view us and the Brits as their historical oppressors. They think we've propped up corrupt dictators for generations so we could take their oil – like the Saudi royals, the Kuwaiti princes, the Shah of Iran, even Saddam Hussein when my dad was in office.

"You say these Muslims remember how we toppled a democratic government in Iran when it got too greedy about its oil, how we gave green lights to the Egyptian security forces to crack down on dissent, and how we backed the Algerian army when it voided elections because the side we favored looked like it was going to lose.

"Another funny thing is that it seems like more Muslims than Americans remember how I got into office by having some of my dad's friends on the U.S. Supreme Court stop the counting of votes when I was getting nervous that I might lose.

"Well, I responded to these concerns in my speech, when I said, ‘these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace.' That's almost the same as saying they hate our freedom.

"I thought another really good part of my speech was when I accused the Islamic radicals of trying ‘to build a culture of victimization, in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution.'

"Some of you felt that this ‘psychobabble' didn't belong in a presidential speech, that it sounded more like what you'd hear on some radio talk show hosted by Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, who often accuse their adversaries of wanting to be victims.

"Others of you viewed this a case of me ‘projecting' my own behavior onto my enemies – that I feel I'm the real victim and that I turn to violence as a solution. Well, that sounds wacky to me, not to mention paranoid, like someone's trying to make me look nutty.

Faulty Logic

"Others of you have suggested that the logic in the speech was a little screwy, like when I put down people who contend that my invasion of Iraq made a difficult situation a whole lot worse. I slapped that argument down by saying,

‘Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 – and al Qaeda attacked us anyway.'

"I thought the line was pretty clever, but some of you have complained that it was a cheap shot, a way to make that subliminal connection again between Iraq and Sept. 11. Some people even call an argument like the one I made ‘sophistry,' which is a fancy word that means a plausible but misleading argument.

"I guess their point is that just about everybody, including the CIA, thinks that my war in Iraq has strengthened Islamic extremism and spread anti-Americanism around the world. A lot of these experts say that before the Iraq War, al-Qaeda was a small, isolated group that had been pretty much chased to the ends of the earth, or in this case into the mountains of Afghanistan.

"Islamic extremists had lost in Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and a lot of other countries. Even the government of Sudan had booted Osama bin-Laden out.

"Then, in summer 2001, the U.S. government let its guard down. Warnings were missed, reports went unread, the bureaucracy seemed paralyzed. So our enemies hit us on Sept. 11.

"After that, the whole world rallied to America's side. We had lots of support in going after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Even some unfriendly governments in the Middle East turned over intelligence information to help us neutralize al-Qaeda.

"But some of you think that I blundered by diverting troops out of Afghanistan too soon and rushing into Iraq without UN sanction. You say that I surrendered the moral high ground by killing lots of innocent Iraqis, by having no realistic plan for securing Iraq, and by letting terrorist groups become active there.

"That's why I answered those arguments in my speech by saying that al-Qaeda attacked us before I invaded Iraq. And I don't care if you don't think my statement makes any sense. Plus, my best argument now for continuing the war in Iraq is that the place might get even more messed up if we leave.

"In my speech, I also tried to explain the stakes. I compared the fight against Islamic terrorism to the long Cold War against Soviet-style communism.

"I understand that some of you disagree, saying that the two really aren't that comparable, that the Cold War was a standoff between two superpowers while al-Qaeda remains a fringe extremist group even in the Muslim world.

"But didn't I sound like Winston Churchill when I said, ‘We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory.'

"Still, just in case that kind of talk made some of you nervous – as if I was leading you and your children and your children's children into a dark cave with no exit – I vouched for the inevitability of our victory.

I said, ‘Whatever lies ahead in the war against this ideology, the outcome is not in doubt: Those who despise freedom and progress have condemned themselves to isolation, decline, and collapse.'

"Then I went with a hopeful tone. I said, ‘Because free peoples believe in the future, free peoples will own the future.'


"Which leads me to a final question that some of you have asked about,  the so-called ‘gap' between the stakes that I've described in this long war and the paucity of sacrifice that well-to-do Americans have made.

For instance, some people wonder why my daughters, Jenna and Barbara, haven't enlisted or why so few of my social acquaintances have sent their kids to fight?

"The same question could have been asked about me, you know, during the Vietnam War. Why did I accept a stateside slot in the Texas Air National Guard, skip a required physical, miss meetings and quit early? Why didn't I mix it up with the commies?

"But what some of you don't understand is that if the fighting and dying is done by people we don't know, then we decision-makers are freed up to make the necessary hard choices – without having to worry about whether one of our loved ones or the loved ones of our friends will be put in harm's way.

"With our own children at home, we don't flinch when we order sacrifices vital for the country but likely to get a lot of our soldiers killed. In other words, if I personally knew some of the almost 2,000 American dead, I might hesitate. I might settle for a solution short of ‘complete victory.'

So, like I said in my speech, ‘We don't know the course of our own struggle – the course our own struggle will take – or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history. And we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail. May God bless you.'"

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E-voting hobbled by security concerns
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET
October 6, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT

It's been nearly five years since Americans received a painful education on the perils of traditional voting machines in Florida and almost one year since the 2004 election revealed perplexing irregularities in Ohio's vote tabulation methods.

Yet no uniform security standards exist for electronic voting machines. Even though they were used to tabulate a third of the votes in last year's presidential run, nearly all electronic voting machines in use today remain black boxes without external methods of verifying that the results have not been altered or sabotaged.

Possible threats to an accurate electronic vote tally are legion. They include everything from worms and viruses infecting Microsoft Windows-equipped systems to equipment tampering, code alteration and ballot box stuffing. On Friday, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is charged with researching voting security, is convening a conference in Gaithersburg, Md., to explore technological countermeasures.

In principle, there should be an easy solution: Require that e-voting machines include what's known as a voter-verifiable paper trail. That would permit a voter to review a physical printout with his or her selections--perhaps under glass so the receipt can't be removed--which would also provide a way to perform a manual recount, if necessary.

But a complicated mix of partisan politics and the relative paucity of voter-verifiable products available today has delayed the switch to improved technology, according to election experts interviewed by CNET

Congress in 2002 also handed $650 million, through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), to state officials for the purchase of electronic voting machines without imposing any voter-verifiable requirements. The money has already been spent, and federal politicians aren't eager to write a similar check again.

"They've spent the money provided by HAVA on machines without a paper trail," says Matt Zimmerman, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco who researches electronic voting. "And now they say they don't have money to upgrade."

Activists for the blind, too, have urged the speedy adoption of electronic voting machines. The National Federation of the Blind has filed a lawsuit (Click for PDF) against Volusia County, Fla., seeking an injunction forcing the installation of touch screen voting machines that are accessible to blind voters but lack a paper trail.

A congressional bottleneck

In Congress, at least four bills requiring paper trails were introduced in the first few weeks of 2005. All remain bottled up in committee, however, in part because key Republicans view e-voting reform as a Democratic ploy to cast doubt on the last two presidential races.

"This is one of those circumstances where you have a particular committee chairman, in this case Chairman Bob Ney of the House Administration Committee, who simply does not believe that there is an issue there," said Patrick Eddington, spokesman for Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J. Holt is backing H.R.550, which requires an "individual voter-verified paper record" and is strongly supported by computer scientists.

Ney replied through a representative that states were free to set their own standards--including voter-verifiable ballots--under the 2002 HAVA law. "The congressman does not believe there should be a national federal mandate at this point in time," said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for Ney, an Ohio Republican. "In his view, the Help America Vote Act has not been implemented yet, and he's not supportive of reopening the bill until it has been fully implemented."

While Congress is tying itself in partisan knots, state legislators have been busy pressing ahead. At least 25 states have enacted verified-voting legislation, according to, with seven states adopting the requirement in the last three months alone. Legislation is pending in many others.

"The transparency of voting systems is critical to ensuring that the public is supportive of an election, mostly proving that the loser actually lost," said Cameron Wilson, the public-policy director of the Association for Computing Machinery, which supports verified-voting laws. "We (also) feel you should have stronger engineering and testing of both the design and operation."

Adding impetus to this state-by-state legislative trend is a report released last month by an election commission headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker III. It states that a voter-verifiable paper audit trail will "increase citizens' confidence that their vote will be counted accurately," permit a recount, should one prove necessary, and allow a random selection of electronic voting machines to be tested for accuracy.

E-voting reformers divided

Complicating the move toward voter-verified receipts is a fierce internal debate between activists and computer scientists about how useful the receipts will prove in detecting election fraud.

"What I'm very much against is a requirement that all voting machines should have to have a paper trail," said Michael Shamos, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has been the official examiner of electronic voting systems for Pennsylvania. He says the products with the necessary features aren't on the market yet.

"On a superficial, intuitive level, it sounds like a really appealing idea, and the proponents use some very persuasive arguments, usually along the nature of, 'You get a receipt when you go to the ATM, you get a receipt when you go to the grocery store, why can't we give you a receipt when you vote?'" Shamos said.

Shamos' counterarguments go something like this: Mandating paper trails will halt experimentation with better techniques, paper records have a long history of tampering by both major parties, and paper trails that record voters' choices on one long strip of paper will invade privacy because they show who voted first and last.

Comment: While paper records do have a long history of tampering, electronic records are even easier to manipulate. But by all means, let's not invade anyone's privacy, even though the current Bush administration - reinstalled precisely because of rigged e-voting machines - has done more than any other administration to trample on the average US citizen's privacy and civil rights.

His last point--that long strip of paper--will be discussed at the NIST workshop Friday. A paper (Click for PDF) by John Wack of NIST notes that "this attack could be used to enforce vote selling,or simply to invade the privacy of voters and determine how particular individuals voted."

Michael Alvarez, co-director of the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project, says he's not opposed to the use of paper for purposes of voter verification. However, he adds, "we also have strongly argued that the legislation that moves in this direction ought to be open for the new technologies and shouldn't preclude the use of these other types of approaches."

That sort of nuanced argument tends to fall on deaf ears in state government. Ohio's law, for instance, calls for "a physical paper printout on which the voter's ballot choices, as registered by a direct recording electronic voting machine, are recorded."

Such a law, depending on how it's interpreted, could preclude innovative, cryptographically secure products such as two that are being developed by legendary inventor David Chaum and mathematician Andrew Neff that generate encrypted receipts for vote verification.

Next steps in the states

Manufacturers of electronic voting machines are racing to meet the different verified-voting deadlines and requirements set by state governments.

"What we have complies with proposed federal guidelines for 2005 and has already been approved by different states. Probably the most stringent is California, and we've already been certified by California," said Alfie Charles, a spokesperson for Sequoia Voting Systems. Sequoia's VeriVote printer was used in Nevada in the 2004 election.

All but one of Maryland's 24 counties use Diebold machines, first tested in the 2002 gubernatorial election, without voter-verifiable audit trails. After some Diebold source code leaked to the Internet, a group of computer scientists, including Maryland resident Avi Rubin, analyzed the software and concluded in a 2003 report that it falls "far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts."

Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator for the Maryland Board of Elections, says the state has commissioned a study by the University of Maryland at Baltimore County into voter verification. They're "going to get back to us with some recommendations in time to coincide with our next legislative session (starting in January) so it can be a guide for policymakers," Goldstein said.

But for now, he added, Maryland is confident in its current operation. "There's a lot of security and testing and different things that we do that obviously we feel very confident that we provide a very secure, very reliable voting system," Goldstein said.

Even if the dispute over voter-verified audit trails is eventually resolved, another lies on the horizon: access to source code used by voting machines. Should it be posted freely on the Internet, available only to researchers with credentials or kept a tightly held secret?

Shamos of Carnegie Mellon warns that advocates of more secure voting technology should tread carefully when demanding paper trails--or risk creating additional logs that could endanger voters' privacy.

It would be a shame, he said, if "people, in their frenzy to get rid of the perceived problems with voting security, in a misplaced effort to get some security, they've thrown away privacy."

Comment: The main problem with the current e-voting debate is that the system has already been used to rig elections. The damage has already been done.

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Earthquake death toll crosses 40,000
By Shahzad Raza
Daily Times
Monday, October 10, 2005

* Balakot razed to the ground
* 11,000 dead in Muzaffarabad
* 30,000 dead in Kashmir, says minister
* Death toll in Held Kashmir reaches 689
* NWFP death toll may reach 7,500: Haq
* 850 schoolchildren trapped under rubble in NWFP

ISLAMABAD: The government on Sunday confirmed the death of over 19,000 people after a massive earthquake hit Pakistan a day earlier, but unofficial estimates put the death toll to over 40,000.

The worst-affected city was Muzzaffarbad, the capital of Kashmir, where 70 percent of the entire housing was destroyed by the earthquake. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told a press conference that the worst-hit areas were Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Mansehra and Balakot.

Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told journalists after an emergency cabinet meeting that 11,000 people had died in Muzzaffarbad alone. "We are facing the worst-ever earthquake," he said. "This is a test for the whole nation." Sherpao put the death toll to 19,136 - 17,388 of them in Kashmir – and said that 42,397 were injured.

In NWFP, 1,760 people had been killed and 1,797 injured, he said, while 11 had died and 83 were injured in Punjab. In the Northern Areas bordering China and Kashmir a further two people were killed and two injured, the interior minister said.

The interior minister said that 114 army personnel had lost their lives in Kashmir, while more than 200 had received injuries. At least 500 school children were killed in Muzaffarabad when the roofs of their classrooms collapsed.

The earthquake hit five districts in NWFP. "The death toll has reached 2,000 in the NWFP," Inspector General of Police Riffat Pasha told Daily Times from Mansehra, the most devastated district in the province. By Saturday evening, the death toll was over 1,000 and NWFP Minister Sirajul Haq feared that it could reach 7,500 as "thousands of bodies are still under the debris".

Pasha said that the rehabilitation of the affected people will take months. "The infrastructure has been badly damaged and the overall rehabilitation will need massive financial help," he said.

Balakot, the tehsil headquarters of district Mansehra, has been completely razed to the ground and thousands of people are still buried under the debris.

Panic-stricken people and their families in Hazara have taken refuge in parks and open fields away from their homes. Torrential rain and hailstorm added to the miseries of the affected people.

In the Battagram district, wounded people were getting little medical treatment, since the only hospital had collapsed, a police official said.

Haq said that more than 25,000 tents were needed. "We have so far arranged 3,000 tents and the lack of tents is a great worry for us," he told Daily Times.

NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani launched an appeal for international assistance to help the affected people in the province.

The Mansehra District Headquarters Hospital was packed with people injured from the quake, many of whom were put in tents.

In Garhi Habibullah, 200 bodies including 60 girl students of the Government Higher Secondary School have been recovered from the wreckage.

Agencies add: Among the countless tragic sights, perhaps the most pitiful was that of hundreds of parents using picks, shovels and their bare hands in a desperate attempt to reach 850 children trapped in the rubble of two schools in NWFP. The frightened voices of trapped children and the anguished wails of parents accompanied the frantic work in the Balakot valley.

"Save me, call my mother," came the faint voice of a boy from the rubble of a government school in which residents said about 200 children were trapped.

More than 30,000 people, many of them students, died in Kashmir, said Tariq Farooq, communications minister for the region. "I have been informed by my department that more than 30,000 people have died in Kashmir," he said. "Out of a population of 2.4 million, more than half is affected," the communications minister said, apparently referring to those displaced, injured or killed. He said that 6,000 to 7,000 people were estimated to have died in Bagh and adjoining areas. "There are no survivors in villages like Jaglari, Kufalgarh, Harigal and Baniyali in the Bagh district," Farooq said. "People have been devoured by death."

He said that the death toll was likely to rise. "It's a hilly area. They have not yet accessed villages in the mountains and the toll could rise up to 30,000," said Farooq.

Fatalities included 215 army soldiers, with more than 400 injured, mostly in Kashmir.

Authorities in India reported that 689 people had died and more than 900 injured, while Afghanistan reported at least four deaths. "Information is now coming in from far off areas," one official said from the frontier Kupwara town. "We have recovered 258 bodies so far, and 100 are wounded in the Karnah town."

Comment: Asia has been the site of several disasters on this scale in recent years. Last year's tsunami was the most devastating, but let us not forget the earthquake the year before in Bam in Iran. Japan saw a string of powerful earthquakes last fall.

Aside from the quakes, volcanoes are awakening all around the Pacific rim. Something serious seems to be happening with the Earth's crust. While the mainstream media prefers to treat each as an isolated event, with the obligatory notice at the end of the article that such and such a country is located in the Pacific rim, an area known for its numerous earthquakes, as if that somehow explains away the threat, others are expecting more and worse disasters in the years to come.

The US FEMA had identified the three top threats to the US as a terrorist attack on New York, a hurricane flooding New Orleans, and a quake on the west coast.

Two down, one to go.

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Osama hit by earthquake?
Press Trust of India
Monday, October 10, 2005 at 1047 hours IST
Washington, October 10

No evidence suggests that the deadly earthquake that rocked Pakistan injured or killed the world's top terror leader, Osama bin Laden.

The quake shook the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding. However, authorities at this point have no information indicating he's been injured or killed, said a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity.

US hopes for bin Laden's death or capture were high in December 2001, when US and afghan troops surrounded a cave complex sheltering al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan's Tora Bora region. But bin laden escaped and is now believed to be living a relatively isolated existence to evade capture.

He was last seen publicly on a videotaped message before the November 2004 elections.

The public face of al-Qaeda has become a bin Laden mentor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the organization's leader in Iraq. He has declared war on Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and, with other Sunni-led insurgent groups, has recently launched a wave of violence that has killed hundreds of people.

Comment: This short article is so full of propaganda, from its premise to statements it contains, that it ought to win a prize. We have dealt at length with the question of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and won't return to it here, but we are particularly amused by the reference to the question of information on how Osama weathered the earthquake as being so sensitive that the government official quoted needed to do so anonymously!

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Small Quakes Hit Central California
Sun Oct 9, 4:35 AM ET

CAMBRIA, Calif. - Two minor earthquakes shook central California, but there were no immediate reports of damage, officials said.

A magnitude-4.2 earthquake hit early Saturday and a magnitude-3.6 struck in the evening, preliminary reports from the U.S. Geological Survey show. Several smaller aftershocks also shook the area.

The earthquakes and their aftershocks happened about five miles north of San Simeon, which is located about 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

One man reported heart palpitations after the morning quake and was hospitalized but his condition was not immediately known, said sheriff's Sgt. Rex Reece.

The temblors came a week after a magnitude-4.4 quake hit the area.

A Magnitude 4 earthquake on the Richter scale has the potential to cause moderate damage.

San Simeon is about 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

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Guatemala villages 'mass graves'
Monday, 10 October 2005, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK

Officials in Guatemala are calling for a number of remote communities to be declared mass graves, after they were engulfed by landslides.

Rescue efforts were suspended in some areas on Sunday after it was deemed too dangerous to dig for survivors.

More than 650 people in Guatemala have been confirmed dead in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Stan. Hundreds more are thought to be missing.

At least 100 people have died elsewhere in Central America and in Mexico.

Stan slammed ashore as a category one hurricane in southern Mexico on Tuesday. It quickly lost force, but most of the damage has been done by torrential rains lasting days on end.

Army and civil defence workers reached some remote communities including the western township of Tacana, near the Mexican border, on Sunday. But Guatemalan Vice-President Eduardo Stein said rescuers had still not been able to reach at least 90 villages cut off by mudslides.

Some estimates said as many as 1,400 people were feared buried.

Two Mayan villages in the worst affected area have been completely submerged by a slick of mud.

'Worse than Mitch'

Diego Esquina, the mayor of Panabaj, said his village "will no longer exist".

"We are asking that it be declared a cemetery. We are tired, we no longer know where to dig," he said.

"The bodies are so rotten that they can no longer be identified. They will only bring disease."

Some 77 bodies have been recovered from Panabaj, but about 250 are still missing, the mayor said. Nearby Tzanchaj was similarly devastated.

Firefighters said they had had to order villagers to give up their desperate digging on unstable ground.

"Most of the people are where the mud is thickest and we haven't been able to work there because of the danger," said firefighter Max Chiquito.

Correspondents say the Mayan villagers are struggling with a dilemma, as local cultural traditions dictate that bodies must be recovered and given a decent burial.

Not far from Panabaj, in Santiago Atitlan, on the shores of Lake Atitlan, an area popular with Western tourists, wooden coffins were stacked in the municipal cemetery waiting for burial. "Entire families have disappeared," local official Diego Sojuel told the Associated Press news agency.

Taxi driver Gaspar Taxachoy returned from working in Guatemala City to discover his home buried in mud.

The bodies of his wife, two daughters and a son have been found. "I'm only missing one more son," he told AP.

The BBC's Claire Marshall, in Mexico, says it is the region's poorest people who have been worst hit, with precariously-built hillside communities drowned by the mudslides.

Colombia and the US have said they will send food, blankets and first aid equipment to help victims in Central America and Mexico.

After Guatemala, El Salvador has suffered greatest loss of life, with at least 71 confirmed deaths.

Comment: Here again we see the parallels with New Orleans. It is always the poorest who are the worst affected by such disasters.

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Has the Age of Chaos Begun?
By Mike Davis,
Posted October 8, 2005.

The genesis of two category-five hurricanes (Katrina and Rita) in a row over the Gulf of Mexico is an unprecedented and troubling occurrence. But for most tropical meteorologists the truly astonishing "storm of the decade" took place in March 2004. Hurricane Catarina -- so named because it made landfall in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina -- was the first recorded south Atlantic hurricane in history.

Textbook orthodoxy had long excluded the possibility of such an event; sea temperatures, experts claimed, were too low and wind shear too powerful to allow tropical depressions to evolve into cyclones south of the Atlantic Equator. Indeed, forecasters rubbed their eyes in disbelief as weather satellites down-linked the first images of a classical whirling disc with a well-formed eye in these forbidden latitudes.

In a series of recent meetings and publications, researchers have debated the origin and significance of Catarina. A crucial question is this: Was Catarina simply a rare event at the outlying edge of the normal bell curve of South Atlantic weather -- just as, for example, Joe DiMaggio's incredible 56-game hitting streak in 1941 represented an extreme probability in baseball (an analogy made famous by Stephen Jay Gould) -- or was Catarina a "threshold" event, signaling some fundamental and abrupt change of state in the planet's climate system?

Scientific discussions of environmental change and global warming have long been haunted by the specter of nonlinearity. Climate models, like econometric models, are easiest to build and understand when they are simple linear extrapolations of well-quantified past behavior; when causes maintain a consistent proportionality to their effects.

But all the major components of global climate -- air, water, ice, and vegetation -- are actually nonlinear: At certain thresholds they can switch from one state of organization to another, with catastrophic consequences for species too finely-tuned to the old norms. Until the early 1990s, however, it was generally believed that these major climate transitions took centuries, if not millennia, to accomplish. Now, thanks to the decoding of subtle signatures in ice cores and sea-bottom sediments, we know that global temperatures and ocean circulation can, under the right circumstances, change abruptly -- in a decade or even less.

The paradigmatic example is the so-called "Younger Dryas" event, 12,800 years ago, when an ice dam collapsed, releasing an immense volume of meltwater from the shrinking Laurentian ice-sheet into the Atlantic Ocean via the instantly-created St. Lawrence River. This "freshening" of the North Atlantic suppressed the northward conveyance of warm water by the Gulf Stream and plunged Europe back into a thousand-year ice age.

Abrupt switching mechanisms in the climate system - such as relatively small changes in ocean salinity -- are augmented by causal loops that act as amplifiers. Perhaps the most famous example is sea-ice albedo: The vast expanses of white, frozen Arctic Ocean ice reflect heat back into space, thus providing positive feedback for cooling trends; alternatively, shrinking sea-ice increases heat absorption, accelerating both its own further melting and planetary warming.

Thresholds, switches, amplifiers, chaos -- contemporary geophysics assumes that earth history is inherently revolutionary. This is why many prominent researchers -- especially those who study topics like ice-sheet stability and North Atlantic circulation -- have always had qualms about the consensus projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world authority on global warming.

In contrast to Bushite flat-Earthers and shills for the oil industry, their skepticism has been founded on fears that the IPCC models fail to adequately allow for catastrophic nonlinearities like the Younger Dryas. Where other researchers model the late 21st-century climate that our children will live with upon the precedents of the Altithermal (the hottest phase of the current Holocene period, 8000 years ago) or the Eemian (the previous, even warmer interglacial episode, 120,000 years ago), growing numbers of geophysicists toy with the possibilities of runaway warming returning the earth to the torrid chaos of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM: 55 million years ago) when the extreme and rapid heating of the oceans led to massive extinctions.

Dramatic new evidence has emerged recently that we may be headed, if not back to the dread, almost inconceivable PETM, then to a much harder landing than envisioned by the IPCC.

As I flew toward Louisiana and the carnage of Katrina three weeks ago, I found myself reading the August 23rd issue of EOS, the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union. I was pole-axed by an article entitled "Arctic System on Trajectory to New, Seasonally Ice-Free State," co-authored by 21 scientists from almost as many universities and research institutes. Even two days later, walking among the ruins of the Lower Ninth Ward, I found myself worrying more about the EOS article than the disaster surrounding me.

The article begins with a recounting of trends familiar to any reader of the Tuesday science section of the New York Times: For almost 30 years, Arctic sea ice has been thinning and shrinking so dramatically that "a summer ice-free Arctic Ocean within a century is a real possibility." The scientists, however, add a new observation -- that this process is probably irreversible. "Surprisingly, it is difficult to identify a single feedback mechanism within the Arctic that has the potency or speed to alter the system's present course." An ice-free Arctic Ocean has not existed for at least one million years and the authors warn that the Earth is inexorably headed toward a "super-interglacial" state "outside the envelope of glacial-interglacial fluctuations that prevailed during recent Earth history." They emphasize that within a century global warming will probably exceed the Eemian temperature maximum and thus obviate all the models that have made this their essential scenario. They also suggest that the total or partial collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet is a real possibility -- an event that would definitely throw a Younger Dryas wrench into the Gulf Stream.

If they are right, then we are living on the climate equivalent of a runaway train that is picking up speed as it passes the stations marked "Altithermal" and "Eemian." "Outside the envelope," moreover, means that we are not only leaving behind the serendipitous climatic parameters of the Holocene -- the last 10,000 years of mild, warm weather that have favored the explosive growth of agriculture and urban civilization -- but also those of the late Pleistocene that fostered the evolution of Homo sapiens in eastern Africa. Other researchers undoubtedly will contest the extraordinary conclusions of the EOS article and -- we must hope -- suggest the existence of countervailing forces to this scenario of an Arctic albedo catastrophe. But for the time being, at least, research on global change is pointing toward worst-case scenarios.

All of this, of course, is a perverse tribute to industrial capitalism and extractive imperialism as geological forces so formidable that they have succeeded in scarcely more than two centuries -- indeed, mainly in the last fifty years -- in knocking the earth off its climatic pedestal and propelling it toward the nonlinear unknown.

The demon in me wants to say: Party and make merry. No need now to worry about Kyoto, recycling your aluminum cans, or using too much toilet paper, when, soon enough, we'll be debating how many hunter-gathers can survive in the scorching deserts of New England or the tropical forests of the Yukon.

The good parent in me, however, screams: How is it possible that we can now contemplate with scientific seriousness whether our children's children will themselves have children? Let Exxon answer that in one of their sanctimonious ads.

Mike Davis is the author of "Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu" (The New Press) as well as the forthcoming "Planet of Slums" (Verso).

Comment: What this author is not taking into account is that global warming can lead to a shift in the flow of the Atlantic gulf stream as greater amounts of fresh water enter the ocean in the North Atlantic. Such a change would push the gulf stream further south, thereby eliminating a source of warm water to the north, a situation that could very quickly lead to a cooling and a new ice age. In this scenario, much arable land in the Northern hemisphere would be under snow and ice, limiting the amount of food that could be produced.

However, whichever way it goes, the outlook is bleak.

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Tropical Storm Vince forms in unusual location
Last Updated Sun, 09 Oct 2005 15:15:42 EDT
CBC News

Tropical Storm Vince, the 20th named storm of the season, formed Sunday in the far eastern Atlantic. Vince was located between the Azores and the Canary Islands west of Morocco.

The storm appeared in waters that are cooler than what is typically needed for a tropical storm, said Chris Sisko, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm, which had top sustained winds of about 80 km/h posed no threat to land. It wasn't expected to survive for long due to the cooler waters.

"Vince is a very odd one," Sisko said.

Only one other Atlantic season had more tropical storms and hurricanes since record keeping began in 1851. There were 21 in 1933.

After Vince, only one name is left for storms this season -- Wilma. After that, storms are named after letters in the Greek alphabet. That has never happened before in more than 50 years of regularly naming storms.

The hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Comment: Remember this paragraph from the article above?

Was Catarina simply a rare event at the outlying edge of the normal bell curve of South Atlantic weather -- just as, for example, Joe DiMaggio's incredible 56-game hitting streak in 1941 represented an extreme probability in baseball (an analogy made famous by Stephen Jay Gould) -- or was Catarina a "threshold" event, signaling some fundamental and abrupt change of state in the planet's climate system?

Is Vince, yet another tropical storm brewing where it shouldn't, evidence that we are looking at the later explanation?

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Bird flu reported in eastern Romania 2005-10-08 17:24:16

BUCHAREST, Oct. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Three ducks in a farm in eastern Romania have died of the bird flu virus, local media reported Saturday.

The authorities in the region have killed all 200 chickens and ducks in the farm and begun to disinfect and quarantine poultry farms in the area. Vehicles and personnel in the region were also required to be disinfected.

The Health Ministry will dispatch medical personnel on Saturdayto vaccinate local people.

Meanwhile, farmers in the region were told to keep their chickens away from wild birds.

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Israel opposes transferring control of West Bank towns to Palestinians
06:57 AM EDT Oct 10

JERUSALEM (AP) - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cast doubt Sunday on whether a planned meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would take place, while Israel's defence minister rejected two key Palestinian demands meant to make the meeting a success.

The two sides have said they want the meeting, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, to produce concrete results but are deadlocked over Israel's promised handover of West Bank towns, more Palestinian prisoner releases, and the Palestinians' demand for more weapons for their security services.

The meeting would be the first between the two leaders since Israel completed its Gaza Strip withdrawal last month.

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz opposes the handover of more West Bank towns to the Palestinians or supplying the Palestinian Authority with weapons, the ministry said Sunday.

Israel was to turn over five West Bank towns to Palestinian control under a ceasefire agreement the two sides reached in February. But the process stalled after two towns, Jericho and Tulkarem, were handed over, with Israel demanding the Palestinians first disarm militants in towns handed over. Israel later retook Tulkarem after a suicide bombing in an Israeli city.

The Defence Ministry also said that Mofaz objects to responding to the Palestinian Authority's demand for more weapons. The Palestinians say they are ill-equipped to take control of Palestinian streets, but Israel says Abbas hasn't used the means already at his disposal to confront militant groups that both attack Israel and feud internally.

Abbas recently banned militants from publicly displaying weapons, but has resisted international pressure to disarm militants, fearing it would provoke civil war. Militants repeatedly have ignored the ban.

In addition for pushing for an Israeli troop withdrawal from West Bank towns, the Palestinians have also demanded the release of some of the more than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners Israel holds.

In a possible concession, Israeli security officials decided over the weekend that they would not object to a government-approved prisoner release, officials said Saturday.

Sharon told Israeli cabinet ministers on Sunday that he wasn't sure his meeting with Abbas would take place this week, meeting participants said.

"We don't go to a meeting unprepared," they quoted Sharon as saying.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said after a meeting with Sharon's top adviser, Dov Weisglass, that the two sides would decide Monday whether the meeting would take place as scheduled.

On Saturday, Abbas said the Palestinians "don't want a public relations summit. . . . We want a meaningful summit with results."

Abbas is due to travel to Washington later this month to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush, and would be reluctant to arrive without any concrete achievements from a meeting with Sharon.

The two men were to have met last week, but the meeting was postponed after Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel touched off an Israeli military offensive in Gaza and the West Bank.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian militant was killed early Sunday in a clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Nablus, the army and Palestinians said.

The troops spotted three Palestinian gunmen and shot toward them, the army said. In the ensuing exchange of fire, one of the militants was killed, it said.

A militant group affiliated with the ruling Fatah party, the Al Aqsa Brigades, confirmed that three of its men had attempted to carry out an attack on troops and one was killed in a shootout. It said the attack was retaliation for the killing of three Palestinian militants in Nablus earlier this month.

Israel reopened a cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip on Sunday, and Palestinians said this would alleviate a shortage of fruit and dairy products in the territory.

The Karni passage and others with the Palestinian area had been closed almost continuously since Sept. 24 after dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. As a result, the shelves of Gaza shops had been thinned, primarily of fruit and dairy products, and in some places, baby formula, Palestinians said.

Comment: The Israelis continue to make demands in order to prevent these meetings from taking place. Every time the so-called peace process is set to advance, there are convenient "attacks" on Israel from supposed Palestinian terrorists. We are convinced that these attacks are the work of Israeli intelligence, most likely through agents provocateur who have infiltrated these groups. Their timing is impeccable.

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Israeli army kill three Palestinians on Gaza border 2005-10-10 16:50:55

GAZA, Oct. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- The Israeli army shot dead three Palestinians approaching the fence of the border between the eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, Palestinian security sources said.

Palestinian Interior Ministry said in a statement that Israeli soldiers stationed on the border between eastern Gaza and Israel opened fire at three Palestinian young men late Sunday.

The identities of the three were not yet known.

Palestinian security sources said residents heard shootings and called Palestinian police and ambulances to get to the scene, adding that the police found the bodies of the three Palestinians.

The Israeli army told Israel Radio that the three were militants who tried to stage an armed attack.

But Palestinian security sources said the three were unemployed Palestinians who tried to sneak into Israel for job opportunities

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No breakthrough in Bali bombing probe: official 2005-10-10 16:58:42

JAKARTA, Oct. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- The investigation into the Oct. 1 Bali bombings has not made any major breakthrough although at least 169 witnesses have been questioned so far, Security Minister Widodo Adi Sucipto said Monday.

"Nobody has been arrested in connection with the attacks," he told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting at the state palace here.

But security officers will do their utmost to uncover the case and bring all the perpetrators to justice, he said.

At least 23 people were killed and more than 120 others wounded by the explosions allegedly carried out by suicide bombers at three tourist restaurants and bars in Jimbaran and Kuta, Bali.

It took the police less than three weeks to arrest a key suspect in the nightclub bombings on the resort island three years ago, when 202 people were killed, and the arrest proved to be crucial for the successful investigation.

More than 30 people were found guilty, three got death penalty for the Oct. 12, 2002 bombings.

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Tell us who fabricated the Iraq evidence
By Norman Dombey
10/09/05 "The Independent"

President Bush's principal adviser Karl Rove is to be questioned again over the improper naming of a CIA official. Mohamed ElBaradei, accused by the American right of being insufficiently aggressive, wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his stalwart work at the helm of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Pentagon official Larry Franklin pleads guilty to passing on classified information to Israel. Just a normal week in politics. But there is a thread linking these events and it is Iraq. 

Politicians tell us they acted in good faith on the road to war, and maybe they did, but that leaves a prickly question: who was so keen to prove that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat that they forged documents purporting to show that he was trying to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger to develop nuclear weapons? The forgery was revealed to the Security Council by ElBaradei. That was not an intelligence error. It was a straightforward lie, an invention intended to mislead public opinion and help start a war.

At the beginning of 2001, a few weeks before George Bush took office, there was a break-in at the Niger embassy in Rome. Strangely, nothing of value was taken. Months later came 9/11 and a month after that, as George Bush wondered how to get back at the terrorists, a report from the Italian security service (Sismi) reached the CIA: Iraq was seeking to buy uranium.

Disappointingly for the neocons, the CIA sent Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to check the story: he reported that it was nonsense. When the story was repeated by Bush, Wilson went public. His wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, was then outed by the White House. Hence Rove's predicament.

An organisation called the Office of Special Plans (OSP) was set up in the Pentagon by Douglas Feith, a former consultant to Israel's Likud party, to prepare for the war. In the words of Robert Baer, a distinguished former CIA man, it was a "competing intelligence shop at the Pentagon"..."if you didn't like the answer you're getting from the CIA". In short, bogus stories would get a second chance at the OSP.

A clue to the ancestry of these black arts can be found in 1980, when right-wing Republicans wanted Ronald Reagan elected. They publicised a story that Billy Carter, the then President Jimmy Carter's colourful brother, had received $50,000 (£28,000) from the Libyan government.

The story was always denied by the President and no evidence of the payment was found, but the story helped to elect Reagan. Its source? Sismi, and an associate of a man called Michael Ledeen.

Ledeen is an intriguing and enduring presence in the murkier parts of US foreign policy. He is an American specialist on Italy with a long-standing commitment to Israel. According to The New York Times, in December 2001, a few months after the CIA first heard the Niger claims, Ledeen flew to Rome with Manucher Ghorbanifar, a former Iranian arms dealer, and two officials from OSP, one of whom was Larry Franklin. In Rome they met the head of Sismi.

Some months later, the documents were published, having been sold to an Italian journalist by a Roman businessman linked to Sismi. So far, so circumstantial. One man who might well know the answer to all this is Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of counter terrorism operations at the CIA. His belief is that the documents were produced in the US but "funnelled through the Italians". When an interviewer asked Cannistraro "if I said Michael Ledeen", he reportedly replied "I don't think it's a proven case ...You'd be very close"

Ledeen, on hearing this, issued the following statement: "I have absolutely no connection to the Niger documents, have never even seen them. I did not work on them, never handled them, know virtually nothing about them, don't think I ever wrote or said anything about the subject."

It seems it wasn't Ledeen but someone close to him. So who was it who had been planning since before 9/11 to create a fraudulent casus belli against Saddam?

Norman Dombey is Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Sussex and an expert on Iraq's nuclear capability 

© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd. 

Comment: We wouldn't be as quick as the good professor to take anything Ledeen says at face value. After all, he is a mainstay in the neocon cabal. Those guys lie as they breathe.

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Let Freedom Ring Department

Wal-Mart Turns in Student's Anti-Bush Photo, Secret Service Investigates Him
By Matthew Rothschild October 4, 2005

Selina Jarvis is the chair of the social studies department at Currituck County High School in North Carolina, and she is not used to having the Secret Service question her or one of her students.

But that's what happened on September 20.

Jarvis had assigned her senior civics and economics class "to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights," she says. One student "had taken a photo of George Bush out of a magazine and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb's down sign with his own hand next to the President's picture, and he had a photo taken of that, and he pasted it on a poster."

According to Jarvis, the student, who remains anonymous, was just doing his assignment, illustrating the right to dissent.

But over at the Kitty Hawk Wal-Mart, where the student took his film to be developed, this right is evidently suspect.

An employee in that Wal-Mart photo department called the Kitty Hawk police on the student. And the Kitty Hawk police turned the matter over to the Secret Service.

On Tuesday, September 20, the Secret Service came to Currituck High."At 1:35, the student came to me and told me that the Secret Service had taken his poster," Jarvis says. "I didn't believe him at first. But they had come into my room when I wasn't there and had taken his poster, which was in a stack with all the others."

She says the student was upset.

"He was nervous, he was scared, and his parents were out of town on business," says Jarvis.

She, too, had to talk to the Secret Service.

"Halfway through my afternoon class, the assistant principal got me out of class and took me to the office conference room," she says. "Two men from the Secret Service were there. They asked me what I knew about the student. I told them he was a great kid, that he was in the homecoming court, and that he'd never been in any trouble."

Then they got down to his poster.

"They asked me, didn't I think that it was suspicious," she recalls. "I said no, it was a Bill of Rights project!"

At the end of the meeting, they told her the incident "would be interpreted by the U.S. attorney, who would decide whether the student could be indicted," she says.

The student was not indicted, and the Secret Service did not pursue the case further.

"I blame Wal-Mart more than anybody," she says. "I was really disgusted with them. But everyone was using poor judgment, from Wal-Mart up to the Secret Service."

A person in the photo department at the Wal-Mart in Kitty Hawk said, "You have to call either the home office or the authorities to get any information about that."

Jacquie Young, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart at company headquarters, did not provide comment within a 24-hour period.

Sharon Davenport of the Kitty Hawk Police Department said, "We just handed it over" to the Secret Service. "No investigative report was filed."

Jonathan Scherry, spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington, D.C., said, "We ertainly respect artistic freedom, but we also have the responsibility to look into incidents when necessary. In this case, it was brought to our attention from a private citizen, a photo lab employee."

Jarvis uses one word to describe the whole incident: "ridiculous."

Comment: What these deluded pinkos don't understand is that dissent is a disservice to a country that is already free. Dissent only works in a country where you aren't free, in order to make the point. However, in a great and democratic country where there are elections, citizen involvement between elections just gums up the works. Once you've elected someone, let them do the job. Don't get on their back and divert their attention from the job to be done.

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Let Freedom Ring Department

Dissent isn't taken lightly Down Under
by Scott Parkin
October 7, 2005

Historian Michael Foley said during times of war pacifists often get mugged. For me, a non-violent activist working to end the war in Iraq and the corporate war profiteering that comes with it, September 2005 has been the most surreal time of my life. I definitely feel as if I got mugged by Australian Attorney General Phillip Ruddock and the Australian government.

After three lovely months of traveling through Australia and meeting people, one Wednesday afternoon during the second week of September, I was called by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or ASIO, and asked to come in for an interview. I asked if I was required to do so and the woman at the other end of the phone said, "No, you are not obliged too." I then asked if this would affect the remaining two weeks of my time in Australia and she said she couldn't say. I should have listened with closer attention to that non-answer.

A few days later, walking out of a café in Melbourne, I was snatched off the street by four Australian Federal Police and two Immigration Compliant Officers. They informed me I was being placed into "questioning detention" so that the Department of Immigration could assess if they were going to cancel my tourist visa or not. In truth, "a competent Australian authority" had already assessed me to be a "direct or indirect risk to Australian national security," cancelled my visa and had begun the process of removing me from the country (which would end up costing me $11,000 Australian dollars).

By that evening, I was in solitary confinement at the Melbourne Custody Centre, a maximum security lock-up awaiting that not-so-free ride home. In addition, that evening, a media firestorm erupted in Australia and I became the centre of debate over free speech and the criminalization of dissent in Australia.

I spent a good part of July and August doing workshops on our Houston-based campaign to get Halliburton out of Iraq, people-powered strategies to end the illegal occupation of Iraq and non-violent action. The Halliburton talks discussed the company's history of corruption and cronyism in Iraq, tactics and strategies used by community organizers in Houston (and elsewhere) to pressure Halliburton out of Iraq and the campaign in the larger context of the American anti-war movement.

The people-power strategies workshop is an approach to social action that addresses immediate community priorities, builds power by mobilizing citizens, is framed by core "citizen values" and challenges structural inequalities. It teaches participants methods to craft a clear strategy in working for social change. The non-violent action workshops were facilitated in the tradition of Thoreau, Gandhi, King and countless other advocates for non-violent social change.

I facilitated these trainings at the Brisbane Social Forum, the Sydney Social Forum and Subplot, a forum for autonomous and student activists. The latter two venues were precursors for two days of protests against the Forbes Global CEO Conference at the Sydney Opera House.

During those two days of protests, I also organized a protest outside the Sydney offices of war profiteer Halliburton's subsidiary KBR. It was a political theatre event where my cohorts and I dressed up as billionaires, named ourselves, "The Coalition of the Billing" and chanted such insurrectionary chants as "1-2-3-4, we make money when there's war, 5-6-7-8, KBR's really great!" and "We're here, we're rich, get used to it!" It was a fun little protest and many of the New South Wales police watching were laughing along with our comedy routine. I can only guess that Phillip Ruddock and ASIO missed the underlying humour.

While they may currently hold all the legal cards, they are losing the public debate as lawyers, civil libertarians, environmentalists, former government whistleblowers, grassroots activists, major media outlets and some politicians have spoken out and acted on this baffling outrageous episode. Currently, their best response has been that I "incited spirited protest."

All over Australia, local communities have mobilized and rallied around my detention and removal. There have been numerous non-violent protests, occupations and direct communications all over Australia, and in the United States, confronting Prime Minister John Howard, Phillip Ruddock and the Australian government about their shabby handling of me and my civil rights. Major Australian media outlets have questioned daily why their government has acted in such a manner. This doesn't even include the outpouring of support I have read from people all over the world fed up with this type of behaviour from "liberal western democracies" seeking to restrict and criminalize dissent under the auspices of "national security" and the "war on terror."

Since my departure from Australia, an article appeared in The Australian - a Rupert Murdoch owned newspaper with right-wing leanings - stating I had planned to teach violent protest tactics. Apparently, anonymous government sources informed reporters at The Australian that I would be discussing how to throw marbles under police horse hooves, how to spring protesters from custody and how to isolate police during marches and surround them.

These charges are completely ludicrous. I am completely opposed to any actions that would harm police animals or officers. I have publicly stated during workshops previous to this entire episode that tactics such as this are not a good idea and lead to charges like "assault on a police officer." I am philosophically and practically opposed to the use of such tactics. These are the same sort of stories put out by American authorities and right-wing media about non-violent protesters since the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle.

Bob Dylan once said that to live outside the law you must be honest. I have been known to live outside the law from time to time and it has given me a degree of self-realization and honesty which I apply to my activism. I realize that while my actions are not necessarily the norm in today's world, they are dictated by conscience.

As Thoreau once said "The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies … A very few - as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense... - serve the state with their consciences also..."

After the backlash I have seen against the Australian government's treatment of me, I can honestly say the Australian people are on the right track to serving their country with their consciences.

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Let Freedom Ring Department

Landowners must yield to ballpark
By Tim Lemke
October 6, 2005

The District will begin using eminent domain to acquire parcels of land at the site of the Washington Nationals' ballpark by the end of this month, after unsuccessful negotiations with nearly half of the landowners.

City officials said they expect to file court documents to take over at least some of the 21-acre site in the coming weeks and have $97 million set aside to buy the properties and help landowners relocate.

The city made offers to all 23 landowners on the site last month but received no response from 10.

"We think there are some that we'll have good-faith negotiations with," said Steve Green, director of development in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. "There are some we haven't heard from at all."

Many property owners on the site said the city's offers are inadequate. Others are suing the city on the grounds that it has no right to use eminent domain to acquire land at the site, despite a Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of municipal governments to take private property for the purpose of economic development.

In April, the city notified property owners on the site that they would be required to move out by Dec. 31. [...]

Comment: Well, there you have it, folks: psychopathic corporations can now throw you out of your home six days after Christmas because they want to build a new ballpark to make more money. It's funny how the remainder of this article does not discuss the use of eminent domain, but rather the more petty troubles that the project is facing, such as how long it will take to build the stadium, and where the parking garage will be located.

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Unmasked: the 'real Shakespeare'
By David Keys
October 6, 2005

EXTRAORDINARY historical evidence suggests Shakespeare's plays were not written by the bard, but by a Tudor politician descended from King Edward III.

British Shakespeare scholar and former university lecturer Brenda James and university historian William Rubinstein propose that the real Shakespeare was Sir Henry Neville, an English courtier and diplomat.

Their research is described as "pioneering" by the chairman of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust, Mark Rylance, artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe theatre in London.

The claims - based on five years of detailed archival research by Ms James and additional work by Professor Rubinstein, of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth - reveal a vast amount of evidence suggesting Neville wrote all the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

They will be published in a book due to be launched this month at the Globe.

First, the political content and geographical location of the plays are a perfect reflection of the known travels and adventures of Neville, a highly educated diplomat and politician from Berkshire who lived from 1562 to 1615.

Love's Labours Lost echoes in part the issues discussed specifically at Oxford University when Neville studied there between 1574 and 1579. Many characters in the play were known personally to Neville.

Measure for Measure was set in Vienna, which Neville visited in 1580. A theme of the play - laws against immorality - reflects specific ideas Neville encountered when he met a Calvinist philosopher there.

Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Two Gentleman of Verona and The Merchant of Venice were all set in northern Italy, which Neville visited at length in 1581 and 1582.

According to the research, Neville obtained specific information on the background to Hamlet while visiting Poland, and possibly Denmark itself, where Hamlet was set.

Henry V reflects Neville's journey to France, where he was briefly English ambassador in 1599-1600. Some scenes were written in French, which Neville spoke but Shakespeare did not.

And in Henry IV part II, written just before Neville went to France, a character says towards the end of the play: "I have heard a bird sing" that "we will bear our civil swords" to France.

As a politician, Neville became involved in an unsuccessful revolt led by the Earl of Essex against the government in 1601. Neville was imprisoned in the Tower of London for treason - and the tone of the plays changed abruptly from being mainly historical or comic to being predominantly sombre and tragic.

The plays also portray many of Neville's royal and other ancestors - John of Gaunt in Richard II, Warwick the King Maker in Henry VI part II and King Duncan of Scotland in Macbeth - in a particularly favourable light.

A further piece of evidence is a document, now known to have been written by Neville while a prisoner in the Tower of London, which contains detailed notes, the contents of which ended up being used in Henry VIII.

There are also striking similarities of style and vocabulary between Neville's private and diplomatic letters and the Shakespeare plays and poems. Word frequency analysis also reveals a statistical correlation.

Finally, in a document discovered in 1867, Neville practised faking William Shakespeare's signature. The document, in Neville's hand and with his name at the top, features 17 attempts at various forms of Shakespeare's signature.

The two scholars propose that Shakespeare was Neville's "front man". They suggest Neville could not afford to be seen as the author of the plays because some were politically too sensitive and controversial.

Neville was descended from the Plantagenets, a rival dynasty to the Tudors. His grandfather and great-uncle had been executed by Henry VIII. With such ancestry, he could not afford to be seen writing politically controversial plays.

Richard II, which deals with the forcible deposition of a monarch, was performed in London 40 times immediately before Essex's revolt, and the authorities regarded it as seditious. Shakespeare and his colleagues were questioned by government investigators, but not arrested.

One of the few documents officially attributing the plays to Shakespeare was the First Folio edition, published in 1623. Writer Ben Jonson was involved in putting Shakespeare's name on that first edition. At the time, he was employed by a London college associated with the Neville family.

The scholars believe Jonson knew of the "front man" arrangement and helped promote the fiction of Shakespeare's authorship at the behest of the Neville family, to respect the late Henry Neville's wishes.

They also suggest that the character Falstaff, who appears in four plays, was based on Neville himself. Falstaff was initially going to be called Oldcastle, an antonymic pun on Neville's name (from the French for "New Town").

Significantly, Shakespeare's patron was the Earl of Southampton, one of Neville's closest associates. Shakespeare was also a distant relative of Neville through his mother.

It is through these two connections that Ms James and Professor Rubinstein suggest Neville met Shakespeare and proposed that he become his front man. They argue that Shakespeare directed the plays, acted in them and part-owned the company performing them, but did not write one of them.

Scholars have always been puzzled as to how Shakespeare wrote plays requiring detailed geographical and political knowledge and advanced skills in reading Latin, Greek, French, Spanish and Italian sources, yet ceased his formal education at age 12.

Over the past 130 years, several scholars have proposed controversially that the plays were written by lawyer and scientist Francis Bacon, Tudor playboy and courtier Edward de Vere or even playwright Christopher Marlow, but most scholars believed the evidence has never really stacked up.

In a foreword to the book, Mr Rylance of the Globe theatre says that "if the plays had not been attributed to Shakespeare in 1623, he would be the last person you would imagine able to write such matter".

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Tony Blair's anscestors unearthed

A 6,000-year Dales story of ritual and cannibalism... Bone finds in Yorkshire caves finally throw light on stone age life after breakthrough in radio-carbon dating
Sally Cope

THEY roamed the earth almost 6,000 years ago, performing rituals on animal remains and devouring human body parts.

But these are not the strange creatures of film or fiction – they were farmers in the Yorkshire Dales.

New research on bones discovered in six Dales caves has revealed that farming in the area dates back thousands of years – and with it a history of cannibalism.

Dated bones found in caves at the western edge of the limestone uplands have been taken as evidence of rituals that involved adult skulls and other body parts along with animal bones.

The macabre finds included human bones which have been smashed up and the marrow removed, leading specialists to conclude they had been at the centre of a cannibalistic ritual. Dales farmer Tom Lord, who has been researching the caves, described the dating results as "a major breakthrough".

Excavations took place in the caves during the 1920s and 30s. Material from the finds was collected by Mr Lord's grandfather and has finally been the subject of precise radio-carbon dating by Oxford University.

Mr Lord said: "No longer can we think of upland areas such as the Yorkshire Dales as remote and backward. The radio-carbon dating evidence indicates the presence of farming communities much earlier than previously thought, as early as anywhere in Britain.

"What is so exciting is that the dated bones were found in caves where there is clear evidence for the special treatment of human remains.The caves would not have been easy to find in the wooded landscape of that time, and are also small and generally unsuitable for normal occupation."

Comment: Gee, we guess that is one way to describe it.

At least four human skulls were found in a small cave in Giggleswick Scar during excavations around 1930. One surviving skull was directly radio-carbon dated and shown to date from about 3,600 BC.

Now experts are trying to work out why early farming communities sought out the caves and used them for ritualistic activities.

An archaeologist and human bone specialist from King Alfred's College, Winchester, Stephany Leach, said there was evidence of adult human skulls being deliberately deposited in two caves.

"By contrast, a skull was amongst the missing body parts of a man placed in a natural recess in the wall of the third cave," she said.

"His jumbled up remains were mixed together with fragmentary animal bones, including domestic cattle, domestic pig and sheep.

"Many of the animal bones had been smashed for marrow extraction, suggesting rituals took place at the cave. The man's tibia was also deliberately smashed for marrow extraction, suggesting at least part of his body had been eaten."

Some of the prehistoric artefacts which have been found, especially pieces of pottery, are datable on stylistic grounds, and are all from a much later period, often dating between about 3,000BC and 2,000BC.

Although the find has turned up some answers, there are also many questions to puzzle over.

Mr Lord, of Winskill Farm, Langcliffe, said: "There is still a great deal to learn about what attracted prehistoric people caves.

"Hopefully, soon we might have more complete answers to why and when the caves were used, and just as interesting, why and when they might have been avoided.

"I have been trying to get research done on these items for 30 years and these dating results are just the beginning of trying to find out what it all means."

Comment: Atlantean descendents maintaining the family tradition?

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Who is Reading Books

Who is Reading Books (and who is not) One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Many do not even graduate from high school. 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school. 42% of college graduates never read another book. 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year. 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. 57% of new books are not read to completion.
  --Jerrold Jenkins.

Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased. 63% of adults report purchasing at least one book during the previous three-month period. (Most were probably exaggerating).
  --Bookselling This Week, November 10, 1997.

53% read fiction, 43% nonfiction. The favorite fiction category is mystery & Suspense, 19%.
  --Publishers Weekly, May 12, 1997, p.13

Of the top fifty books, fiction outsells nonfiction about 60% to 40%. Fiction peaks in July at 70% but nonfiction reaches almost 50% in December.
  --USA Today, April 30, 1999.

55% of fiction is bought by women; 45% by men.
  --Publishers Weekly, May 12, 1997, page 13.

Thirty percent of Americans surveyed by the Harris Poll say they would rather read a book than do anything else; twenty-one percent said watching TV is their favorite activity. That's the good news. The bad news is that only 13 percent selected "spending time with family.
  --Publishers Weekly email Daily, July 9, 1998.

Each day, people in the US spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.
  --Veronis, Suhler & Associates investment bankers.

70% of Americans haven't visited a bookstore in five (5) years.
  --Michael Levine, June 2002.

Customers 55 and older account for more than one-third of all books bought.
  --2001 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing by the Book Industry Study Group,

People reduced their time reading between 1996 and 2001 to 2.1 hours/month.
2001: per capita spending on books per month was $7.18.
  --Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2003.

Only 32% of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore.
  --David Godine, Publisher. The time Americans spend reading books.
1996: 123 hours
2001: 109 hours
  --Veronis, Suhler & Associates investment bankers.

1996 to 2001: Consumer spending on book rose 16%
Unit sales dropped 6%
(Readers spend more and purchased fewer books)
  --Veronis, Suhler & Associates investment bankers.

2001: Households purchasing at least one book 56.5%
  --Veronis, Suhler & Associates investment bankers.

The mean age of book buyers
1997: Age 15-39: 26.5% of the books bought
2001: Age 15-39: 20.8% of the books bought 1997: Age over 55: 33.7% of the books bought.

2001: Age over 55: 44.1% of the books bought
  --Ipsos NPD reported in Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003 Literacy 1992: 20% of adults in the U.S. read at or below the fifth grade level.
  --National Adult Literacy Survey reported in Publishers Weekly, January 6,

003. "Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half have never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half."
  --Gore Vidal, author. Mass-Media Use by Consumers, 1996.

Hours spent per year:
1,100: Broadcast TV. Increasing.
480: Cable TV. Increasing
250: Recorded music. Increasing.
180: Newspapers. Decreasing
90: Magazines. decreasing.
105: Books. Level.
65: Home video. Level.
10: Movies. Level.
  -- Doreen Carvajal, The New York Times, August 24, 1997.

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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 in October 2005, readers can pre-order the book today at our bookstore.

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