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

P I C T U R E   O F  T H E  D A Y

©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Judges liken terror laws to Nazi Germany
By Marie Woolf, Raymond Whitaker and Severin Carrell
16 October 2005
The Independent

A powerful coalition of judges, senior lawyers and politicians has warned that the Government is undermining freedoms citizens have taken for granted for centuries and that Britain risks drifting towards a police state. One of the country's most eminent judges has said that undermining the independence of the courts has frightening parallels with Nazi Germany.

Senior legal figures are worried that "inalienable rights" could swiftly disappear unless Tony Blair ceases attacking the judiciary and freedoms enshrined in the Human Rights Act.

Lord Ackner, a former law lord, said there was a contradiction between the Government's efforts to separate Parliament and the judiciary through the creation of a supreme court, and its instinct for directing judges how to behave. He cautioned against "meddling" by politicians in the way the courts operate.

"I think it is terribly important there should not be this apparent battle between the executive and the judiciary. The judiciary has been put there by Parliament in order to ensure that the executive acts lawfully. If we take that away from the judiciary we are really apeing what happened in Nazi Germany," he said.

Lord Ackner added that the Government's proposals to hold terrorist suspects for three months without charge were overblown. "The police have made a case for extending the two weeks but to extend it to three months is excessive."

Lord Lester QC, a leading human rights lawyer, expressed concern that the Government was flouting human rights law and meddling with the courts.

"If the Prime Minister and other members of the Government continue to threaten to undermine the Human Rights Act and interfere with judicial independence we shall have to secure our basic human rights and freedoms with a written constitution," he said.

Lord Carlile, a deputy High Court judge, warned against the whittling away of historic civil liberties. "We have to be acute about protecting what is taken for granted as inalienable rights. In the United States the Patriot Act included a system whereby a witness to a terrorist incident can be detained for up to a year. This is in the land of the free."

The senior barrister remarked that judges had now replaced MPs as the defenders of basic human rights.

"People used to look to their MPs as the first port of call to deal with any perceived injustice by the executive. Now there is an increasing tendency for people to look to the judges to protect their liberties," he said.

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said Tony Blair was transforming Britain into an authoritarian state. "In eight years he has dismantled centuries of judicial protection. Britain's reputation as the world's most tolerant nation is now under threat," he said.

If Mr Blair's proposed terror legislation was unamended, said Anthony Scrivener QC, "Britain would be a significant step closer to a police state". The Prime Minister spoke of "summary justice", said the lawyer: "It would be better named street justice."

This week the Law Lords will consider whether evidence obtained under torture abroad should be admissible in British courts. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said admitting such evidence would undermine one of Britain's basic freedoms.

"The Prime Minister is trying in his own words to try to tear up the rules of the game," she said. "The rules of liberal democracy are about no torture, free speech and fair trials. Every time he denigrates these he undermines the fabric of our society."

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Terror bill will make Aus police state
Khalid A-H Ansari October 20, 2005

With its draconian anti-terrorism laws being rushed through parliament in frenetic hurry, Australia is moving towards a police state, according to the country’s Law Council.

Under the provisions of a proposed Bill, the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005, people who support insurgents can be jailed for up to seven years.

The Australian Federal Police will also be enabled to carry out what are termed preventive detention orders, effectively locking up people thought to be involved or to have knowledge of a terrorist act.

Suspected terrorists who are detained by police will be able to ring loved ones but not tell them where they are, while judges can stop suspects from using the Internet or telephones.

Details of the Bill were leaked on his website by Jon Stanhope, chief minister of the ACT (Australian Capital Territories), who believes the draft laws go much further than measures agreed to by state and territory leaders last month.

The John Howard administration said last week it would introduce the laws in parliament on October 31, but only allow the senate one week to investigate them and report by November 8.

President of the Australian Law Council, Jon North, is quoted by a news agency as saying that although Australian people are frightened of terrorists, especially after the October 1 suicide bombings in Bali, civil liberties have to be protected.

The latest Bali bombings have brought forth warnings of an attack on Australia and trenchant criticism of the government’s record in countering terrorism in the region.

The Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, said recently that a terrorist attack on Australia was “highly probable” but his job was to do everything possible to ensure it did not happen.

“We understand that the people are scared, we understand that terrorism is the major, major issue, but we must not take away fundamental rights without asking our government to assure us that we are going to be safe,” North said.

He said he was particularly concerned about the shoot-to-kill provisions in the draft legislation, and the plan to allow children as young as 16 to be detained without charge for up to 14 days.

North said he was also worried about the reaction of the government in the wake of the London bombings in July.

Prime minister John Howard insists the government will not water down its tough new anti-terror laws despite fears they would erode civil rights.

However, growing fright on the Liberal Party backbench over the legislation has forced the government to reconsider extreme elements of the law, especially the provisions regarding the length of time suspects can be held without charge, issues around the holding of minors, freedom of speech, new sedition laws and proposed jail sentences for soft terrorism charges.

The latest debate on the new draft laws came as thousands of emergency workers and bureaucrats began a week-long anti-terror exercise, Mercury 05, across the country on Monday.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to double the size of its spy force, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), over the next five years, as part of its strategy for home-grown terrorist threats.

It will also invest in new information technology systems to cope with the vast volume of intelligence now being developed and exchanged internationally.

Most new government spies, who will swell the size of the force from 980 to 1860, are expected to be recruited from Islamic and ethnic communities. Attorney General Ruddock feels ASIO needed “a variety of language skills and awareness of different cultural backgrounds” if it was to be effective.

The government has increased ASIO’s budget from Aus $62.9 million to $171.7million, since the September 11 attacks in the US in 2001.

The Sydney Morning Herald says in a perceptive editorial, “The question is whether basic democratic rights must be thrown away at the first hint of danger… if basic laws must be abrogated, the government has to explain why, provide for a more stringent review of the legislation, and ensure its life is limited.

“Most importantly, parliament must be allowed to devote as much time as it needs to consider and refine these radical changes to our democratic rights.”

Comment: Nothing to see here folks...

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Former CIA Analyst: Government May Be Manufacturing Fake Terrorism | October 19 2005

Ray McGovern, former CIA Analyst during the Reagan and Bush 41 regimes, joined Alex Jones on his daily radio show Monday 17th October as part of a round table discussion of issues surrounding the Iraq war and the "war on terror".

McGovern launched straight into the War in Iraq and suggested that over the last few months there has been a "sea change" in public opinion, and now over two thirds of Americans, according to major opinion polls, are against the war and can now see through the Neo-con Propaganda that so clouded their judgment in the lead up to the war.

McGovern went on to comment that there has built up an ignorant attitude amongst more well to do Americans that the troops dying everyday are expendable. There has been a shut down in the minds of people who cannot place themselves in the shoes of the families who's sons and fathers and brothers are being needlessly slaughtered for a corrupt elite agenda.

Mr McGovern stated that the war

"has nothing to do with democracy or freedom or defending "our way of life", it is to do with enriching the pockets of those who support this administration."

Alex then put it to Mr McGovern that Congressman Ron Paul had recently been on the show and said that The Bush Administration was openly trying to set up a martial law police state in America. McGovern responded in the affirmative:

"Well it does seem that those who have his (Bush's) ear are hell bent on giving away or providing wider responsibilities to our military. Witness what they are talking about now with giving the military primary responsibility for catastrophes, for hurricanes and so forth. Our military has been built up as an instrument of power but has never existed with this kind of potency before, and so we all need to look at this because there are laws against using the military in law enforcement capacities and we need to get to our Congressmen and Senators and say "look enough of this stuff."

McGovern then moved on to talk about terrorism and the fact that if there was another major attack in the US, it would mean a martial law state (According to General Tommy Franks) and a breakdown in our freedoms.

He amazingly went on to suggest that if another attack took place we should not accept what the government tells us because it could be them carrying out the terror.

"We have to be careful, if somebody does this kind of provocation, big violent explosions of some kind, we have to not take the word of the masters there in Washington that this was some terrorist event because it could well be a provocation allowing them, or seemingly to allow them to get what they want."

McGovern said he would not put it past the Government to "play fast and loose" with terror alerts and warnings and even events themselves in order to rally people behind the flag.

Last week we revealed how a major terror alert in New York was outed as a fake, and magically boosted Mayor Bloomberg's ratings.

Mr McGovern then went on to reveal his opinions on the possible upcoming indictments within the Bush Administration, siding with the view that the truth will out and the Administration will come toppling down because of the way it has continually forged a bedrock of lies to justify the War In Iraq.

But he warned that we have to stay vigilant and continually expose the lies because we no longer have a free mainstream press. If we stop looking they will get away with anything they want.

Mr Govern Stressed that the founders wrote the Constitution with far sighted possibilities in mind, and we may now be at that juncture. The founders provided us with the ability to impeach any Government should it take away our liberties or any President, should he attempt to act like a King or an Emperor.

At this very moment we have a President about to veto a ban on torture. Even at the height of the British Empire torture was still outlawed because it was recognized as the pinnacle of human rights violations. What more does this Administration have to do before we remove it from power?

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G8 summit police lied, says report
By Chris Summers BBC News Website

The trial of 28 police officers accused of beating up anti-globalisation protesters during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001 is due to start in Italy. The BBC News website has seen a copy of the prosecutor's report.

Leaked copy of the report The prosecutor's report will be the basis for the trial The chief prosecutor investigating an Italian police raid on an anti-globalisation protesters' base in Genoa during the 2001 G8 summit concluded "the police must have lied" about the operation, according to a leaked copy of his report.

Ninety-two demonstrators were injured, several of them seriously, during the raid on the city's Armando Diaz School on the night of 22 July 2001.

All of the officers deny the charges against them, and they are not the only people accused in connection with the events of July 2001.

Last year, 26 people went on trial accused of taking part in the riots which shook the city hours before the Diaz raid. Their trial is ongoing.

The police claimed they raided the school, which was being used as a base by the Genoa Social Forum, after a patrol came under attack from a hail of stones nearby.

Senior police officers said the protesters resisted entry violently and they later claimed to have discovered a cache of weapons, including pick-axe handles, staves and a number of unused Molotov cocktails.

But senior police officers later admitted the petrol bombs had not been found in the school but had actually been discovered earlier in the day at Corso Italia in central Genoa, the scene of violent demonstrations by anarchists.

It also emerged that the "weapons" were actually from a nearby building site.

In his report, prosecutor Enrico Zucca writes: "Powerful evidence of the videos and photos provided by journalists clearly disproved the official version.

The Undercurrents film Powerful evidence of the videos and photos provided by journalists clearly disproved the official version Enrico Zucca Prosecutor

"In fact, the institutions continued to deny that the high number of injuries had anything to do with police conducts during the arrests.

"The magistrates' initial conclusions seemed to indicate that a disturbing yet simple answer lay at the heart of this operational debacle carried out so publicly: 'The police must have lied'.

"As the criminal evidence progressed and incontrovertible evidence was gathered, this theory became increasingly likely."

Also awaiting trial are 45 police officers, prison staff and medical orderlies accused of beating, abusing and detaining demonstrators detained at the Bolzaneto police station.

BBC Rome correspondent David Willey said it was highly unusual for Italian police officers to be brought to court on such charges.

But he added that it was possible their trial might run out of time because of a new statute of limitations introduced by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

'Gratuitous and brutal'

British independent journalist Mark Covell was one of the most seriously injured in the Diaz raid - he suffered eight broken ribs, a shredded lung and a broken hand. He also lost 10 teeth and needed transfusions because he lost so much blood.

Mr Zucca's report undermines the police's version of events and suggests the raid had nothing to do with the attack on the patrol.

He goes on to describe the attack on Mr Covell as "gratuitous and brutal", and said a film taken by a cameraman from the Undercurrents media group fully confirmed Mr Covell's story of having been attacked without provocation.

The report says: "The resolute nature of the blows by numerous police officers, as Covell had already been attacked and was lying on the ground helpless, bleeding and suffering from serious injuries, led the public prosecutor's office to describe the behaviour as attempted homicide... At the time the attack on Covell was carried out he was not resisting."

Mark Covell, one of the victims I am terrified of going over there and testifying, as are most of the other Diaz victims. I will have to confront my (alleged) attackers and the men who commanded them Mark Covell

Before leaving for Italy, where he will be a key prosecution witness, Mr Covell said: "I am terrified of going over there and testifying, as are most of the other Diaz victims. I will have to confront my (alleged) attackers and the men who commanded them."

Hamish Campbell, who filmed the raid and the attack on Mr Covell from the roof of a neighbouring building, told the BBC News website: "I witnessed it all and it was extremely violent. I was completely shocked.

"We knew the police in Genoa had a bit of a reputation and the day before a demonstrator had been shot dead, but it still came as a shock."

Mr Campbell, clutching the film he had taken, hid in an empty water tank for five hours as police searched the building.

He said: "It was cold and I was terrified, but fortunately they didn't find me, although I had to hide from a police helicopter with a searchlight.

"Later I went across to the Diaz school and filmed everything. There was blood on the floor and skin and hair on the walls."

Mr Zucca's report says: "Serious flaws began to appear in the police version of events a few days after the operation.

"Squad chiefs of the 7th Unit of the Rome Flying Squad Division immediately began distancing themselves from the subsequent violence... Some even said they had witnessed scenes of gratuitous violence against those arrested."


Map of Genoa The raid took place two miles from the scene of the riots

One officer described it as a "bloodbath" and described officers "beating youths like wild beasts", says the report.

He says the victims - who came from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Britain and the United States - gave a "single, powerful and coherent story", even though they were often questioned hundreds of miles apart and had not had an opportunity to communicate with each other.

As for the planting of the Molotov cocktails, Mr Zucca also says: "Later statements by (Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Pasquale) Guaglione and (high-ranking public order official Maurizio) Piccolotti contained details that confirmed that the two petrol bombs seized during the search were, in fact, the same ones that had been found in Corso Italia (earlier the same day)."

The Italian police trust the judiciary and want the truth to be ascertained as soon as possible Italian police union SILP

The trial is expected to last for at least a year but Enrica Bartesaghi, who runs the Truth and Justice Committee for Genoa, told the Associated Press: "We're concerned that the people responsible might not see justice."

Our Rome correspondent said the police has always claimed that they used a reasonable amount of force during the raid.

The SILP police union represents several of those on trial, and its national secretary Claudio Giardullo told the BBC News website earlier this year: "The Italian police trust the judiciary and want the truth to be ascertained as soon as possible.

"Personal responsibilities must be established, and those who have made mistakes must pay."

Comment: "Made mistakes"? Far from being a mistake, what happened in Genoa in 2001 was the result of a deliberately planned and orchestrated government and police policy.

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Al-Hariri murder probe implicates Syria
Friday 21 October 2005, 6:06 Makka Time, 3:06 GMT

There is converging evidence of both Syrian and Lebanese involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, a UN investigation says.

Led by veteran German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, the probe into the 14 February killing of al-Hariri has established "that many leads point directly towards Syrian security officials as being involved with the assassination".

The report was handed over to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday morning, and Annan transmitted the report to the 15-nation Security Council and the Lebanese government on Thursday evening.

The report said it was well known that Syrian military intelligence had a pervasive presence in Lebanon at least until the withdrawal of Syrian forces in line with UN Security Council resolution 1559.

"Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge," the report said.

Rafiq al-Hariri's killing triggered grief and outrage in Lebanon

Because of this, it is now incumbent on Syria "to clarify a considerable part of the unresolved questions" facing investigators, the report said.

The Mehlis commission said its findings to date indicated that the truck bombing that killed al-Hariri and 20 others in the streets of Beirut was carried out by a group "with an extensive organisation and considerable resources and capabilities".

Planned crime

The strongly worded report by Mehlis said the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services kept tabs on al-Hariri before his assassination by wiretapping his phone, and there was evidence a telecommunications antenna was jammed near the scene of the car bomb that killed him.

"The crime had been prepared over the course of several months," it said.

It cited Ahmad Abdel-Al, a member of the Ahbash group in Lebanon with strong historical ties to the Syrian authorities, as a significant figure in the assassination plot, as he had used his mobile phone with "all the important figures in this investigation".

There were numerous contracts between Abdel-Al and Lebanese state security on the day of the blast, including Brigadier-General Faysal Rasheed, chief of state security in Beirut, and others, the report said.

Abdel-Al's brother, Mahmoud Abdel-Al "made a call minutes before the blast, at 1247 hours, to the mobile phone of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud", it said.

Call to Lahoud

The report also said that Syrian officials including Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara had sought to mislead its investigation.

"While the Syrian authorities, after initial hesitation, have cooperated to a limited degree ... several interviewees tried to mislead the investigation," the commission said in its report.

"The letter addressed to the commission by the foreign minister of the Syrian Arab Republic proved to contain false information," it said.

"Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge"

UN probe report

The report said a Syrian witness living in Lebanon who claimed to have worked for Syrian intelligence in Lebanon told the commission that "senior Lebanese and Syrian officials decided to assassinate Rafiq al-Hariri" about two weeks after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution in September 2004 demanding the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

The witness, who was not identified, claimed a senior Lebanese security official went to Syria several times to plan the crime. At the beginning of January 2005, a high-ranking Syrian officer posted in Lebanon told the witness that "Hariri was a big problem to Syria".

"Approximately a month later the officer told the witness that there soon would be an 'earthquake' that would re-write the history of Lebanon," the report said.

UN probe

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave the probe a three-month mandate when it began its work on 16 June but said it could be extended for three more months if necessary. In August, Mehlis received an extension beyond the original 15 September deadline.

Mehlis said the investigation is not complete and must be continued with Lebanese judicial and security authorities in the lead.

Al-Hariri's death led to demonstrations against Syria and magnified the international pressure on Damascus to withdraw its troops, which it eventually did. The Security Council approved a probe into al-Hariri's assassination on 8 April.

Comment: It seems then that then entire case against Syria is based on very tenuous "evidence" that is based around the idea that Hariri could not have been assassinated without Syrian intelligence knowing something about it, which, it seems, makes them guilty. What is obviously missing from this report is any explanation as to WHY Syria would want to kill Hariri at a time when both the US and Israel were itching to find a stick to beat the drums of war in Syria's direction. As with so many other whitewashed inquiries, it makes no sense, unless we assume that Syria has a death wish.

Rabid Rice can't wait to squish Syria

Now of course, Condi is in her element, calling loudly for something to be done about the Syrians, as if this were the first political assassination to have ever taken place. Again, and as always, the hypocrisy is astounding, but then what more can we expect from a group of psychopathic madmen and women who believe themselves to be "creating reality".

For the truth about who really murdered Hariri, see our article "Mossad Murders Former Lebanese PM in Carbon Copy of 1979 Assassination"

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Mordechai Vanunu: “Having the atomic bomb is what has allowed Israel to fearlessly carry out its apartheid policy”
by Silvia Cattori
Voltaire Network

In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, an engineer at the Dimona nuclear centre, revealed to the Sunday Times the existence of the secret Israeli nuclear program. He was Kidnapped in Italy by the Israeli secret services following his contacts with the British reporters and before the publication of the article with his revelations, he was judged behind doors and jailed for 18 years. Although he is still banned from contacting reporters, Mordechai Vanunu answers Silvia Cattori’s questions in an exclusive interview for Voltaire Network.

Silvia Cattori: What was your job in Israel before the Mossad agents kidnapped you in Rome, in October 1986?

Mordechai Vanunu: I had been working for 19 years in the Dimona weapons research centre in the province of Beer Sheva. Just before I quit that job, in 1986, I took photos of the interior of the factory to show the world that Israel was hiding a nuclear secret. I was in charge of producing radioactive elements for the manufacture of atomic bombs. I knew exactly the amount of fissile material produced, the elements used and the kind of bombs that were being manufactured.

Silvia Cattori: Wasn’t it a big risk for you to reveal to the world that your own country had nuclear weapons?

Mordechai Vanunu: If I decided to do it, it was because Israeli authorities were lying. They constantly said that Israel’s political leaders had no intentions of acquiring nuclear weapons. However, they were producing amounts of radioactive substances that could only serve that goal: manufacturing nuclear weapons. They were significant amounts. I calculated that at that time, in 1986, they already had 200 atomic bombs. They had also started to manufacture hydrogen bombs, very powerful ones. So I decided to reveal what they were secretly doing. I also wanted to prevent the Israelis from using atomic bombs and to avoid a nuclear war in the Middle East. I wanted to contribute to peace in the region. Israel, having such extremely powerful weapons, could work for peace. It had no reason to fear a Palestinian or even an Arab threat as it had the necessary weapons to survive.

Silvia Cattori: Were you worried about security in the region?

Mordechai Vanunu: Yes, that is right. Of course, I did not do it for the Israeli people. Israelis had elected that government and that government had decided to produce nuclear weapons. All Israelis follow very closely the policy of the Israeli government… But, as far as I am concerned, I was acting by taking into account the point of view of humankind, of a human being, of all human beings of the Middle East and also of the world. Because many other countries could do what Israel had done.So I decided, in the interest of humanity, to reveal the danger that Israel’s secret nuclear weapons represented. We were in the middle of the Cold War and nuclear weapons proliferated. They were extending to some countries like South Africa. The danger posed by nuclear weapons was real. Now that danger has decreased.

Silvia Cattori: Did you know what you were exposing yourself to? Why did it have to be you and not anyone else who took such a big risk?

Mordechai Vanunu: Of course I knew the risks. No one could have done what I did. I knew I was messing around with the Israeli government. It was not like I was attacking private interests. I knew I was directly messing around with the Israeli government and the Israeli Jewish state. Thus, I knew they could punish me, kill me or do whatever they wanted. But I had the responsibility of telling the truth to the world. I was the only one who could do it, so I had to do it no matter what the risks might have been.

Silvia Cattori: Did you have the support of your family?

Mordechai Vanunu: The members of my family were unable to understand my decision. What most disturbed them was the fact that I had become a Christian. For them that was more painful than the fact that I had revealed Israel’s nuclear secrets... I respect them and they respect my life. We have maintained good relations but we do not see each other anymore.

Silvia Cattori: Do you feel alone?

Mordechai Vanunu: Yes, I am alone here, in St. George Cathedral. But I have a lot of friends who support me.

Silvia Cattori: In what conditions were you judged and incarcerated?

Mordechai Vanunu: The trial was kept in the most absolute secrecy. I was alone with my lawyer. I was condemned for espionage and high treason. Authorities took revenge by keeping me isolated during the entire trial process. They would not authorize anyone to talk to me and I was banned from speaking to the press, which published a lot of distorted information about me. The Israeli government used all its media influence to brainwash public opinion and the judges, who were finally convinced that I had to be sent to jail. Therefore the trial took place secretly and the press had no access to the truth, they could not hear me. The people were convinced that I was a traitor, a spy, a criminal. There was not an atom of justice in that trial. But it was not only the trial. The cruellest thing was the isolation inside the prison. They did not only punish me by putting me into jail but also by keeping me completely isolated, by constantly spying on me and by applying vicious and cruel treatments. They tried to make me feel in despair and make me regret what I had done. I was held incommunicado for 18 years and I was in complete isolation for 11 years and a half. The first year, they put cameras in my cell and they kept the light on for three consecutive years! Their spies constantly hit me and they would not let me sleep. I was subjected to a very cruel treatment. They tried to break me into submission. My goal was to survive and I made it!

Silvia Cattori: You were very lucky that they did not hang you as then Justice Minister Tommy Lapid wanted. You resisted and you were finally released on April 21, 2004. You were 50 years old!

Mordechai Vanunu: They released me because I had served my 18-year imprisonment. They wanted to kill me. But the Israeli government finally decided not to do it.

Silvia Cattori: In April 2004, television channels aired your release from prison. It was then that the world knew what had happened. You looked happy, spirited and determined, looking nothing like a broken man…

Mordechai Vanunu: Leaving prison, talking to the world, to celebrate, after 18 years in prison and under complete prohibition, it was a great moment…

Silvia Cattori: Then, they could not break you mentally?

Mordechai Vanunu: Absolutely not. My goal was to get out of there and to speak to the world, letting Israeli authorities know that they had failed. My goal was to survive and that was my biggest victory over all those espionage organizations. They managed to kidnap me, to drag me to their court, to keep me isolated for 18 years… and I survived all that. Of course, I suffered. But I survived. In spite of all their crimes I am still alive. Even my health is excellent! I am strong. Certainly, that is why I went through the test.

Silvia Cattori:What helped you resist?

Mordechai Vanunu: My strength. The fact that I was convinced that what I had done was right. My determination to make them understand that, in spite of everything they could do to punish me, I was going to stay alive.

Silvia Cattori: What is the biggest obstacle that you are facing now?

Mordechai Vanunu: They do not allow me to leave Israel. They released me from prison but now I am in a bigger cell: Israel. I would like to leave this country and enjoy freedom. I am sick and tired of the Israeli power. The army can come to arrest me and punish me anytime. I feel like I am at their mercy. I would like to live far away from here…

Silvia Cattori: Will Israel let you leave the country?

Mordechai Vanunu: I don’t know. They said that I could not leave Israel for a year. Then, when a year passed by, they renewed the ban for another year that ends next April. But they can do it as many times as they wish…

Silvia Cattori: What is your opinion about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty knowing that, in the case of Israel, “nuclear ambiguity” is tolerated while Iran is kept under pressure, even when the latter is submitted to inspections?

Mordechai Vanunu: All countries should be open to international inspections and to tell the truth about what they are secretly doing in their nuclear facilities. Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Almost 180 countries have done it, including all Arab countries. Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan… all Israeli neighbours have opened their borders to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Israel is the worst example. It is the only country that has refused to sign the treaty. The United States and Europe should start to pay attention to the Israeli case. Israel must be treated like any other country. We have to put an end to hypocrisy and to make Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has to accept the IAEA inspectors in Dimona.

Silvia Cattori: Iran, which complies with its obligations and accepts the UN inspections, is threatened to be sanctioned however. But, nothing is done in the case of Israel that has nuclear weapons and rejects the IAEA inspections. Why are the United States and Europe conducting this “double standard” policy?

Mordecha Vanunu: Yes, and it is even worse than what you are saying. Not only they are not taking any measures but they are also secretly helping Israel. There is a secret cooperation between Israel and the United States, Great Britain and France. These countries have decided to support Israel’s nuclear might because they want Israel to be at their service as a colonial country that guarantees their control of the Middle East, to gain access to oil reserves in the region and to keep the Arabs living in underdevelopment and amid fratricidal conflicts. That is the main reason of that cooperation.

Silvia Cattori: Isn’t Iran a threat, as Israel and the United States claim?

Mordechai Vanunu: Under the control of the IAEA, Iran does not pose any threat. Western experts perfectly know the nature of the Iranian nuclear program, contrary to Israel, which does not let anyone enter its nuclear facilities. That is why Iran decided to take a step forward and to tell the world: “You can not demand more transparency from us while closing your eyes to what is happening in Israel!” The Arabs have known for 40 years that Israel has atomic bombs and nobody does anything about it. As long as the world continues to ignore Israel’s atomic weapons, they will not have the moral authority to say anything about Iran. If the world is really concerned, if they want to put an end to nuclear proliferation, then they have to start from the beginning, that is, Israel!

Silvia Cattori: It must be very annoying for you to hear Israel, a violator of regulations, say that it is ready to bomb Iran, a country that has not broken any rules thus far!

Mordechai Vanunu: Yes, that drives me crazy. We have no reason to criticize Iran. Before we do anything against any country we have to take care of the Israeli case. If anyone wants to do anything against Iran, first he has to deal with Israel. The world cannot ignore what Israel has been doing over the past 40 years… The United States should make Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is about time that Europe acknowledges that Israel has nuclear weapons. The Arab world should be very concerned about the fact that the entire world is criticizing Iran, which does not have nuclear weapons, while ignoring Israel.

Silvia Cattori: What states cooperated with Israel?

Mordechai Vanunu: Israel helped France and Great Britain in their campaign against Egypt in 1956. After the operation of Suez, France and Great Britain began cooperating with the Israeli nuclear program as a way to reciprocate the support that Israel had given them during that war.

Silvia Cattori: Didn’t South Africa help Israel until 1991?

Mordechai Vanunu: It was precisely in South Africa, in the desert, that Israel carried out its nuclear tests…

Silvia Cattori: It seems that in the 1960s, President Kennedy asked that inspections be carried out in Dimona, Israel. Do you see any links between that request and his assassination?

Mordechai Vanunu: In believe that, at that time, the United States opposed the Israeli nuclear program. Kennedy tried to stop Israel but he was assassinated before he could do it. For me, his assassination had to do with the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Israel and in other countries. Those who killed him were in favour of nuclear proliferation. Thanks to his death, proliferation continued. In fact, presidents Johnson and Nixon, who succeeded Kennedy, saw no inconvenience with that. They let Israel act. We can simply see that there was a change in that direction after Kennedy’s assassination…

Silvia Cattori: Your denunciation did not make Israel change its secrecy around the matter. Israel managed to have all the big power not to act against it. Was Israel’s strategy, contrary to transparency, effective?

Mordechai Vanunu: Yes, we have to admit it. Israel is a case that has to be studied. How can a small country defy the whole world and continue with an aggressive policy, and not worry about anyone else? Yes, Israelis were able to do it then. But, today the world has changed. The Cold War is over. Communism was defeated. The world marches toward peace. We can now see that nuclear weapons will not help Israel. Now that Israel has to show that it wants peace and how to attain it, what is the use of nuclear weapons? Israel’s nuclear policy was possible in the context of the Cold War. Today we have to make Israel to adopt a new policy, showing the world that it wants peace and that it recognizes that it does not need nuclear weapons.

Silvia Cattori: In the 1950s, Israel already had significant armaments. What reason did it have then to acquire the nuclear weapon?

Mordechai Vanunu: A small country such as Israel does not have any valid reason to have such an enormous amount of atomic weapons. It is as though Israel had gone into a frenzy over its nuclear weapons program. It is impossible to use a nuclear weapon in the region! If a nuclear weapon were used against Syria, Egypt or Jordan, the radioactive effects would also hurt Israel. To this day, Israelis have not been able to discuss the issue among them. However, it is a problem that worries everyone in the world. We are waiting for Israel’s answer.

Silvia Cattori: For Israel, isn’t it rather a weapon that allows it to maintain its status quo, as an instrument for political blackmail, to be able to discuss in equal terms with the big powers – starting with the United States – and not to concede anything to the Arabs, that Israel has plundered and who are weak in the military field?

Mordechai Vanunu: That is right. Israel uses the power of its weapons to impose its policies. Israel has a lot of power; it crushes with arrogance all its neighbours. Not even the United States can tell Israel what to do! Europe is now seeing the magnitude of Israel’s power. Without using the atomic bomb and not even threatening to use the nuclear weapon, Israelis can impose their power, they can do as they please. They can build a wall; they can build colonies in Palestine… No one can tell them they cannot do it because they are extremely powerful . This is the result of their political blackmail. They can use their nuclear weapons against any country that tries to stop their aggressive policy against the Palestinians. That is the current situation. The whole world knows it. And there is another reason why the United States and Europe do not do anything. They know the magnitude of Israel’s power. Thus, the best way to oppose Israel is making the world aware of the truth and to study what is happening in that country with regard to atomic weapons until they give it up.

Silvia Cattori: Did Israel consider the possibility of using the nuclear weapon against its Arab neighbours in 1973?

Mordechai Vanunu: Yes. In 1973 Israel was ready to use atomic bombs against Syria… and Egypt.

Silvia Cattori: You suffered a lot for having revealed a secret of state. Finally… what was the result?

Mordechai Vanunu: First, the world now has evidence that Israel has atomic weapons. From now on, no one can ignore the truth as to the Israeli nuclear program. After that, Israel was prevented from resorting to that kind of weapons. Another result is that the world became aware of what this small Jewish state was secretly doing. And the world also knew about the lies and misinformation upon which this state lies. Knowing that a small country like Israel was able to manufacture 200 atomic bombs made the world aware of its behaviour. The fear that another small country could do the same made the world think about ways to stop nuclear proliferation and to prevent Israel from helping other countries to use those weapons in the future. When the world became aware of what Israel was secretly doing, the fear of nuclear proliferation increased. The world became aware of Israel’s power and began to pressure this country to reach peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world. Israel no longer had a reason to affirm that it feared its Arab neighbours as it had, since the 1950s, plenty of weapons to guarantee its own security.

Silvia Cattori: Why does Israel still chase you?

Mordechai Vanunu: What I did was very harmful for all of Israel’s political moves! They were forced to change their plans. Israel’s secret nuclear policy was created by Shimon Peres. And that policy of secretly manufacturing nuclear weapons was destroyed! After that denunciation, Israel had to change its direction and to make new plans. What we see today is a consequence of what I did. They had to invent other types of weapons. Now, they are building their wall, check points, settlements and they managed to make the Jewish society a more religious one, more nationalist and more racist instead of taking another path, instead of understanding that the only possible solution is peace, instead of recognizing that the Palestinians have the same rights and instead of putting an end to the conflict. What Israel wants is to continue building its wall and its settlements!

Silvia Cattori: So, what you did was a great deed!

Mordecha Vanunu: As a human being, I did something for the security and respect of humankind. All countries have to respect us, everyone of us!, as human beings, no matter what our religion might be, whether we are Jews, Christians, Muslims or Buddhists… Israel has a big problem: it is a country that does not respect human beings. The result is devastating for Israel’s image. The state of Israel is far from being a democracy. The Jewish state is racist. The whole world should know that Israel practices a policy of apartheid. If you are a Jew, you can do whatever you want and go wherever you want. If you are not a Jew, you have no rights. That racism is the real problem that Israel faces. Israel is completely unable to prove that it is a democracy. No one can accept that racist state, neither the United States nor Europe. In any case, they could accept Israel’s nuclear weapons but… how can they justify this state of fascist apartheid?

Silvia Cattori: It looks like you refuse to recognize the legitimacy of that State

Mordechai Vanunu: Of course. That is what I said when I was released from jail: we cannot accept this Jewish state. The Israeli Jewish state is the opposite of a democracy. We need a state for all its citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs. The solution is a sole state for all citizens of all religions, as it is in democracies like France or Switzerland, and not only a state for Jews. A Jewish state has absolutely no reason to exist. Jews do not need a fundamentalist regime like that of Iran. People need a real democracy that respects human beings. Today we have two fundamentalist regimes in the Middle East: Iran and Israel. But, Israel is far more fundamentalist than Iran!

Silvia Cattori: Then for you, Israel is a bigger threat than Iran?

Mordechai Vanunu: Of course it is. We all know how much the Israelis have been making the Palestinian people suffer for more than 50 years! It is about time that the world pays attention to the Palestinian Holocaust. The Palestinians have suffered a lot, for a long time, because of that oppression! The Jews do not respect them and not even consider them as human beings. They do not recognize any of their rights and still chase them, putting their lives in danger and, consequently, their future too.

Silvia Cattori: What would you say to my country, Switzerland, the repository of the Geneva Conventions?

Mordechai Vanunu: Switzerland should clearly and loudly condemn the racist policy of Israel, that is, all the violations of the Palestinians’ rights, let them be Muslims or Christians. All countries must demand that Israel respect non-Jewish people as human beings. In fact, I do not have the right to speak with you; I am not authorized to speak to foreigners. Doing it in spite of the ban is a risk that I am taking. Israel used the compensations for the holocaust to build weapons, to destroy houses and Palestinian assets. I wish your country could grant me a passport and help me out of Israel. Life is very tough here. If you are a Jew, there is no problem. If not, or if you cease to be one, you are treated with no respect.

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Lawyer for Saddam co-defendant kidnapped
Sam Jones Friday
October 21, 2005
The Guardian
A lawyer representing one of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants in their mass-murder trial was kidnapped from his office in Baghdad last night. Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi, who was in court for the opening of the case on Wednesday, is defending Awad Hamed al-Bandar, one of seven Ba'ath party officials being tried alongside the former Iraqi dictator.

Al-Bandar, who was once the head of Saddam's revolutionary court, is accused of ordering the massacre of 143 Shia residents of the town of Dujail in 1982.

A spokesman for the Iraqi interior ministry said that 10 masked gunmen broke into Mr al-Janabi's office in eastern Baghdad last night and dragged him out of the building.

A member of Saddam's defence team said yesterday that lawyers were increasingly becoming targets for intimidation and kidnapping. "I think he was kidnapped because they don't want to hear the defence of the accused," said Issam al-Ghazzaw. "This has happened many times with other lawyers. Their homes have been raided and documents taken. They live in a jungle."

The faces and identities of the five judges and the prosecutors in Saddam's trial have been kept secret to prevent insurgent reprisals against them. The names of the chief judge and the top prosecutor were revealed only on the opening day of the trial after they had both appeared in broadcasts of the proceedings.

The names of defence lawyers have not been withheld, although the names of the lawyers for Saddam's co-defendants have not been widely publicised.

Saddam and his co-defendants are standing trial for murder, torture, forced expulsion and illegal imprisonment. If convicted, they could face the death sentence.

Comment: "Murder, torture, forced expulsion and illegal imprisonment." We wonder who else could be brought to trial on these charges... Seems we've read something recently about this kind of activity. Where could that have been. It'll come back in a minute....

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Lawyer for Saddam Co-Defendant Found Dead
The Associated Press
Friday, October 21, 2005; 8:49

AMBAGHDAD, Iraq -- A defense lawyer in Saddam Hussein's mass murder trial who was kidnapped has been found dead, his body dumped near a Baghdad mosque, police and a top lawyers' union official said Friday.

In other violence, four U.S. service members were killed in violence a day earlier, the U.S. military announced. Three Marines died when a bomb hit their patrol in the village of Nasser wa Salam, 25 miles west of Baghdad on Thursday. The surviving American troops clashed with gunmen, killing two insurgents and capturing four, the military said.

An American soldier was killed in the northwestern town of Hit by "indirect fire," a term that usually means a mortar or rocket attack, the military said.

Nineteen American service members have been killed in the past week, including last Saturday when Iraq held a landmark referendum on a new constitution. The latest deaths brought to 1,992 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In violence Friday, driveby shootings in Baghdad killed four Iraqi police commandos, an army captain and a mosque preacher.

Iraq was still waiting to know the outcome of the referendum. Initial returns indicated it had passed, but electoral officials are conducting an audit of unsually high "yes" votes in some areas to ensure there are no irregularities _ amid Sunni Arab accusations of fraud. The review has delayed the final results, expected early next week.

The defense lawyer in the Saddam trial, Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi, was abducted by 10 masked gunmen who burst into his office and dragged him away Thursday evening, a day after he participated in the first session of the trial, acting as the lawyer of one Saddam's seven co-defendants.

His body, with two bullet shots to the head, was found hours later on a sidewalk near Fardous Mosque in the eastern neighborhood of Ur, near the site of his office, said police Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi. His identity was confirmed Friday, al-Mohammedawi said.

Diaa al-Saadi, a senior lawyers syndicate official, said al-Janabi's family confirmed to him al-Janabi was dead. "He was killed. It is confirmed," al-Saadi said.

"This will have grave repercussions. This will hinder lawyers from defending those held for political reasons," al-Saadi warned. Al-Janabi's family, reached by phone by The Associated Press, refused to comment.

The killing was the first set-back for a tribunal that has been held under tight security.

Heavy protection was provided for prosecutors and judges in the Saddam trial, on the theory that they were likely targets of pro-Saddam insurgents seeking revenge. Their names have not been revealed and their faces were not shown in the broadcast of Wednesday's opening session _ with the exception of the presiding judge and the top prosecutor, whose identities were revealed for the first time just before the trial.

But security measures do not appear to have been extended to the defense lawyers for Saddam and his seven co-defendants. Their identities have been known, though most of them have not been prominent in the press.

Al-Janabi was defending Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former head of Saddam's Revolutionary Court. Saddam and the seven top officials from his Baath regime face a possible death sentence if convicted in their trial on charges of murder and torture in a 1982 massacre of 148 Shiites in the town of Dujail.

Saddam's chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said after the kidnapping that defense lawyers have gotten many threats in past weeks by e-mail, mobile phone text message and by telephone. He did not specify if they were from Saddam opponents angry at their defending Saddam's regime or from Sunni supporters angry that they were partipating in the trial at all.

"We condemn this killing, which does not serve the interests of the trial or of the political process," said government spokesman Laith Kubba.

"We do not know who was behind this operation. Is it designed to hinder the trial process of is it an case of vendetta? We don't know," he said.

During Wednesday's session, al-Janabi, with silver hair and a dark black moustache, sat with the 12 other defense lawyers in two rows of desks to the right of their clients. Al-Janabi was in the front row and spoke at least once during the session, but did not stand out in the proceedings as did al-Dulaimi or others who spoke more often or more combatively with the judge.

He was snatched from his office in the Shaab district, which for months has been the scene of attacks by insurgents and violence between its mixed population of Sunnis and Shiites. [...]

Fighting also continued in Operation River Gate, an offensive by 3,000 U.S.and Iraqi forces that began Oct. 4 in and around Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Associated Press Television News video showed U.S. tanks on the outskirts of Haditha, helicopters circling overhead and American soldiers moving through the city Thursday. Crackles of gunfire could be heard. In Baghdad, the U.S. military said Friday that it had no new information about the offensive or casualties in the fighting.

Comment: Ah yes, all is well in the wonderful, new "democratic" Iraq. True blue Americans and Brits must be brimming with pride at the wonderful gifts that their governments and military have bestowed on the people of Iraq. Given what we now know about the real reasons for the US military presence in Iraq, it is highly likely that this lawyer was murdered by US or Israeli forces, or agents acting on their behalf, because he was planning to reveal the real identity of the man currently posing as Saddam Hussein.

As regards "Saddam's" trial; an interesting and very telling hint of the real nature of this sham Saddam trial was revealed yesterday in a report by the BBC correspondent at the trial, where he stated:

Saddam had finally acknowledged the other defendants for the first time, smiling and making jokes about the changes in their appearance since the last time he had seen them, when they were still serving his regime.

Then the two guards took him by the arms again to lead him out.

He let them do it for a few steps, but then he saw the journalists behind the bullet-proof glass at the back of the court.

Immediately he tried to pull away from his guards, telling them not to touch him and to leave him alone.

This "Saddam" has obviously been given the role of "defiant Saddam Hussein", and yesterday, for just a moment, he forgot himself before spotting the press cameras and getting back into character.

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Iraqis split over Saddam trial

BAGHDAD, Oct. 20 (Xinhuanet) -- Iraqis are divided on Thursday over the high-profile trial of their former president Saddam Hussein as the country is awaiting results of the referendum on adraft constitution, the first in the post-war country.

When Saddam's challenge to the legitimacy of the US-backed court won him applaud from part of the Iraqi people, others were expecting a speedy execution of him.     

Amer Hammash, 33, who believed the trial was to pursue political purposes, said "the timing of Saddam's trial is aimed at deflecting attention of the local and world public from the real results of the constitutional referendum."    

However, Abu Ali who disliked Saddam's way of ruling, said "Saddam is a criminal and his trial came late as they should have sued him on the very day of his capture."    

"We hope this tribunal can prove to the world that we, Iraqis,have a better new life, and with God's willing, the court will act in a just and transparent way," a young man, Ahmed Muhmoud, said."We demand a fair trial so that all people who were oppressed by Saddam will have justice in the new Iraq," said 40-year-old Salwa Abdul Zahra.    

"The court should not be politicized," said a Sunni Arab who gave his name only as Yawar.    

Meanwhile, Iraqi leaders are also divided along partisan lines. Adnan al-Janabi, a Sunni Arab parliament member, worried that the government is proceeding with Saddam's trial out of political reasons, which "may have negative impacts on Iraq."

As for the timing of the trial, Hadi al-Ameri, a Shiite lawmaker, said the trial should not be delayed as Saddam has been kept in US custody for 670 days.    

"We expect a fair trial so that the Iraqi people and the world can see the difference between Saddam's regime and the current government," Ameri said.    

"Saddam deserves a death penalty as he committed many crimes against Iraqi people. This case is not linked to only two persons,but millions of Iraqis who were killed, executed or tortured during his rule," he added.    

He also worried that some parties may prolong the trial for two years when Saddam, now 68, reaches 70, to save him from execution.Iraqi law excludes people over 70 from death penalty.

Commenting on technical problems of broadcasting live the trial,former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said he presumed that such an important trial "should be aired clearly and transparently and such technical problems should be solved in the upcoming sessions."

"It is either aired live or kept confidential," he said.

The secular Shiite official said "we should punish the criminals and open the door to those who didn't commit crimes,bringing them back to the society," referring to those embattled Baath Party members in Saddam's government.    

"The court will be impartial and just," Ahmed Chalabi, deputy prime minister, told reporters allowed to cover the trial.

However, Ghazi al-Yawar, deputy president, refused to comment on Saddam's trial, but expressed hope that "all we want is a fair and transparent trial which reflects willingness of building our new Iraq."    

The trial of Saddam and his seven top aides started in Baghdad on Wednesday, but was adjourned until Nov. 28 after Saddam'slawyer Adnan al-Dulaimi requested a three-month postponement.Saddam pled not guilty over charges of crimes against humanityin connection with the Dujail massacre in 1982.

A total of 143 Shiite villagers were killed in Dujail, some 60km north of Baghdad, in 1982. The order came after a group of Shiites failed in an assassination attempt on Saddam's life.

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Embarrassing setback for Bush's nominee

· Problems mount over supreme court candidate

· Senate queries 'insulting' answers to questionnaire

Julian Borger in Washington
Friday October 21, 2005
The Guardian

President Bush's controversial supreme court nominee, Harriet Miers, stumbled at her first formal hurdle yesterday, when the Senate asked her to rewrite answers to a questionnaire on her background and opinions.

It was the first time that American legal observers could remember a supreme court nominee being asked to redo the questionnaire, normally considered a formality. The request represents an embarrassment for an administration struggling to regain its balance in a hailstorm of scandals and mistakes.

Ms Miers' initial responses were "insufficient," according to Senator Arlen Specter, Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, which will hold hearings on her nomination next month. Patrick Leahy, his Democratic counterpart, called her answers "incomplete to insulting".

The two senators sent Ms Miers a stiffly worded letter asking for more complete answers on issues such as potential conflicts of interest inherited from her time as Mr Bush's personal lawyer and White House counsel, details of private discussions with conservative interest groups about her nomination, and the details surrounding the temporary suspension of her membership of the Washington DC Bar Association, apparently for failure to pay dues. Ms Miers wrote back to say she would respond to the follow-up questions, which the senators want answered by the end of next week, in time for confirmation hearings to begin on November 7. She also revealed that her Texas bar membership had been interrupted by non-payment of subscriptions, apparently due to a clerical error.

The Miers nomination has turned out to be a continual source of trouble for the White House. It enraged many Christian conservatives, who harbour doubts about her commitment to the anti-abortion cause. The emergence of a 1989 document in which she signalled her support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion caused uproar among Democrats while failing to placate critics on the right.

Meanwhile, both conservatives and liberals agree that, whatever her beliefs, her credentials, as a former Texas corporate lawyer, are thin, and her deferential relationship with the president raises doubts about her independence as a supreme court judge.

Fighting to shake off the "crony" label, the White House switched its tactics this week, from talking up Ms Miers' evangelical piety to emphasising her past achievements, such as becoming the first woman to lead the Texas Bar Association.

But the change in strategy has done little to relieve the pressure. In an editorial yesterday the New York Times remarked that Mr Bush's nominee had become "perhaps the most important judicial nominee in history to be offered what amounts to a do-over on a take-home quiz". Mr Specter, a Republican moderate, called the nomination "chaotic".

Mr Bush yesterday attributed controversy over Ms Miers' nomination to her being a lawyer rather than a judge. "I thought it made a lot of sense to bring a fresh outlook of somebody who's actually been a very successful attorney, and ... a pioneer for women lawyers in Texas."

The new twist in the supreme court row is the latest in a string of awkward distractions for the White House. One of its top allies in Congress, the former House of Representatives majority leader Tom DeLay, is due to appear in a Texas court today on charges of money-laundering political donations. Meanwhile, two behind-the-scenes figures in the White House, Karl Rove and Lewis Libby, are at the centre of an investigation into an intelligence leak, due to reach a conclusion soon.

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Don't blame us

The US gun and fast food industries are among those celebrating a wave of legislation aimed at protecting businesses from 'frivolous' lawsuits

David Teather Friday
October 21, 2005
The Guardian

The American gun industry was celebrating yesterday after the House of Representatives passed a bill shielding manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits stemming from the misuse of their weapons.

The passage of the bill was another legal victory for big business in the US. While President Bush has stumbled with some of the higher profile items on his domestic agenda, like social security, his efforts at legal reform have been pressing ahead, making it tougher for individuals to sue corporations. Frivolous lawsuits, he maintains, are hobbling corporate America.

Comment: It is important to remember during this period when we have the impression that the Bush administration is beginning to fall apart that legislation like this is proceeding apace. The recent bankruptcy legislation is another example. The players at the top may change, but these changes will not affect the overall drift of the US towards a more and more repressive society heavily weighted in favour of corporate interests.

The vote, 283 in favour of the bill to 144 against, also underlines the shifting sands in Washington and more broadly in America. Some 59 Democrats supported the bill.

With the conservative right in ascendancy, many Democrats clearly feel there is little political capital on the US left in backing gun control. Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told the Los Angeles Times that lawmakers had learned that "it's bad politics to be on the wrong side of the 2nd Amendment" - the right to own firearms.

The sight of citizens in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with no one to protect them or their property had galvanised minds, he said. "Americans saw a complete collapse of the government's ability to protect them."

Comment: Hmmm, what about the reports of marauding, gun slinging blacks? Reports that were later found to be false. Use the report to get what you want, as well as to further instill in the white population the fear of gun-toting blacks coming into their neighbourhoods, and then bring in pro-gun laws.

It was hardly a surprise that the bill made it through congress. Last year, a 10-year-old ban on assault weapons was allowed to expire amid fierce lobbying from the NRA. The latest immunity bill, already approved by the Senate, now goes to the White House to be signed into law.

One of the people voting against the bill was New York Democrat Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed when a gunman opened fire on a commuter train in Long Island a decade ago. "I don't understand this," she said. "This is not common sense. This is not protecting the American people."

Also passing through the House on Thursday was the so called "cheeseburger bill" protecting fast food companies against lawsuits from individuals blaming them for being overweight and for associated health problems.

The bill arose from a failed suit against McDonalds by several Bronx teenagers in 2002. The suit was widely derided at the time but the food industry was shaken - fearing the kinds of massive lawsuits that have been aimed at the tobacco industry.

"As one judge put it, if a person knows or should know that eating copious orders of super-sized McDonald's products is unhealthy and could result in weight gain, it is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excess," said Republican representative James Sensenbrenner.

Comment: But how many people are aware of this fact? Sure, the nice, white people eating freedom fries at the Capital know it, but does this information make into the news sources watched by the poorer sections of the population?

Another piece of legislation aimed at curbing class action lawsuits against big business overcame Democratic opposition in February. The measure transfers most class action suits, which allow plaintiffs to combine claims into a single suit, from state to federal courts.

Republicans have argued that aggressive lawyers advertise for plaintiffs and then chose states in which to file cases that tend to award huge sums against corporations. Mr Bush said the law would reduce the "frivolous lawsuits that clog our courts, hurt the economy, cost jobs and burden US businesses".

Democrat Ed Markey at the time described it as the "final payback" to industry for its support of the Republican party.

In another nod to big business, a proposal was, incidentally, rejected by the Senate this week that sought to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour, a level that it has stood at since 1997 - accounting for inflation, it is now the lowest it has been since 1956.

It is difficult to argue that there are no frivolous lawsuits filed in the US, the land of the litigious. Whether denying individuals their day in court is the right solution is much less certain.

Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, whose district was terrorised by a sniper in the Washington area three years ago, said the gun bill will "strip innocent victims of crimes of their rights and instead extend protections to those unscrupulous dealers who put guns into the hands of criminals".

Opponents argue that had the gun immunity law been in place, relatives of the victims of the sniper incident in Washington would have been unlikely to win the $2.5m settlement from the dealer who claimed he had lost the weapon used, plus some 200 other guns, to the black market.

Democrats also point out that the cost of violent gun crime and rising levels of obesity are not beneficial to corporations.

In addition, the threat of legal action has an uncanny knack of getting companies to behave more responsibly. The food industry is a clear example. As McDonald's faced the possible threat of a landslide of lawsuits from people who regularly chow down on its food, the firm announced that it would stop "super-sizing" meals and is working to make its fries healthier.

It has also been offering more salads and other alternatives to burgers, including "all-white-meat" McNuggets, a direct response to the McFrankenstein jibes of the judge in the 2002 case.

The Cheeseburger bill still faces a vote in the Senate.

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US policy and the 'Oval Office cabal'
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - As top officials in the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office await possible criminal indictments for their efforts to discredit a whistle-blower, a top aide to former secretary of state, Colin Powell, on Wednesday accused a "cabal" led by Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld of hijacking US foreign policy by circumventing or ignoring formal decision-making channels.

Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired colonel, also charged that, as national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice was "part of the problem" by not ensuring that the policy-making process was open to all relevant participants. Wilkerson served as Powell's chief of staff from 2001 to 2005 and when Powell was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the US Armed Forces during the administration of former president, George H W Bush.

"In some cases, there was real dysfunctionality," said Wilkerson, who spoke at the New America Foundation (NAF), a prominent Washington think tank. "But in most cases ... she made a decision that she would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president."

"The case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations and perturbations in the national-security [policy-making] process," he said.

"What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."

Wilkerson also stressed the "extremely powerful" influence of what he called the "Oval Office cabal" of Cheney and Rumsfeld, both former secretaries of defense with a long-standing personal and professional relationship.

He said they both were members of the "military-industrial complex" that former president, Dwight Eisenhower, warned the nation against in his 1961 farewell address.

Wilkerson's remarks come as the administration is besieged by record-low approval ratings and anticipation that a special prosecutor will hand down indictments of top aides to both Bush and Cheney, including President George W Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in connection with efforts to discredit retired ambassador Joseph Wilson.

In July 2003, Wilson publicly challenged the administration's pre-war depiction of Iraq's alleged nuclear-weapons program, and particularly its assertion that Baghdad had sought to buy uranium yellow cake from Niger, an assertion that Wilson himself investigated and rejected in early 2002 after traveling to Niger as part of a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) mission. White House officials, including Rove and Libby, told reporters that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and had played a role in selecting him for the mission.

On Wednesday, Capitol Hill was rife with rumors that Cheney himself may also be indicted or resign over the scandal. They were given more credence by an anecdote recounted by the insider Nelson Report on Wednesday night that Powell had told a prominent Republican senator that Cheney had become "fixated" on the relationship between Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, after he and Bush learned about it directly from Powell.

Since his departure from the administration, Powell has declined to publicly criticize US policy or his former cabinet colleagues. Until now, Wilkerson has also kept his counsel, although he publicly opposed John Bolton's confirmation as UN ambassador. At that time, most analysts believed that Wilkerson reflected Powell's private views on Bolton.

That would not be surprising, as Wilkerson worked directly with or for Powell for some 16 years out of their 30-year-plus military and government careers. At the same time, Wilkerson said he had paid a "high cost" in his personal relationship with Powell for publicly speaking out.

"Wilkerson embodies Powell and [Powell's deputy secretary of state, Richard] Armitage," who is also a retired military officer, said Steve Clemons, who organized Wilkerson's NAF appearance. "That's how his remarks should be seen."

If so, it appears that Powell and Armitage have little but disdain for Rice's performance as national security adviser, although Wilkerson was more complimentary about her subsequent work at the State Department and the relative success she has enjoyed in steering US policy in a less-confrontational direction compared to the frustrations that dogged Powell.

Wilkerson attributed her success to several factors, including her "intimacy with the president" and the fact that the administration "finds itself in some fairly desperate straits politically and otherwise".

Most of his remarks, however, addressed what he described as a national-security policy-making apparatus that was made dysfunctional by secrecy, compartmentalization and distrust, as well as the machinations of the Cheney-Rumsfeld "cabal".

"You've got this collegiality there between the secretary of defense and the vice president," Wilkerson said. "And then you've got a president who is not versed in international relations - and not too much interested in them either. And so it's not too difficult to make decisions in this, what I call the Oval Office cabal, and decisions often that are the opposite of what you thought were made in the formal [decision-making] process.

"Why did we wait three years to talk to the North Koreans? Why did we wait four-plus years to at least back the EU-3 [Germany, France and Britain] approach to Iran?... The formal process ... camouflaged the efficiency of the secret decision-making process. So we got into Iraq.

"And then when the bureaucracy was presented with those decisions and carried them out, it was presented in such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn't know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.

"If you're not prepared to stop the feuding elements in the bureaucracy as they carry out your decisions, you are courting disaster. And I would say that we have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran."

Wilkerson was particularly scathing about the former under secretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith, citing (retired general) Tommy Frank's famous description of the neo-conservative ideologue as the " stupidest guy on the planet".

"Let me testify to that," he said. "He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man. And yet, and yet, after the [Pentagon is given] control, at least in the immediate post-war period in Iraq, this man is put in charge. Not only is he put in charge, he is given carte blanche to tell the State Department to go screw themselves in a closet somewhere ... That's telling you how decisions were made and ... how things got accomplished."

He also denounced the abuse of detainees and said that Powell was particularly upset by it. "Ten years from now, when we have the whole story, we are going to be ashamed," he said. "This is not us. This is not the way we do business. I don't think in our history we've ever had a presidential involvement, a secretarial involvement, a vice presidential involvement, an attorney general's involvement in telling our troops essentially, 'Carte blanche is the way you should feel. You should not have any qualms because this is a different kind of conflict'.

"You don't have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you've condoned it," he said, adding. "It will take years to reverse the situation within the military." He said it was a "concrete example" of the result of the way the cabal worked.

Wilkerson also contrasted Bush's diplomacy very unfavorably with his father's. Referring to Bush's first meeting with former South Korean president, Kim Dae-jung, Wilkerson noted, "When you put your feet up on a hassock and look at the man who's won the Nobel Prize and is currently president of South Korea and tell him in a very insulting way that you don't agree with his assessment of what is necessary to be reconciled with the North, that's not diplomacy; that's cowboyism."

"It's very different when you walk in and find something you can be magnanimous about, that you can give him, that you can say he or she gets credit, that's diplomacy. You don't say, 'I'm the big mother on the block and everybody who's not with me is against me'. That's the difference between father and son."

At the same time, Bush had been "wonderful" in "putting his foot down" against a more aggressive policy on North Korea, at one point saying, according to Wilkerson, "I do not want a war on the Korean peninsula."

"That was very helpful, very helpful," said Wilkerson. "It helped us fight off some less desirable results."

Cheney, he said, was a "good executive" as defense secretary under George H W Bush, but appeared to change as a result of September 11. "I think [he] saw 9/11 and the potential for another 9/11 with nuclear weapons and suddenly became so fixated on that problem that it skewed his approach," Wilkerson said, adding that neither he nor Rumsfeld could be considered neo-conservatives.

On Iraq, he said he was "guardedly optimistic" because "we may have reached the point where we are actually listening to the Iraqis". US troops will likely have to remain in Iraq for between five to eight years, however, because "it is strategic in the sense that Vietnam was not". He predicted that a precipitous withdrawal "without leaving something behind we can trust, we will mobilize the nation, with 5 million men and women under arms to go back and take the Middle East within a decade", due to the US dependence on the region's energy sources.

Comment: Hmmm. Powell is now being portrayed as the good guy. Is this an indication of things to come?

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Light earthquake shakes area
Fri, October 21, 2005
By RYAN CUREATZ, Special to The Free Press

London, Ont - A light earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale was felt north of London yesterday evening.

"It was just enough to shake people up and make people notice," said Taimi Mulder, an earthquake seismologist with the Geological Survey of Canada.

The epicentre of the quake at 5:16 p.m. was 12 kilometres north of Thornbury and it was reportedly felt in Owen Sound, Parry Sound, Midland and Barrie, she said.

Bunny Boyle, 64, a Thornbury-Clarksburg resident, said it sounded like thunder in her bungalow when it struck.

"I thought the house was going to fall the way it rumbled," she said. "I wasn't sure what was going on."

She said she ran outside and asked a neighbour if an airplane had made the noise.

But when she saw three squirrels standing on their back legs and acting strangely on her front lawn she knew something more had happened, she said.

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Strong earthquake hits Turkey
21/10/2005 07:54 - (SA)

Ankara - A strong earthquake rocked the western Turkish city of Izmir early on Friday, causing one person to die of a heart attack and leaving several others injured, local officials said.

Panic gripped residents as the tremblor struck at 00:40, the fourth strong earthquake to shake the region since Monday.

The Istanbul-based Kandilli observatory announced that the quake measured 5.9 on the open-ended Richter scale and occurred under the Aegean Sea off the coast of Seferihisar, 40km southwest of Izmir.

The Athens observatory said the tremblor measured 6.0 and was felt in Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, but caused no damage or casualties.

Panic was widespread

The United States National Earthquake Information Centre, meanwhile, put the quake's intensity at 5.8 and said it occurred about 50km off the coast of Izmir.

A spokesperson for the Izmir governor's office told AFP that a 68-year-old person died of a heart attack while running down the stairs of his house in panic.

Fifteen people sought treatment at hospitals after jumping off balconies and windows, governor Oguz Kagan Koksal told the CNN-turk news channel.

Several others suffered from panic attacks.

Media reports said residents of Izmir, the country's third biggest city, and nearby towns were afraid to go into their houses and were preferring to stay out in the open.

Some were sleeping in their vehicles or in makeshift tents, while others huddled together around bonfires, the NTV news channel said.

Officials said the quake did not cause extensive material damage.

In the nearby town of Urla, the roofs of four abandoned houses were damaged while the chimney of an old factory collapsed, the town's mayor Ahmet Mailoglu told CNN-Turk.

Schools were called off in Izmir and the surrounding province bearing the same name for one day.

Turkey's top seismologist warned residents to be vigilant and stay away from damaged or derelict buildings as the region, which is crossed by several faultlines, was likely to be shaken by more earthquakes.

"There is intense seismic activity in the region. We expect this activity to continue for some time but we cannot say until when," Gulay Barbarosoglu, the head of the Kandilli observatory told a televised press conference in Istanbul.

"The people of Izmir need to be vigilant and careful, but there is no need to panic," she added.

Izmir has been on edge since Monday when three violent quakes, measuring 5.7, 5.9 and 5.6 respectively, shook the area in one day, leaving some 30 people injured.

Turkey is prone to frequent earthquakes.

About 20 000 people were killed when two massive earthquakes struck the country's heavily industrialised northwest in August and November 1999.

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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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