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December 6, 2003

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Today we post another story about the Toronto lawyer, Rocco Galati, who dropped all terror related cases due to threats on his life. The story links him to another man who apparently has foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Who are the real terrorists? Terrorism is just the way intelligence agencies get the job done, and terrorism needs conspiracy to get the job done. Conspiracy is the only reality, here on our war-torn planet. We will be kind and call it naivety, rather than blind stupidity, to insist otherwise. Yet the media has managed to associate the word conspiracy with all kinds of other baggage.

Having said that, it is not a good idea to see conspiracy everywhere. Sometimes a plane crash is just a plane crash. Although, if you are a politician opposed to Bush's policies you probably should not fly in small planes.

Conspiracy is just the underlying structure that makes it possible for the world's current governing bodies to work. They have to keep the populace stupid so they can be easily exploited. If you don't choose, someone will choose for you, and they will always choose what they think is best for themselves. It is as simple as that. It can be difficult to keep such structures intact, and the truth does leak out. Of course, that is also taken into account, and there are always false leads to further confuse researchers. Particularly those who are attached to various beliefs. Belief is always the enemy.

Today's news therefore includes lots of "conspiracies". Did you know that the US government may be planning to kill thousands of US citizens this Christmas and blame it on a fictional group known as "al-Qaeda"? Or that there is a WMD plot in Texas? It appears that anyone who doesn't like the Bush Reich's policies is being lumped together with militias, white supremacists, and - of course - terrorists!

The US may run out of combat-ready troops in the near future due to troop rotations. Sounds like the perfect time to unleash the next fake terrorist attack on the Homeland. In Iraq, DU munitions cause radiation levels 1900 times higher than normal. It's not enough to destroy Iraq's families, economy, and industry. It's not enough to blow apart children, wives, and husbands with a hideous amount of firepower. Indeed, the fascists at the helm of the American juggernaut must ensure that the entire country is polluted, and that Iraqi babies will be horribly disfigured for decades to come. If that's Bush's idea of liberation, what will slavery under the completed American Police State be like?

Back in Canada, the Canadian government plans to rebuke the Israeli ambassador for their treatment of a Canadian citizen. The CBC, Canada's public broadcaster, minces words when it comes to describing Mr. Akkal's treatment, while Al-Jazeera does not.

Is "anti-Semitism" really on the rise, or are the Israelis simply trying to cover up their atrocities? Is it the Jews that are being targeted, or simply the war crimes of the Sharon government?

Tony Bow-Wow Blair has some harsh words for Robert Mugabe, words that could be applied with equal pertinence to the British PM himself. But when has hypocrisy been a character fault in a politician?

The Bush Reich sends in an old hand to find yet another way to make France, Germany, and Russia pay for Bush's occupation and destruction of Iraq.

Apparently, sunlight is bumping asteroids our direction, lasers are being tested in Colorado skies, a terrifying affliction is attacking US troops - the "Baghdad Boil", more scams are run with the UK terror laws, more police state actions in the US, 98 year leases for illegal settlements, a winter storm hits the US east coast, birds and turtles are mysteriously dying in droves, and completely useless flu shots are in short supply.

Post-9/11, this doesn't seem all that weird

Dec. 5, 2003

On the face of it, Rocco Galati's claim that U.S. and Canadian intelligence agencies want to kill him sounds too weird for words.

His evidence is scanty. All that the 44-year-old constitutional lawyer produced for reporters yesterday in his crowded College St. office was a recorded telephone voice-mail message.

In that message, an unidentified man chides Galati for aiding "punk terrorist" Abdurahman Khadr, the 20-year-old Canadian imprisoned by the United States without charge in Cuba, who just made it back to Canada this week.

"Now you a dead wop," the voice advises the Italian-born Galati.

What's obvious is that this is some kind of a threat. What's less obvious is that it came, as Galati claims, from an "unspecified intelligence agency or agencies."

He and his lawyer, Paul Slansky, provided no proof to back their suspicion that the caller represented a U.S. or Canadian security service.

Galati said only that he had heard the man's voice twice before, from similar recorded telephone threats uttered against a former client who subsequently disappeared.

Which client? What case? Neither Galati nor Slansky would say. "I'm not at liberty to discuss the case," Galati said.

So the whole thing sounds nuts. Right? Showboat lawyer works too hard, gets too paranoid, loses it. Right?

And yet ... and yet ...

The world of security and intelligence in which Rocco Galati has been living for the past two years is weird. Spooks do strange things. In the 1970s, a Canadian royal commission laid bare RCMP security service practices that, on the surface, seemed unbelievable — like burning down barns.

U.S. congressional investigations around the same time uncovered even stranger practices and plots, such as the CIA plan to blow up Cuban Communist leader Fidel Castro with an exploding cigar.

If, prior to these official revelations, a College St. lawyer had announced that the CIA was using exploding cigars and the Mounties were burning barns, he would have been dismissed as a loon.

So let's look at this from Galati's point of view. He is one of the few lawyers willing to publicly defend people who, in the post-9/11 world, are most unpopular. He doesn't just take on the clients that are demonstrably innocent, such as torture victim Maher Arar. He takes on those whose situation is far murkier.

The media are all goo-goo over Arar now (they weren't when he was first arrested in the U.S. and deported for torture to Syria). The media are not all goo-goo over the Khadr family, even though they, like Arar, have never been charged with any crime.

Galati, to his great credit, chose to defend the difficult ones.

And back in 2001, he and Slansky defended another unpopular man in another very murky case.

The man was Delmart Edward Vreeland, an American locked up in the Don jail who was wanted in his own country for credit card fraud.

What was unusual about Vreeland was his claim that the U.S. government had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Indeed, as the Star reported at the time, Vreeland handed over to his guards a sealed envelope in August, 2001, that predicted the attacks.

Unfortunately, the guards didn't get around to opening it until Sept. 14.

Vreeland also made other claims. He claimed he had been working for U.S. naval intelligence.

He claimed that a Cuban immigrant named Nestor Fonseca, in jail in Toronto on drug charges, was plotting to kill Canadian and U.S. police officers.

He claimed that a Canadian Embassy worker in Moscow named Marc Bastien had not died from natural causes in 2000 as the government said but had been poisoned.

Vreeland's allegations against Fonseca were initially supported by Toronto police, who said they found a hit list in the Cuban's cell.

But by November, 2001, two months after the terror attacks on New York and Washington, everything changed.

Crown prosecutors dropped the attempted murder charges against Fonseca, saying they had been based on the testimony of an "unsavoury witness." Three months later, prosecutors dropped a bevy of other charges against Fonseca, including extortion, and instead extradited him to the U.S.

The apparent collapse of the Fonseca case also had the effect of destroying any credibility Vreeland may have had with regard to his more intriguing allegations about Sept. 11 and the death of Bastien, the Moscow embassy worker.

Until January, 2002. That's when Quebec coroner Line Duchesne concluded that Bastien, described as an information systems handler, had indeed been poisoned — probably by someone who slipped a concentrated anti-schizophrenic drug into his drink in a Moscow bar.

Vreeland's credibility suddenly shot up.

But eight months later, while out on bail awaiting an extradition hearing, he just disappeared.

At the time, Slansky told the court he had gone to Vreeland's apartment to pick him up but found it ransacked, with key evidence related to his client's 9/11 claims missing.

Did Vreeland skip town? Slansky argued no. He said he believed his client had been "killed, kidnapped or harmed" because he had evidence that the U.S. government knew ahead of time about the Sept. 11 attacks.

Now Galati and Slansky are talking of similar threats. They say they recognize the voice of the man who said he wants to kill Galati.

They don't say it was Vreeland that this man threatened before. They don't say it wasn't.

Comment: Yes indeed, not a conspiracy in sight...

A Few Quotes from the book The CIAs Greatest Hits

by Mark Zepezauer
Odonian Press  
September 1994

In order to survive, nations need strong intelligence services. But the idea that the CIA is primarily an intelligence-gathering operation is itself one of the agency's greatest propaganda triumphs.

Despite its name, the Central Intelligence Agency's main purpose is, and has always been, carrying out covert operations involving economic warfare, rigged elections, assassinations and even genocide.

The CIA is also expert at distorting intelligence to justify its own goals, and this "disinformation" leads to dangerous illusions among our policymakers. But covert operations are its life's blood. The litany of illegal, murderous CIA activity is enough to chill the bones of anyone who cares about liberty and justice. As long as the CIA exists, our government can break any law it chooses in the name of national security.

Fears of Christmas attack sparked

Sat 6 Dec 2003

US counter-terrorism officials said they were increasingly fearful of a Christmas terror attack on America. Some officers said the level of intelligence "chatter" was similar to that just before the strikes on September 11, 2001.

Many fear that an attack could be launched on a soft target, such as a shopping centre.

"As recently as two weeks ago, the intelligence community was telling the Homeland Security Department that this felt a lot like the summer of 2001," said Roger Cressey, a former counter-terrorism official with the National Security Council.

He told CNN there was "lots of data, lots of information coming together that paints a very disturbing picture".

Another strike on US soil is expected to be bigger than recent al-Qaeda attacks abroad.

However, the lack of specific information means that the official terror warning level will not be raised.

Similar warnings of an attack in October proved to be false.

More information than usual has been posted on web sites in support of al-Qaeda in recent months, security officials said.

Among them was a video of the two planes hitting the World Trade Centre on September 11 but the specific camera angle has never been seen by the public before.

Comment: We also have lots of data that paints a very disturbing picture - it is a picture of blatant US government cover ups and mass murder against it's own citizens on 9/11. There is also a lot of "chatter" coming from the mouths of people like General Tommy Franks, that tell us that the US military industrial complex is eager to usher in martial law. When the next attack happens, as always, look to who benefits.

"In the world of politics, nothing happens by accident, if it happens you can bet it was planned that way".

Home of apartheid slams Israeli wall

Friday 05 December 2003

The president of the country that gave the world the word apartheid says Israel's "security fence" through the West Bank is an apartheid barrier that needs to be torn down.

"The wall is there to keep Arab and Jew apart." South African President Thabo Mbeki said in a message read to an audience marking the international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

"It has nothing to do with security or protection," he said. "It should be identified for what it is, an apartheid wall and it should be dismantled like apartheid had to be."

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said last month that construction of the "security fence" along the West Bank could come to a halt if peace were to be reached between the Jewish state and the Palestinians. [...]

Flashback: Wolfowitz urges Palestinians to be more like Gandhi

Matt Kelley, Associated Press
Oct. 30, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon's No. 2 official voiced support Thursday for an unofficial drive for a two-state solution to conflict in the Middle East, showing the administration's frustration with hard-line leaders on both sides.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz praised the petition drive by a prominent Palestinian moderate and the former head of Israel's secret service. Wolfowitz said he met last week with Israeli Adm. Ami Ayalon and Palestinian professor Sari Nusseibeh, who say they have collected 100,000 Israeli and 60,000 Palestinian signatures on their petition in just three months.

Their petition calls for Israel to withdraw to the borders it had before the 1967 war in which it captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The document calls for a demilitarized Palestinian state in those territories.

Wolfowitz did not mention Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat or Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by name. Instead, he praised past "great leaders" such as the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, King Hussein of Jordan and former Israeli leaders Shimon Perez and the assassinated Yitzhak Rabin.

"If the Palestinians would adopt the ways of Gandhi, I think they could, in fact, make enormous changes very, very quickly," Wolfowitz said. "I believe in the power of individuals demonstrating peacefully."

Wolfowitz said a series of suicide bombings and Israeli reprisals in recent months seriously hurt the peace process.

"The bombings and the violent response to the bombings in the last several months have certainly been a big setback, and we've got to get it back on track," Wolfowitz said.

Comment: Indeed, nothing would please Wolfowitz more than to see the Palestinian's lay down in the street for the Israeli tanks to run over them. After all, the Palestinians have ample evidence to put their trust in the benevolent disposition of IDF troops right? As one commentator put it: "Paul Wolfowitz is quite simply and obviously one of the planet's foremost warmongers. Listening to Wolfowitz's lecture about peace is like listening to Kenneth Lay give advice on business ethics."

Flashback: Israeli Soldier’s Book Stirs Controversy

Sunday, November 30 2003

"I remember how we humiliated a dwarf who came to the checkpoint every day on his wagon..."

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - A former Israeli soldier who served three years in the Gaza Strip has described Israeli treatment of Palestinian civilians as befitting ‘animals, criminals, and thieves’. [...]

Among the accounts narrated by Furer are stories of soldiers having souvenir pictures with Palestinians they had beaten up, soldiers urinating on the head of a Palestinian because the man had the nerve to smile at a soldier and how one soldier, nicknamed Dado, forced a Palestinian to stand on four legs and bark like a dog.

One of Furer's most chilling confessions related to his abuse of a 16-year old mentally retarded boy.

Canada to summon Israeli ambassador

Saturday 06 December 2003, 13:37 Makka Time, 10:37 GMT

Canada's foreign ministry will summon the Israeli ambassador next week to express displeasure over "unacceptable" comments about the 'torture' of Canadian of Palestinian origin detained in Israel.

Israeli embassy spokesman Ofir Gendelman said on Thursday that Canadian Jamal Akkal admitted he was preparing terrorist attacks against Israel in North America on behalf of the resistance Palestinian group Hamas.

The Israeli ambassador to Canada, Haim Divon, told reporters on Friday that Akkal made the statement during a closed-door hearing.

Based on the confession, the Israeli embassy said this was the first time Hamas had planned to carry out such attacks in Canada and the United States.

"Among the scenarios that were planned (were) attaching an explosive device to vehicles, shooting attacks and (the) assassination of a visiting Israeli official in Canada," the embassy said in a statement.

'Unacceptable comment'

But two Canadian consular agents present at the closed-door hearing did not hear Akkal make such a confession, according to Reynald Doiron, a spokesman for the foreign ministry.

Moreover, Divon should not have commented on the matter, since Israeli authorities are still investing Akkal, Doiron said during a telephone call with reporters.

"The ambassador is going to be called in. A senior official at the department is going to meet with him early next week and will tell him ... that any comment (like those) made yesterday is totally unacceptable," Doiron said.

"We're going to tell (Divon) that the comments made by him and other people in his embassy are inappropriate."

'Psychological torture'

Akkal's lawyer Jamil al-Khatib told CBC television that Israel had used "psychological torture" to get his client to confess.

He said his client was kept awake for 20 days and made to sign a confession written in Hebrew, which he does not understand.

Ottawa to rebuke Israel's ambassador

Last Updated Fri, 05 Dec 2003 21:30:47

OTTAWA - The federal government plans to scold the Israeli ambassador next week over "inappropriate" comments made about a Canadian in custody in the Middle East.

[...] The ambassador will be reminded that it's wrong to prejudge Akkal or anyone else, officials said Friday.

"We're going to tell (Divon) that the comments made by him and other people in his embassy are inappropriate," said Doiron.

"All officials in both governments have the duty and the obligation to be very, very discreet about a case which is under judicial review."

Meanwhile, Akkal's lawyer said Friday that even if there was a confession it was probably forced from him after days of gruelling interrogation.

Israel's ambassador previously said that if Akkal thinks the confession was unlawfully obtained he should file a complaint with the court.

Akkal moved to Ontario five years ago. His family says he recently went to Gaza to get married.

Comment: Notice the difference between the descriptions of the methods used by the Israelis to extract this purported "confession." In the first article, Al-Jazeera directly quotes Akkal's lawyer and uses the term "psychological torture." The CBC refers to this comment without quoting it directly and uses the euphemism "grueling interrogation." This is the way Israel's crimes against humanity get whitewashed in the Western press.

Court Convicts 3 in 1994 Genocide Across Rwanda

New York Times

ARUSHA, Tanzania, Dec. 3 — In the first case of its kind since the Nuremberg trials, an international court here on Wednesday convicted three Rwandans of genocide for media reports that fostered the killing of about 800,000 Rwandans, mostly of the Tutsi minority, over several months in 1994.

A three-judge panel said the three men had used a radio station and a newspaper published twice a month to mobilize Rwanda's Hutu majority against the Tutsi, who were massacred at churches, schools, hospitals and roadblocks. The court said the newspaper "poisoned the minds" of readers against the Tutsi, while the radio station openly called for their extermination, luring victims to killing grounds and broadcasting the names of people to be singled out. [...]

Comment: We doubt there is any hope for the US media to be held to the same standards.

WMD Plot Uncovered In East Texas

By Robert Riggs
CBS 11
Nov 26, 2003

Federal authorities this year mounted one of the most extensive investigations of domestic terrorism since the Oklahoma City bombing, CBS 11 has learned.

Three people linked to white supremacist and anti-government groups are in custody. At least one weapon of mass destruction - a sodium cyanide bomb capable of delivering a deadly gas cloud - has been seized in the Tyler area.

Investigators have seized at least 100 other bombs, bomb components, machine guns, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and chemical agents. But the government also found some chilling personal documents indicating that unknown co-conspirators may still be free to carry out what appeared to be an advanced plot. And, authorities familiar with the case say more potentially deadly cyanide bombs may be in circulation.

Since arresting the three people in May, federal agents have served hundreds of subpoenas across the country in a domestic terror investigation that made it onto President Bush’s daily intelligence briefings and set off national security alarms among the country’s most senior counter-terror officials. [...]

He drew the FBI’s attention when he sent a package of counterfeit ID’s for the United Nations and Defense Intelligence Agency to Feltus’ New Jersey home earlier this year. The package was mistakenly delivered to a Staten Island man, who opened it and called police.

A note found inside and signed by Krar stated, "Hope this package gets to you O.K. We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands." [...]

In one affidavit for a search warrant, an FBI agent noted that Krar was "actively involved in the militia movement…a good source of covert weaponry for white supremacist and anti-government militia groups in New Hampshire." [...]

According to a more recent FBI affidavit, on the day of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Krar raised suspicion at a New Hampshire storage unit he was renting. An employee called the FBI that day and reported that Krar was "wicked anti-American." [...]

Comment: Click here to see the full video report.

US embarrassed over claim in Iraq

Friday 05 December 2003

The US has backtracked on its assertions that it captured the deputy of firebrand Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr.

The occupation troops’ deputy director of operations, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, had described the captive Sayed Amir Yassari as "operations director in Sadr City of Muqtada Sadr".

But in the face of strong denials from a Sadr spokesman that Yassari had any current position in his organisation, another US spokesman on Thursday backtracked on the accusations against the cleric, who has substantial support.

The report of a link between Yassari and Sadr was "speculation" based on "gossip from the street", said Captain Sean Kirley, spokesman for the 2nd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, which patrols the area. [...]

Comment: But they wouldn't DO that!

'Baghdad Boil' disease afflicts 148 GIs in Iraq

Anita Manning
USA Today

Nearly 150 U.S. soldiers in Iraq have been diagnosed with a parasitic skin disease and hundreds more could unknowingly be infected, doctors reported Thursday.

Doctors fear that soldiers returning from the front may consult doctors in the United States who have never seen the disease. Complicating matters: The best drug used to treat it is not licensed in the United States.

Leishmaniasis, which soldiers have coined the "Baghdad Boil," is carried by biting sand flies and doesn't spread from person to person. It causes skin lesions that if untreated may take months, even years, to heal. The lesions can be disfiguring, doctors say.

So far, 148 soldiers have confirmed cases, but hundreds more are expected, says Army Lt. Col. Russell Coleman, an entomologist who spent 10 months in Iraq with the 520th Theater Army Medical Laboratory. He reported the outbreak Thursday to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, meeting in Philadelphia.

Sand flies are active during warm weather, and soon after U.S. troops arrived in Iraq in late March, "we started seeing soldiers basically eaten alive," Coleman says. "They'd get a hundred, in some cases 1,000 bites in a single night." [...]

No Relief in Sight for Fuel-Starved Iraqis

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Fri Dec 5,11:40 AM ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's chronic energy shortages showed no sign of abating on Friday as a bustling black market continued to keep official outlets starved of fuel.

With residents lining for up to a day to fill up with gasoline at Baghdad's pumping stations for less than one cent per liter, children by roadsides touting cans were offering a swift service for 12 times as much. [...]

"There is a lack of confidence. I have had supply for the past few days, but customers do not believe there will be petrol tomorrow and continue to hoard. We emerged from the catastrophic government of Saddam Hussein into another disaster," he said before intervening to calm angry customers.

The oil distribution system in Iraq, which sits on the world's second largest oil reserves, covered demand before the U.S. invasion. [...]

Now domestic Iraqi refineries are running as much as 55 percent below capacity leaving Iraqis hopelessly short of meeting their needs, officially estimated at 20 million liters per day of gas oil and 15 million liters per day of gasoline. [...]

Comment: It is interesting that while the needs of Bush's Big Oil pals are fulfilled, the average Iraqi suffers. It is no wonder that Iraqis themselves may be sabotaging oil pipelines.

Army Will Face Dip in Readiness

By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 6, 2003

Four Army divisions -- 40 percent of the active-duty force -- will not be fully combat-ready for up to six months next year, leaving the nation with relatively few ready troops in the event of a major conflict in North Korea or elsewhere, a senior Army official said yesterday.

The four divisions -- the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Airborne, the 1st Armored and the 4th Infantry -- are to return from Iraq next spring, to be replaced by three others, with a fourth rotating into Afghanistan. That would leave only two active-duty divisions available to fight in other parts of the world. [...]

US backs down over Nato force for Iraq

By Stephen Castle in Brussels and Rupert Cornwell in Washington
The Independent
05 December 2003

The United States abruptly changed course over Iraq yesterday, urging Nato to prepare for a key role in the country next year, as Washington turned to its European allies to share the burden of the troubled military occupation. [...]

Flashback: Tons of Depleted Uranium Polluting Iraq

Monday, December 01, 2003

WASHINGTON ( -- U.S. forces unleashed at least 75 tons of toxic depleted uranium on Iraq during the war, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

An unnamed U.S. Central Command spokesman disclosed to the Monitor last week that coalition forces fired 300,000 bullets coated with armored-piercing depleted uranium (DU) during the war.

"The normal combat mix for these 30-mm rounds is five DU bullets to 1 -- a mix that would have left about 75 tons of DU in Iraq," wrote correspondent Scott Peterson.

Peterson measured four sites around Baghdad struck with depleted uranium munitions and found high levels of radioactive contamination, but few warnings to this effect issued among the populace at large.

While the Pentagon maintains that spent weapons coated with the low-level, radioactive nuclear-waste are relatively harmless, Peterson notes that U.S. soldiers have taken it among themselves to print leaflets or post signs warning of DU contamination.

"After we shoot something with DU, we're not supposed to go around it, due to the fact that it could cause cancer," said one sergeant requesting anonymity.

On a group of abandoned burnt-out U.S. munitions supply trucks, Peterson saw signs U.S. troops put up warning in Arabic, "Danger -- Get away from this area." A local vendor said that soldiers in masks warned him and others to keep away from the site.

These were the only warnings Peterson found. He wrote that despite the military’s attempts to bulldoze the surrounding topsoil, the Geiger counter readings on remaining piles of radioactive DU dust registered at hundreds of times the average, and a DU dart from a 120 mm tank shell emitted radiation over 1,300 times normal.

Two other sites visited were randomly selected Iraqi armored vehicles destroyed with DU bullets. The remains of these tanks sit near a produce vendor on the outskirts of Baghdad, and have become popular playthings for children; the Geiger counter reading from "a DU bullet fragment no bigger than a pencil eraser" near one child registered 1,000 times normal.

There were no warnings posted informing the populace of the radioactive emissions coming from the tanks.

"Radioactive? Oh, really?" was the response of a former director general of the ministry, when Peterson presented a Geiger counter registering emissions of 1,900 times normal from spent DU-coated bullets amongst the grounds at the Ministry of Planning.

"Yesterday, more than 1,000 employees came here, and they didn't know anything about it," he said. "We have started to not believe what the American government says. What I know is that the occupiers should clean up and take care of the country they invaded."

Comment: In case you missed it, watch Poisonous Legacy to see the effects of DU.

Bush enlists James Baker to seek deal on Iraq debt

By James Harding in Washington and Peter Spiegel in Baghdad
Published: December 5 2003 20:09 | Last Updated: December 5 2003 20:09

President George W. Bush yesterday turned to James A. Baker III, a family friend and one of the most highly regarded veterans of American diplomacy, to help Iraq negotiate its way out of up to $125bn of debts.

Mr Baker's appointment enlists into US government service one of the most powerful figures of the Reagan and elder Bush years to lead the difficult diplomatic task of persuading countries such as Japan, Russia, France and Germany to write off much, or all, of their loans.

[...] "The future of the Iraqi people should not be mortgaged to the enormous burden of debt incurred to enrich Saddam Hussein's regime," Mr Bush said. Mr Baker was appointed, the White House said, in response to a request from the Iraqi Governing Council.

[...] Iraq's foreign debt is estimated at up to $125bn, leaving the future government facing annual service charges of $7bn-$8bn, officials from the US-led coalition authority in Baghdad said.

Chief overseas lenders include Russia, France and Germany, all of which voiced opposition to the invasion. The 19 countries of the Paris Club, which orchestrates sovereign-debt negotiations between rich and poor governments, are owed about $40bn by Iraq.

[...] Mr Baker brings Washington experience to the difficult task of asking countries that opposed the war to help pay for rebuilding Iraq.

He is also a well-known multilateralist, who urged the White House to pursue Saddam Hussein through the United Nations.

In August last year, he wrote an article urging the president to seek international backing before taking military action.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, the question of repayment of Iraqi debt was a persistent issue as it sought French and Russian support. State Department officials signalled that French and Russian concerns would be addressed.

This year, Mr Baker was sent by Mr Bush as his special envoy to Georgia, the former Soviet republic where Eduard Shevardnadze was overthrown as president last month.

Comment: These Nazis in clown uniforms in the White House are a real laugh. At least, that must be what the Ministers of Finance in France, Germany, and Russia must be thinking. After failing at getting the rest of the world onboard for Iraqi reconstruction at the UN in the fall, and later in Madrid, the US is using the backdoor: Have France, Germany, and Russia, the three countries who were strongest in their opposition to Bush's moves, renounce the debt owed to them.

We have looked at this issue before, and it was certainly one of the primary reasons these countries opposed the invasion (as opposed to any democratic desires on their part for the Iraqi people). But one can imagine the response to such a suggestion if the debt was owed to Halliburton or Bechtel.

U.K. Drops Terror Charges on Six Suspects

By Associated Press

LONDON -- Six people arrested under Britain's anti-terrorism laws in a series of raids over the past two weeks have been released and re-arrested on other charges, police said Friday.

The four men and two women were taken into custody in the university town of Cambridge and in east on suspicion of involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

The six were released under the terror laws, then re-arrested for other alleged offenses, London's Metropolitan Police said. [...]

Military practices a mock tribunal- Wolfowitz is judge jury and executioner

Rowan Scarborough

The U.S. military has held a dress rehearsal of planned tribunals for al Qaeda and Taliban combatants, complete with a defendant who acted up and had to be restrained and ejected.

The mock trial was conducted in early November at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the Pentagon is holding 660 "enemy combatants" captured during the conflict in Afghanistan. A building near the detention center has been converted into a courthouse for the expected trials.

Prosecutors played the roles of presiding judge and defense attorneys, while military police played defendants and their own role of providing court security, military sources said. [...]

The Bush administration considers the detainees terrorists. Mr. Bush has designated them as enemy combatants — not prisoners of war, by which they would receive greater legal rights under the Geneva Convention.

The Pentagon has devised special trial rules. The detainees, some of whom have been held nearly two years, do not, for example, have the right to appeal to the military court of appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.
As the detainees continue to sit in Guantanamo, an increasing number of defense attorneys are criticizing the tribunal system.

"I would give them a failing grade," said Eugene R. Fidell, a prominent defense attorney in Washington and a specialist on military law. "I think the amount of time that has passed is inexcusable. The rules that have come out continue to be profoundly disturbing. No independent appellant review? That's sort of the jewels in the crown."

Convicted detainees will have access to a review panel outside the normal judicial review system. "That is a far cry from a proper court of appeals, whose members have some independence," Mr. Fidell said. He urged the administration to conduct hearings to decide who should be, or should not be, considered POWs.

The actual tribunals will be run by the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions. It includes a staff of six military defense attorneys and 10 prosecutors. An "appointing authority" — at this point it is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz — will approve any charges and appoint three to seven commission members for the trial, including a presiding officer.

Comment: With Wolfowitz as the adjudicator, these alleged "terrorists" are as good as dead. This is in the name of securing "freedom and democracy" for the world remember. War is peace, don't forget.

Rumseld sleezes up to the leaders of the "rose revolution" in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia

Rumsfeld call for Russia pull-out

5 December, 2003

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has called for Russia to withdraw its military forces from Georgia.

On a visit to Tbilisi he said Moscow had an obligation to withdraw under the terms of four-year-old accords.

The US has expressed support for Georgia's new leaders since mass protests led to the resignation of the former president, Eduard Shevardnadze.

Emergency US funds have already been pledged to help Georgia prepare for fresh presidential polls next months.

The Americans have also been running a $64m programme in Georgia to train and equip its army.

Correspondents say the US is concerned about Georgia's fragile security, partly because it lies on the route of a pipeline that will take oil from Caspian fields through Turkey to European markets.

Russia watching

Mr Rumsfeld met acting president Nino Burdzhanadze amid heightened security following recent bomb attacks, shootings and kidnappings in the Georgian capital.

The Russian military presence was always expected to be on the agenda as its military bases are seen as an obstacle to Georgia's growing ties with the West.

Russia should fulfil its commitments under the Istanbul accords to withdraw Russian forces from Georgia

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Rumsfeld said: "As I recall Russia agreed to the Istanbul accords, which suggests to me that there was unanimity on the subject and that would suggest to me that it was probably a pretty good idea. That has been the interest and desire of the government of Georgia."

Mr Rumsfeld also met Georgian presidential candidate Mikhail Saakashvili, who led the opposition protests against Mr Shevardnadze following alleged vote-rigging in parliamentary elections.

"Georgia needs guarantees against any aggressive attempts to influence it from outside," said Mr Saakashvili afterwards.

"The United States has given us its guarantees in this sense. We are hoping that Georgian-US military co-operation in the military sphere will continue. We've got to develop the co-operation program further." [...]

Moving Toward A Police State or Have We Arrived?

Secret Military Tribunals, Mass Arrests and Disappearances, Wiretapping & Torture

by: Michael Ratner

[...] The government has established a tripartite plan in its efforts to eradicate terrorism in the United States. President Bush has created a new cabinet-level Homeland Security Office; the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating thousands of individuals and groups and making hundreds of arrests; and Congress is enacting new laws that will grant the FBI and other intelligence agencies vast new powers to wiretap and spy on people in the United States. The Office of Homeland Security On September 20th President Bush announced the creation of the Homeland Security Office, charged with gathering intelligence, coordinating anti-terrorism efforts and taking precautions to prevent and respond to terrorism. It is not yet known how this office will function, but it will most likely try to centralize the powers of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies -- a difficult, if not impossible, job -- among some 40 bickering agencies. Those concerned with its establishment are worried that it will become a super spy agency and, as its very name implies, that the military will play a role in domestic law enforcement.

FBI Investigations and Arrests The FBI has always done more than chase criminals; like the Central Intelligence Agency it has long considered itself the protector of U.S. ideology. Those who opposed government policies -- whether civil rights workers, anti-Vietnam war protestors, opponents of the covert Reagan-era wars or cultural dissidents -- have repeatedly been surveyed and had their activities disrupted by the FBI. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attack, Attorney General John Ashcroft focused on non-citizens, whether permanent residents, students, temporary workers or tourists. Normally, an alien can only be held for 48 hours prior to the filing of charges. Ashcroft's new regulation allowed arrested aliens to be held without any charges for a "reasonable time," presumably months or longer. [...]

The FBI began massive detentions and investigations of individuals suspected of terrorist connections, almost all of them non-citizens of Middle Eastern descent; over 1,100 have been arrested. Many were held for days without access to lawyers or knowledge of the charges against them; many are still in detention. Few, if any, have been proven to have a connection with the September 11 attacks and remain in jail despite having been cleared. In some cases, people were arrested merely for being from a country like Pakistan and having expired student visas. Stories of mistreatment of such detainees are not uncommon.

Apparently, some of those arrested are not willing to talk to the FBI, although they have been offered shorter jail sentences, jobs, money and new identities. Astonishingly, the FBI and the Department of Justice are discussing methods to force them to talk, which include "using drugs or pressure tactics such as those employed by the Israeli interrogators." The accurate term to describe these tactics is torture. Our government wants to torture people to make them talk. There is resistance to this even from law enforcement officials. One former FBI Chief of Counter Terrorism, said in an October New York Newsday article, "Torture goes against every grain in my body. Chances are you are going to get the wrong person and risk damage or killing them." [...]

The U.S. government has conceptualized the war against terrorism as a permanent war, a war without boundaries. Terrorism is frightening to all of us, but it's equally chilling to think that in the name of antiterrorism our government is willing to suspend constitutional freedoms permanently as well.

Is the President a Pathological Liar?

Bush’s unhealthy relationship with reality

by David Corn
LA Weekly News
December 5, 2003

It was a set-up question. Conservative radio talk-show host Michael Medved was trying to bait me, to push me into saying something so out of whack about the commander in chief that I would destroy my own credibility before the audience of his nationally syndicated show. It was a ruse I’ve become quite familiar with in recent weeks, since I published a book demurely titled The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception.

In scores of media interviews, right-wing hosts have pressed me to pronounce Bush the all-time biggest SOB-of-a-liar in the White House and essentially accuse him of being a psycho. I have resisted the invitations, choosing to stick to my just-the-facts case that Bush has misled the public on a host of issues — the war in Iraq, his tax cuts, global warming, Social Security, his own past and more. The goal of these interlocutors is to dismiss any harsh critique of Bush as nothing more than angry-left name-calling. I obviously believe Bush has lied often and consistently about grave matters, but I have shied away from labeling Bush “pathological” and the like.

Now I wonder about that.

What forced this reconsideration was a speech Bush delivered in late November to several thousand troops at Butts Army Air Field in Fort Carson, Colorado. On this occasion, Bush served up the usual rah-rah about the war on terrorism. But as he was hailing the U.S. military, he remarked, “Working with a fine coalition, our military went to Afghanistan, destroyed the training camps of al Qaeda and put the Taliban out of business forever.”

Out of business forever?

That was a false statement. Days before Bush’s speech, a U.S. helicopter crashed near Kabul, and five American soldiers were killed. These troops were hunting Taliban remnants. Two days before the speech, a rocket was fired at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul; Taliban insurgents were the prime suspects. On November 16, a U.N. aid worker was assassinated, apparently by the Taliban. In Kandahar, the Taliban was threatening to harm Afghans who participated in local elections.

None of this has been secret, even if events in Afghanistan receive less media coverage than the Laci Peterson case. In recent weeks, a stream of news reports has noted that the Taliban is on the rise and mounting an increasing number of attacks. These assaults have impeded much-needed reconstruction projects. In mid-November, a U.N. mission reported that the Taliban attacks were endangering democracy in Afghanistan.

What then could account for Bush’s truth-defying assertion about the Taliban? After all, it was a statement ridiculously easy to disprove. [...]

So Bush tells us the ongoing war in Iraq is a strike against the forces that hit America on 9/11 and would do so again (were it not for the invasion of Iraq), and he proclaims the Taliban extinct. None of this is supported by the readily available information provided by the media or Bush’s own military. Making such melodramatic and misleading claims may or may not be pathological, but it certainly isn’t a sign that Bush has a healthy relationship with reality.

Poll: Optimism on Economy Boosts Bush

By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer
Fri Dec 5, 5:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Americans are growing more optimistic about the economy and that shift is beginning to improve President Bush's standing with voters, according to an Associated Press poll.

People are increasingly comfortable about job security for themselves and for those they know — 44 percent now, compared with 35 percent in early October.

And more approve of the way Bush is handling the economy — 50 percent compared with 45 percent earlier, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs. [...]

Comment: Polls in general seem to be easily manipulated. In this case, the accuracy of the poll is not as important as the fact that abysmally low numbers are being used to portray optimism about the economy and Bushy. 44% are comfortable about job security. That means more than half of Americans are worried about putting food on the table, and this is somehow a good sign?

White House isn’t ready for the moon

Comment: We respectfully disagree. Pack 'em all up and ship 'em to the moon!

Israel offers housing plots in West Bank settlement

Israel invited public bids today for 98-year leases of 13 plots of land designated for private home construction in a major Jewish settlement in the West Bank, an offer that ran against a US-backed peace plan. [...]

Ayoon wa Azan (Causes Of Anti-Semitism)

Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2003/12/5

There is an inherent feeling of anti-Semitism in Europe; and nowadays, there is a new kind of anti-Semitism. While the reasons for the first are historical, the first and foremost reason for the second is war criminal Ariel Sharon.

With every new crime committed by the Israeli prime minister, the number of anti-Semites increases in Europe and around the world. Personally, I utterly and strongly condemn anti-Semitism, I also condemn Sharon and his actions that breed this movement.

When Sharon is not busy with killing or destruction, he is making Nazi statements that encourage the hatred of Jews around the globe, although most Jews have nothing to do with him.

The latest barbaric statement Sharon made claimed that there are 70 million Muslims in Europe, and they are responsible for the new wave of anti-Semitism. Is this true? This is a double lie: first, there is a European allergy towards the increasing number of Muslims, and there is a marked discomfort over this issue. Second, because the well-known EU survey did not include Muslims, and it clearly showed that a wide European majority views Israel as the main threat to world peace.

Of course, when the subject is about Sharon, then a single rudeness is certainly not enough. He continued by saying that the bombing of Gaza and Jenin did not contribute in increasing the amount of Israel's enemies (this could be read in last Monday's Times, The Guardian of Tuesday, and online magazine). Only a killer like Sharon could imagine that killing and destruction do not lead to enmity, as these things are like air and water for him, and thus he continues claiming that the goal of anti-Semitism is to prevent the Jews from protecting themselves.

I understand of this that Sharon is applying a self-defense strategy in Gaza and Jenin, and not killing women and children to an extent that mobilized Israeli pilots against him, and made drafted soldiers prefer prison over obeying his orders. In Sharonian logic, these pilots and soldiers are considered anti-Semites, or "traitors," which is the adjective he uses in describing his opponents.

In addition to Sharon's betrayal of the Israeli people by locking them inside a crime trap that has no exit, I can add that he is the first terrorist in the Middle East, and the first anti-Semite, since he is the cause of the new wave of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere.

Israeli professor Yaaron Yizrahi reminded that when Rabin and Peres were leaders of Israel, at the time of the peace process, Israel was the West's favorite state, and was strongly supported by Europe and its people. He then wondered why the feelings of anti-Semitism were so limited during the terms of Rabin and Peres, who gave the world the impression that Israel was willing to let go of the occupied territories. He said that Sharon has a long record of accusing critics of Israel and its policy of being traitors, and that Israel's left movement is worried that Sharon's policies might threaten the future of Israel, by promoting the spirit of violence and anti-Semitism.

This is what an Israeli political scientist said, which is exactly my opinion as well. I can only add that the new wave of anti-Semitism will never deny that Sharon was its reason. On the other hand, the director of the Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem complained that human rights were only a cover for anti-Semitism, and that Jews are seen as part of a conspiracy that plans to control the world.

I would advise this man to check out Yizrahi's words, since he is in a position that requires knowledge and intelligence; I cannot accuse him of stupidity, but I accuse him of cowardice for not naming Sharon as the reason of the new wave of anti-Semitism, or of taking part in the crime, if he is from the supporters of the Israeli prime minister.

I also address this latter accusation to Natan Sharansky, the Russian minister in the Nazi Sharon government, who said that anti-Semitism has become politically accepted in Europe, but did not explain the reasons behind this ideology's resurgence.

Once again, anti-Semitism will not cave in to the lies surrounding it and ignore the obvious reason. The Israeli forum for coordinating the struggle against anti-Semitism identified three types of existing anti-Semitism: traditional, new, and Islamic, with the Islamic anti-Semitism being the most dangerous; it then spoke of the 70 million Muslims living in Europe today.

Members of this forum include Israeli intelligence officials and members of the Israeli foreign ministry; they are all professional liars who try to cover up the crimes of Sharon's government with the smokescreen of Islamic anti-Semitism and its other forms. I have a simple answer to these people, which is that during the terms of Rabin and Peres, there were also 70 million Muslims in Europe, but there was no apparent anti-Semitism, apart from a few Europeans.

And I tell the Jews, before addressing Arabs and Muslims, that Sharon is a danger to them before being a danger to the Palestinians, and that they will not rest until they rectify their mistake of having elected him to the premiership. He achieved nothing other than the total collapse of Israel's security, the loss of the peace process, and the destruction of Israel's reputation all around the world.

On November 23rd, Sharon announced the postponing of his expected meeting with Ahmad Qureih, after two guards of the security wall were killed. This is anti-Semitism in itself, for Sharon kills every day, but he gets angry when two Israelis are killed, as if only the Jewish victim matters, while the Palestinian is like an insect that does not deserve to be mourned.

Today, anyone who defends Sharon is a murderous anti-Semite like him. These are characteristics and not insults, and rather objective and rational ones.

My personal consolation is that the majority of Jews in Israel and around the world wants peace. I was reading the latest statements by Sharon, and Rabbi Eric Asherman, who heads the Rabbis for Human Rights Address Abuse in the Occupied Territories. This man lives a present danger when walking around in the Palestinian occupied territories everyday, in order to defend them and present himself as a human shield to protect them from the occupation army. This Rabbi, who came with his wife and two children from California, is himself the future hope of the Palestinian-Israeli relations, not Sharon and his allies, the enemies of peace and of humanity itself.

The Palestinians, The Truce And Hope

Ghassan Charbel Al-Hayat 2003/12/4

It is not easy for the Palestinians, as individuals or organizations, to respond to the calls asking them to be more flexible. None of the Palestinian, the Israeli or the international scene helps in this. All the Palestinians have to do to feel the anger and the continuing injustice is look at what is happening on the ground. Ariel Sharon hints at dismantling the random "illegal" settlements. But the members of his government are calling for giving a legal character to settlements that have sprouted over the past years. The existing settlements expanded. Israel succeeded in taking up more Palestinian land. The American criticisms of the settlements did not curb the Israeli governments' plans. The attempts to impose a new reality on the ground continued... and escalated.

In addition to the settlements, the Palestinians can see the wall that is being built on their land. Another means of taking up more Palestinian land, this time under security pretexts. Sharon's wall did not find any sympathy or understanding. It is a blaring aggression that cannot be justified. But the international condemnation of the wall did not stop it from being built. The American criticisms against him did not bring him to stop the ongoing works. Sharon's tone was curt. He said that Israel could not bargain with what is related to its security.

[...] The Palestinians feel the injustice when the victim is asked to be flexible, patient and tolerant, while the world fails to ask the occupier to stop building the wall or to freeze the settlement building. They cautiously welcome the calls for a truce, because these are not accompanied by serious hope through tangible measures. The absence of this veiled hope keeps the Palestinian angry and suspicious, and makes all calls for flexibility and truce weak or doubtful, and heightens the difficulty of the inter-Palestinian dialogue, if flexibility is the goal.

The Myth of Condoleezza Versus the Reality of Occupation…Washington And The Innovative Double Standards Of Accountability And Initiative

Raghida Dergham Al-Hayat 2003/12/5

It seems that now is the time for initiatives and accountability, in a period of wars on terrorism and for reform, and overstepping the traditional conflicts. In the past, the "conflict management" innovation came after there appeared to be no final solution to crises. This was followed by the innovation of a new lingo that aimed at erasing the reality of an Israeli occupation of Arab land, towards depicting it as a simple conflict, with the view of macerating the legal foundations of the sought-for resolution. Now, the poles of the U.S. administration describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as "just a myth" exploited by the region's regimes as a pretext to avoid reforms.

The fact that Arab regimes have exploited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to avoid reforms and remain in power is true. They have fed their peoples with the illusion of a "common defense" and spent their money on armament instead of education, to fight one another or to exterminate another from the military equation before Israel, taking the Palestinian cause as an excuse. As for describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as "just a myth," even as an entire population is dying under a bitter occupation, this is an encroachment on history and on the limits of ingenuity, including the last one that gives priority of democratizing the Middle East over settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

[...] For this reason, the Bush administration decided to dismiss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and initiate for a "wider Middle East," relying on the NATO to turn the region into democracies, as it was published last Monday in Al-Hayat.

The U.S. administration dared wage its war on Iraq before settling the Palestinian-Israeli issue, after it realized that there was no reason to fear the Arab public opinion or the retaliation of Arab governments.

And despite the critical situation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its deterioration before, during, and after the war on Iraq, there were no apparent reactions from the Arab public opinion and governments that could compel the U.S. administration to reconsider its assessment of the fear factor. That is why it decided that democracy is the priority of the Arab individual, and not the Palestinian cause.

The U.S. administration is not mistaken in its assessment of the Arab individual's disgust with his situation, his distrustful relationship with his regimes, and his yearning for democracy and reform. It is also not mistaken in its reading of the boredom of the Arab individual of hearing the drum bells for the same unique cause, the Palestinian cause, while he has numerous other issues. But it would be erroneous to explain this situation as a desire and will to disregard the Palestinian cause and approve of the Israelis' murder of the Palestinian people. It would be very mistaken in its misevaluation of the centrality of the Palestinian cause in the mind of the Arab individual, no matter how much he strives for democracy, is sickened by regimes, or tired from the Arab-Israeli conflict.

[...] The Arab-Israeli conflict is not just a myth, as colleague Randa Takieddine quoted the U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice saying to her European counterparts. It is a reality that cannot be wiped out by the innovation of giving a priority to democratizing the Middle East over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In fact, it is the exact opposite: it is only by giving priority to the Arab-Israeli struggle that the democratic process can begin; first because the Arab regimes will be robbed of the "myth;" second because the Arab individual will be released from a cause that has accompanied him since childhood; third because an event of such proportion would pave the way for the demands for reform and democracy; and fourth because the suspicion in the U.S.'s marketing of democracy for the purpose of preventing Israel's accountability will change into a trust.

Many wounded in Afghanistan blast

Saturday 06 December 2003, 13:34 Makka Time, 10:34 GMT

An explosion has rocked the centre of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, injuring 10 and killing an unknown number of people.

According to Aljazeera correspondent in Kandahar, Mazin Aman Allah, a bomb which had been placed on a bicycle behind a parked car, exploded in a crowded market square. Both were destroyed in the blast at around 0830 GMT.

Russian media magnate plans $1bn suit

By Tim Burt, Media Editor, in London
Published: December 5 2003 21:52 | Last Updated: December 5 2003 21:52

Boris Berezovsky, the Russian media magnate, is to seek more than $1bn (?800m, £580m) in damages from the Russian government over the alleged appropriation of his assets in the media, mining and oil industries.

The oligarch, who was granted political asylum in Britain earlier this year, has instructed lawyers to prepare damages claims in the UK High Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

In an interview, Mr Berezovsky - a leading critic of President Vladimir Putin - said he was forced to sell influential stakes in companies including ORT and TV6, two leading broadcasters, and oil group Sibneft after criticising the Kremlin.

Zimbabwe continues to split Commonwealth

Last Updated Fri, 05 Dec 2003 20:06:18

ABUJA, NIGERIA - An African leader who wasn't there, and wasn't even invited to the Commonwealth summit in Nigeria, has managed to dominate the discussions. "What is it to us?" said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare. "It is a club. There are other clubs we can join."

Zimbabwe was expelled from the 54-member Commonwealth last year, over Mugabe's election-rigging and violations of human rights. Attempts to find a way to put pressure on Mugabe have split Commonwealth leaders, mainly along racial lines.

Australia and Britain are leading the push to keep Zimbabwe out. "What's important for the Commonwealth is to say to Mr. Mugabe his behaviour in Zimbabwe is totally unacceptable," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "Until he complies with good governance, human rights and democracy, he should remain suspended."

But Mugabe is seen as a hero by some for redistributing white farmland to blacks. He was one of the revolutionary leaders who won a hard-fought war of independence and has been Zimbabwe's only leader since it became an independent country in 1980. Some Commonwealth members have accused the West of needlessly bullying the African country.

Comment: The idea of Bush's lapdog calling any other leader in the world to account is, we think, ludicrous. Blair's words, "Until he complies with good governance, human rights and democracy, he should remain suspended," could very aptly be applied to Mr. Bush's-woof-woof himself, as was clear from the outpouring of dissent in Britain to Blair's participation in the invasion and occupation in Iraq.

Herein lies the problem with politics in our world of pain and suffering: Everyone is guilty of the same abuses, and so when white, Western politicians rebuke black, African politicians, the people of Africa know full well that it is hypocrisy. The Westerners at home, however, are willing to believe that their politicians are working to help the poor Africans to be free from corrupt officials. Comments such as Blair's or Chretien's win them brownie points at home.

We think, however, that Mr. Mugabe's greatest crime in their eyes is not that he is a tyrant, but that he is a tyrant who took land from the whites to give to poor blacks. The West has never criticised a tyrant, be he African, Asian, or Latin American, for being a tyrant unless his tyrannical ways in some way interfered with their own tyrannical ways.

Victorious BJP restarts India's reform drive

By Edward Luce in New Delhi
Published: December 5 2003 18:08 | Last Updated: December 5 2003 18:08

India's finance ministry on Friday relaunched a multi-million dollar publicity campaign to promote economic reforms which had been suspended by India's Election Commission in the run-up to this week's assembly polls.

The 10-week campaign, dubbed "India Shining", follows the ruling BJP's sweeping election victories in three of the four states that went to the polls on Monday. Although the BJP is an unapologetically Hindu nationalist party, it fought the election campaign on the slogan of "Bijli, Sadak, Pani" - "electricity, roads and water".

Church to ask the faithful for a n extra £5m

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

The Church of England is preparing to ask churchgoers to find an extra £5 million in donations to support their bishops and cathedrals.

The proposals will anger many parishioners who resent what they see as the "lavish" living arrangements of some bishops, and they could prompt fresh calls for a cut in numbers.

The far-reaching plans have been drawn up by a group set up by the Archbishops' Council and the Church Commissioners to review the Church's parlous finances.

The review group wants to save up to £5 million from the £26 million the commissioners pay annually towards the upkeep of the Church's 113 bishops and staff at its 43 cathedrals.

The group will recommend to the General Synod next year that the savings should be redistributed to poor areas in struggling dioceses amid fears that some might go bankrupt. Insiders say some dioceses are "teetering on the brink" of financial ruin, including Newcastle, Durham, Bradford and Liverpool.

A significant sum is expected to be diverted into a "mission" fund to develop new initiatives, from"rave in the nave" youth services to mission work in shopping malls.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has backed such schemes to try to counter the Church's falling numbers. Some in the Church, however, strongly oppose such a fund because they believe that all the money should be siphoned into poor parts of the Church. One insider said: "There is a very fundamental row going on beneath the surface."

The proposals are certain to raise serious questions about whether the Church can continue to afford so many junior, or suffragan, bishops.

Churchgoers say that in 1902, when the population was about half the size it is now, there were 31 diocesan bishops, 22 suffragans and 23,670 clergy. Now there are 44 diocesans, 69 suffragans and 17,700 clergy, supplemented by licensed lay people.

An official report two years ago cleared bishops of the charge of extravagance, but urged them to give up their chauffeurs, travel standard class on trains and use their wives as secretaries.

The commissioners are already carrying out a review of bishop's palaces and See houses, which is expected to result in sales and or reorganisations.

They are also introducing legislation to allow them to sell the 12th-century Farnham Castle, in Surrey, a conference centre which was the home of Bishops of Winchester for more than 800 years.

The Church is also preparing to sell a £10 million set of paintings by the Spanish artist Zurburan.

Comment: God's spokespeople on earth, no doubt. The question is, which god?

Pepto-Bismol Could Be Fatal For Kids With Flu

Murderers prey on Guatemalan women

By Claire Marshall
BBC correspondent in Guatemala City
6 December, 2003

A huge bundle of official papers sits on the desk of Sandra Zayas, a criminal investigator in Guatemala City.

"These are the case files just for the women who have been murdered in the last few months," she says. "And these are just the ones who've been killed in the capital."

These documents tell the story of a wave of brutal and sadistic murders which is terrifying Guatemala's female population.

Since 2001, more than 700 women and young girls have been killed in apparently motiveless attacks. So far this year more than 250 bodies have been found. In the past six months there have been five sets of double murders, with the tortured corpses of the young girls found together.

Despite making a number of arrests, police have been unable to stop the killings.

Teenage gangs

About four women or young girls, mostly from poor families, are being killed each week. The connection is that they are all murdered in the same way: first they are abducted, then they are tortured, then raped, then stabbed to death and their bodies dumped.

The authorities suspect that vicious teenage gangs, known locally as "maras", are responsible. These are groups that have developed and thrived in Guatemala's impoverished slums.

Ms Zayas flicks through gruesome photos of some of the bodies which she has helped to recover. One shows the decomposing face of 15-year-old girl, her eye sockets filled with maggots.


The police are facing a huge task - but have few resources.

"Our police work 24 hours a day," says Ms Zayas, "but they're having to deal with about 300 cases each, which just isn't possible."

This is little comfort for Rosa Elvira Sandoval, whose daughter Maria Isabel was among those killed.

At a mass in Guatemala City, her hand shakes as she lights a candle.

She has brought to the church a photograph which shows her daughter as she likes to remember her - smiling and radiant in the white dress and crown she wore when she attended her first mass.

She was later tortured, her fingernails were ripped out, and she was stabbed 47 times.

Rosa learnt about her daughter's death from the evening news.

Tears streaming down her face, she sobs: "It hurts so much, to see someone you love so much, so beautiful, so happy. To see her afterwards, to see her in a coffin, and then to see nothing. All you have left are memories."

Maria Elena and Ileana Peralta are still traumatised by the murder of their 30-year-old sister Nancy.

She too was abducted and murdered after leaving work one evening.

"It's so difficult," says Ileana. "I cry every night because I couldn't do anything to save her."

It is this feeling of helplessness that links together hundreds of families.

All have lost loved ones to ferocious and senseless attacks, and all are left looking for answers that the authorities have so far been unable to provide.

Comment: The numbers are staggering, 4 women every week... It seems unlikely that these are the random attacks of a deranged person or group. It seems as if these women are part of a murderous "shopping list". The Police are "unable" for some reason to do anything about it. That's what hierarchies are for right?...

St. Croix settles suit over strip-searches for $7M

Pioneer Press

St. Croix County has agreed to pay about $7 million to settle a lawsuit involving thousands of inmates who were strip-searched at the Wisconsin county's jail between 1996 and 2001. [...]

Ohio Freeway Shooting Cases Rise to 14

3 charged with gross abuse of corpse (Ohio, USA)

Head taken from Preble mausoleum

After using a steak knife to remove the head from a corpse in a Preble County mausoleum, John P. McMurray and three accomplices drove to his apartment and displayed the severed head on top of a mug he'd made in shop class, according to court records. [...]

Two Flu Shot Makers Run Out of Vaccine

Dec 5

(AP) Five-year-old Sydney Praznik puts soap on her hands before washing at the Auraria Child Care Center... [Full Image]

The two makers of flu shots in the United States said Friday they have run out of vaccine and will not be able to meet a surge in demand resulting from fears of a particularly bad flu season.

Nevertheless, the companies said people who have put off getting their shots may still be able to find them, since distributors and doctors' offices may still have some left.

The companies, Chiron and Aventis Pasteur, together made about 80 million doses of the injected vaccine, which ordinarily would be enough to take care of U.S. demand.

"Because of the recent outbreak, we've seen an unprecedented surge of vaccine orders late in the season," said Len Lavenda, an Aventis spokesman. "As a result, we have now shipped all our available supplies."

"It's all been shipped out," said Chiron's John Gallagher. "We began shipping in August. It's all gone at this point."

The companies said they cannot make more vaccine this year, because the process takes four months. By that time, the flu season would be over.

Another alternative is the FluMist, the more expensive inhaled version of the vaccine. Its maker, MedImmune Vaccines, made between 4 million and 5 million doses this year. Spokeswoman Jamie Lacey said that as of Nov. 18, the company had sold 400,000 doses, and "there is still a wide supply available."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that in a typical year, between 70 million and 75 million Americans get the shots, and the record is 80 million.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, the CDC head, said that this year more people than usual got flu shots in October and November, and there is unusually high interest in December. [...]

Even though health officials urge people to get their shots, it is still not clear how effective they will be against this strain, which is somewhat different from the three that this year's vaccine is designed to combat

Comment: Quick! Get your vaccination! There is nothing like fear to motivate the masses into doing something they will later regret.

Bossier School Board upholds Advil expulsion

Girl had over-the-counter pills in purse at school

Melody Brumble
The Times

A student expelled from Parkway High for a year for having Advil, an over-the-counter pain reliever, will not be allowed to return to the school. [...]

Secret Service listening to Eminem lyrics for threat to president

UVF serial killers 'are protected by police'

Former RUC detective in damning allegations

POLICE in Northern Ireland have used "serial killers" as informants and shielded them from prosecution, an ex-RUC detective has alleged. [...]

Perle bought and paid for by Boeing

By Joshua Chaffin and Stephanie Kirchgaessner
Financial Times

Richard Perle, a prominent Pentagon adviser, lobbied on behalf of Boeing's bid for a controversial $18bn government contract a year after the aerospace company made a $20m investment in the venture capital fund he runs.

Mr Perle, a former Reagan-era assistant defence secretary, is considered one of the most influential civilian members of Washington's defence establishment.

He was appointed in 2001 by Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, to chair the Defence Policy Board, a group of former military and policy experts who meet regularly with Mr Rumsfeld and top Pentagon officials. [...]

Comment: Yet another entity surrounding Bush who is enriched by perpetual war.

"American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force." - Philip Agee, CIA Diary


He is now a bear. To say that he is a bear barely does him justice. He has looked at the economic fundamentals, and he sees a bad moon rising.

The economic problem of problems is debt. Americans, both as individuals and as taxpayers, are deep in debt. America is addicted to debt. Americans are betting their economic futures on the productivity of consumer debt. This is an unwise bet, says Templeton.

In a recent interview by Robert J. Flaherty of Equities magazine, Templeton went into detail about what he sees for the American economy in general and the two markets that have attracted most Americans' investment capital: stocks and real estate. Most Americans believe that the stock market will always go up. They also believe that real estate is a sure thing. Both assumptions are wrong, Templeton says.

As you read his opinions, bear in mind that he made it, and made it big, by riding the stock market boom from close to the bottom to 1992. He missed the 1995-2000 bubble, but he also missed the bear market that followed.

He was interviewed in 1999 and 2000 by the same publication, and both times he was bearish. If readers then had heeded his warning, they sold out close to the top. But, of course, most people didn't agree, and could not all have gotten out at the top if they had agreed.

He is still convinced that there is great downside risk to both the American stock market and the housing market. I agree with him. But not many other investors or investment analysts do agree with him. Here is his take on the stock market.

"The stock market is broken, and it will take some time, maybe years, to repair it. Mass media, especially TV today is so short-term that few in its audience grasp the lasting damage and corrective impact which will continue to linger from the greatest financial crash in world history."

Linger over this phrase: "the greatest financial crash in world history."

Here is a man who made it big personally and who made tons of money for those who heeded his advice. He is very rich. He is not driven by money, which is why he is giving it away. If he were to keep his opinions to himself and concentrate on public relations, how could he lose? "Rich man gives away a fortune!" That's always good public relations. He would go down in history as a giant.

But here he is, saying things like this, predicting "the greatest financial crash in world history," as if he were some screwball newsletter writer looking to sell a subscription.

If he did not firmly believe his forecast, why would he go public? Why not just short the stock market privately and be done with it? I look at the money he could make by keeping quiet and shorting the market, and I conclude: "This guy is serious."


Julie Carr Smyth
Plain Dealer Bureau

Columbus - Ohio's sweeping review of electronic voting machines turned up so many potential security flaws in the systems that the state's top elections offi cial has called off deploying them in March.

The detailed findings confirmed what academics, computer scientists and voter advocates across the country have said for months: Electronic voting systems are prime targets for manipulation by anyone from expert computer hackers to poll workers to individual voters. [...]

Woman's hair catches on fire at gas pump

The Associated Press

ALBANY -- A hair stylist was pumping gas into her car when her hair burst into flames.

"That scared me to death," said stylist Traci Marshall.

The fire was probably caused by static electricity from Marshall's hair rubbing against her clothes, said her husband, Camilla firefighter Lt. Bill Marshall.

The static electricity apparently mixed with gas fumes and ignited the fire Sunday. [...]

Bill Marshall advised people to ground themselves before pumping gas by touching the metal of their cars. [...]

Car-truck collisions often suicide

A new study by SINTEF indicates that 11 of 26 Norwegian traffic accidents involving front to front collisions between cars and large freight trucks are suicides. Truck drivers believe the real numbers are even higher and Norway's Minister of Transport and Communication has called an emergency meeting.[...]

The SINTEF (The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology) study claimed that 11 out of 26 front to front collisions involved conscious attempts at suicide, with the car seeking the truck.

Professional truckers said the collisions often leave drivers with psychological problems, with many haunted by the incidents.

"For truckers it is a macabre sight when suicidal types wave and smile as they drive into the front of a rig," said Alf Ragnar Karlsen of the Norwegian Transport Worker Union. [...]

Researchers fake AIDS study data

By Robert Stacy McCain

Three Maryland researchers have admitted fabricating interviews with teenagers for a study on AIDS prevention that received more than $1 million in federal funds. [...]

Gustavo Orejel faces life because cops linked him to gangs—despite mounting denials

by Nick Schou
Photo by James Bunoan

Gustavo Orejel, a 22-year-old Santa Ana resident with no record of violent crime, faces life in prison for allegedly shooting a gun at a car full of gang members who had just fired several bullets at his house. No victims were ever identified in the shooting and Santa Ana police uncovered no physical evidence tying Orejel to the crime. But because Orejel stands accused of belonging to a gang, prosecutors aren’t even required to reveal the identity of the two witnesses they say have fingered Orejel in the shooting.

Comment: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him ; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."

Air Canada service staff get burger-coupon bonus

Reuters, 11.25.03, 5:40 PM ET

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Pleased with workers who scored top marks on customer service, Air Canada recently picked 100 at random to give them a bonus -- a C$5 ($3.78) hamburger coupon that expires in five weeks. [...]

The burger bonus comes as two groups bidding to control Montreal-based Air Canada through equity infusions have offered its chief executive and top restructuring manager multimillion-dollar stock or cash bonuses to remain with the airline through its bankruptcy protection proceedings. [...]

Cocaine and Ecstasy Cause DNA Mutation - Italy Study

India on alert for Ayodhya anniversary

LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - Police and federal forces are on alert in India's temple town of Aydohya as Hindu hardliners geared up for celebrations and Muslims planned protests on the eleventh anniversary of the razing of a mosque.

More than 3,000 people died in riots after a Hindu mob destroyed the 16th century Babri mosque on December 6, 1992 and the row over the site has become a symbol of, and trigger for, Hindu-Muslim tensions ever since. [...]

Earthquake Recorded Off Russian Peninsula

By Associated Press
December 5, 2003, 11:36 PM EST

MOSCOW -- A strong earthquake occurred Saturday off the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East. No damage or injuries were reported, emergency officials said.

The 7.1 magnitude quake shook the North Pacific Ocean about 400 miles east of the regional capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatka, said a duty officer in the regional branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry. Its epicenter was 18 miles underground. [...]

Second Day of Storm to Be Heavier Blow

By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press Writer
December 6, 2003

The first major snow storm of the season brought blustery winds, rain, sleet and a blanket of snow to the Northeast, delaying flights, wreaking havoc on the region's highways and putting cleanup crews to work.

Forecasters said the system could hit even harder over the weekend, with total snow accumulations of up to two feet in Massachusetts and near-blizzard conditions in parts of Maine and New Hampshire. [...]

More big storms to be weathered as the earth warms

By Stephen Cauchi
December 6, 2003

CSIRO has predicted that there will be an increase in extreme events in Australia, with coastal areas particularly vulnerable.[...]

Sweden hit by winter storm chaos


More than 100,000 people lost electricity in Sweden after a winter snow storm downed power lines and caused accidents on icy roads today.

A motorist was killed near Joenkoeping, 204 miles south-west of Stockholm, when a tree fell on his car, Swedish media reported.

Heavy winds knocked out power to 100,000 people as the storm swept across the central and southern parts of the Scandinavian country.

Hundreds of utility workers were dispatched to repair lines, but power companies said electricity was not likely to be fully restored until Sunday.

In neighbouring Norway, thousands were without power and train traffic came to a standstill in the southern part of the country, the Norwegian news agency NTB reported.

Bird Die-Off in Ore. Puzzles Experts

Fri Dec 5,12:39 PM ET

LINCOLN CITY, Ore. - Thousands of dead birds have washed up on West Coast beaches this fall in a die-off that has stumped experts.

The birds are northern fulmars (a smaller cousin of the Albatross) and beachgoers in Lincoln County have counted more than 400 dead ones this fall. [...]

And experts don't know why. Some worry that man-made causes, such as plastic or toxins are to blame. Others dismiss the die-off as cyclical.

But this year's death toll dwarfs any other on record in Oregon. [...]

Beached on Cape

Rescuers try to save stranded turtles

By Beth Daley
Boston Globe

WELLFLEET -- [...] So far, 83 cold-stunned sea turtles have been stranded on Cape Cod beaches since late October, most of them dinner-plate-sized Kemp's ridleys, considered the most endangered sea turtle in the world. A few are green turtles or larger loggerheads.

The turtles, almost all under 6 years old, are immobilized by cold waters that on Wednesday dipped to 28 degrees near shore in Orleans. Unable to paddle their flippers or even to feed, they are at the mercy of ocean currents and wash up on shore when a strong wind blows, as it has in recent weeks. [...]

Before the 1970s, reports of turtles washing up on Cape beaches were rare. Scientists believed that the handful of turtles they found, particularly the Kemp's ridleys, were "lost waifs" that got caught in the Gulf Stream.

But since the 1970s, when Prescott began organizing volunteers to walk the beaches, the numbers have steadily risen, hitting an all-time high of 281 strandings in 1999. Numbers have dipped slightly since then, but still remain high. [...]

Sunlight's gentle nudge on asteroids detected

Astronomers have detected the delicate force of sunlight on an asteroid's orbit for the first time.

The long-predicted effect has been blamed for propelling some asteroid fragments from the Solar System's main asteroid belt into the region near Earth, where they can threaten the planet. But its subtle action on asteroid orbits has been difficult to measure with optical telescopes. [...]

Powerful Laser Beam To Be Visible Sunday Night

Boulder Company Testing Component To Be Flown In Space

Wayne Harrison
The Denver Channel

BOULDER, Colo. -- If you see a piercing green light shooting into the sky Sunday night, it's not aliens, it's the work of scientists at Ball Aerospace.

The Star Wars-like light beam is part of a satellite the company is working on that will one day measure the Earth's atmosphere from orbit. It tested a lower power version in Hawaii earlier (pictured, left). [...]

Comment: And let us hope that is all it will be used for.

Original Crown of Thorns $9.95

The Original Crown of Thorns as used by Jesus Christ. These thorn bushes grew 2000 years ago on the outskirts of Jerusalem, they still grow there today. This Crown of Thorns can be used for many decoration purposes.

The monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Sinai have identified a thorn bush growing east of the large monastery wall as the original Crown of Thorns which tormenters put on Jesus' Head as a symbol of humiliation. The Thorns have been platted into a Crown in a unique artistic design. It comes to you with a Certificate of Origin in several languages. It is endorsed and stamped by the Superior of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

This certificate certifies: "This Crown of Thorns has been Sanctified in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre". The Crown of Thorns symbolizes Jesus Christ's suffering for the sake of humanity's salvation.

A gift that will become a treasured heirloom in every Christian home! The Crown of Thorns are attractively packaged in a gift box.

Sizes: diameter of 11 cm, diameter of 15 cm Note: Christians with larger heads than this should contact us directly for job openings.

Comment: Warning: Satirical, slightly risque, socio-religious commentary follows:

The Signs staff can personally recommend the above for any of our Christian readers who feel they have been slipping in their sanctimonious pious and/or pompous religiosity of late. A few days with this wonderful reminder of the alleged bloody suffering and death of a middle eastern man 2000 years ago placed atop your noggin, and you will soon be reunited with your twisted "holier than thou" narcissistic delusions. For Jewish readers we recommend the "Testing of Job" starter kit (complete with plague of locusts and stick on boils) or the, "I've put a down payment on a house in the new Jerusalem, how 'bout you?" bumper stickers. Muslims can achieve the same result by simply holding in mind the sublime vision of the voluptuous raisins that await them with Mohammed in heaven.

Read Laura's mini series " Truth or Lies" for more revelations on organised religion.

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