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Saturday, January 24, 2004

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"War is a sociological safety valve that cleverly diverts popular hatred for the ruling classes into a happy occasion to mutilate or kill foreign enemies." - Ernest Becker.

Although in our western society there is no organised and widespread movement promoting "popular hatred for the ruling classes" (the "ruling class" having effectively persuaded the rest of us that they no longer exist in a democracy), the argument seems to be well made that war has been and continues to be used by the modern day "ruling classes" to direct public attention outward and away from any questionable activities or possible wrongdoing of the state. There is no empirical proof that this is the explicit intention of those that wage war, however the automatic up swell in nationalism and national pride that war produces is certainly of benefit to the "powers that be". Perhaps it is a little naive to think that this aspect does not form at least part of the reason for the decision to wage war. It has been noted that wars have rescued many governments from impending failure at the polls. Prior to Bush beating the drums of war against Saddam, the Bush administration was plagued by the Enron scandal, by an industry-created "energy shortage" in California, the secret negotiations carried out by VP Cheney with US oil and gas firms in the elaboration of the US energy policy, and by the bankruptcy of WorldCom, among other problems.

Who speaks of these issues today?

The issue, however, that concerns us here is the effect of this molding of mass perception not on the collective awareness, but rather on the individual's perception of him/herself.

The creation of a foreign enemy is useful to government because it very directly creates the awareness of an outside threat to "the nation". Such a threat creates a perception of "us and them" in the public mind, with "us" naturally being the champions of all that is good, and "them" the epitome of evil. The various speeches of George Bush on the current "war on terror" are replete with general references to good and evil and suggest that the present US government, and most likely all governments, are well aware of the benefits to be derived from this subtle programming of the citizenry. Governments and "ruling classes", being of "ruling stock", will do as they will, and it is not in the purview of the citizenry to attempt to change the extant established order.

As many have observed, we get the governments we deserve.

Rather than work on the political level to change governments or structures of society, we think it is better to observe and understand the nature of government and social structures as they are.

More importantly and on a more subtle level, the outward vectoring of public awareness on a national scale very often filters down to the personal level and can have the much more serious effect of curtailing any questioning by the individual of possible "wrongdoing" in the way that they conduct their own lives, and the beliefs and morals that formulate them. If people are encouraged to believe that collectively as a nation they are on the side of all that is good and wholesome, then naturally each individual in the collective is induced to feel confident that in their personal lives all is as it should be. The essential ingredient that ensures that this erroneous thinking finds fertile ground on both levels is the strong, innate and mostly unconscious desire among humans to believe that their subjective understanding of reality is accurate, that others are in error, that the enemy is always without and never within, that all else must change to conform to the personal subjective view.

The truth is that the real enemy is within, that we must not allow our attention to be directed outward in the search for an answer to our personal problems and the problems of this world. The answers to these problems are found not through overthrowing foreign or even domestic governments, but by beginning the slow and deliberate work that may culminate in the overthrow of the inner, subjective, contractile nature that we all share as humans.

To rephrase the words of Becker above, War and the creation of enemies without, can be used as a personal safety value that cleverly diverts any chance of introspection and objective self-reflection, into an opportunity to maintain and solidify our wholly illusory understanding of who we are and our place in the world. In Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Illych, Illych, contemplates his life including a past dominated by conformity to social values and norms:

"What if my whole life has been wrong?" It occurred to him that what has appeared perfectly impossible to him, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have done, might after all be true. It occurred to him that his scarcely noticeable impulses, which he had immediately suppressed, might have been that real thing, and the rest false and his professional duties and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family and all his social and official interests might all have been false. He tried to defend all those things to himself and suddenly felt the weakness of what he as defending. There was nothing to defend..."

In fear we should trust

John Porter
24 January 2004

BEFORE we look at terror, consider mere fear. When manipulated by a skillful politician, it's a forceful weapon. Nothing makes people more malleable than some carefully harnessed nightmare, a conjured bogeyman.

It wasn't only Ku Klux Klansmen, but otherwise sane members of white communities who lynched tens of thousands of "niggers" from trees and lampposts well into the 20th century, principally because of the alleged menace posed to white womenfolk by black sexuality.

Many of the founding fathers of our great nation pointed to the threat of the "teeming millions of Asia". The "yellow peril" became a populist rallying cry. More recently, contemporary politicians have managed to reincarnate those old fears by demonising a few hundred asylum seekers in leaky boats.

The greatest single horror of the 20th century, the Holocaust, came as a consequence of Hitler's ability to choreograph ancient resentments of the Jews. He famously observed: "If the Jews didn't exist, we would have had to invent them."

Joseph McCarthy found reds under every Washington bed. In the Balkans, Slobodan Milosevic is one of many monsters who turned harmonious neighbourhoods into killing fields of "ethnic cleansing". Northern Ireland's two brands of Christianity have been butchering each other for centuries. Now, having almost run out of communists, the West is involved in a self-fulfilling prophecy about Muslim terrorism.

Yes, we're right to fear terrorism. A small-scale version of the Cold Warís MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) currently operates between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And if youíre working for the UN in Iraq, or the British in Turkey, youíve every right to feel anxious. Indeed, if youíre on the receiving end of Putinís violence in Chechnya, or Chechnyan violence in the Moscow suburbs, you know the terrors of terrorism. But for the majority of the human race, even those living in the prime target of Muslim fanaticism, the United States, your chances of being killed or injured by a terrorist are almost nil.

The British, of course, lived with Irish terrorism for a long time. Margaret Thatcher escaped an IRA attack on a party conference that killed some of her colleagues. Bombs went off in many a pub, and Number 10 narrowly escaped an IRA rocket attack. But having survived Hitlerís bombings, the Brits were stoic. They permitted their handbags to be searched, but not their lives to be ruined or their freedom destroyed.

What we've been witnessing, in the US and Australia, is the inculcation of fear; not only by terrorists but, just as eagerly, by our political leaders. Having been trained to dread those dots on the deck of the Tampa, weíve allowed ourselves to be swept up in Bushís War On Terror – by a government that sees political advantage in maintaining a slow-motion panic. Yes, the 3000 deaths in New York were tragic. But the fact remains that, prior to 9/11, the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks on the US came from domestic conspiracy theorists. And even after it, 99.99 per cent of the US population remains unscathed.

Yes, the loss of life in Bali was heartbreaking. Nonetheless, 99.99 per cent of Australians were neither killed nor injured. Weíre more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than a terrorist. And if we smarten our footwork and decline the likes of Willie Brigitte entry visas, weíll remain comparatively safe. Australians are under far greater attack from fellow motorists or the arsonists who light bushfires than from al-Qaíida.[...]

Work. We all must work to survive. We must pay our bills, pay the rent or the mortgage, pay for food, clothe our children. It seems so natural that we must live this way. Who would question this activity, this arrangement of our affairs? Those who do not work are regarded as shirkers and slackers, as "welfare bums," as people living off the State, that is, off the tax dollars of those who do work.

This very cornerstone of our lives is an important means of reducing us to the state of animals.

We live with the perilous state of losing our jobs and being cut off from the means of supporting ourselves and our families. This generates fear. This fear keeps us docile, "in our place," afraid to do anything to change our lot in life. So it is no surprise to read:

Global unemployment at record high

Friday 23 January 2004, 5:16 Makka Time, 2:16 GMT

More than 185 million people were jobless in 2003 as global unemployment levels hit record highs.

A United Nations report on Thursday revealed 185.9 million people, or about 6.2% of the total labour force, were out of work - the highest unemployment figure ever recorded.

There was, however, only a marginal increase on the 2002 figure, when 185.4 million people were jobless.

Some 108.1 million of the unemployed were men, up from 600,000 in 2002. Among women, there was a slight decline to 77.8 million in 2003 from 77.9 million in 2002.

Hardest hit were the 88.2 million young people with a crushing unemployment rate of 14.4%, the United Nations International Labour Organization report said.

SARS impact

Meanwhile, in poorer countries the "informal economy" of people without fixed jobs or steady self-employment has grown.

And the "working poor" - defined as those living on $1 a day or less - has remained at an estimated 550 million.

The ILO report said unemployment and underemployment during the first half of 2003 rose because of the slow pace of the upturn in the industrialised world's economies.

It was also affected by the negative impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) on employment in Asia.

A drop in tourism and travel employment also resulted from armed conflicts.

The article ends on a note of optimism, speaking of the "general recovery" noticed in the last half of the year, as well as some platitudes about the need for providing decent work, a vain hope.

It is clear that we have, in our world, the means of providing food, shelter, and the basic material needs for every inhabitant of the planet. The means exist, the will does not. Explanations are varied why this is impossible. Wars and revolutions have been fought over the question; nothing has changed.

The fear of unemployment, the fear of being thrown out of our homes, of seeing our children go hungry or starve, these fears play directly into our most basic fear, our fear for survival. To be preoccupied with survival is already to be separated from that which makes us human, that is, more than an animal.

This entrapment is only the first level of alienation, a level that prevents us from seeing the deeper, more profound effects upon us by keeping us preoccupied with the material necessities to the detriment of our spiritual needs, our need to become creators.

Work is rarely, and only for the lucky few, the expression of who they are. We are forced by necessity into work in order to pay for the satisfaction of our basic needs for survival. We are obliged to work by external considerations, not encouraged to find an activity that comes from within, from an inner drive or need for self-expression.

One writer put it this way:

What then constitutes the alienation of labor?

First, the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his essential being; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work he feels outside of himself. He is at home when he is not working, and when he is working he is not at home. His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as soon as no physical or other compunction exists, labor is shunned like a plague. External labor, labor in which man alienates himself, is a labor of self-sacrifice, of mortification. Lastly, the external character of labor for the worker appears in the fact that it is not his own, but someone else's, that it does not belong to him, that in it he belongs, not to himself, but to another. Just as in religion the spontaneous activity of the human imagination, of the human brain and the human heart, operates independently of the individual -- that is, operates on him as an alien, divine or diabolical activity -- so is the worker's activity not his spontaneous activity. It belongs to another; it is the loss of his self.

As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active in his animal functions -- eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.

The system of work as we know it is a structure serving to alienate us from ourselves. It cuts us off from a life wherein work is the means to manifest and express who we are, the expression of the Creative Principle in our daily lives. Once we accept the existing rules, the limitations placed upon us by society, and the pressures to take any job at hand in order to make money, we are removing ourselves from the possibility of using work to make manifest our creative nature. Unless we are able to recognise and become conscious of this state of affairs and consciously use the "labor of self-sacrifice" as a means of inner work.

Unfortunately, there are few who are aware of this possibility. Caught in the trap of "work", they have neither the time nor the inclination to seek out the world of ideas. Brutalised through their conditions of life, they have lost the ability to discern the Creative impulse within, or it is manifested in hobbies or collections or other forms of self-calming. The Creative principle is turned towards the mundane. It is used to imprison ourselves further in the material world rather than to help rise higher towards the Unseen.

NOTE: The above quote on the alienation of labor comes from Karl Marx, The Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, International Publishers, New York, 1964, pp. 110-1. Because there are certain readers who might be offended by a quote from Marx, we state clearly that we are neither Marxists nor Communists. We think that Marx had some important insights when he was analysing the existing society, but that his attempts to "fix" the world reveal his lack of understanding of the fundamental nature of things -- as is true for anyone who thinks the world needs to be "fixed."]

Secrecy still circles POW Saddam

The fate of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein remains shrouded in mystery, almost six weeks after his capture.

The US-led coalition in Iraq has provided scant information about his whereabouts or the conditions under which he is being kept.

The Red Cross, which applied to see the former leader two weeks ago, said it had not yet agreed a date for a visit with the coalition authorities.

But a spokesman said he was "fairly hopeful" a visit would go ahead.

Saddam's hiding place may be destroyed to prevent it becoming tourist site

02:08 PM EST Jan 23

TIKRIT, Iraq (AP) - The U.S. military said Friday it may fill in the spider hole that Saddam Hussein used as his hiding place to prevent it from becoming a tourist attraction. [...]

US seeks allies for war on terror

US Vice-President Dick Cheney has urged all countries to join his country in promoting democracy in Iran and the wider Arab world.

He said this was the key to winning the global war against terrorism.

Mr Cheney was speaking at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos on Saturday.

His trip is part of a concerted diplomatic effort by Washington to mend soured transatlantic relations in the wake of the war against Iraq. Mr Cheney told political and business leaders there was an urgent need for Europe and the US to co-operate in encouraging reform.

We must confront the ideologies of violence at the source, by promoting democracy throughout the greater Middle East and beyond,"

We call upon our democratic friends and allies everywhere, and in Europe in particular, to join us in this effort," he said. [...]

He said civilised people had to be prepared to use force, if diplomacy failed, to defeat terrorism and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. [...]

However, a quick straw poll in the audience afterwards showed that many would have liked the vice president to go further.

Eva Biaudet, a Finnish MP and former health minister, said the vice president had failed to touch upon key issues like "poverty, injustice and development", while she was shocked by what she called Mr Cheney's "militaristic view of how to get democracy".

Comment: Notice the subtle implication in Cheney's words which suggest that the US and the west are the keepers and bestowers of democracy and peace, despite the fact that reality and history do not bear this out. Notice also how he labels the entire "Middle East and beyond" as being the source of "ideologies of violence". The irony of that statement, coming from the Vice President of a country that just recently attacked Iraq without justification, killing 10,000 civilians, is obviously lost on Mr. Cheney. Neither, it would seem, does the Vice President subscribe to the idea that violence merely begets violence, instead he chooses to flatter western governments and their citizens with the idea that through the imposition of their "survival of the fittest" form of democracy, they can free the world.

Cheney: Direct threats require 'decisive action'

Jan 24

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) - Democratic nations must join together to fight terrorism and the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons, but if diplomacy fails, they must be prepared to use force, Vice President Dick Cheney said Saturday. [...]

He said the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001, gave all nations "the merest glimpse of the threat that international terrorism poses to us all." Nurturing democracy, especially in the Middle East, is essential to halting terrorism, Cheney said.

"Democracies do not breed the anger and the radicalism that drag down whole societies or export violence," he said. "Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies and to choose their own leaders."

Cheney was asked about a quotation from Benjamin Franklin that he used in his Christmas card: "If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, it is likely that an empire can rise without His help?"

He replied that the quotation was chosen by his wife, but continued: "It shouldn't be taken as some kind of indication that the United States today sees itself as an empire."

If the United States were a true empire, he said, "we would certainly preside over a much greater piece of the earth's surface than we currently do."

Comment: So democracies "do not export violence" according to the Vice President, perhaps then the recent and continuing US aggression and violence in Iraq is only on loan? The US "war on terror", is in fact not a war of colonisation of the globe, according to Cheney. By his definition, having US military bases in 121 out of the 189 existing countries in the world is not is not quite enough to declare oneself a "true empire".

Iraq may be on path to civil war, CIA officials warn

Seattle Times, January 22, 2004
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay

CIA officers in Iraq are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said yesterday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment President Bush gave in his State of the Union address.

The CIA officers' bleak assessment was delivered orally to Washington this week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified information involved.

The warning echoed growing fears that Iraq's Shiite majority, which until now has accepted the U.S. occupation grudgingly, could turn to violence if its demands for direct elections are spurned.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Kurdish minority is pressing for autonomy and shares of oil revenue.

"Both the Shiites and the Kurds think that now's their time," one intelligence officer said. "They think that if they don't get what they want now, they'll probably never get it. Both of them feel they've been betrayed by the United States before."

These dire scenarios were discussed at meetings this week by Bush, his top national-security aides and the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said a senior administration official who requested anonymity.

Another senior official said the concerns over a possible civil war are "broadly held within the government," including by regional experts at the State Department and National Security Council.

Top officials are scrambling to save the U.S. exit strategy after concluding Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, is unlikely to drop his demand for elections for an interim assembly that would choose an interim government by July 1. Bremer then would hand over power to the interim government.

The CIA hasn't put its officers' warnings about a potential Iraqi civil war in writing, but the senior official said he expected a formal report "momentarily."

"In the discussion with Bremer in the last few days, several very bad possibilities have been outlined," he said.

Bush, in his State of the Union address Tuesday, insisted an insurgency against the U.S. occupation, conducted primarily by minority Sunni Muslims who enjoyed power under Saddam Hussein, "will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom."

"Month by month, Iraqis are assuming more responsibility for their own security and their own future," the president said.

Bush didn't address the Shiites' political demands directly.

Shiites, who dominate the regions from Baghdad south to Kuwait and Iran, make up about 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people.

Several U.S. officials acknowledged al-Sistani is unlikely to be "rolled," as one put it. As a result, Bremer's plan for restoring Iraqi sovereignty and ending the U.S. occupation by on schedule is in peril.

The Bremer plan, negotiated with the U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council, calls for caucuses in Iraq's 18 provinces to choose the interim national assembly, which in turn would select Iraq's first post-Saddam government. The first direct elections wouldn't be held until the end of 2005.

In an interview with Knight Ridder yesterday, a top cleric in the Shiite holy city of Najaf appeared to confirm the fears of potential civil war. "Everything has its own time, but we are saying that we don't accept the occupiers getting involved with the Iraqis' affairs," said Sheikh Ali Najafi, whose father, Grand Ayatollah Bashir al Najafi, is, along with al-Sistani, one of the four most senior clerics. "I don't trust the Americans, not even for one blink."

If the United States went ahead with the caucus plan and ended the military occupation, the interim government wouldn't last, he said.

"The Iraqi people would know how to deal with those people," he said, smiling. "They would kick them out."

U.S. and British officials hinted yesterday that they might bow to the demand for some kind of elections, after saying for weeks that holding free and fair elections in time for the handover of sovereignty would be impossible.

"We've always favored elections," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said after he and other top Bush aides briefed senators. "The only question is — the tension was, if your goal is to get sovereignty passed to the Iraqis so that they feel they have a stake in their future, can you do it faster with caucuses or can you do it faster with elections?"

Rumsfeld was responding to comments by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who opened the door yesterday to elections in Iraq earlier than planned.

"The discussion, which has been stimulated by Ayatollah Sistani, is whether there could be an element of elections injected into the earlier part of the process," Straw said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We have to work with great respect for him and similar leaders. We want elections as soon as it is feasible to hold them."

State Department officials said no changes to the Bremer plan are being considered formally. They said much depends on the findings of a U.N. assessment team that the Bush administration has asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to send to examine the feasibility of elections.

One option being discussed informally is to delay the transfer of power until later in 2004, which might give the United Nations time to organize some sort of elections, one official said. But that is almost certain to be opposed by White House political aides who want the occupation over and many U.S. troops gone by summer to bolster Bush's re-election chances, the official said. "It's all politics right now," he said.

Other options are to go ahead with the June 30 turnover as planned, whatever the fallout, or to accelerate it by handing over power to the Iraqi Governing Council in March or April, he said.

Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Tom Lasseter in Najaf, Iraq, and Joseph L. Galloway and John Walcott in Washington contributed to this report.

Comment: So Bush goes from a CIA briefing on the real possibility of civil war in Iraq to his State of the Union address and lies again. He lied last year about Saddam's threat, about Saddam's WMD, about Saddam's purchase of uranium from Niger. We all know he was lying. We know he is lying now. Does anyone care?

Leaked News Network Memos: Cheney's Health Deteriorates; Media Told Not To Ask Bush Unplanned Questions

TBR News

The Iowa circus goes on its merry way with lots of backbiting, kicking, gouging and spitting. We can count Lieberman out because he is an Orthodox Jew and aside from some of his tribe, he is not going to get main line votes. Braun is black and a women which are two strikes against her, Gebhart will be lucky to take Iowa and dragging his Lesbian daughter out of the closet isn’t going to do him any good in Dubuque.

Kerry is making noises but his slaughter of unarmed women and children in Viet Nam plus the fact that he is Jewish won’t help him either. Ditto for Clark on the racial issue plus he changes his mind depending on how the wind is blowing. That leaves Dean and he is downright mean, especially to the press which he will be punished for in due time.

Dick Cheney has a very bad heart. Recently had a check up and they will not release the results. Insider info gives him a 50-50 chance of buying the farm (not in Iowa) before the election. It’s common knowledge that Cheney is running the government.

We have been requested not, repeat not, to ask the President unexpected questions at press conferences. He got nailed in Mexico by a fellow from Reuters who asked him a question that Bush simply had no idea how to answer. His mumblings and twitchings on camera were painful to watch…

Bomb blast kills two in China

Friday 23 January 2004, 21:15 Makka Time, 18:15 GMT

An explosion has killed two people at China's Zhengzhou railway station, one of the country's biggest transport hubs.

Friday's early morning explosion, thought to have been set off by a suicidal mission, ripped through the first-floor ticket hall of the station.

Five killed in separate bomb attacks in Iraq

Last Updated Sat, 24 Jan 2004 9:51:23

BAGHDAD - Two American soldiers and three Iraqis were killed in separate bomb attacks Saturday.

Bush to request 7 percent increase in 2005 defense budget 2004-01-24 11:42:05

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (Xinhuanet) -- US President George W. Bush will propose to Congress a defense budget of 401.7 billion US dollars for the 2005 fiscal year, a 7 percent increase over the current fiscal year, the Pentagon said Friday.

270,000 Israelis leave country over 10-year period: report 2004-01-23 06:38:59

JERUSALEM, Jan. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- A total of 270,000 Israelis left the Jewish country between 1990 and 2001, among them 68,000 were new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, according to a report published by Ha'aretz newspaper on Thursday.

The report, prepared by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics(CBS) on Wednesday to the parliament, found that between 1990 and 2001, 906,000 people immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union and 7.5 percent of them subsequently left the country.

Most of the new immigrants who left Israel were not registered as Jews.

The emigration rate from Israel in the 1990s among immigrants from the former Soviet Union was significantly higher than the emigration rate of the general population, notably than that of Jews who were born in Israel, the report said.

[...] Tzvi Magen, director of Nativ, the bureau dealing with Jews from the former Soviet Union, said that some 10,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union who left Israel have returned to Russia and another 5,000 to Ukraine.

He believed that a substantial percentage of these emigrants returned to their countries of origin for business reasons but nevertheless make a point of maintaining their Israeli citizenship.

Many of them also left for the United States and Canada, Magen said.

An Open Letter To Tony Blair

Patrick Seale Al-Hayat 2004/01/23

Dear Prime Minister,

It is often rumored, in your favor, that you agreed to join George W. Bush's war on Iraq in return for a commitment from the American President to work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, once and for all. If there was such a trade off then it has not been honored, leaving you and Britain very much dishonored.

You have seen fit to make the country pay a heavy price for your untempered allegiance to the Americans. You personally have been called a liar, your credibility battered; you have exposed British interests to terrorism (remember Istanbul), and for no political reward at all. The only movement on the question of Palestine has been a backward one. The Roadmap is stone dead. Nothing positive can be expected from this U.S. administration, especially in an election year. Israeli settlement expansion and road building continue defiantly in the occupied territories. Over the next few months, Ariel Sharon's iron wall will rob the Palestinians of all hope of viable statehood, which is the Israeli Prime Minister's evident intention.

The future looks increasingly grim. Arab and Muslim anger has reached an all-time high, terrorism will be fuelled further still, and Israel will be guaranteed nothing but insecurity. Britain, because of its Blairite policies, is unlikely to be spared.

As a disconsolate Labour voter, I am within my rights to be blunt. There is just one way you can recover the political and moral authority squandered on the catastrophic adventure in Iraq. It is to do something quickly about Palestine.

[...] You and your foreign secretary, Jack Straw, have repeatedly said that you favor the emergence of an independent Palestinian state, living side-by- side with Israel in peace and security. Yet, in waging war on Iraq, you allied yourself with American neo-conservatives, totally opposed to any and all Palestinian self-determination, and therefore highly dangerous to Israel's future prospects. This is the glaring contradiction at the heart of your reckless Middle East policy.

You must disentangle yourself from such dubious connections by promoting a fair and balanced settlement of the Middle East conflict. Seeking warm relations with the U.S. and Israel, as you seem adamant to want to do, does not require you to be in thick with the criminal Israeli far right and its arrogant and over-reaching American supporters.

As you are doubtless aware, a tragic incident is at present straining Anglo-Israeli relations: the murder in Gaza of Tom Hurndall, a member of the International Solidarity Movement. When he was shot in the head by the Israeli army, Hurndall was seeking to protect civilian Palestinians, mainly young children, from house demolitions and other illegal collective punishments. You have behaved cravenly on the subject of this murder of a British citizen, taking no stand, failing to insist that Israel grant the British Metropolitan Police access to an enquiry that greatly concerns the British public. This is but one reflection of your government's dismal failure to address a problem for which Britain bears grave historic responsibility.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is the main reason for today's terrorist violence. It is a prime cause of the dangerous tensions between the West and the Islamic world. The parties to the conflict are patently unable to solve the problem on their own. Lancing this abscess would make the world a safer place, as has been said again and again by those who know.

You must seize the initiative and not allow Britain to be frog-marched to America's martial tune, which will ring in defeat and nothing else. You must not hide behind the tired old excuse that America alone can influence Israel. You must rally your major EU partners, affirming that Europe has a central role to play in order to bring peace to a region vital to Europe's own security and prosperity.

Above all, you must act now to stop Sharon's wall. You have declared it 'illegal' but done nothing further about it. Once it is built, the problem may well become insoluble without unimaginable future violence and you, personally, will have to bear responsibility for the apocalyptic consequences of the mess into which the Americans have plunged the Arab world with your enthusiastic help.

Mr. Prime Minister, you are duty-bound to act now, before it is too late for Britain.

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Seale

The Middle East’s Demons

Ghassan Charbel Al-Hayat 2004/01/23

For U.S. President George W. Bush, the image of the Middle East is not bright. Rather, it is dark, antagonizing and hostile. This is what he interpreted from the 9/11 attacks. That region is gorged with demons. It produces fanatics who deeply hate the United States and civilization. Men, who wear explosive belts, explode and shed civilian blood. Men who make bombs and ready to plant them in the most harmful of places. Their books drive them in this direction. Their culture confirms their abode in the world of hatred. Regimes, which they live under feeds them, unknowingly, what instigates them with the desire to commit suicide and killing others.

[...] In his State of the Union address, Bush said, "As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends."

He announced the doubling of the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, in order to support a liberal strategy and a political openness in the Middle East. However, the president who dreams of stopping the demons of the Middle East, ignored the Palestinian-Israeli struggle and the ongoing Israeli occupation of Arab lands. He recalled nothing about Jerusalem, except its attack by "terrorist" operations. It is hard to picture that such disregard of the Roadmap, even for electoral purposes, could be a successful method to fight the "Middle East's demons."

Ayoon wa Azan (Western News)

Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2004/01/23

It seems that the fall of Conrad Black off the throne of Telegraph Group is finalized; he sold the majority of his shares in the Hollinger Company to two British brothers, and was removed as a non-executive chairman of the company. More importantly, he is facing many accusations, most dangerous of which is a trial in Manhattan where he is accused, along with other members of his board, of illegally taking $224 million from the company's money for salaries, contracts and unjustified deals.

[...] I was very happy about the fall of Black and his Zionist wife Barbara Amiel...

I do not have a problem with the likes of Barbara Amiel, as she is an extreme rightist, what she writes is enough to define her. However, the bigger problem is with liberal journalists, whose liberalism evaporates, along with their fairness and moderation, when the subject is Israel.

Among those is Jewish-American Thomas Friedman, who is a clever and hardworking moderate writer. However, his commitment to Israel, when it is part of anything he writes, makes him lose his objectivity; even if his support does not appear blatantly, he focuses on the mistakes of the other side to remove suspicion, although most of the region's catastrophes, to start with abridging freedoms and end with terrorism, are caused by Israel.

I say this without clearing Arabs from their responsibility in the lack of democracy, backwardness and other flaws.

[...] Friedman came back this month with a series entitled "War of Ideas," to justify the war on terror by elaborating on his claim that Al Qaeda in caves, is more dangerous than the Soviet Union with its nuclear arsenal; also, he made of Saddam Hussein's trial a trial of the Iraqi people, who would be considered innocent if they act according to the Americans' wishes, which are also Friedman's and Israel's.

Friedman is a much better than William Safire; but there are also Nicholas Kristof and Paul Krugman from the New York Times, and Richard Cohen from the Washington Post, which are all more objective in dealing with issues concerning Israel.

In London, I regularly read the Observer's British journalist Nick Cohen, who is also moderate and objective, but I find myself objecting (to myself) about what he did not say, not what he said, as he is also clever, and will not offer a reason to criticize him.

I was reading his article this week, about evil and its performers, where he talked about Nazis, British criminals like Dr. Harold Shipman, and Saddam Hussein; he concluded with a definition for evil; utter selfishness and complete ignorance.

I do not object on anything written by Nick Cohen last Sunday, but my objection is that he neglected Israel, and his subject would not be complete if it does not include Ariel Sharon and his government of war criminals, which is killing Jews and Palestinians. Cohen ought to have talked about the crimes of this Israeli government in specific, which killed three British citizens, Ian Hook, James Miller, and Tom Hurndall, in the last two years only. But the writer did not support his country's citizens, not to mention that he was unsupportive of Palestinians.

Fears grow over bird flu outbreak

The European Union has joined Japan in banning imports of Thai poultry amid growing international alarm over the spread of bird flu.

Thailand has confirmed its first two cases of avian flu in humans, and a Thai man tested for the virus has died.

Bird flu has affected poultry in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea - and also Vietnam, where it has killed five people.

The World Health Organisation warned that the latest outbreak could mutate and become more dangerous to humans.

Saddam's WMD never existed, says chief American arms inspector

London Independent

David Kay, who stood down yesterday as head of the Bush administration's hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, said that he did not believe that any stockpiles of such weapons ever existed.

Mr Kay, a former UN inspector, said that most of what was going to be found in the hunt for Saddam Hussein's WMD had already been uncovered. The returning of sovereignty to the Iraqis would make the search more difficult, he added. "I don't think they existed," Mr Kay said, referring to Saddam's alleged stockpiles of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the [1991] Gulf War and I don't think there was a large-scale production programme in the Nineties."

Mr Kay's comments will be an embarrassment for the Bush administration. Earlier this week the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, one of Washington's most outspoken hawks who led the rallying cry for war insisting that Saddam possessed WMD, said the outcome of the search was not clear. "I think the jury is still out," he said. "It's going to take ... time to look in all of the cubby holes and ammo dumps in Iraq."

Despite having the resources of more than 1,000 personnel dedicated to the hunt for such weapons, an interim report issued by Mr Kay in October conceded that no weapons had been found, even though there was evidence Iraq had retained the "template" of a weapons programme.

The Bush administration appears determined to continue its public stance that such weapons could be discovered.

Donald Anderson, the Labour chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said that Mr Kay's comments posed serious problems for British and American intelligence agencies. "My understanding is that the President and the Prime Minister were acting on intelligence then available [at the time of deciding to go to war]. So this raises very important questions about the quality of that intelligence," he told BBC's Newsnight.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "It is important that people are patient and we let the Iraq Survey Group do its work. Their work is continuing and we should await the outcome of that. Our position is unchanged."

Comment: Perhaps it is not a good idea to focus on WMD. The Bush Bullies have managed to start an international arms race, with many other countries fearing the same fate as Iraq. These countries are fully cognizant that US and Israel have WMD. That must have been part of the plan. At any time WMD can be "produced", and just who would go over there to corroborate such information? In the meantime, it suits the perpetual war for peace campaign to have not found anything.

New US expert takes up WMD hunt

The new head of the US team searching for banned weapons in Iraq says he has been instructed simply to find "the truth, wherever that lay".

Charles Duelfer said recently he did not believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but he insists he will approach his new job with an open mind.

Senior officials in the US and UK say weapons programmes - the key reason for invading Iraq - may still be found. [...]

Mr Duelfer, a 51 year-old former UN weapons inspector, distanced himself from comments earlier this month that he did not believe banned weapons would ever be found. He said he had held that view as an outsider.

[...] White House spokesman Scott McClellan stuck to that view: "We remain confident that the Iraq Survey Group will uncover the truth about Saddam Hussein's regime, the regime's weapons of destruction programmes." [...]

A former UN weapons inspector who opposed the war, Scott Ritter, told the BBC that while Iraq was a large country, there were only limited places to look for weapons factories.

"Weapons of mass destruction are not produced in the deserts of Iraq or in the mountains of Iraq. They are produced in modern industrial facilities," he said. [...]

U.S. sees significant U.N. role in Iraq transition

Sat 24 January, 2004 14:26
By Randall Mikkelsen

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - The United States believes the United Nations can help supervise the political transition in Iraq and talk to majority Shi'ites demanding early elections, a senior U.S. official says.

"What we are interested in is having them (the United Nations) be an adviser, help oversee this process of setting up the transitional government for Iraqis (and) be an interlocutor for the Shi'ite community," he told reporters.

"That's a pretty significant role," said the official in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is attending the World Economic Forum.

After scorning the United Nations for its failure to back the war on Iraq, Washington has now asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to send a team to Iraq to determine whether early elections are feasible, hoping this will end the controversy. [...]

Comment: We should not forget that the UN already played a significant role in Iraq. They supported the blockades which resulted in much starvation and hardship.

The United Nations Will Return To Iraq Under The Protection Of The Iraqi People

Raghida Dergham Al-Hayat 2004/01/23

[...] In the American President's State of the Union address, the war on Iraq was described as an indication of Bush's determination and fortitude, which has generated fear all over the Arab and Islamic regimes. Bush interpreted Sudan's peace talks, Damascus' attempts of reconciliation with America, Iran's agreement on nuclear weapons inspections and Libya's voluntary initiative, as results of American pressure and warnings. Of course, all this was in the name of democracy, which the Americans are, allegedly, spreading in the Arab and Islamic world. [...]

George Soros denies comparing Bush to Hitler

Privacy At Issue With 'Matrix' Crime Database

Sixth bird flu death in Vietnam

A 13-year-old boy has become Vietnam's sixth victim of avian flu, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

Five Vietnamese children and one adult have now died from the virus, which has also crossed from birds to humans in Thailand.

The WHO has warned that the outbreak could mutate and become more dangerous.

European spacecraft finds water on Mars 2004-01-24 04:33:33

BERLIN, Jan. 23 (Xinhuanet) -- A European spacecraft has detected frozen water on Mars, the European Space Agency (ESA) said Friday.

The ice cap on the southern pole of Mars was discovered by ESA's Mars Express which has been orbiting around the planet since late December.

All instruments on board the Mars Express were functioning perfectly, said ESA director of science David Southwood in the western German city of Darmstadt where an ESA control center is located.

Walter Flury, an ESA scientist, called the water discovery "vital to manned space travel."

If people travel to Mars and establish space station there someday in future, "they won't have to take their own water with them from Earth," he added.

'No cosmic ray climate effects'

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

The principal cause of recent climate change is not cosmic rays but human activities, a group of scientists says.

They say an article last year linking cosmic rays and changes in temperature was "scientifically ill-founded".

UPDATE: Great balls of fire, its a meteorite!

22 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — A large number of star gazers claim to have seen a large fireball shoot through cloud cover on Wednesday night in what experts believe was a meteorite falling to earth.

The Dutch Meteor Society (DMS) said the fireball probably took place somewhere above the Belgian-German border in Wallonia. It was seen in Limburg, eastern Belgium and Germany, Dutch news agency ANP reported.

The Leiden-based DMS also said the fireball was most probably due to a meteorite and ruled out the possibility that it was a broken fragment of a satellite or a rocket. A society spokesman based the claim on information supplied by US aerospace agency Nasa. [...]

A researcher with the European Space Agency (ESA) in Darmstadt, Germany, said the meteorite would have been about 10cm to 50cm in size. [...]

Yesterday we missed being hit by an asteroid by about 1.2 million miles. We have been assured that even if it hit the earth's atmosphere we would have only witnessed a bright flash of light. The lucky individual who spotted it is quoted saying, "It's hard to explain the excitement when you find a fast-moving asteroid." Indeed.

A crater from a meteorite that collided with earth about 1.5 billion years ago has been discovered in Finland by two amateur geologists. They estimate that original size of the crater may have been 20 and 25 kilometres wide after the impact.

Have you seen a ghost plane in the Yorkshire vicinity? Then investigators of the most recent startling sighting want to hear from you:

A VISITOR to Barnoldswick was astounded to see a large grey aeroplane appear out of the mist near the Rolls- Royce factory - and then vanish.

The plane looked as though it was going to hit both her car she and her partner were travelling in, as well as nearby houses, but a second later it had disappeared without trace.

Moira Thwaites, a retired policewoman from Nelson, explained that she and her partner Malcolm Spensley, of Gargrave, were travelling towards Barnoldswick along Skipton Road at around 11.20am last Tuesday. As they approached Rolls-Royce's Bankfield factory both said they saw a huge, grey coloured plane - possibly a Lancaster bomber-type with four propellers - emerging silently from the mist to their right. [...]

The Herald Sun published the following photo. They say it "has sparked a UFO frenzy" in north Melborne.

Then Bloomburg News gets busy and discusses doing business with extraterristrials as a topic at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The usual suspects are trotted out for commentary. SETI, playing their usual games, asks the question, "Have aliens sent mechanical emissaries to our solar system -- robotic probes on a snoopy mission to reconnoiter Earth?" When "snoopy mission" and " hidey-hole" become acceptable phrases in articles, for a supposedly adult audience, you just know "Western Civilization" is in trouble. More "cute" fun from the SETI article:

"We just don’t know, and that makes the search space dreadfully large. Probes are not crazy, but how to find one is hazy."

Telepathy debate hits London

Audience charmed by the paranormal.


Scientists tend to steer clear of public debates with advocates of the paranormal. And judging from the response of a London audience to a rare example of such a head-to-head conflict last week, they are wise to do so.

Lewis Wolpert, a developmental biologist at University College London, made the case against the existence of telepathy at a debate at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London on 15 January. Rupert Sheldrake, a former biochemist and plant physiologist at the University of Cambridge who has taken up parapsychology, argued in its favour. And most of the 200-strong audience seemed to agree with him.

Wolpert is one of Britain's best-known public spokesmen for science. But few members of the audience seemed to be swayed by his arguments.

Sheldrake, who moved beyond the scientific pale in the early 1980s by claiming that ideas and forms can spread by a mysterious force he called morphic resonance, kicked off the debate. [...]

Wolpert had this to say: "An open mind is a very bad thing - everything falls out." Poor Wolpert was reduced to cliches while defending his position to an unresponsive audience. In one sense he is right, but the devil is in the details. We can be too open, believing any old thing that comes along, becoming dupes rather than thinkers and doers.

There must be a way to adjust the "rational filter" slightly so as to entertain new ideas and move toward thinking in new ways. At the same time we must INCREASE our rationality in our actions and become more rational than ever in whatever we do. Science has a long history of accepting ideas that they derided at first. Perhaps it may be a bit irrational to take a scientist at his word that there is no such thing as telepathy. At the same time, it is not necessary to accept completely the hypotheses of others who say such a thing exists. Perhaps Sheldrake is onto something with morphic resonance, although there is no need to become identified with the idea and believe it. There is this little habit that we all have: we tend to believe those who speak with authority. Sometimes "authorities" are stupid, but assertive. That is where the brainwashing begins, and it is one of those habits humanity does not seem to have a desire to give up.

Henri Poincare: "When a frog's head has been cut off, and a drop of acid is placed at some point on its skin, it tries to rub off the acid with the nearest foot; and if that foot is cut off, it removes it with the other foot. Here we have, clearly, that double parry I spoke of just now, making it possible to oppose an evil by a second remedy if the first fails. It is this multiplicity of parries, and the resulting co-ordination, that is space. We see to what depths of unconsciousness we have to descend to find the first traces of these spatial associations, since the lowest parts of the nervous system alone come into play.

Once we have realised this, how can we be astonished at the resistance we oppose to any attempt to dissociate what has been so long associated? Now, it is this very resistance that we call the evidence of the truths of geometry. This evidence is nothing else than the repugnance we feel at breaking with very old habits with which we have always got on very well."

What counts are facts. We can accumulate facts and opinions. We can look for second and third opinions. We can do our best, and never do as others do. And we can revise as necessary. A bit more exhausting perhaps, but worth it.

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