Friday, September 21, 2007

Humor: Clinton Campaign Reaches Out to Other Fugitives

Attempt to Compensate for Loss of Hsu

One week after losing a major fundraiser when fugitive financier Norman Hsu was arrested in Colorado, the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) today attempted to compensate for the loss of Hsu by reaching out to other fugitives.

“Say what you will about Norman, the dude raised $850,000 for us,” said one Clinton aide. “It’s not going to be easy filling Hsu’s shoes.”

As part of her new push to sign up fugitive financiers for her campaign, Sen. Clinton abruptly cancelled campaign stops in Iowa today to attend a special town hall meeting in the Cayman Islands.

Speaking to an audience made up entirely of fugitive financiers, Sen. Clinton said, “I am running so that you don’t have to.”

Vying for his own share of the fugitive financiers’ support, former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) sounded a similar theme during a campaign stop at a fortified compound in the Bahamas.

“I have often said that my father was a mill worker,” Sen. Edwards told his audience, “but my mother was a fugitive financier.”

Davis Logsdon, head of the political science department at the University of Minnesota, said that fugitive financiers could be a key voting bloc in the 2008 election: “I think they are going to be what soccer moms were in 2000.”

But Mr. Logsdon warned that wooing this key demographic would not be without its challenges: “Direct mail campaigns don’t work well with them, because most of them don’t have an address.”

Elsewhere, President Bush refuted Alan Greenspan’s charge that he seemed “bored” by economics, telling reporters, “I’m much more bored by education, health care and the environment.”

http://www.borowitzreport.com/archive_rpt.asp?rec=6771&srch=

 

 

 

NASA Scientists Challenge Security Rules

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center are up in arms over a new requirement by NASA that they submit to detailed FBI scrutiny of their backgrounds in order to obtain clearance to go to work. They are claiming that the agency may be trying to control or silence them about issues like global warming.

The new security clearance requirement, which involves interviews of neighbors and checks into the distant background activities of scientists, many of whom have worked at JPL and Goddard for as long as thirty years, is puzzling because both locations have little or no involvement in secret or national security research. Indeed, by law, NASA's activities and the research its scientists engage in are required to be publicly available.

"Almost nobody at NASA does classified work," says Robert Nelson, a veteran scientist at JPL who heads up the photo analysis unit on the Cassini-Huygens space probe project exploring Saturn and its moons. "I think this is really all about NASA director [Michael] Griffin putting a security wrap around us."

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070910/lindorff

Just Don't Call Them Communes

....These days, however, Loudoun County is also at the forefront of a very different if no less American vision: the commune.
 

The idea that like-minded individuals should forge a community is on something of a comeback tour. An online directory of "intentional communities" has more than doubled in the past two years to 1,295 in North America, and 20 new listings are added each month.

Past imperfect. But forget the term commune. Try "ecovillage," where residents live in Earth-friendly homes on communal land, or "cohousing," where a common house serves as a gathering place. Driven by a green ethos and discontent with impersonal suburbs, residents frequently dine together, share possessions, and baby-sit one another's children. But shared income is a thing of the past, and private homes are essential. Still, the old stereotypes of socialism, drugs, and rebellion dog these communities. "We've fought this for years," says Joani Blank, a cohousing advocate who lives in a divvied-up former market in Oakland, Calif. "Our ideology is about neighborhoods more than anything else."

Poverty and disillusionment drove many older communes to extinction, but the idea was reincarnated, particularly in Europe, in the post-Cold War era. By 1995, Danish activists Hildur and Ross Jackson had created the Global Ecovillage Network to promote sustainable living around the world. Even some of the most archetypal communes, such as the 1960s socialist experiment, the Farm in Tennessee, have reshaped themselves. In New York, the 175-acre EcoVillage at Ithaca boasts two 30-home neighborhoods, office space, and working farms....

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/070805/13commune.htm

Reality is overrated anyway

I May Have Gone Insane
By William Rivers Pitt
Wednesday 19 September 2007

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

- Robert Frost, "The Secret Sits"

    It is a legitimately demented phenomenon, all the more so because it all started with a joke. Not even a funny joke, either, but a sad and threadbare thing I told only to myself, and no one else. When the clustered elements of our collective national burden erupted in masterfully synchronized bedlam, as they so often seem to, I had that joke to tell myself, and it may not have helped much, but it was there.

    Every time another cacophony of freshly minted lunacy was unleashed - lunacy regarding Iraq, the NSA domestic surveillance program, White House defiance of subpoenas, timorously flaccid performances by the Congressional majority, or merely when enduring the repeated "nukyalur"-ized butchery of public political rhetoric was required by my employers, all of which emphatically pegged the needle on my Pandemoni-O-Meter - I had that joke to tell myself.

    The joke is spherically terrible, i.e. bad in every possible direction in three dimensions and across 360 rounded degrees. It isn't even a joke, really, which may be why it went so abruptly and bewilderingly sideways on me months ago. The joke, to be embarrassingly honest, is more like some half-bright mantra than anything else. As I came to discover, however, it managed to settle my mind when the needle was in the red. Perhaps the thing is best described as my self-generated Zen koan; though it did not actually stop my mind in proper koan fashion, it kept me from putting my head through the wall, and that made it valuable indeed.

    The joke: people say Bush and his people want to raze the core nature of the country itself by wrecking the Constitution, and they're correct. People say Bush and his people are enriching their friends beyond dreams of avarice at our actual expense, by way of war-inflated oil prices; war-captured Iraqi oil infrastructure; the orgiastic plunder of Treasury money through calamitously unsound tax cuts for Bush's pals; and through an Iraq war profiteering scam so unutterably corrupt that it bends the very light. That, and more besides, is what people say, and they're correct.

    But all that, along with everything else the Bush crew has done, just isn't enough for them. What Bush and his people really seek, at bottom, is to destroy the basic definition and literal existence of reality itself. They want to destroy reality, rebuild it according to their own blueprint, so the sum and substance of this new reality will accept as axiomatic the idea that lying, stealing and wholesale carnage are badges of integrity and moral clarity. In other words, our comprehensively understood reality today would be replaced by whatever madcap anti-reality currently exists within the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    I warned you.

    As bad as that chaotically crossbred joke/rant/mantra thing is, it wasn't meant to be anything other than a harmless sliver of wordplay, something that settled my nerves and gave me a private little chuckle - that alone, and nothing more.

    Things are different now. It isn't a joke anymore, at least not to me. The premise that the Bush administration has literally been trying to shatter elemental reality on planet Earth has steadily gained traction in my mind. It started as that sort-of joke, then it became an idea, and then it became an actual hypothesis, a working theory requiring research and evidence and argument so that, someday, I can prove it to be an unassailable bone-basic truth.

    And yes, the fact that I'm quite serious about this has me quietly yet legitimately concerned for my own mental health. What worries me the most, however, is a freshly minted suspicion that it is already over, that the deal already went down, but almost nobody actually noticed when it happened. I think these Bush folks may have successfully pulled it off right in front of our noses over the course of this past August. I think they may have actually broken reality, cobbling together a chaotic replacement, and I think I can back up that supposition all the way down the block and back again.

    Bear with me.

    The process began in earnest more than a year ago with a publicity campaign that deliberately made no sense whatsoever. Day after day, statements and declarations came from all manner of White House officials that were little more than bags of over-the-moon nonsense - all patently inaccurate to nine decimals, yet spoken shamelessly into cameras with bare faces hanging out.

    With this, the Bush folks laid the mental foundation of the new reality to come; that foundation had to transmute lies into facts while still stuck in the old reality, but they had an edge that may have proven decisive: trust. If the American people hear the White House repeatedly claim that water is not wet and Godzilla is real, many of those Americans will believe it after a fashion.

    The rumored totality of America's cynical scorn for politics and leaders notwithstanding, this country has many citizens who still believe, even after what has happened, that if the president of the United States says it, then it must be true. This isn't a conscious thing; it happens way back in the slushy part of the brain, where unpleasant facts or disquieting fears are submerged and drowned like rats in an applesauce vat. Bush and his crew counted on that, using TV news messaging to furrow the field in preparation for seeding time, and their trust in the trust of Americans was shown to be well-placed.

    When the serious push came, it came fast and furious. Dick Cheney declared that the Vice President's office no longer existed within the Executive branch because he didn't want to give any of his documents to the National Archives as is required by law, and actually went on to defend the legitimacy of his astonishing, arrogant, galactically mistaken declaration, and he got away with it.

    Bush's lawyers put forth a claim of Executive Privilege that was the very living essence of overheated hubris run amok - a claim that for all intents and purposes declared Bush and his people to be fully and completely above the rule of law, and he got away with it. Subpoenas issued by Congress were either utterly ignored or smugly slapped aside, and the lawyers got away with it.

    Another piece of draconian surveillance legislation aimed at shattering our remaining rights arrived in Congress, so the Bush folks brazenly bullied the majority into passing it by threatening to blame them for the next terrorist attack to come, whereupon the majority instantly wilted like orchids in a snowbank, the bill passed with room to spare, and once again they got away with it.

    Cheney's chief of staff was convicted for lying about lying about lying about outing a deep-cover CIA agent and sentenced to federal prison, initiating the single most observably crooked bag-job in modern political history: Libby took the bullet for his boss, got rewarded for his service with a presidential get-out-of-jail-free card, and they all got away with it.

    All of this was deployed in rapid succession, presenting the American people with a sudden feast of gibberish that has redefined incoherence across the board: the VP is not in the executive branch, and the executive branch is above the law, and the majority in Congress is actually the minority, and obstructing justice to protect Cheney from being prosecuted for annihilating a CIA operative isn't anything to get in a snit about. If that is not prima facie evidence that a new reality has been imposed upon us, then I don't know what is.

    After all that came August, and if I'm right, the process was brought to a successful conclusion. In a way, this was the greatest challenge for Bush and his people, because they all had to argue time and again that Iraq was doing fine, that the whole thing was about freedom, that there was no civil war, that the "surge" worked, that the American people truly supported the whole bloody carnivorous process, and be damned with poll numbers and pundits and contradictory facts. General Petraeus was rolled out on cue, he hummed his bars and faked it at the same time, and as far as the mainstream press was concerned, the White House won the argument and that's that.

    Think about it. The weapons of mass destruction were not there, connections to 9/11 and Osama bin Laden were not there, the hearts and flowers were not there, thousands upon thousands have been killed, billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars have been translated into the bank accounts of administration allies, a civil war is raging beyond any semblance of control there, Iraq's much-ballyhooed democracy is almost as chaotic as the streets outside Parliament, and the entire disaster has become a Quantico training ground for scores of bomb-makers looking to ply their trade in the wider world beyond.

    And they got away with it. If that is reality, I want no part of it.

    It must be clearly understood, however, that I do not discount the very real possibility that I have, finally and for all time, gone insane because of all this. My theory is not proven beyond doubt; my suspicions grow stronger by the hour, but I could simply be this barking madman no longer able to recognize reality even when it is staring me in the eye. I'm pretty sure of my footing, but the truth is that if I did go over the high side somewhere along the line, I'd be the last person to figure that out.

    Therefore, I'm going to wrap myself in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, if only to replace what once was my comforting little joke before the metamorphosis flipped everything upside down on me. "The test of a first-rate intelligence," said Fitzgerald, "is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

    I make no claim to any sort of first-rate intelligence, but I'm going to try to hold these two thoughts in my mind for as long as possible. One thought says reality itself has been detonated with calculated premeditation by Bush and his people. The other thought remembers what it was like before anything like the first thought was even remotely conceived of. Each thought, I think, will nurture and protect the other once the three of us are all settled in, and I will continue to retain the ability to function.

    Meh. Reality is overrated anyway.

 

Black Ops Jungle

The Academy of Military-Industrial-Complex Studies

"....Now add a new kind of program to the list: homeland security high. In late August, Maryland's Joppatowne High School became the first school in the country dedicated to churning out would-be Jack Bauers. The 75 students in the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness magnet program will study cybersecurity and geospatial intelligence, respond to mock terror attacks, and receive limited security clearances at the nearby Army chemical warfare lab.

The new school is funded and guided by a slew of federal, state, and local agencies, not to mention several defense firms. Officials say it will teach kids to understand the "new reality," though they hasten to add that the school isn't focused just on terrorism. School administrators, channeling Cheneyesque secrecy, refused to be interviewed for this story. But it's no secret that the program is seen as a model for the rest of the country, with the Pentagon and other agencies watching closely...."

http://www.motherjones.com/news/outfront/2007/09/black-ops-jungle.html

Alien Life Forms More Alien Than Assumed?

"....Indeed, the ancient Gnostics also warned of the existence of such inorganic entities that were observed to be jealous of humanity, and in the process, sought to use their technologies to manipulate, control, and enslave humanity.

Could extraterrestrial life be made of corkscrew-shaped particles of interstellar dust? The findings hint at the possibility that life beyond earth may not necessarily use carbon-based molecules as its building blocks. Life on Earth is organic. It is composed of organic molecules, which are simply the compounds of carbon, excluding carbonates and carbon dioxide. The idea that particles of inorganic dust may take on a life of their own is in itself, nothing short of alien, and goes beyond the silicon-based life forms favoured by some science fiction stories.

Now, an international team has discovered that under the right conditions, particles of inorganic dust can become organised into helical structures. These structures can then interact with each other in ways that are usually associated with organic compounds and life itself...."

http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/home/Frontpage/2007/09/14/01776.html

The Devil's Box

....This is "soft" brainwashing, even more effective because its victims go about their lives unaware of what is being done to them. Television, with its reach into nearly every American home, creates the basis for the mass brainwashing of citizens, like you.

It works on a principle of tension and release. Create tension, in a controlled environment, increasing the level of stress. Then provide a series of choices that provide release from the tension. As long as the victim believes that the choices presented are the only choices available, even if they are at first glance unacceptable, he will nevertheless, ultimately seek release by choosing one of these unacceptable choices. Under these circumstances, in a brainwashing, controlled environment, such choice-making is not a ``rational'' experience. It does not involve the use of man's creative mental powers; instead man is conditioned, like an animal, to respond to the tension, by seeking release.

The key to the success of this brainwashing process is the regulation of both the tension and the perceived choices. As long as both are controlled, then the range of outcomes is also controlled. The victim is induced to walk down one of several pathways acceptable for his controllers. The brainwashers call the tension-filled environment "social turbulence." The last decades have been full of such social turbulence--economic collapse, regional wars, population disasters, ecological and biological catastrophes. Social turbulence creates crises in perceptions, causing people to lose their bearings.

Adrift and confused, people seek release from the tension, following paths that appear to lead to a simpler, less tension-filled life. There is no time in such a process for rational consideration of complicated problems. Television is the key vehicle for presenting both the tension and the choices. It brings you the images of the tension, and serves up simple answers. Television, in its world of semi-reality, of illusion, of escape from reality, is itself the single most important release from our tension-wracked existence. Eight hours a day, every day, through its programming, you are being programmed.....
 

"It's Time for We the People to Put the 'Decider' Through the Decider Mill"

Swami Beyondananda Calls for Impeachment

by Swami Beyondananda

As a devout FUNdamentalist (accent on "fun") dedicated to bringing about
Nonjudgment Day, I try to avoid judging and blame. In fact, I think people
who judge are terrible, and those who blame are the cause of all the world's
problems. And as a Swami -- even a fake one -- I feel obliged to be above
politics. But no matter how high I try to rise above it on my magic carpet,
the smell is unavoidable. The perpetrations of this Administration stink to
high heaven.

Now we know the whole idea of impeachment is tinged with partisanship,
particularly in the light of the Bill Clinton affair. Indeed, Clinton
publicly lied about a private matter and the Republicans gleefully made his
privates public. But now even Republicans must face the sad truth that
America has traded one lie-about for another who will lie about anything and
everything. Not to excuse cheating on Hillary, but our current lie-about
has been unfaithful to the Constitution and the rule of law. Bush and
Cheney have been cheating on all of us. (And yes, both must be impeached.
If we want justice to be done, we have to go right up the
Cheney-of-command.)

In addition to producing and directing The Iraqi Horror Picture Show --
and using G-rated trailers to hide X-rated content -- the Bush-Cheney
Administration has instituted a disturbing policy of "ethic cleansing."
This cleansing of ethical people from positions of power not only has caused
our entire moral compass to go south, but has allowed "psychopathogens"
(opportunistic organisms with a poisonality disorder) to infect the body
politic, and the political discourse. Meanwhile, the "fear-gnomes" --
little gnomes of gnawing fear -- the Administration injected into the
mainstream lowered our resistance to Mad Cowboy Disease, an affliction we're
still suffering from.

But, as the saying goes, the truth shall upset you free. George Bush
has been an enlightening rod to enlighten and awaken a slumbering body
politic to an issue that is bigger than politics -- the rule of law vs. the
overrule of law. And now after being abused by the abuse of power, the
American people are starting to disabuse themselves. They are waking up and
wising up, and that's good because we could use a good upwising in this
country. Despite a massive media impropaganda machine that feeds the public
"babblum" (strained B.S. made digestible for a simple child's mind), more
and more Americans are reading between the lyin's and peering behind the
Irony Curtain.

We are awakening to realize that we the people are the "deciders," and
ultimately we get to decide who our Decider will be ... and who to put
through the decider mill. And the issue is bigger than Democrats vs.
Republicans. The real issue is "buy-partisan." Parties in both parties are
being bought, and our public servants are serving up huge chunks of the
commonwealth to help gold collar criminals become uncommonly wealthy.

The good news is, we don't need a revolution in this country. We
already had one. Now we need an American Evolution to reconstitute the
Constitution from the grassroots up and reestablish the dream of our
Founding Fathers -- government of the people, by the people and for the
people where the government does our bidding not the bidding of the highest
bidder.

How do we start the evolution? By firing the first big shots.

It's time for left and right to come front and center to stand for our
highest values instead of falling for the lowest common dominator. It's
time to impeach the entire impeachable system where the rule of gold has
overruled the Golden Rule. And the time to act is now. Why? Because it is
too late to do it sooner.

I have a dream. Imagine going to the voting booth and casting your vote
for ... the greater of two goods. Oh, and impeachment has another benefit.
If we are successful, we will have a woman President -- without having to
elect Hillary.

http://www.wakeuplaughing.com/news.html

I Do - 'Til The Time Limit Do Us Part

The seven-year solution

A German politician has proposed a time limit on marriage. Is this a practical solution, or an attention-grabbing stunt?


Ever since the departure of Joschka Fischer from the stage, German politics has been in need of a colourful character. It seems to have found one in the shape of Gabriele Pauli, a red-haired motorcyclist who is hoping to take over the leadership of Bavaria's Christian Social Union at the end of the month.

The CSU - in what is after all the Pope's homeland - is the most conservative force in Germany, so it is no wonder that Ms Pauli has created such a stir within the party - and beyond - with her solution to one of life's givens - the seven-year itch.

Her answer? The seven-year marriage.

"My proposal is for a marriage to run out after seven years," said Pauli, a twice-divorced 50-year old, as she outlined her leadership programme in Munich earlier this week.

The suggestion has shocked her colleagues even more so than her decision to pose in latex and a wig earlier this year for the society magazine Park Avenue. The CSU's leader Edmund Stoiber said with views so "diametrically opposed" to those of the CSU, she should look for another party. "Even the Greens", he said, had failed to come up with something so preposterous.

In short, according to Ms Pauli, marriage would be entered into only on an expiration basis, and partners would then have to say "yes" to an extension.

"Marriage is not there to offer security, rather as a demonstration of love," she argues.

The Berliner Zeitung has said of her idea: "It has something kamikaze-like in nature." ...


~ more... ~

A Call for Systemic Change

"....Preparing for this speech, I wondered whether such  inquiries were happening in our Ceramic Engineering schools?  Were our ceramics majors engaged in the quest?  Were they being exposed to nature’s far better way?  And I answered my wondering:  Probably not, because I read that these pursuits are happening in biology laboratories with shoestring funding, while our universities remain locked in their traditional mind-set and curricula, teaching fossil fuel powered heat, beat, treat technologies - the very ones that industry is using to destroy the biosphere.

A similarly fascinating story follows the abalone’s.  It is the spider’s production of its silk web, yielding a fiber that is five times stronger, pound for pound, than the aramide Kevlar®, the toughest man-made fiber yet developed by Dupont’s heat, beat, treat technology which employs sulfuric acid at boiling temperatures.  Kevlar is strong enough to stop a bullet, but a weakling compared with spider’s silk, made from bugs at body temperature.  And I wondered again whether our textile and chemistry students were learning nature’s better way by studying spider’s silk.  I answered my wondering again:  Probably not, because I read that these studies are happening in biology laboratories with shoestring funding, while our universities remain locked in their traditional mind-set and curricula, teaching heat, beat, treat technologies - the very ones that industry is using to destroy the biosphere.

The emerging field of work, endeavoring to answer the question "How does nature do it?" in material sciences and a growing number of other fields, is "Biomimicry" - nature as model, nature as measure, nature as mentor. Biomimicry is in the early days of inspiring and helping define our sustainable future, not only in materials science, but also in food production (polycultural rather than monocultural, perennial rather than annual, crops); easier on the land, especially vanishing topsoil; in energy production (as scientists probe the mysteries of the complex physics and chemistry of nature’s exclusive process of  photosynthesis - easier on the atmosphere and climate); in medicine, e.g., pharmaceuticals that are identified by watching animals in the wild cure themselves naturally; in storing and retrieving knowledge (through studying shape-based computing, learned from how our own cells process information); in architecture (as we learn from termite mounds); and even in industry, as we begin to look to natural systems to teach us more intelligent organizing principles for production that does not consume and destroy nature.  Abundance through waste-free processes: that is nature’s way.  And we are light years behind in our feeble efforts thus far to emulate nature.

So I ask you who are shaping curricular and academic research:  Why are our universities not teaching Biomimicry?  Perhaps it is thought to be too new - and outrageous.  Nature, 3.8 billion years old, is too new?  Given the 50,000 year history of educating homo sapiens to live with nature, perhaps it is latter day ideas for destroying nature that are too new, and truly outrageous.  The overpowering consideration that prompts the question about Biomimicry is the increasingly obvious destruction of the biosphere, being wrought by the industrial system that is being taught in our universities.  The mind-set that grips the entire industrial system, of which our educational institutions are integral parts, takes nature for granted as if a finite Earth were infinite, both as a source of stuff and as a sink for the system’s waste - yours, mine, everybody’s.  The universities, in their academic programs, credit requirements, curricula, course design, campus design, and campus operations, perpetuate this flawed mind-set from generation to generation, with scarcely a pang of conscience, much less a serious re-examination of the universities’ roles in the destruction of the biosphere.  Obsolete curricula are clear symptoms of this obsolete, flawed mind-set.  And the clear evidence of the flaw is all around us in the form of declining natural systems upon which all else depends...."

http://www.ncseonline.org/NCSEconference/2003conference/page.cfm?FID=2504

Labour tries to block new BAE inquiry

Request from US investigators is ignored by home secretary

David Leigh and Rob Evans
Friday September 21, 2007

British ministers are refusing to cooperate with the US criminal investigation into allegations of corruption against BAE, Britain's biggest arms company, the Guardian can disclose.

More than two months after an official request for mutual legal assistance (MLA) was received from Washington, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has not yet allowed it to be acted upon. The US investigators believe the British are being obstructive.

But legal sources said yesterday that the inquiry team had not been deterred by the UK government's hostile attitude. Some have already begun taking statements from key British witnesses.

The formal request for assistance came from the US department of justice earlier in the summer, but Ms Smith has refused to pass it on to the Serious Fraud Office for processing in the normal way.

This is unusual behaviour towards a major ally, with whom legal cooperation is normally automatic. Last night, the Home Office said its failure to pass on the request was "not unprecedented", but could not give any example of similar behaviour.

The SFO possesses important files on BAE gained from its own major inquiry into £1bn of payments to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia and other Swiss bank accounts linked to the Saudi royal family. But SFO investigators are not allowed to speak to US authorities until Home Office officials forward the paperwork.

The agency was forced to halt a criminal investigation earlier this year by the then prime minister Tony Blair, who said it threatened the national interest and was upsetting the Saudi regime.

The Home Office's refusal to cooperate with the US followed a similar attempt earlier this year to conceal the payments to Prince Bandar from the international bribery watchdog, the Paris-based OECD, which says it fears Britain is breaching a worldwide anti-bribery treaty to which it is supposedly a signatory.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat frontbencher, said last night: "There is no justification for delay. This information should be handed over immediately. Again, one is left with the suspicion that by refusing to cooperate, the government is more interested in securing arms deals than in the pursuit of justice.

"It makes a mockery of the government's assertion that they are robustly tackling corruption."

A fresh front against BAE was opened yesterday, when shareholders in the US launched a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the company's directors accusing them of corruption. A spokesman for BAE, which is 50% owned by US shareholders and holds lucrative contracts with the Pentagon, said : "The company intends to vigorously defend any such proceedings."

Prince Bandar, who is also named as a defendant, has not denied receiving cash and a free gift of an aeroplane, but he says it was for legitimate purposes.

Other defendants named in the US suit include former Conservative defence secretary Michael Portillo, who was given a post on BAE's board after helping negotiate an arms deal with Qatar; Sir Nigel Rudd, who recently joined BAE's board as a non-executive director; and Sir Dick Evans, the original architect of the £43bn al-Yamamah arms deal at the centre of the allegations.

The Washington claim has been made in the name of a small pension fund, the City of Harper Woods employees' retirement system, which only holds the equivalent of 14,000 BAE shares, less than 1% of the company's stock. But it is intended that other US shareholders will join in.

The suit claims that BAE's directors have wrecked the company's reputation and exposed it to heavy fines and penalties, by conniving at "improper and/or illegal bribes, kickbacks and other payments", while claiming all the while in public that BAE was a "highly ethical, law-abiding corporation".

They say these "imprudent and unlawful actions have had an inevitable damaging impact and a very negative one indeed for BAE's long-term future". The San Diego law firm won $7bn (£3.5bn) for investors in Enron after its collapse. Last year, it started a lawsuit against the board of BP, on behalf of shareholders, claiming that executives had been negligent in their handling of safety problems.

Evidence published by the Guardian shows that BAE and its corporate predecessors have been making secret payments to Saudi royals, with covert British government support from both major parties, for arms deals stretching back more than 30 years.

Last week, Saudi Arabia signed a fresh arms deal with Gordon Brown's administration worth up to £20bn for BAE's Typhoon aircraft.

The Saudis had been threatening to withdraw from the contract. King Abdullah has also been invited on a state visit to Britain next month.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/baefiles/story/0,,2173947,00.html

U.S. Secret Air War Pulverizes Afghanistan and Iraq

By Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus
Posted on September 14, 2007

According to the residents of Datta Khel, a town in Pakistan's North Waziristan, three missiles streaked out of Afghanistan's Pakitka Province and slammed into a Madrassa, or Islamic school, this past June. When the smoke cleared, the Asia Times reported, 30 people were dead.

The killers were robots, General Atomics MQ-1 Predators. The AGM-114 Hellfire missiles they used in the attack were directed from a base deep in the southern Nevada desert.

It was not the first time Predators had struck. The previous year a CIA Predator took a shot at al-Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, but missed. The missile, however, killed 18 people. According to the Asia Times piece, at least one other suspected al-Qaeda member was assassinated by a Predator in Pakistan's northern frontier area, and in 2002 a Predator killed six "suspected al-Qaeda" members in Yemen.

These assaults are part of what may be the best kept secret of the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts: an enormous intensification of US bombardments in these and other countries in the region, the increasing number of civilian casualties such a strategy entails, and the growing role of pilot-less killers in the conflict.

According to Associated Press, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of bombs dropped on Iraq during the first six months of 2007 over the same period in 2006. More than 30 tons of those have been cluster weapons, which take an especially heavy toll on civilians.

The U.S. Navy has added an aircraft carrier to its Persian Gulf force, and the Air Force has moved F-16s into Balad air base north of Baghdad.

Balad, which currently conducts 10,000 air operations a week, is strengthening runways to handle the increase in air activity. Col. David Reynolds told the AP, "We would like to get to be a field like Langley, if you will." The Langley field in Virginia is one of the Air Force's biggest and most sophisticated airfields.

The Air Force certainly appears to be settling in for a long war. "Until we can determine that the Iraqis have got their air force to significant capability," says Lt Gen. Gary North, the regional air commander, "I think the coalition will be here to support that effort."

The Iraqi air force is virtually non-existent. It has no combat aircraft and only a handful of transports.

Improving the runways has allowed the Air Force to move B1-B bombers from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to Balad, where the big aircraft have been carrying out daily strikes. A B1-B can carry up to 24 tons of bombs.

The step-up in air attacks is partly a reflection of how beaten up and overextended U.S. ground troops are. While Army units put in 15-month tours, Air Force deployments are only four months, with some only half that. And Iraqi and Afghani insurgents have virtually no ability to inflict casualties on aircraft flying at 20,000 feet and using laser and satellite-guided weapons, in contrast to the serious damage they are doing to US ground troops.

Besides increasing the number of F-16s, B1-Bs, and A-10 attack planes, Predator flight hours over both countries have doubled from 2005. "The Predator is coming into its own as a no-kidding weapon verses a reconnaissance-only platform," brags Maj. Jon Dagley, commander of the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

The Air Force is also deploying a bigger, faster and more muscular version of the Predator, the MQ-9 "Reaper" -- as in grim -- a robot capable of carrying four Hellfire missiles, plus two 500 lb. bombs.

The Predators and the Reapers have several advantages, the most obvious being they don't need pilots. "With more Reapers I could send manned airplanes home," says North.

At $8.5 million an aircraft -- the smaller Predator comes in at $4.5 million apiece -- they are also considerably cheaper than the F-16 ($19 million) the B1-B ($200+ million) and even the A-10 ($9.8 million).

The Air Force plans to deploy 170 Predators and 70 Reapers over the next three years. "It is possible that in our lifetime we will be able to run a war without ever leaving the US," Lt Col David Branham told the New York Times.

The result of the stepped up air war, according to the London-based organization Iraq Body Count, is an increase in civilian casualties. A Lancet study of "excess deaths" caused by the Iraq war found that air attacks were responsible for 13% of the deaths -- 76,000 as of June 2006 -- and that 50% of the deaths of children under 15 were caused by air strikes.

The number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan from air strikes has created a rift between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States.

"A senior British commander," according to the New York Times, has pressed U.S. Special Forces (SF) to leave southern Afghanistan because their use of air power was alienating the local people. SFs work in small teams and are dependent on air power for support.

SFs called in an air strike last November near Kandahar that killed 31 nomads. This past April, a similar air strike in Western Afghanistan killed 57 villagers, half of them women and children. Coalition forces are now killing more Afghan civilians than the Taliban are. The escalating death toll has thrown the government of Hamid Karzai into a crisis and the NATO governments into turmoil. "We need to understand that preventing civilian casualties is crucially important in sustaining the support of the population," British Defense Minister Des Browne told the Financial Times.

It has also opened up the allies to the charge of war crimes. In a recent air attack in southern Afghanistan that killed 25 civilians, NATO spokesman Lt. Col Mike Smith said the Taliban were responsible because they were hiding among the civilian population.

But Article 48 of the Geneva Conventions clearly states: "The Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants."  Article 50 dictates that "The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilian does not deprive the population of its civilian character." 

The stepped-up air war in both countries has less to do with a strategic military decision than the reality that the occupations are coming apart at the seams.

For all intents and purposes, the U.S. Army in Iraq is broken, the victim of multiple tours, inadequate forces, and the kind of war Iraq has become: a conflict of shadows, low-tech but highly effective roadside bombs, and a population which is either hostile to the occupation or at least sympathetic to the resistance.

It is much the same in Afghanistan. Lord Inge, the former British chief of staff, recently said, "The situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognize...it is much more serious that people want to recognize." A well-placed military source told the Observer, "If you talk privately to the generals, they are very worried." Faced with defeat or bloody stalemate on the ground, the allies have turned to air power, much as the U.S. did in Vietnam. But, as in Vietnam, the terrible toll bombing inflicts on civilians all but guarantees long-term failure.

"Far from bringing about the intended softening up of the opposition," Phillip Gordon, a Brookings Institute Fellow, told the Asia Times, "bombing tends to rally people behind their leaders and cause them to dig in against outsiders who, whatever the justification, are destroying their homeland."

Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

http://www.alternet.org/story/62511/

Caffeine withdrawal to be classified as a psychiatric disorder?

Researchers are saying that caffeine withdrawal should now be classified as a psychiatric disorder.

A new study that analyzes some 170 years' worth of research concludes that caffeine withdrawal is very real — producing enough physical symptoms and a disruption in daily life to classify it as a psychiatric disorder. Researchers are suggesting that caffeine withdrawal should be included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), considered the bible of mental disorders.

"I don't think this means anyone should be worried," says study researcher Roland Griffiths, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "What it means is that the phenomenon of caffeine withdrawal is real and that when people don't get their usual dose, they can suffer a range of withdrawal symptoms." .....
 

Behind The Looking Glass

"....Until 30 March 1981, Reagan had only played at being shot. [The] realization that he was meant to die, tempered his enthusiasm to the point where George H. Bush actually called the shots for eight-years, plus the next four-years he actually served as President (1989-1993).

Before you close your mind to the possibility that George H. Bush could/would be part of such a dastardly scheme, remember that four years before he was Reagan's running-mate, Bush was DCI (Director of the Central Intelligence Agency) under Gerald Ford -- not his first CIA position. In a letter dated 29 November 1963 to Director Intelligence Research, Department of State, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote: "An informant who has furnished reliable information in the past and who is close to a small pro-Castro group in Miami has advised that the assassination of the president may result in strong repressive measures being taken against them." The letter ends: "The substance of the foregoing information was orally furnished to Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency and Captain William Edwards of the Defense Intelligence Agency on November 23, 1963 by Mr. W.T. Forsyth of this Bureau." Colonel Fletcher Prouty stated that, in his capacity of liaison between the Pentagon and CIA in 1961, he personally "sanitized" two freighters named "Barbara" and "Houston" for use in the Bay of Pigs invasion, code named "Zapata" -- the same name as George Bush's oil company at the time.

The same time Bush was DCI, I commanded Special Forces in Latin America. My best friend COL. AJ Baker came to Panama in 1976 as team-chief of a clandestine operation code-named "Watchtower." The CIA and Israeli Mossad were running cocaine from Colombia to Albert Air Force Base at Panama City, Panama. Baker's team provided "below the radar mask" navigation for drug-transporting aircraft. Manuel Noriega laundered the drug-money through banks in Panama. My mission included "Unconventional Warfare" throughout the region -- meaning direct-action missions (assassinations). I informed the 470th Military Intelligence Group that I intended to target Noriega with extreme-prejudice as the key to the drug cartel. Almost immediately, the ACSI (Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence), General Harold Aaron flew to Fort Gulick and ordered me to "Keep your hands off of Manuel Noriega! He has immense value at the highest levels." I then learned that DCI George Bush was paying Noriega $250,000 per-year as a CIA retainer. When Bush became President, he was asked by the media about his relationship to Noriega? Bush lied and said he had "never met Manuel Noriega." The truth is that we twice tracked Noriega to DCI Bush's house in Washington, D.C. Insider Nelson Rockefeller is a man who wanted to be President, but settled for control over the top-spot through George H. Bush. Reagan swore he would never have Bush as a running mate -- until summoned to New York by Rockefeller who assured him that if he ever hoped to see the inside of the White House, Bush would be his vice! It was the same with well-meaning peanut farmer Jimmy Carter when he was forced to accept CFR leader Cyrus Vance (Secretary of State) and Trilateral Commission founder Zbigniew Brezinski (National Security Advisor). If people like Nelson Rockefeller (VP under Ford) fall short of becoming President, [their] agenda is carried out through imbedded controllers....."
 

Paulson asks Congress to lift debt limit

By Martin Crutsinger

WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told Congress on
Wednesday the government will hit the current debt ceiling on Oct.
1. He sought quick action to increase the limit, saying it was
essential to protect the "full faith and credit" of the country,
especially at a time of financial market turmoil.

The limit is $8.965 trillion. Unless Congress votes to raise it,
the country would be unable to borrow more money to keep the
government operating and to pay debt obligations coming due.

The United States has never defaulted on a debt payment but the
decision on whether to raise the debt ceiling often means a prolonged
battle in Congress.

Paulson wrote congressional leaders that according to data now
available, the Treasury expects to reach the ceiling on Oct. 1 --
the first day of the new budget year.

That projection does not take into account moves the government
often has to use, such as withdrawing investments from certain trust
funds to create room for extra borrowing until Congress finally
approves a debt increase.

This month, the Senate Finance Committee approved increasing the
limit on the debt to $9.82 trillion. That boost of $850 billion
would be the fifth since President Bush took office in 2001.

The House approved an increase in May. The full Senate has not acted
yet.

"The full faith and credit of the United States, to which we all
remain committed, is a national asset and a cornerstone of the
global financial system," Paulson wrote. "In light of current
developments in financial markets, which would be exacerbated by
uncertainty in the Treasuries market, I urge the Senate to pass the
legislation reported by the Finance Committee to increase the debt
limit as soon as possible."

The national debt is the total accumulation of annual budget deficits,
which must be financed with borrowed money....

Making a killing

how private armies became a $120bn global industry

....arguably the fastest-growing industry in the global economy. The sector is now worth up to $120bn annually with operations in at least 50 countries, according to Peter Singer, a security analyst with the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"The rate of growth in the security industry has been phenomenal," says Deborah Avant, a professor of political science at UCLA. The single largest spur to this boom is the conflict in Iraq.

The workings of this industry have come under intense scrutiny this week in the angry aftermath of the killing of Iraqi civilians by the US-owned Blackwater corporation in Baghdad. The Iraqi government has demanded the North Carolina-based company is withdrawn. But with Blackwater responsible for the protection of hundreds of senior US and Iraqi officials, from the US ambassador to visiting congressional delegations, there is certainty in diplomatic and military circles that this will not happen.

[...]

Now the mercenary trade comes with its own business jargon. Guns for hire come under the umbrella term of privatised military firms, with their own acronym PMFs. The industry itself has done everything it can to shed the "mercenary" tag and most companies avoid the term "military" in preference for "security". "The term mercenary is not accurate," says Mr Ayers, who argues that military personnel in defensive roles should be distinguished from soldiers of fortune.

There is nothing new about soldiers for hire, the private companies simply represent the trade in a new form. "Organised as business entities and structured along corporate lines, they mark the corporate evolution of the mercenary trade," according to Mr Singer, who was among the first to plot the worldwide explosion in the use of private military firms.

In many ways it mirrors broader trends in the world economy as countries switch from manufacturing to services and outsource functions once thought to be the preserve of the state. Iraq has become a testing ground for this burgeoning industry, creating staggering financial opportunities and equally immense ethical dilemmas.

None of the estimated 48,000 private military operatives in Iraq has been convicted of a crime and no one knows how many Iraqis have been killed by private military forces, because the US does not keep records.

According to some estimates, more than 800 private military employees have been killed in the war so far, and as many as 3,300 wounded.

These numbers are greater than the losses suffered by any single US army division and larger than the casualties suffered by the rest of the coalition put together.

[...]

In Abu Ghraib, all of the translators and up to half of the interrogators were reportedly private contractors.

Private soldiers are involved in all stages of war, from training and war-gaming before the invasion to delivering supplies. Camp Doha in Kuwait, the launch-pad for the invasion, was built by private contractors.

It is not just the military that has turned to the private sector, humanitarian agencies are dependent on PMFs in almost every war zone from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Which raises the next market the industry would like to see opened: peacekeeping. And the lobbying has already begun.

 http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2984818.ece

The Police State Is Right Here, Right Now

"....As for political parties, I prefer the definition offered by Mike Ruppert in "America: From Freedom To Fascism" in which he explains that the two major parties are like two crime families-the Genoveses and the Gambinos. They function like players in a crap game that feign opposition to each other, but when the chips are down, they will always unite to serve their common interests. (If the Iraq occupation is not a case in point, then I don't know what is.) When we vote in presidential elections for corporately-owned candidates or "the lesser evil", we are merely choosing between the two crime families, and even if one candidate were not a crime family member, our votes in the past two presidential elections, as Bev Harris has so astutely demonstrated, have been hacked. In the throes of the current, and I might add, rapidly-accelerating fascist shift, what evidence do we have for assuming that if there is an election in 2008, anything will be different? Tell me again, what's the definition of insanity?

[....]

Some of my students who are criminal justice majors tell me that the latest strategies now being taught to police officers are "shock doctrine" techniques which terrorize and intimidate civilians in order to control them. Law enforcement officers are no longer encouraged to "keep a cool head" but to "follow their own instincts" (which usually means their own internal, adrenaline-charged state of terror) and react with full force because it's easier to apologize (or encounter a lawsuit) than to ask permission or risk being killed. Terrified people should not be wearing a badge and carrying a gun, and when they are, a fully terrorized society is guaranteed....."

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article18426.htm

 

Iran cuts foreign dollar assets to 30 percent

TEHRAN: Iran has massively cut down its dependence on the dollar in the face of US pressure over its nuclear programme and now 70 percent of its foreign assets are saved in other currencies or in gold, an official said on Monday.

“After the strong fall in the dollar and the decision to transfer our foreign currency reserves into euros, we have taken measures and now 70 percent of Iranian assets are in euros, other currencies or gold,” said Deputy Economy Minister Mohammad Zahedi Vafa.

Iran had announced earlier this year it was switching out of dollars and would instead save its foreign assets in other currencies to dampen the effects of US pressure on its financial system.

The United States has been seeking to make international banking transactions harder for Iran as another tool to pressure Tehran into backing down over its controversial nuclear programme.

Several European banks have drastically cut business with Iran as result of pressure from the United States.

Caretaker Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari has said that already 60 percent of Iran’s oil transactions for export are carried out in euros.

Iran’s foreign currency reserves held in banks abroad have risen by 37 percent over the past year to the equivalent of 65 billion dollars as of the end of June 2007, the central bank said last week.

The world’s fourth largest oil exporter and the second in OPEC has been helped by soaring crude prices which are helping the country weather domestic economic problems. afp

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C09%5C18%5Cstory_18-9-2007_pg5_18

The Inevitable Decline of the American Empire


An interview with Immanuel Wallerstein

by Ral Zibechi

English translation by Charlotte Elmitt

In the course of his visit to the Southern Cone of South America, the
American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein spoke on one of his favorite
subjects: the end of the United States' hegemony"which, he believes,
will be definitive within the next decade. But he also let it be known
that in the course of the next two or three decades we will be living
in a post-capitalist world that could either be much better, or worse,
than the present one.

The decline of the empire, which had been gradual and inevitable since
the "global revolution of 1968" has been accelerating exponentially
since 2003, before the predictable failure of the American invasion of
Iraq. A country that cannot subdue a small and exhausted nation, after
a terrible decade of global sanctions, cannot be in any condition to
take the lead in global affairs. This is one of the principle
conclusions that Wallerstein outlined during his visit to Montevideo.

The United States moved from imposing "95%" of its will upon the world
between 1945 and 1970 to a situation of impotence that manifested
itself in the arrival to power of the neoconservatives of George W.
Bush in 2001. This was a demonstration of weakness and not, as is
usually believed to be the case, a show of strength. For the
neoconservatives only a display of military strength can reverse the
decline of a power that is no longer feared and, consequently, they
will encounter ever-growing challenges.

According to Wallerstein, the causes of this decline are to be found in
three challenges that converged between the end of the 1960s and the
beginning of the 1970s: the economic competition between Japan and
Europe, the decolonization of the third world and its subsequent
rejection of the bi-polar U.S.-USSR order, and the emergence of a new
generation of anti-systemic movements. These three challenges were
successful and eroded the hegemony of the superpower that had imposed
the Washington consensus, the neoliberal system, and the globalization
model as a means of regaining lost power.

Nevertheless, the "global revolution of 1968" or in other words the
challenge posed by the new movements is, for Wallerstein, a decisive
fact that is not only at the heart of the hegemonic crisis of the
empire but also survival itself of capitalism as a global system. In a
revealing text, "1968: The Great Experiment,"1 he maintains that 1968's
events were more important even than the French and Russian revolutions
and because of its significance was the only revolution in the world
equal to that of 1848. He assures us that although both failed, they
changed the world because they were unplanned; rather they were
"spontaneous in the truest sense of the word."

The "revolution of 1968" undermined the capacity of the North to watch
over and intervene in the South, produced changes "in the power
relations between status groups (age groups, gender groups, and
'ethnic' minorities)" that although they occurred "in the hidden spaces
of daily life" are lasting and suppose permanent subordination; and
civil society and salaried workers showed themselves to be less
disposed than before to both passively accept domination and take
orders.

Finally the intervention in Iraq failed in its three basic objectives:
putting the brakes on Europe's growing autonomy, as well as on
countries with supposed nuclear weapons such as Iran and North Korea,
and the moderate Arab regimes such as Saudi Arabia that were reticent
about a lasting peace with Israel. Four years later, not only has the
complete opposite come to pass, but also a major turnaround in what
Wallerstein terms "unilateral military machismo." "What was a slow
decline for 30 years has become a rapid one in the years since 2003.
The last pillar of hegemony was a military superiority so mighty that
it could not be challenged by the next 10 or 20 subsequent countries
combined. But in Iraq it was made evident that the United States cannot
use its military superiority."

Finally, he points out that the "spirit of Davos," a reference to the
Economic Forum in Davos, and the "spirit of Porto Alegre" where the
first World Social Forum took place are the two main paths humanity
faces when choosing a post-capitalistic society. "It could be worse
than the present system, or less hierarchical and more egalitarian; but
that all depends on us," he concluded.

The interview focused on the emergence of a multi-polar world and the
present situation that Latin America finds itself in.

RZ: You state that in the next few years there will be a dozen powers
that will be substitutes for the current single-power world;
furthermore you suggest that Russia will align herself with Europe
whilst the United States will form an alliance with China and Japan.

IW: What I see is that the end of the United States' hegemony will give
way to the surge of several regional centers, one of which could be
Mercosur. But we will also see Russia, China, India, South Africa and
her neighbors, along with, of course, Europe and Japan. There will also
probably be minor centers. Furthermore, I think there will be three big
associations on a global scale that will be more dynamic "poles" which
will be in a position to dictate the direction of the world: the United
States, Europe, and Japan. But I do not think that the three
associations can remain a reality for an extended period and therefore
the weakest of the three will align itself with one of the strongest. I
believe that the weakest will be the United States and that for
geopolitical reasons I think it will align itself with East Asia where
China and Japan will play a relevant role. As for Russia, it could
align with Europe, with whom it has always had important relations.

RZ: You don't see the possibility of a Russia-China alliance like that
which is emerging at the root of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

IW: In an increasingly chaotic world, anything is possible. But I do
not see Russia allied with Japan; I do not believe that to be possible.

RZ: Brazil appears to be driving for an alliance with the United States
based around the production of sugar cane-derived ethanol. Do you think
that this policy could contribute to the strengthening of a
Washington-led hegemony in the region?

IW: I believe that the interest of Brazil's foreign policy is to
strengthen South American autonomy in order that the region may play a
role within a multi-polar world. In this scenario, Brazil positions
itself seemingly as a more serious power and I see that the agreements
with the United States do not go beyond what Russia or China are doing,
that is to say specific agreements without major compromises and with
important reservations. I believe that it is an intelligent policy, and
possible. Furthermore, even should the right come to power in Brazil,
this policy will not change. Now the military is reworking the old
policy of the military regime of building nuclear weapons and although
the United States is not at all pleased with this, they are powerless
to do anything. In Brazil, politics have turned to the center, with no
heavyweight far leftwing or rightwing parties and for this reason I
think that foreign policy will be more stable. In domestic policy the
changes will be slight with very gradual reforms like those currently
being seen in Uruguay. These policies, centered as they are on gradual
reforms, are typical of global social democracy and I think that these
are going to be the solution for the region as a whole.

RZ: Do you believe that the interventionist policy of Washington will
gain strength in the future? Can operations such as the "Plan Colombia"
gain momentum?

IW: If Bush tries to send troops to Colombia he won't succeed because
Congress will prevent him from doing so. Alvaro Uribe is the last
serious ally in the region. But he is facilitating Hugo Ch!vez's role
as an intermediary in negotiations with the Fuerzas Armadas
Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in an effort that, if successful,
will lead to the growth of his persona on a global scale. Even though
the United States does not like it, it can't do anything in this
situation either.

I believe that the policy of intervention that lasted a century is
already a thing of the past. The United States military is a powerful
force but civil society has placed limits on it since the Vietnam War.
Previously it was an army of conscripts but now it is a professional
one and, furthermore, a good number of the troops in Iraq are
mercenaries from private companies. The middle classes no longer join
the armed forces; the only ones that do are the poor. In order to
augment the number of troops, compulsory military service would need to
be introduced, and this would lead to a new uprising from students and
other sectors of the population. One of the decisive fronts on which
the United States lost the Vietnam War was the domestic one.

RZ: Is there a possibility of military intervention in Cuba?

IW: No. If, as everything seems to indicate the Democrats win the
election, there will be a significant change in relations. On the one
hand there are important commercial interests, especially in the
agricultural sector, which would like to increase trade with the island
nation. On the other hand, the rightwing Cubans in Miami, the 60s
generation, are in decline and are increasingly less influential in
U.S. politics. The new generations of Cubans in the United States
prefer a "thaw" that would allow them to return to Cuba or establish
normal relations.

What I mean is that there is a power void on behalf of the United
States in Latin America which allows the governments to hold greater
degrees of autonomy. I believe that Mercosur has a great opportunity to
establish an alliance with the Andean Community, which will make a
significant change in the role that the region might play in the world.

RZ: For social movements, the situation is very complex. On the one
hand, they tend to feel defrauded by what progressive and leftwing
governments are doing, but on the other, they do not have the ability
to propose an opposition front without the result ending up favorable
to rightwing parties.

IW: Yes, that's the situation. I have come from Brazil and I see that
the Movimiento Sin Tierra (MST) disagrees strongly with Lula because
agricultural reform is not progressing, but yet they support him in
elections since he is undoubtedly better than Fernando Henrique
Cardoso. It is the traditional problem when the leftwing party tied to
the movements comes to power. A discussion as to what to do emerges. A
head-on collision is a problem, as is not doing anything. In my opinion
the movements should take a clear stance: support the better parties
but without expecting that they will make fundamental changes. It is a
defensive position, but it is a matter of trying to maintain autonomy.

RZ: Are these types of problems influencing the World Social Forum?

IW: Yes of course, there are very different positions facing these new
realities. But I am hopeful that the Forum will continue to be an open
space, a horizontal one, in which hierarchical relations are not built,
and where the most diverse of opinions can co-exist. In order for this
to happen, it is important to bear in mind that the enemy is not the
left.

RZ: In a certain way, are you therefore saying that the most mature
position is that taken by the Landless Movement in Brazil?

IW: Yes. But the Zapatistas' position is also very important because
they have done important work on the question of autonomy, not as a
declarative issue but as a genuine construct. I think that the positive
relations that the Landless Movement and the Zapatistas have is a vital
step forward. It would be very positive for the Forum if in future
years the Zapatistas are integrated.

End Notes

1. G. Arrighi, T. K. Hoptkins, I. Wallerstein, "Anti-systemic
movements" ("Movimientos antisist(c)mocos"), Madrid, Akal, 1999.

[Ral Zibechi is an international analyst at Brecha, a weekly journal in
Montevideo, Uruguay, professor and researcher on social movements at
the Multiversidad Franciscana de Am(c)rica Latina, and adviser to
grassroots organizations. He writes the monthly "Zibechi Report" for
the CIP Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org). ]
 

Greenpeace Launches Attack on GM Crops in Romania

Greenpeace has launched a major attack against
production and marketing of genetically modified cereals in Romania.

The environmental organisation announced earlier this month that it had
discovered illegal plantations of genetically modified (GM) soya and corn over
110 hectares in Insula Mare a Brailei, a wide stretch of land in county Braila,
200 km east of capital Bucharest.

"Both soya and corn seeds used in Braila have been produced by U.S. company
Monsanto," Gabriel Paun, coordinator for Romania of the Greenpeace anti-GMO
(genetically modified organisms) campaign told IPS.

Cultivation of GM soya is illegal in the European Union (EU), and starting this
year in Romania as well. But cultivation of MON810, the type of genetically
modified corn found in Braila, is allowed in some EU states.

Greenpeace argues that....
 

Middle-Aged Delinquents

"...Why, then, do many pundits and policy makers rush to denigrate
adolescents as brainless? One troubling possibility: youths are being
maligned to draw attention from the reality that it's actually middle-
aged adults - the parents - whose behavior has worsened.

Our most reliable measures show Americans ages 35 to 54 are suffering
ballooning crises:

18,249 deaths from overdoses of illicit drugs in 2004, up 550 percent
per capita since 1975, according to data from the National Center for
Health Statistics.

46,925 fatal accidents and suicides in 2004, leaving today's middle-
agers 30 percent more at risk for such deaths than people aged 15 to
19, according to the national center.

More than four million arrests in 2005, including one million for
violent crimes, 500,000 for drugs and 650,000 for drinking-related
offenses, according to the F.B.I. All told, this represented a 200
percent leap per capita in major index felonies since 1975.

630,000 middle-agers in prison in 2005, up 600 percent since 1977,
according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

21 million binge drinkers (those downing five or more drinks on one
occasion in the previous month), double the number among teenagers and
college students combined, according to the government's National
Household Survey on Drug Use and Health.

370,000 people treated in hospital emergency rooms for abusing illegal
drugs in 2005, with overdose rates for heroin, cocaine,
pharmaceuticals and drugs mixed with alcohol far higher than among
teenagers.

More than half of all new H.I.V./AIDS diagnoses in 2005 were given to
middle-aged Americans, up from less than one-third a decade ago,
according to the Centers for Disease Control.

What experts label "adolescent risk taking" is really baby boomer risk
taking. It's true that 30 years ago, the riskiest age group for
violent death was 15 to 24. But those same boomers continue to suffer
high rates of addiction and other ills throughout middle age, while
later generations of teenagers are better behaved. Today, the age
group most at risk for violent death is 40 to 49, including illegal-
drug death rates five times higher than for teenagers.

Strangely, the experts never mention even more damning new
"discoveries" about the middle-aged brain, like the 2004 study of
scans by Harvard researchers revealing declines in key memory and
learning genes that become significant by age 40. In reality, human
brains are highly adaptive. Both teenagers and adults display a wide
variety of attitudes and behaviors derived from individual conditions
and choices, not harsh biological determinism...."

The Potential of Memory-Erasing Drugs

AJOB Neuroscience

The latest issue of AJOB Neuroscience features two target articles:

Propranolol and the Prevention of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Is it Wrong to Erase the "Sting" of Bad Memories?
by Michael Henry, Jennifer R. Fishman, Stuart J. Youngner

Functional Neuroimaging and the Law: Trends and Directions for Future Scholarship
by Stacey A. Tovino

As always, each target article is accompanied by a group of peer commentaries. This month's issue also features two editorials: "Rethinking Neuroethics in the Light of the Extended Mind Thesis" by Neil Levy and "Not Forgetting Forgetting" by Judy Illes. The full text of the latter is available for free. Here's a snip:

In the context of law and justice, conversation about the potential of memory-erasing drugs or devices to interrupt the cycle of criminal activity often perpetuated by those who are themselves abused is yet untapped (Coxe and Holmes 2005; Weiler and Widom 2001). If interfering with memory could intervene with the anger, revenge, and hopelessness experienced by people who are abused - sufferers of a bona fide form of post-traumatic stress disorder in its own right - the impact on the way in which society views and enacts criminal punishment could be profound. The prison population in the United States alone has quadrupled to two million inmates since 1980 - an unprecedented explosion that is creating unprecedented costs. Surely, the personal and societal cost of rehabilitation and reintegration over incarceration of these individuals, especially children and adolescents, would be reduced. Difficult questions would need to be answered: What would a maintenance schedule for intervention look like? What would be the long-term effects, especially on the still-plastic young brain? What support systems would be needed and how they would be financed? Neuroimaging could be combined to predict behavior or recidivism but, as Stacey Tovino's (2007) target article suggests, how that could be achieved with acceptable accuracy and without coercion or stigma is an open question. Nevertheless, in asking the question of gain or loss, I would still wager gain. At the very least, new research will tell us about possible practical, tangible gain, even in the face enduring moral uncertainties.

Source: http://blog.bioethics.net/2007/09/september-2007-ajob-neuroscience/

 

"I Am a One Hundred Percent American"

Menckenmania
A birthday party for the writer reveals his strange place in the world of letters.

"I never lecture, not because I am shy or a bad speaker, but simply because I detest the sort of people who go to lectures and don't want to meet them." – H.L. Mencken

This weekend, like they do every year around H.L. Mencken's September 12 birthday, about one hundred Mencken fans descend on Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Library to pay tribute to the man famous for his scathing attacks on religion, creationism, the middle class, politicians, countryfolk, and a host of other targets he blamed for the ruination of America.

[...] 

Once rolling, Hamilton discussed Mencken's influence on New York's cultural life as a critic and later as editor of The Smart Set. Unlike the hundreds of thousands that later fled Baltimore, Mencken never left his hometown. But through the magazine based in the more influential and culturally rich New York, he launched the careers of Fitzgerald and O'Neil, and helped Americans discover Conrad and Joyce. His writing developed an almost rabid following of fans that hung on his every word. Harold Ross named Mencken's Smart Set as a model for Ross' New Yorker; the latter, coincidentally, even moved into the offices of the former at 25 West 45th St. in Manhattan.

But Mencken's influence on New York is largely forgotten. That's okay — he likely wouldn't care less. Mencken was often out of place in New York, his short sleeves, hair part, and use of awkward words like "flapdoodle" setting him apart from the city's sophisticates.

What's instead more interesting is that he's also increasingly forgotten on the literary landscape. The 1967 Norton Anthology of American Literature, for example, contains excerpts from Mencken's Prejudices, the second and third series, as well as from The American Language. The newest Norton Anthology contains nothing by the writer.

So while The Sun Also Rises and As I Lay Dying remain on bookshelves, Mencken is relegated to the lede of middling columns in middling American newspapers by middling writers who want to take a stab at biting satire....

http://www.thesmartset.com/article/article09190704.aspx

Who else was going to show us in our dumbness?

....At the end of his essay on Dreiser, Mencken manages to pull out of himself what I take to be his finest single thought, as beautifully expressed as it ever has been, by anyone. Summing Dreiser up one last time, Mencken writes: “His moving impulse is no flabby yearning to teach, to expound, to make simple; it is that ‘obscure inner necessity’ of which Conrad tells us, the irrepressible creative passion of a genuine artist, standing spell-bound before the impenetrable enigma that is life, enamored by the strange beauty that plays over its sordidness, challenged to a wondering and half-terrified sort of representation of what passes understanding.”

Ironically, with that one sentence, Mencken redeemed American literature (at least for a minute or two) and realized something of the promise that Emerson and Whitman had gestured to with such profound, irrational hope. But with Mencken, there is no glorious tale to tell, just the desire that someone express the crappy truth as the only glory we’re likely to grasp....

http://www.thesmartset.com/article/article09190702.aspx

Beware the Wild Card

....In the realm of grand strategy and politics, however, it is the sucker punch unleashed outside your peripheral vision that often lands with the most bone-crunching impact. Such strategic blows have the power to shatter carefully crafted political narratives and game plans, and to make a mockery of Washington's conventional wisdom. In the White House, the phenomenon is talked about often enough that it has been given a name: "game changer."

Certainly, tactical surprises are nothing extraordinary, and sometimes administrations even manufacture them to break a negative cycle of news or to stop a plunge in the polls. President Bush's recent and unexpected application of the Vietnam analogy to Iraq and the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a day after the GOP defeat in last year's midterm elections were viewed by the White House as just such useful communications "circuit breakers."

Truly strategic surprises are beyond manipulation, however, and they are outside the control of even the most powerful leaders on earth. Recall John F. Kennedy riding the razor's edge of the Cuban missile crisis, or Lyndon B. Johnson in the terrible thrall of the Tet offensive in Vietnam. Think of Richard Nixon undone by a Watergate burglary, Gerald Ford consumed by the seizure of the Mayaguez, or Jimmy Carter buffeted by the maelstrom created by an angry mob of Iranian students. Consider Ronald Reagan and the Iran-Contra scandal, George H.W. Bush and the fall of the Berlin Wall, or Bill Clinton fighting off impeachment in the midst of the Kosovo war. Remember George W. Bush on September 12, 2001. Game changed.

What is so extraordinary about this political season is just how many storms are brewing around the world, any number of which could plausibly grow into Category 5 game changers. That's largely the price of a protracted war that is deeply unpopular both at home and abroad. Historically, wars are game changers in their own right, and Iraq has shown the pernicious tendency to exacerbate or ignite other crises, as evidenced by an increasingly unstable Middle East and an escalating confrontation between the United States and Iran. Similarly, the fate of the American intervention in Afghanistan and the fight against Al Qaeda are closely tied to the deteriorating situation in neighboring Pakistan.

"In my career, I can't remember a time when there were so many crises simultaneously affecting U.S. national security interests, so there's no doubt that this is an unusual period and that we're being tested," said a senior administration official, speaking on background. Like Europe was for much of the 20th century, the Middle East is increasingly becoming the epicenter of the security tremors rocking the United States, this official said. "In addition to Iraq, we have to contend with this alliance between Iran and extremist groups throughout the region that affects the stability of Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, and Afghanistan. And that's before we even talk about the challenge of managing the rise of China and India, dealing with a difficult Russia, coping with a crisis in Darfur, and taking on Hugo Chavez in an ideological argument about the best political future for Latin America. So this is an extraordinarily complicated time for our country."....

Source: "Game Changers" 

http://nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2007/0907nj1.htm

Networks, Bacteria, and the Illusion of Control

Another great post from Brainsturbator worth reading in full. Some excerpts:
 
....Most of the cells in your body are not your own, nor are they even human. They are bacterial. From the invisible strands of fungi waiting to sprout between our toes, to the kilogram of bacterial matter in our guts, we are best viewed as walking “superorganisms,” highly complex conglomerations of human cells, bacteria, fungi and viruses....
 
....One study concluded that children who grew up on farms had fewer allergies than their counterparts in urban areas. Conversely, health studies have shown that mothers who kept their children in antiseptic environments were actually compromising their health. Children need to be exposed to the natural environment of threats and benefactors so their immune systems learn to distinguish between the two.

...scientists have determined that 90 percent of the cells in the human body are bacterial. Only five percent of the cells in your body constitute “you,” in the sense of your genetic heritage. In relative scale, bacteria are much smaller than your own cells, so they account for only a small fraction of your body weight. Nearly all of these microbes are located in your gut, where they keep you working at optimal health....

 “We would have to accept that bacteria, touted to be our enemies, are not merely neutral or friendly but that they are us. They are direct ancestors of our most sensitive body parts. Our culture’s terminology about bacteria is that of warfare: they are germs to be destroyed and forever vanquished, bacterial enemies make toxins that poison us. We load our soaps with antibacterials that kill on contact, stomach ulcers are now agreed to be caused by bacterial infection. Even if some admit the existence of “good” bacteria in soil or probiotic food like yogurt few of us tolerate the dangerous notion that human sperm tails and sensitive cells of nasal passages lined with waving cilia, are former bacteria. If this dangerous idea becomes widespread it follows that we humans must agree that even before our evolution as animals we have hated and tried to kill our own ancestors. Again, we have seen the enemy, indeed, and, as usual, it is us. Social interactions of sensitive bacteria, then, not God, made us who were are today.”

http://www.brainsturbator.com/site/comments/networks_bacteria_and_the_illusion_of_control/

The Forensics of Sha Na Na

Not remotely important, but the weirdness might make you smile.

Just learned that one of the world’s leading figures in forensic linguistics, a guy who has helped train investigators from the FBI, the NYPD, the Secret Service, and the ATF, a Fulbright Fellow and Phi Beta Kappa member, now a Hofstra professor of linguistics and Swahili…

… was also one of the founders of the rock group Sha Na Na.

So whatever it is you’re doing in life, if you’d rather switch gears, it just might be possible.

http://thismodernworld.com/3970

Bizzare Homeland Security Quest

The Weird Russian Mind-Control Research Behind a DHS Contract

MOSCOW -- The future of U.S. anti-terrorism technology could lie near the end of a Moscow subway line in a circular dungeon-like room with a single door and no windows. Here, at the Psychotechnology Research Institute, human subjects submit to experiments aimed at manipulating their subconscious minds.

Elena Rusalkina, the silver-haired woman who runs the institute, gestured to the center of the claustrophobic room, where what looked like a dentist's chair sits in front of a glowing computer monitor. "We've had volunteers, a lot of them," she said, the thick concrete walls muffling the noise from the college campus outside. "We worked out a program with (a psychiatric facility) to study criminals. There's no way to falsify the results. There's no subjectivism."

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has gone to many strange places in its search for ways to identify terrorists before they attack, but perhaps none stranger than this lab on the outskirts of Russia's capital. The institute has for years served as the center of an obscure field of human behavior study -- dubbed psychoecology -- that traces it roots back to Soviet-era mind control research....

Google
 

image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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