Friday, March 7, 2008

Republicans discover: Irregularities in our financial audit process."

On February 1st of this year, National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) abruptly released a statement about recently discovered "irregularities in our financial audit process." That was it: no details about whether money might have been stolen, just word that they'd seen fit to bring in the federal authorities.

The details, as they've come, have been embarrassing for the committee, which works to get Republicans elected to the House (which was already hurting in comparison to its Democratic counterpart before all this began).

According to The New York Times this morning, it all began to unravel when Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), a CPA, asked to meet with the audit firm that was supposedly checking the NRCC's books, an idea that apparently no one had had for several years. Christopher Ward, then the NRCC's treasurer, finally relented, but then chickened out 30 minutes before and fessed up that there actually hadn't been any audits.

It was ultimately discovered that Ward had been faking the audits since 2003. The Politico, which laid out this general outline of events early last month, reported that Ward had forged everything, including the letterhead. So when it came time to actually talk to the people who'd supposedly written those fake reports, it all unraveled.

The FBI is currently investigating, and it's not clear yet why Ward was so keen to hide the real numbers. But as the Times reports this morning, the signs are not good. NRCC internal audits since Ward's discovery show that "hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing and presumed stolen." And it gets worse: there are apparently indications that "the financial irregularities might extend beyond the national committee to the campaign funds of individual Republican lawmakers who also worked with Mr. Ward, a longtime party operative."

Ward had been with the NRCC since 1993 and worked for dozens of Republican campaign committees, political action committees, and other organizations. It'll be interesting to see what the FBI turns up.

~ Today's Must Read ~

Australia to sign anti-torture protocol

Australia is set to ratify the international treaty against torture that was snubbed by the former Howard government.

The Rudd government is also reportedly considering introducing laws to make torture an offence for the first time under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland has told Fairfax newspapers the government intended to ratify the UN's Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

"Labor is committed to ratifying the optional protocol on torture, and we will soon be consulting the states and territories as to how that can be achieved," Mr McClelland said.

The protocol aims to prevent torture by setting up a system of visits to international and national places of detention such as prisons and immigration detention facilities.

The Howard government refused to ratify the protocol in 2004 despite being a party to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture.

~ from The Age ~

Top arms dealer captured in Thailand

Notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, branded the “Merchant of Death” for feeding weapons to conflict zones around the world, was paraded handcuffed by Thai police Friday after his capture in a dramatic sting operation.

The mustachioed Russian's dealings are said to have inspired the Hollywood movie “Lord of War,” starring Nicolas Cage as a ruthless arms trader.

Over the years, he is said to have supplied arms to Afghanistan's hardline Taliban militia, Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror network, Marxist rebels in South America and former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor.

But the question remains on who will put him to trial. Officials from the United States said Friday they were determined to extradite him on charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars in weapons to Colombian FARC rebels.

~ read on... ~

'A small step for man, a giant leap for advertising'

The project, in which the public are invited to shoot a 30 second advert, underlines the current crisis in funding astronomy, due to an £80 million shortfall.

For broadcasting the advert into space, encoded as ones and zeros that clever aliens should be able to figure out, Doritos will make an undisclosed donation to astronomers and academics from Leicester University and Eiscat (The European Incoherent SCATter Scientific Association).

The space-bound ad will broadcast from a 500MHz Ultra High Frequency Radar from the EISCAT Space Centre in Svalbard, Norway, used to study the atmosphere and northern lights, which has escaped a savage round of cuts because its five year renewal contract has been signed.

Prof Tony van Eyken, Director of Eiscat, admits he does not know what the effects of the UK cuts will be but says he is happy to accept any novel source of funding: "Broadcasting an advert extra terrestrially is a big and exciting step for everyone on Earth as up until now we have only tended to listening for incoming transmissions."

When Nasa recently beamed a Beatles song towards the North Star, 431 light years from Earth, some experts warned that the signals could expose us to the risk of attack from mean spirited aliens.

~ from UK astronomers to broadcast adverts to aliens ~

Report to 'prevent the ongoing subversion of human rights protection in the name of drug control'

Historically, policies aimed at prohibiting and punishing the use of certain drugs have driven the international approach to drug control and dominate the approach of most  ountries, guided as they are by the three UN drug control conventions and the dominant policy directions emanating from the associated international bodies. Such an approach is usually defended with moralistic portrayals that demonise and dehumanise people who use drugs as representing a 'social evil' menacing the health and values of the public and state. Portrayed as less than human, people who use drugs are often excluded from the sphere of human rights concern.

These policies, and the accompanying enforcement practices, entrench and exacerbate systemic discrimination against people who use drugs and result in widespread, varied and serious human rights violations. As a result, in high-income and low-income countries across all regions of the world, people who use illegal drugs are often among the most marginalised and stigmatised sectors of society. They are a group that is vulnerable to a wide array of human rights violations, including abusive law enforcement practices, mass incarceration, extrajudicial executions, denial of health services, and, in some countries, execution under legislation that fails to meet international human rights standards. Local communities in drug-producing countries also face violations of their human rights as a result of campaigns to eradicate illicit crops, including environmental devastation, attacks on indigenous cultures, and damage to health from chemical spraying.

At the level of the United Nations, resolving this situation through established mechanisms is complicated by the inherent contradictions faced by the UN on the question of drugs. On the one hand, the UN is tasked by the international community with promoting and expanding global human rights protections, a core purpose of the organisation since its inception. On the other, it is also the body responsible for promoting and expanding the international drug control regime, the very system that has led to the denial of human rights to people who use drugs. All too often, experience has shown that where these regimes come into conflict, drug prohibition and punishment has been allowed to trump human rights, or at least take human rights off the agenda.

Directives from the UN General Assembly to carry out drug control activities in conformity with human rights have been all but ignored in the formation and execution of drug control policies and activities, even by other UN bodies involved in drug control. At the political level, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the UN's inter-state body tasked with directing international drug policy, has never adopted a resolution with any operational requirements regarding human rights. In relation to UN programmes, as a result of control by the main donor states, spending on drug control by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the secretariat that carries out the substantive work of the UN on drug control, is heavily weighted towards simple enforcement of drug control treaties, with little, if any, operational attention to the human rights dimensions of states' enforcement of these treaties or of their domestic drug legislation. Moreover, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the monitoring body for the UN drug control conventions, has stated explicitly that it will not discuss human rights.

Yet even though there is little explicit regard for human rights in the UN drug control treaties, this does not mean the international regime is free to operate without complying with human rights law. UN bodies and UN member states are all bound by their overarching obligations under the Charter of the United Nations (Articles 1, 55 and 56) to promote 'universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms'. The Charter (Article 103) explicitly indicates that in the event of any conflict between states' obligations under the Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their Charter obligations shall prevail. According to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the new Human Rights Council was created to afford human rights 'a more authoritative position, corresponding to the primacy of human rights in the Charter of the United Nations'. Both he and his successor, Ban Ki-Moon, have stressed the importance of human rights, along with security and development, as one of the three pillars of the United Nations.

Despite the primacy of human rights obligations under the UN Charter, the approach of the UN system and the international community to addressing the tensions between drug control and human rights remains marked by an ambiguity that is inexcusable in the face of the egregious human rights abuses perpetrated in the course of enforcing drug prohibition.

2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the bedrock of international human rights norms. Despite the actual and potential impact of the international drug conventions on human rights, the Universal Declaration is conspicuously absent from their preambles. It is past time for UN, its individual Members, and its organs, as well as civil society organizations, to ensure that the international drug control system works to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of people who use drugs and affected communities, and to hold the international drug control entities and UN Members to account for human rights abuses committed in the name of drug control. The UN system needs to ensure coherence in its policy and programmatic approaches, a coherence that reflects the primacy and centrality of human rights to the rest of its work. In three parts, this report:

  • presents a critical analysis of the UN systems of drug control and human rights, and their relative relationship within overall UN governance, and outlines the basis for the primacy of human rights;
  • highlights the multiple ways in which the enforcement of drug prohibition, the dominant approach of the UN drug control system, leads to a wide and varied range of human rights violations; and
  • sets out recommendations aimed at 'recalibrating the regime' to prevent the ongoing subversion of human rights protection in the name of drug control.
~ from Recalibrating the Regime ~

Eagle vs Dragon: the buildup in the Phillippines

Since the closure of its military bases in the country in 1991, the United States has incrementally regained, transformed, and deepened its military presence and intervention in the Philippines. The manner in which the United States has attempted to re-establish basing in the Philippines illustrates its attempts to radically overhaul its global offensive capabilities to become more agile and efficient while overcoming mounting domestic opposition to its presence around the world.

The objectives with which the United States has sought to achieve this in the Philippines – a country that is firmly within what U.S. analysts and strategists call “the dragon's lair” – point to the emerging U.S. strategy toward what it has officially identified as the one country with “the greatest potential to compete with the United States” – China. In this strategy, the Philippines, by virtue both of its location as well as its political disposition towards the United States relative to its neighbors, plays a crucial role.

Basing without Bases

After George W. Bush came to power, the United States began to attempt in earnest to implement what its proponents bill as the most comprehensive reconfiguration of its global military presence since World War II. The underlying rationale is clear: the positioning and forms of U.S. military bases of the past – built as they were for the Cold War – no longer suffice for the present. The U.S. overseas basing must therefore be transformed so as to enable the U.S. military to become leaner and meaner, quicker and more agile.

In the Philippines, as in a growing number of places around the world, the one persistent constraint for both the U.S. and Philippine governments, however, has been the long-standing domestic sensitivity to U.S. bases in the country. This opposition was actually an important – if not the decisive – factor in the decision to close the bases in 1991 and in the adoption in the post-Marcos 1987 constitution of provisions banning foreign military bases in the country.

As it has embarked on the project of transforming its global presence, the United States has also sought to adapt to and undermine domestic opposition to its bases. In this, the U.S. military's reconceptualization of its global military presence -- no longer as merely a collection of physical structures but as a global “posture” – is illuminating. By posture, explained U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith, “We are not talking only about basing, we're talking about the ability of our forces to operate when and where they are needed.”

Thus, recognizing that the local political situation is not yet ripe for the re-establishment of the kind of large military bases that the United States once had in the Philippines, the United States has instead moved forward to achieve this ability in various other ways.

Recurring Deployments

The United States has been deploying a growing number of its troops, ships, and equipment all over the Philippines ostensibly for training exercises, humanitarian and engineering projects, and other missions. In 2006 alone, up to 37 military exercises were scheduled – up from around 24 in the preceding years. As many as 6,000 U.S. troops are involved, depending on the exercise.

~ from In the dragon's lair ~

Afghan 911: "Let us know if you need something...or see something"

A similar plan for Afghanistan is to drop cheap cell phones, that can also receive radio broadcasts, in Taliban dominated areas. These broadcasts would come from U.S. psyops aircraft or blimps overhead, that would transmit useful programming (weather reports, health, farming religious messages from moderate imams, husbandry tips and local and national news). The cell phone would only be able to call the equivalent of 911, which would be manned by the Afghan police. One of the elements leading to this concept was the existing program back in the United States, where old cell phones are modified to just call 911, and given away free for that purpose.

from The Electronic Peacekeeper ~

Ex-US sailor aided terrorists

A former United States Navy sailor stationed in the Middle East has been convicted of spying and providing material support to terrorists.

A federal jury in Connecticut on Wednesday convicted Hassan Abujihaad, 32, formerly known as Paul Hall, of providing classified information to London-based Azzam Publications while knowing it would be used in a conspiracy to kill US citizens.

Abujihaad, arrested in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 7, 2007, is due to be sentenced on May 23 and faces a maximum term of 25 years in prison, said Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the US Attorney's office in New Haven, Connecticut.

Prosecutors accused Azzam of engaging in a conspiracy to provide material support and communications links to people involved in terrorism, including the disclosure of a US Navy battle group's movements in 2001.

~ more... ~

Indian workers at US shipyard allege human trafficking

More than 100 Indian workers at a Mississippi shipyard staged a walkout claiming they were victims of human trafficking and lived and worked in abysmal conditions. The workers plan to report themselves to the Department of Justice as trafficking victims and demand federal prosecution of the employer, Signal International, a local television channel WLOX-TV reported.

They claim they were lured to come on H2B visas for temporary workers to Pascagoula shipyard run by Signal after Hurricane Katrina caused worker shortage.

The TV channel quoted Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers' Centre for Racial Justice, who served as an interpreter for the workers, as saying Thursday that they lived “like pigs in a cage” in a company-run “work camp”.

~ read on... ~

Fascists and Bolsheviks as friends

If Nazis were allies as often as enemies of Bolsheviks, what was the relationship between Fascists and Bolsheviks?  The pseudo-cognition of Sinisterism seldom talks about Nazis at all, but rather about "fascists" and these "fascists" are the mortal enemies of Bolsheviks, the polar ideological opposite of Marxism, and so on.  This is not true.  Benito Mussolini did not begin his political career as just a Marxist, but as a violent, revolutionary Marxist.  Mussolini was not just a leading Leftist in Italy, he was one of the most important Communists in the world.  In 1914, Mussolini organized "Red Week" which was aimed at causing a violent revolution against the corrupt capitalist world.  Mussolini is often referred to by the name "Duce," which means "leader" - rather like Fuhrer in German or Vozd in Russian - and this is usually attributed to be a name given to him by the Fascists.  This is not true.  The moniker was given to him at a banquet given by Marxists after his release from prison for protesting the "imperialist" Italian war in Libya, at which one veteran socialist said:  "From today you, Benito, are not only the representative of Romagna Socialists, but the Duce of all revolutionary Socialists in Italy!"

This Marxist Mussolini was the editor of Avanti! which was the leading Marxist periodical in Italy and one of the leading Marxists periodicals in the world.  Although most biographies of Mussolini touch on that long period of his life, few also mention that Mussolini was at the same time editor of Utopia, the monthly intellectual journal of Italian Marxists.  Mussolini did not quit being a Marxist.  He was expelled from the Italian Socialist Party because he supported Italy intervening on the side of the Allied Powers and against the Central Powers in the Great War.  Although historians can, and have, argued that this represented a movement by Mussolini to the mythical Right, there was a sharp fissure within the Left about whether or not it helped promote world proletariat revolution to support the war or to oppose it.

Actually, Mussolini was following, rather than leading, extreme Leftists in Italy. As Zeev Sternhell explains in The Birth of Fascist Ideology, on August 19, 1914, Alceste De Ambris, speaking from the platform of the Milanese Syndical Union (USM), attacked neutrality and urged going to the aid of France and Britain.  He equated the Germans with reaction, and equated the French with the French Revolution.   Mussolini dropped his neutrality at this time and began to publish Il Popolo d'Italia in November 1914, supporting entering the war on the allied side.  When war was declared, Mussolini and other revolutionary syndicalist leaders volunteered for duty."

~ read on... ~

Dallas Area Man Barred by Court from Operating Tax Service

A federal court in Dallas has permanently barred Arlington, Texas, businessman Phillip M. Ballard from preparing federal income tax returns for anyone other than himself, the Justice Department announced today. U.S. District Court Judge Jorge A. Solis issued the civil injunction order, which also bars Ballard from representing customers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The court found that Ballard, whose business is called Asset & IRS Shield, Inc., illegally prepared federal income tax returns for customers that falsely showed nothing but zeros on most if not all lines. The “zero return” scheme has been on past IRS annual lists of the Dirty Dozen tax scams. A notorious tax resister who promoted the zero-return scheme, Irwin Schiff, is currently serving a prison sentence following his criminal conviction for promoting the scam.

The court's order also requires Ballard to notify his customers of the injunction and prohibits him from advertising tax return preparation services on his Web site.

~ full article ~

The only way to fight a successful war on terror against our own indigenous terrorist problem is to begin thinning out US personnel from Pakistan''

Unfortunately, despite being abused all around, we continue to do US bidding — much against our own long term interests. Now we hear US military personnel are coming in to not only train our paramilitary forces but also to accompany them on missions within Pakistan. There has also been talk of the US "training" our military in counter-insurgency. What absurdities are we reducing ourselves to? Has no one studied the US's dismal record in this field — both in Vietnam and Iraq, not to mention in our own neighbourhood in Afghanistan? All that will happen with the additional influx of US military personnel in Pakistan is more acts of terror against our own security forces.

The only way to fight a successful war on terror against our own indigenous terrorist problem is to begin thinning out US personnel from Pakistan and adopting a holistic approach in dealing with the tribals. To make it a perceptually credible national effort we have to create space between ourselves and the Americans so that our security forces can become more effective with local support. Unless the locals flush out the terrorists, the state will see no success in this war. This is where the ANP victory can play a crucial role in a two-pronged strategy of dialogue, development and establishment of law and order. We have to overcome the psychological confidence deficit that prevents us from creating the necessary distance between ourselves and the US.

Is it not interesting that post the ANP victory in NWFP, when it was seen that the local people had rejected the extremists and elections had been conducted more or less peacefully in that province, and there was hope of the new political leadership using a policy of dialogue to isolate the militants and terrorists — something that went against the US policy — suddenly we have been hit with a spate of suicide attacks with even funerals being targeted — something that has not happened before.

Unfortunately, so far our ruling elite seem unable or unwilling to see the US design for what it is: a weakening of the Pakistani state and nation with perhaps a long term goal of balkanisation. After all, US scholars with close links to the establishment are referring increasingly to this end goal. Yet even here we seem to retain a strange subservience and continue to give academic space to perennial Pakistan-bashers, especially in terms of access to data and information. Such is our continuing hangover of kowtowing to old and new imperialist powers. No wonder we Pakistanis today face a double-headed terrorist threat: psychological terrorisation of the state by the US, and the physical home grown militant terrorism. One feeds on the other.

~ from Time to take stock of US threat ~

The subduing of American war resistance

March 20 is the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and in conjunction with the five-year mark is a boost of political activity in Ithaca throughout the spring. To kick it off a rally will be held on The Commons on March 15, as well as sit-ins, art exhibits, films and speakers on the Cornell campus and a 10-day walk to Fort Drum, N.Y., in May. There are dozens of local and student groups active in working locally to end the war. Some remain more active, some less so. It has been a trying five years. Now, some local activists look back at these war years, and look ahead toward peaceful hopes for the future.

The local peace movement was mobilizing even before the war started. Six months prior, with President George Bush's war talk, 300 to 400 residents gathered at Ithaca High School to discuss what they would to do if the U.S. bombed Iraq and how to oppose a war.

[ ... ]

Bob Nape, a Finger Lakes for Peace organizer, believes there is more to it than that. He remembers the peace movement during Vietnam: "The draft fueled war resistance. That was a lot of fuel that isn't here right now. With Vietnam, the movement grew and grew until it was a monster. With Iraq, it started as a monster, and now it seems like a mouse."

Why the apparent decline in support of the peace movement? Eighteen, 19- and 20-year-olds are not being drafted, which has led to extended tours for active soldiers and has lent a feeling of disconnection to the majority of youth, as there are few signs at home of the war. Many people don't know a single soldier. Many people do, of course, but for a lot of people, they are not sure what they can do about because they can hardly tell it is happening.

American young people demonstrate a general sense of helplessness. Andrea Levine, organizer of Ithaca College's Students for a Just Peace, believes that most students just don't think much about the war. They can listen to their iPods, chat online, hang out on Facebook and text message each other, without having much face-to-face conversation. It has been a whole cultural shift.

~ from 5 years later: Inside Ithaca's Peace Movement ~

Smash EDO protesters prevent delivery companies supporting war crimes in Iraq

Protesters blocked a delivery vehicle on Home Farm Road in Brighton today (Thurs 06/03/2008) on it's return from EDO MBM who make weapons for the US

One person attached themselves by their neck, using a bicycle D-lock, to the courier van. The driver, despite being clearly told that a person was locked [onto] his vehicle revved his engine and attempted to drive forwards.Only the refusal of demonstrators to move from in front of his van and the timely arrival of the police prevented a reckless killing. After being cut off by police the protestor was arrested for Obstructing lichighway. All people filming this incident had their cameras seized by police under section 19 of the Police And Criminal Evidence Act, including an NUJ registered Photo Journalist. It is highly unlikely that this was a lawful seizure.

This action was in response to a national call out for a month of action against companies, including DHL, TNT and Interlink Express, who deliver services to EDO MBM.Andrew Beckett, press spokesperson for the campaign said 'EDO MBM have no in-house transport service so all the weapons components they manufacture are delivered to their destination by couriers like TNT. We are calling on these companies to stop aiding and abetting EDO MBM in carrying out their criminal business.'

EDO MBM,recently purchased by ITT, a corporation that supported the German Nazi Party's military effort throughout World War Two, produces components used in weapons that have caused the deaths of civilians in the illegal occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Israeli occupied Palestine.

Chloe Marsh, press spokesperson for the Smash EDO campaign said: “As we approach the fifth year of war in Iraq the campaign against EDO goes from strength to strength and we will continue to draw public attention to these merchants of genocide.”

~ link ~

Torture and detention facilities set up across Bangladesh

The military intervention brought an end to gruesome street-battles between two feuding political camps led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League, and at first many Bangladeshis welcomed the de facto coup.

But skyrocketing prices, a devastated economy and rampant human rights abuses have changed their minds. Over the past year, the military has set up torture and detention facilities across the country and targeted political parties with an "anti-corruption" witch hunt that saw the arrests of more than 400,000 people, including two former prime ministers who lead the two biggest political parties.

The military intelligence agency, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, or DGFI, which remains the driving force behind the de facto military rule, led a campaign to establish control over civil and political affairs, carrying out overt and covert operations against opposition parties and members of the media.

~ from Surviving torture in Bangladesh ~

Would Lincoln have allowed Kosovo to secede?

The United States was founded by assimilating an assortment of nationalities, and when threatened by the war of division in 1860, they fought it to make it an 'indivisible nation'. US today draw its strength from the size of the country and its scale of economic activity. Its super power status, which is a result of its military strength, is derived from the strength of its population and technology.

The US could never have dreamt to be what it is today, if President Lincoln failed to take appropriate action to wipe out petty minded separatist who were more bent in preserving their privileges at the cost of the union of the state! Had US broken into two, as the separatist wished, in to a 'Confederate' and a 'Union' in 1860, each of them probably would have lost the Second World War to Japan and would have remained even today as two protectorates under the Japanese emperor. That certainly would have changed world history and also its destiny!

[ ... ]

The US State Department's assertion that Kosovo is 'unique' and 'it does not create precedents elsewhere' could also be convincing only to the gullible. Every case is unique in its own character. The reliability of the above assertion could only be as reliable as the guarantee given to Bosnia when the NATO forces first invaded the country in 1999. They brought a UN resolution to assure Bosnia of its territorial integrity.

The US ambassador also goes on record to advice that Sri Lanka should not violate UN resolutions in its dealing with Iraq. The paradox again is haven't the US contravened the international law and UN resolutions when it invaded Iraq and when it recognized Kosovo? Does the adherence to international law depend on a country's military and economic power? In vernacular Sinhalese the sermons of those who can not practice what they preach are called the 'sermons of the jungle'. The question then is 'Are we being made to listen to the voice of the jungle in the name of modern civilization?

~ from Kosovo and its likely fall back on Sri Lanka /India ~

S. Korea: Special prosecutor to verify whistle blower's claim on bribery takers

A special prosecutor's team will investigate a whistle blower's claim that South Korea's new spy chief and a senior presidential aide routinely took bribes from Samsung Group despite the denial of the presidential office, a spokesman said Thursday.

A progressive priests' organization publicly named the two officials as bribe takers on Wednesday, sending ripples through the Lee Myung-bak administration where top posts are being filled after its inauguration in late February.

The presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae dismissed the allegation as "groundless." The denial was immediately repeated by the two officials named -- Kim Sung-ho, former defense minister nominated as head of the National Intelligence Service, and Lee Jong-chan, former Seoul High Prosecutors' Office chief appointed as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.

The priests appear to have received the names from Kim Yong-chul, a former lawyer for Samsung who initiated an on-going independent probe by alleging in November that the Samsung Group created a huge slush fund to routinely bribe government officials, judges and prosecutors.

~ read on... ~

Siemens Bribery Scandal Getting Rooted Out From the Inside

It's been over a year since Siemens, Europe's largest engineering company, hired lawyers from Debevoise & Plimpton to help it root out its own wrong-doers in what's believed to be the biggest corporate bribery scandal ever.

But now, thanks to an amnesty plan for Siemens employees willing to offer information about the scandal, the investigation is bearing fruit. According to this morning's WSJ report, 110 Siemens employees have come forward to offer information, and the company has identified nearly $2.5 billion in suspicious transactions between 2000 and 2006. (A German court already fined Siemens $306 million in October for bribing government officials in Nigeria, Russia and Libya to win business contracts.)

Siemens' GC, Peter Solmssen, who recently joined the company from General Electric, said the amnesty program “has helped us figure out lines of responsibility. Who said what to whom and when.” Solmssen says corruption at Siemens was systemic. “There was a cultural acceptance that this was the way to do business around the world, and we have to change that.”

Many German employees initially were reluctant to act as informants because that evoked memories of the methods used by the Nazi and East German secret police, according to Solmssen. Gradually, though, Siemens workers recognized that “allowing crimes to persist is a form of aiding and abetting.”

~ full article ~

Charges Dropped Against Bhutto Widower

A Pakistani court on Wednesday dropped five corruption cases against a leader of the opposition party that won last month's parliamentary elections.

Asif Ali Zardari, the party's co-chairman, is the widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He became known among Pakistanis by the nickname "Mr. Ten Percent" for allegedly pocketing kickbacks during the 1990s when his wife was in office.

He spent years in jail without being convicted and insists the charges were politically motivated. Now, Bhutto's assassination in December and his takeover of the party have made him a key figure in Pakistan's move back toward democracy after years of military rule.

An anti-corruption court in Rawalpindi ordered prosecutors to terminate five long-standing cases against Zardari.

"He has been acquitted," said Farooq Naek, Zardari's attorney.

~ more... ~

'Immanentize This'

" ... It is this last category of readers who were ensnared by my conservative dork trap. And now that I have you tied up in curiosity, like Butch and Marsellus in Pulp Fiction, I can indulge myself at my leisure. "Immanentize the eschaton" is a hard-core conservative insider-thing. Sort of like saying "TK-421, where are you?" to a Star Wars freak.

In modern parlance, the phrase was coined by the late, great Eric Voegelin in The New Science of Politics in 1952. Voegelin doesn't make for easy reading, and if you can get through The New Science of Politics you probably think I'm an idiot and aren't reading this column anyway. One small example: Voegelin writes, "The problem of an eidos in history, hence, arises only when a Christian transcendental fulfillment becomes immanentized. Such an immanentist hypostasis of the eschaton, however, is a theoretical fallacy." Now, if you can understand that the first time through, you probably need a tan.

Anyway, Voegelin believed that Western civilization took a wrong turn under those damnable Gnostics. Gnostics are small furry creatures with opposable thumbs and who tend to get into your garbage cans. Oh, wait. Sorry. Those are raccoons (whom Cosmo considers to be Gnostics — very long story there).

Gnostics were pre-Christian, early Christian, and various Jewish sects who believed that if you stood on one foot while saying the alphabet backwards, or some other silliness, you could release your soul from material constraints while you were still alive.

Actually, that may not be exactly right either. The problem is that Gnosticism took many forms, in many places, over many distinct periods (sort of like bell-bottom pants). The central thing to keep in mind is that Gnostics believed that personal enlightenment — or revelation to a specific truth or viewpoint — liberated you from the need to find salvation in the afterlife or through any conventional, institutional means. Instead of going to salvation, they brought salvation to them (a Muslim Gnostic, I assume, could have his 72 virgins delivered to his home — which, if true, would make Islamic Gnosticism the fastest-growing religion in the world, for men). It's not surprising, then, that the Catholic Church was constantly putting out Gnostic fires through most of its history.

Because the Gnostics believed they — and they alone — had figured out God's plan in the here and now, they tended to be very, very smug and more than a little annoying (except when they were on the rack, which tended to make them a lot less smirky). It also inclined Gnostics to argue that heaven could be established here on earth, that through material or political means they could perfect the inherently imperfectible.

If that sounds shockingly like Hillary Clinton to you, you deserve a door prize ("But I don't need a door!" my couch just heckled). Voegelin believed that Gnosticism flourished in the liberal, leftist, Nazi, and Communist minds. These folks were hell-bent (heh, heh) on creating heaven on earth. According to Voegelin's perspective, Ralph Nader is a direct descendant of — I am not making this up — such 9th-century crypto-Gnostic thinkers as Scotus Eriugena (if you are tempted to write me saying, "Eriugena was a pantheist, not a Gnostic," I bet you need a tan too).

So: Immanentize means to make part of the here and now. Eschaton, like eschatology, relates to the branch of theology which deals with humanity's destiny. You know, the end times, when all of that wacky, end-timey, Seventh-Seal stuff happens (oceans boil, the righteous ascend to heaven, Carrot Top is funny, etc). Hence "immanentizing the eschaton" means, in effect, trying to make what is reserved for the next life part of the here and now. You can see why all sorts of cults, heretical sects, Scientologists, and various flavors of Mother Jones readers — including the Fighting Illuminati — would be accused of doing precisely that.

So why do conservatives care about all this so much? Well, because in the 1950s and 1960s, thanks largely to William F. Buckley's popularization of the phrase, Young Americans For Freedom turned it into a political slogan. Pale YAFers sported bumper stickers warning, "Don't Immanentize the Eschaton." I believe buttons were made for Mr. Buckley's mayoral campaign when he ran against that renowned eschaton immanentizer, John Lindsay, saying the same thing. ... "

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The Collected Controversies of William F. Buckley

Great post at 10 Zen Monkeys:

" ... Buckley famously smoked marijuana — after sailing his boat outside the U.S. territorial limits, where it would no longer be illegal. Finally at the age of 78, Buckley wrote an editorial for the National Review decrying the war on pot.

"Legal practices should be informed by realities," Buckley argued, citing 700,000 pot arrests each year, 87% of which involved only possession of small amounts. "This exercise in scrupulosity costs us $10-15 billion per year in direct expenditures alone." ... "

Tucson: Jews Muslims hold PeaceWalk

As death tolls in the Gaza Strip continued to rise over the weekend, Muslims and Jews in Tucson marched to promote understanding and peace on a local level.

The Muslim Jewish PeaceWalk has been recognized with proclamations by the governor's office, the Pima County Board of Supervisors, the mayor's office and the Human Relations Commission. March 2 was declared as Tucson's Muslim Jewish PeaceWalk Day.

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John Lennon Museum exhibition 2008

Special Exhibition 2008

"John Lennon & Liverpool/ There Are Places I Remember"

The John Lennon Museum (Junichi Mizusawa, General Manager of the Museum/ Chuo-ku, Saitama-city) will be holding the special exhibition 2008 entitled "John Lennon & Liverpool/There Are Places I Remember" from April 2, 2008 through December 28, 2008 at Event Room on the 5th floor and others.

Various events are being held in 2008, as it is the 150th anniversary of signing the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce, and is also the year that Liverpool, which celebrated its 800th birthday last year, is playing the role of the European Capital of Culture

Can women find unique ways out of war?

" ... In a time of growing conflict around the world, she believes the wisdom and compassion of women can offer a way out. "Women bring tolerance and patience," she says. "Women can bring solutions – we cannot accomplish that with weapons."

She is one of several hundred prominent female leaders from 45 countries who have come to India this week to seek ways to raise women's voices worldwide, hoping that their ideas – so often ignored – begin to move the world away from war.

It is a unique approach to International Women's Day – and intentionally so, says Dena Merriam, who has organized "Making Way for the Feminine," a five-day conference that began Thursday in Jaipur.

"This is not about empowering women," says Ms. Merriam, who also co-chaired the United Nations' Millennium World Peace Summit in 2000. "It is about how women can transform society to help us find new ways of addressing conflict."

There are men here, too. The goal, participants say, is not to antagonize men. Yet each believes that women bring to the issue of conflict resolution a different perspective. Many liken it to that of a mother, stern but caring, and more open to finding alternatives to violence.

That perspective is sorely needed, they say, as the path of power and aggression has led only to more fighting and division. "The feminine gifts of compassion, empathy, and caring prepare women for the urgent role as leaders and reconcilers," said the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, chairwoman of the Global Peace Initiative for Women, at the opening press conference.

"This is about whether women, with men as their partners, can chart a new course," continues Ms. Campbell, who has worked with leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bill Clinton. ... "

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Good news: ID cards to be issued in UK may be free of charge

Identity cards should be provided free as a way of winning the “hearts and minds” of the public, the Government's own expert recommended yesterday.

Sir James Crosby, commissioned by Gordon Brown to write a report on the subject, also cautioned against including a digital image of fingerprints on an ID card's microchip. He said that for security reasons the card and database should hold only some biometric elements.

The proposals from Sir James, the former chief executive of the HBOS banking group, came as Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, promised that 80 per cent of Britons would have a biometric identity card within nine years.

The Home Office is planning to charge £30 for a stand-alone card, and about £93 for a combined passport and ID card. Ms Smith outlined plans to encourage a speedy take-up of the card aimed at achieving a critical mass behind the controversial project.

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Danes lose cartoon humor over Ikea doormats

DENMARK is fed up being treated like a doormat by the Swedish furniture giant Ikea: Academics in Copenhagen claim to have discovered a pattern at Ikea whereby high-end items — chairs, beds and home furnishings — are named after Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian towns whereas doormats, draught excluders and runners are named after Danish towns.

"Swedish Imperialism," claims Danish academic Klaus Kjller of the University of Copenhagen. Together with his colleague Professor Trls Mylenberg of the University of Southern Denmark, he conducted a thorough analysis of the names in the Ikea catalogue. They concluded that the Swedish names are reserved for the "better" products, and that even Norwegian names manage to make it into the bed department. But the "lesser" products bear Danish names such as "Roskilde" and "Kge".

"Doormats and runners, as well as inexpensive wall-to-wall carpeting are third-class, if not seventh-class, items when it comes to home furnishings," Professor Kjller said. "The stuff that goes on the floor is about as low as it gets."

A large number of Danes believe that the professors were right to point out what they perceived as Ikea insults. One reader wrote to a newspaper to complain that "despite the fact that no one has noticed, until now, the brazen insult to the Danish nation, it couldn't be anything but intentional for a gigantic, well-organised company like Ikea to have used Danish names for its doormats.

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Abkhazia appeals for independence

The breakaway Abkhazia region in Georgia has called on the UN and other international bodies to recognise it as independent.

The appeal was made by the separatist Abkhaz parliament on Friday, a day after Russia said it was lifting trade restrictions on the territory.

Georgia condemned Russia's move, warning that it encouraged separatism.

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Anti-Whaling Activist Says He was Shot During Clash with Japanese

The captain of ship harassing Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean says he was shot during a confrontation Friday with a whaling ship.

Paul Watson, who commands the vessel owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, says anti-whaling activists were throwing "stink" bombs at the whaling ship Nisshin Maru. Coast guards posted on the Nisshin Maru retaliated by throwing flash grenades, which are used for crowd control.

Watson says he felt an impact on his chest, and later found a bullet lodged in his bulletproof vest. He says he did not see who shot at him.

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Tibetans to use Olympic Games to highlight 49 years of occupation

China's top official in Tibet on Friday accused the Himalayan region's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of seeking to sabotage the Beijing Olympics.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Communist rule, told Britain's ITV network in January that during the Games Tibet supporters should protest peacefully in China against Beijing's rule.

[ ... ]

Five groups claiming to represent tens of thousands of exiled Tibetans are planning a march from India into Tibet ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics as part of a series of actions to try and embarrass China into ending its rule in the Buddhist region.

But the groups said they would not seek approval from the Dalai Lama, who has a more moderate line and says he wants autonomy for Tibet, not outright independence. The groups have said it would be difficult and dangerous to cross into China.

Zhang's lieutenant, Qiangba Puncog, the top government official in Tibet, said the activities of the Dalai Lama clique "were the main factors of instability in Tibet"

[ ... ]

March 10 marks the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's exile, but he remains the single most important figure in Tibetan life. The atheist Communist Party has competed against him for the loyalty of his people.

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The Nobel Laureates involved with PeaceJam identified areas that must be addressed for there to be world peace, from racism to extreme poverty. The students' job was to chose a project to address that problem in their communities.

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PeaceJam was conceived on the gritty, gang-infested streets of northwest Denver in the summer of 1994. Suvanjieff, an artist, musician, and relentless dreamer was talking with Latino gang members at the corner of 13th and Wyandot when he discovered that these rough-and-tumble youth not only knew who Desmond Tutu was, they appreciated his nonviolent efforts toward change.

Suvanjieff was blown away. In a prevailing atmosphere of disaffection, apathy, and hopelessness among young people, there was also an acute awareness of and appreciation for human greatness. The dreamer in Suvanjieff emerged and he envisioned Nobel Peace Prize Laureates working shoulder-to-shoulder with youth. It was an idea so brash that some scoffed. Could he entice the laureates to jump on board? Could he really help young people regain a sense of meaning and integrity in the world?

Suvanjeiff's vibe was infectious, though, and he soon sold Dawn Engle on the concept. Engle, a former Washington politico and cofounder and chair of the Colorado Friends of Tibet, was granted an audience with the Dalai Lama, and she and Suvanjieff spoke with unabated passion about their brainstorm. The Dalai Lama liked the idea and suggested they bring in other Nobel Laureates. One by one, twelve Laureates-The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, President Oscar Arias, Aung San Suu Kyi, Jody Williams, Máiread Corrigan Maguire, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Bishop Carlos Belo, José Ramos-Horta, Betty Williams, and Sir Joseph Rotblat-learned about the PeaceJam vision and asked, "Where do I sign up?"

Since its launch in 1996, more than 500,000 youth have participated in the PeaceJam program. Over 300,000 service projects have been created and implemented by participating youth, and over 120 PeaceJam youth events have taken place in 10 different countries throughout the world.


Who owns the [Iranian] revolution?

"The owners of the country are not four or five people. The [authoritarian, pro-West] Shah [toppled in 1979] made the same mistake, now they are making this mistake again," said Mr. Montazeri. "Because people saw the opposite of the promises…all this eventually turned to dust."

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Explaining gender differences through video games research

" ... However, it was when the team analysed the fMRI scans of the entire group that they noticed an apparent gender difference. They found that the participants showed activation in the brain's mesocorticolimbic centre, the region typically associated with reward and addiction. The male brains were activated much more strongly than the females, with a direct correlation between the degree of activation and the amount of territory gained. There was no activation-territory correlation for the women, though.

The researchers explain that three structures within the reward circuit - the nucleus accumbens, amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex - were also shown to influence each other much more in men than in women. And the better connected this circuit was, the better males performed in the game.

The findings suggest that the men simply enjoyed winning territory in the computer game more than the women. Reiss is apparently unsurprised by the discovery. "I think it's fair to say that males tend to be more intrinsically territorial," he explains, "It doesn't take a genius to figure out who historically are the conquerors and tyrants of our species - they're the males." ... "

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[source: Sciencebase ]

Facebook group: 'I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who dislike George Bush!'

This group has 1,005,721 members.

Breaking the Nuremberg Code: The US Military’s Human-Testing Program Returns

by Heather Wokusch

The Pentagon is slated to release a suspected toxicant in Crystal City, Virginia this week, ostensibly to test air sensors.

The operation is just the latest example of the Defense Department's long history of using service members and civilians as human test subjects, often without their consent or awareness.

Gas chambers in Maryland

Wray C. Forrest learned about the US military's human-testing program the hard way. In 1973, the Army sent then 23-year-old Forrest to its Edgewood Arsenal chemical-research center in Maryland, promising patriotic service and a four-day work week.

Instead, he became one of roughly 6,720 soldiers used as Edgewood Arsenal test subjects between 1950-1975.

Forrest was given a new identity at Edgewood: Research Subject #6692. He says, “That was the number assigned to me … similar to the numbers assigned to the Jews in the concentration/death camps in Germany during WWII.”

The US military tested heart drugs on Forrest, which he says were administered by IV and various types of injections. Forrest was also exposed to “contaminated drinking water, food, and various ground contaminates that permeate Edgewood Arsenal. BZ [a chemical incapacitating agent], napalm, mustard agents, and any number of other contaminates in the ground and drinking water there, from previous testing done there by the military.”

A total of 254 different chemicals were researched on soldiers at Edgewood, and Forrest notes, “We were never informed as to exactly what we were being given. We also did not sign any informed consent prior to the testing. This was a direct violation of the Geneva Convention rules for the use of humans in chemical and drug experiments/research.”

The Edgewood Arsenal facility played a role in WWII human subject testing as well. Roughly 4,000 US soldiers were used as human guinea pigs in chemical research which often took place in gas chambers.

US Navy member Nat Schnurman, for example, was sent to an Edgewood gas chamber six times one week in 1942. As The Detroit Free Press reported: “On his last visit, a blend of mustard gas and lewisite was piped in. Schnurman was overcome with toxins, vomited into his mask and begged for release. The request was denied. His next memory is of coming to on a snowbank outside the chamber.”

A pattern of abuse and neglect

If the sagas of Forrest and Schnurman were isolated, they would represent a disgraceful yet closed chapter of US military history. Unfortunately, the Pentagon's human-testing program has extended far beyond Edgewood Arsenal.

Human Experimentation, a 1994 report from the congressional General Accounting Office (GAO), lays out the Defense Department's sordid history in detail.

Between 1949 and 1969, for example, the Army sprayed bacterial tracers or simulants on unsuspecting populations in hundreds of biological warfare tests. According to the GAO: “Some of the tests involved spraying large areas, such as the cities of St. Louis and San Francisco, and others involved spraying more focused areas, such as the New York City subway system and Washington National Airport.”

No coherent attempt was made to warn those affected or to offer follow-up medical care.

Between 1952-1975, the CIA tested LSD and other psychochemical agents on “an undetermined number of people without their knowledge or consent.”

No coherent attempt was made to offer follow-up information or care.

Over 235 atmospheric nuclear tests and experiments were conducted on roughly 210,000 personnel affiliated to the US Defense Department from 1945-1962. A further 199,000 “were exposed to radiation through work.”

No coherent attempt was made to warn those affected or to offer follow-up medical care.

One of the best known examples of US military human-testing is Project 112, whereby the Pentagon used biological/chemical agents on 5,842 service members in secret trials conducted over a ten-year period (1962-73).

Project 112, and the affiliated Project SHAD, tested everything from Sarin nerve agent to an E. coli simulant aboard Navy ships and in land trials. Tests were conducted in six states (Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Utah) Canada and Britain and often without the consent or awareness of those exposed.

Only in 2003, after crucial documents slowly became declassified, did the veterans' health complaints start to be acknowledged. By then, over 750 Project 112 veterans were already dead.

The Veterans' Administration still had not notified more than 40% of those used in Project 112/SHAD human testing by 2004. The Defense Department was blamed for foot-dragging in identifying the potentially affected service members and civilians.

The battle to receive care

Wray Forrest knows firsthand about fighting official neglect and denial over human-testing. When his health started to deteriorate, Forrest was forbidden to get medical support: “We could not tell what we were exposed to due to the classification of the project, nor could we seek medical help due to the alleged non-disclosure papers we signed.”

Forrest was discharged from the military in 1982 for health reasons (deemed “unsuitable for service"). He was still unable to talk to anyone about Edgewood Arsenal, so kept his “agreed silence, and took what the military dished out calling me, UNSUITABLE.”

In July 2006, the Veterans' Administration (VA) released a document on health care eligibility listing Edgewood Arsenal survivors as a Category 6 disability rating, which meant that affected veterans would be eligible for clinical evaluation and “necessary treatment of conditions related to exposure without copays.” But when Forrest called the VA to seek help, he was told that the publication was an error and in fact Edgewood Arsenal veterans have no VA health care eligibility.

“How sweet, they have killed us, buried us, and now they want us to go away,” he concluded.

Forrest is not the only veteran subjected to human-testing who has fought to receive care. Even in well-documented and recent cases, compensation is elusive.

In December 2007, for example, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the widows of five veterans who died after being enrolled in fraudulent drug studies at the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, NY.

Stratton had been plagued by allegations of research violations from the early 1990s. Then in 1999, the facility hired Paul Kornak to be its Research Coordinator, despite the fact that Kornak had forged his credentials, falsified his college transcript and been arrested in Pennsylvania years earlier for related fraud. Apparently, background checks for health professionals were minimal at Stratton VA Medical Center.

From 1999-2003, Kornak falsified veterans' medical records at Stratton, inappropriately enrolling them in studies for drug marketability. In 2001, for example, Stratton tested a powerful three-drug chemotherapy combination on Carl M. Steubing, a 78-year-old Battle of the Bulge veteran, despite his previous bout with cancer and poor kidney function.

Steubing died in early 2002. His widow still wonders if the fraudulent human-test studies at Stratton cost her husband his life.

In court, the five widows' lawyer argued that Stratton “committed every kind of research ethics violation imaginable,” adding “when you use individuals, humans, as guinea pigs, you do them harm.”

The US government responded by saying there was no way to prove the veterans had experienced pain or died early as a result of the corrupt drug experiments.

Case closed.

Open-air testing

If veterans with solid proof of having been used as test subjects cannot receive compensation, the possibilities are miniscule for service members and civilians used in trials without their consent or awareness.

Open-air testing of chemical and biological (CB) agents is one such case.

After 6,000 sheep died following the apparent release of a nerve agent at an Army facility in Utah in 1969, open-air testing was officially said to have ended in the US.

But the Defense Department's April 2007 report to Congress on “Chemical and Biological Defense” strongly suggests an imminent resumption.

According to Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, at least three passages of the Pentagon's 2007 report indicate a planned continuance of open-air testing.

While one section of the document, for example, mentions the use of “live-CB-agent full system test chambers,” another passage (page 67) reads:

“More than thirty years have passed since outdoor live agent chemical tests were banned in the United States, and the last outdoor test with live chemical agent was performed, so much of the infrastructure for the field testing of chemical detectors no longer exists or is seriously outdated. The currently budgeted improvements in the T&E infrastructure will greatly enhance both the developmental and operational field testing of full systems, with better simulated representation of threats and characterization of system response.”

As Dr. Boyle notes, both “test chambers” and “field testing” are mentioned in the report.

In addition, the passage says that improvements in the T&E (testing and evaluation) infrastructure and “better simulated representation of threats” are going to be carried out using “full systems” rather than simulants.

Dr. Boyle says, “It is clear they will be engaging in 'Field Trials' (not in test chambers) of 'full systems,' which means 'live CB agents,' not simulants.”

Another troublesome passage from the Defense Department's April 2007 report (page 65) is:

“Current T&E shortfalls lie in the full systems and platform test chambers and supporting instrumentation and fixtures. These test fixtures must be able to introduce and adequately control live CB agent challenges and provide a range of environmental and challenge conditions to simulate evolving threats, while performing end-to-end systems operations of CB equipment.”

Dr. Boyle points out that the passage says “full systems” rather than “simulants,” and it makes a distinction between “test fixtures” and “test chambers.” He adds that talking about “'a range of environmental and challenge conditions' in a test chamber” is nonsensical. “A test chamber does not have a 'range of environmental and challenge conditions.'”

“What they are talking about here,” Dr. Boyle concludes, “is testing live CB (chemical and biological) agents in Field Tests – open-air testing, where there will be a 'range of environmental and challenge conditions' to confront, test and verify.”

Gassing Crystal City

In May 2007, just one month after the Defense Department's controversial report to Congress, the Pentagon quietly announced it would release “a dust simulating a biological attack in the Pentagon South Parking Lot.” The stated purpose was to study “the subsequent clean-up of roadways, people and equipment after the release.”

The announcement cryptically described the “dust” as containing “a harmless inert bacterium found in soil, water and air.”

Kirt P. Love, Director of the Desert Storm Battle Registry (DSBR), a Gulf War veterans' group dealing with the exposures of the 1991 conflict, repeatedly phoned the Pentagon to clarify exactly what “dust” would be used in the imminent open-air test.

He soon found, however, that “the departments involved were not communicating with each other … only the people who handled the agent knew anything.”

Love described the situation as “disquieting” and said, “I thought this was very unfair to the Pentagon Police and other innocent bystanders who didn't need to be kept in the dark about this. How could they conduct an open air test of a microbe and not tell people what it was up front?”

Eventually, Love's phone calls paid off. A Pentagon representative told him the substance to be tested was Bacillus Subtilis, which intriguingly, was also used during the US military's Project SHAD human testing in the 1960s-70s.

The Pentagon's announcement was correct in saying that Bacillus Subtilis is found in soil. It failed to mention, however, that the bacterium has been linked to pulmonary disease and irreversible lung damage.

The Defense Department quietly carried out its Bacillus Subtilis release in early June 2007. A Pentagon spokesperson would not confirm if the roughly 50 test subjects and numerous bystanders had been informed about the possible health risks. 

And the open air tests continue.

In the next few days, the Pentagon is slated to release perfluorocarbon tracers and sulfur hexafluoride in Crystal City, Virginia.

Dubbed “Urban Shield: Crystal City Urban Transport Study,” the operation will test the effectiveness of the city's chemical sensors, and according to The Examiner newspaper, “the data will help the Pentagon and Arlington shape their lockdown policies for chemical and biological attacks or accidents.” Lockdown policies.

According to a Pentagon press release from late February 2008, the study “will involve releasing a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and inert tracer gas that poses no health or safety hazards to people or the environment.”

But it's not quite that simple. Sulfur hexafluoride is a suspected respiratory toxicant; as such, exposure in certain amounts may be especially harmful for those with asthma, emphysema and other respiratory issues. It also is a suspected neurotoxicant, with potential untold consequences for the nervous systems of those vulnerable.

That part is left out of the Pentagon's press release.

Crystal City is one of the “urban villages” of Arlington County, Virginia. It features upscale offices and residential areas - in other words a lot of civilians. You would think that if the Pentagon is releasing suspected toxicants into such a compressed urban area there would be more warning about potential health risks.

Yet repeated phone calls to the Pentagon yesterday yielded no results. The Force Protection Agency seemed unaware of the upcoming test and the press office was of no help either. No one could – or would – answer basic questions such as how many people could be exposed in the open-air test, if any attempt had been made to brief citizens on potential health risks or if there would be any medical follow-up provided.

Perfectly legal

The Pentagon's laissez faire approach to these open-air tests raises questions about the possibilities for further testing on the general US population.

There is a tricky clause in Chapter 32/Title 50 of the United States Code (the aggregation of US general and permanent laws). Specifically, Section 1520a lists the following cases in which the Secretary of Defense can conduct a chemical or biological agent test or experiment on humans if informed consent has been obtained:
(1) Any peaceful purpose that is related to a medical, therapeutic, pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial, or research activity.
(2) Any purpose that is directly related to protection against toxic chemicals or biological weapons and agents.
(3) Any law enforcement purpose, including any purpose related to riot control.

In other words, there are many circumstances under which the Secretary of Defense can test chemical or biological agents on human beings, but at least informed consent has to be obtained in advance.

Or does it. Section 1515, another part of Chapter 32, is entitled “Suspension; Presidential authorization” and says:
After November 19, 1969, the operation of this chapter, or any portion thereof, may be suspended by the President during the period of any war declared by Congress and during the period of any national emergency declared by Congress or by the President.

Essentially, if the President or Congress decides that we are at war then the Secretary of Defense does not need anybody's consent to test chemical or biological agents on human beings. Gives one pause during these days of a perpetual “war on terror.”

Ominously, in June 2007, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell gained White House approval to update a 1981 presidential order on how US spy agencies operate. Potentially up for review in the highly secretive overhaul, referred to as Order 12333, is the topic of human experimentation.

A surge in US WMD spending

The Bush administration has quietly channeled tens of billions of dollars into chemical and biological weapons. Bush's 2007 budget, for example, earmarked almost $2 billion for biodefense research and development via the National Institutes of Health alone.

Research aims are often dubious. In October 2005, for example, US scientists resurrected the 1918 Spanish flu, a virus which had killed almost 50 million people. And a virologist in St. Louis has been working on a more lethal form of mousepox (related to smallpox) just to try stopping the virus once it has been created.

Since the R&D is top secret and oversight limited, the public is rarely aware of escalating dangers. As of August 2007, for example, biological weapons laboratories across the country had reported 36 lost shipments and accidents for that year, almost double the number for all of 2004.

In addition to challenging international non-proliferation agreements and risking a global arms race, the Bush administration's surge in chemical and biological weapons spending raises questions over what deadly weapons may have been tested on populations abroad. And what may be tested domestically, with or without the public's consent.

For Wray Forrest, the battle for government accountability continues: “On September 29, 2006, Congress passed a bill that will inform veterans exactly what they were exposed to, within the next two or three years.  I can just see it now: They visit my grave site and post it on my tomb stone, in order to inform me of what I was exposed to and just what exposure caused me to die.”

*** Wray Forrest and other veterans have put together a DVD on “how our Federal Government treated its troops at not only Edgewood Arsenal, but also at other military installations in the United States of America.” For a free copy, send a blank DVD+R and self-addressed postage paid DVD Envelope to: EDGEWOOD RESEARCH VETERAN, 3910 Patrick Drive Apt 14, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80916.  A linked version of this article and corresponding youtube video are available at


Project 112 (Including Project SHAD)


Edgewood Arsenal experiments

Dugway proving ground testing

U.S. biological weapons testing

Bad trip to Edgewood: US Army drug testing, television documentary archive, 1950–1992

Germ War: the U.S. Record

A History Of US Secret Human Experimentation


Secret US Human Biological Experimentation

U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee

Does our government respect human life?

Human Experimentation in America before the Second World War

US admits germ war tests in Britain

MKULTRA testing

Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Study


Oklahoma City sonic boom tests

Human radiation experiments


Visit Heather Wokusch's site at

~ link ~


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