Sunday, June 1, 2008

'Pondering a skull, a glass half full'

In Japan, the Goddess of Creation, literally Mother Nature, is everywhere (5). The West has various derogatory words for it, from Animism to Vitalism, but one who has experienced what it means in everyday life will not dismiss it lightly.

Grand trees have sacred ropes tied around them, great rocks are the subject of veneration, and waterfalls serve for spiritual purification. The birth and rapid death of cherry blossoms are not only an occasion for drunken office parties alfresco, but also annual reminders that life is fleeting and this, unimproved, is the best and most beautiful of all possible worlds. Little shrines to Inari, the goddess of the soil and its life-giving crop, rice, are everywhere, guarded by two stone foxes. And these are Japanese trees and blossoms and rocks and waterfalls and soil and rice and foxes; not the spawns of global Gaia Inc., managed by Albert Gore, Jr through the local franchise of The Green Party. That's how one comes to love one's native land and to resist its adulteration by incompatible foreign peoples, cultures, ideologies and, not the least, interests.

Europe once had similar beliefs and observances. Their traces abound: hard and eternal as Stonehenge or evanescent as the flower wreaths on the heads of Slavonic or Scandinavian girls at their maypole dances. But the church, which inherited the Hebrew prophets' hatred of Astarte, co-opted a few ancient rites as Christmas trees or Easter eggs, or stamped them out with fire and sword a thousand years ago. And so, the umbilical cord that connects a people to its soil and its tribe was strictured in Europe and its diaspora, replaced first by the ecumenical church, and then by universalist intellectual constructs such as Marxism, psychoanalysis, and liberalism. But in Japan, the ancient link has survived, and that is one of the main reasons why Japan is surviving while the West is in the process of self-liquidation.

The prognosis for Europe's and its diaspora's return to their ancestors' spiritual connectedness with Nature is not good, given that the archdevil of modern times, Adolf Hitler, who saw the weakness that Christianity and Marxism had bequeathed to his people, was obsessed with the pagan Norse and Aryans, and transplanted their rituals and symbols to the Third Reich. But if the European civilization is to survive, it must get over Hitler, as it must over colonialism and slavery.

Not to mention Nietzsche, there are thoughtful contemporary voices, such as Alain de Benoist's On Being a Pagan, advocating Europe's return to the ways of Astarte-Europa as a way of shedding the psychoses of self-loathing, moralism and allophilia. But Christianity is by now woven into the European fabric. One hopes that the mainstream Christian churches will discover that the God of the Western peoples does not only dwell in dusty Nicean theology parchments or in a Scriptura written by unknown Hebrew scribes of 2600 years ago and significantly mistranslated ever since. They may rediscover that God dwells locally and tangibly: in the first flowers of spring pushing through the snow, and in the European birch and pine forests, among which the minarets pollinating with amplified Arabic incantations to the God of desert shepherds truly are out of place.

There is something the European peoples can learn from Japan about the meaning and place of religion. First, that the grand vision, based on the life of a foreign individual described in imported scrolls, does not have to displace the local Goddess but may live with her in a happy symbiosis. Thus, Buddhism cohabits with Shintoism, and Gautama with Amaterasu, and both are equally happy to get married in a Presbyterian church. The phenomenon of religious wars, of religious hatred, of a despotic, jealous God, is unknown in the history of Japan (6).

It follows that a God that is zealous, tyrannical and unforgiving is not healthy for the survival of an advanced civilization. The West has indeed abandoned such a vision of its God, and most of Europe has abandoned him altogether. The problem is that the irrational, self-sacrificial alternative creed that has filled the heart of the revamped Church and the heads of the West's elites – the creed of liberalism and allophilia – has resulted in the importation into the West of tens of millions of rapidly multiplying foreigners who brought with them their tyrannical, absolutist, dissent-hating God with implacable claims on universal fealty.

It's amazing that the Church – it matters not which denomination – was so quick in bowing to that foreign conception of God while having yielded, decades ago, the last few vestiges of its own old and superficially similar conception. It is perhaps not coincidental that the Church in Europe is strongest and liberalism is weakest in countries where they think locally and act locally. Poland, for instance, has a cult of the Black Madonna, and ostensibly Christian holidays have as much in common with the Amaterasu Shinto traditions of Japan as with the postmodern and shaky Christianity of Western Europe.

If the Japanese pleat ropes and rice straw into sacred symbols, the Slavs pleat wheat straw and ribbons into consecrated wreaths, and shrubs and pussywillows into fronds of Easter palms. If some spiritual Japanese purify themselves under cold waterfalls, some spiritual Poles take sunrise baths in running streams and rivers on Easter Thursday. On Holy Saturday, Catholic Slav priests have been consecrating fire and water for a thousand years in a ritual not essentially different from the one their pagan ancestors had performed, or that Shinto priests still perform. Other East European peoples have retained similar traditions, and it's in them where Europe's healthiest roots and some of its best leaders, such as Vaclav Havel or Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, may still be found.

It may be the misfortune of the European Union that it's a Franco-German creation. The one has the unfortunate habit of issuing a torrent of lofty words, such as Liberté, égalité, fraternité, that end up with la racaille either hacking women, priests and philosophers to pieces on the streets of Paris in the 1790s, or burning cities to the shouts of Allahu akbar in the present decade. And the other, mixing its repentance for the monstrosity of Nazism with current "isms" such as hedonism, nihilism and socialism, is hardly a model of a healthy take on life, nation or the transcendent.

For a European regeneration to take place, and an American one as well, the West must take its intellectuals to account. The political and cultural establishment of the European peoples, including the diaspora, works assiduously toward the decomposition of the West through open-ended Third-World immigration; surrender to Islam; abolition of ethnic identity – but only of the European ethnics; transfer of national sovereignty to supranational bodies some of which are controlled by votes of the Third World; and the enforcement of totalitarian anti-discrimination, anti-truth laws designed to nip in the bud any possibility of successful resistance by the Euro-ethnics subjected to this gradual wipeout.

As we have shown in the comparison with Japan, this current has no basis in universal justice or in irreversible patterns of historical dialectic. Its only basis is in a psychosis injected into the minds of the European peoples by their own elites.

~ From: Astarte and Amaterasu - The Diverging Destinies of Europe and Japan. -- Part 2 ~


Because (Why we fight)

From: Why We Fight, 2008: Against the War, Against a Culture of Fear, And For Barack Obama

But when that weariness beckons, I know it's more important than ever to remind myself why it's worth fighting on, no matter what. So here's an off-the-top-of-my-head list of reasons -- a kind of Why We Fight, circa 2008 -- that keeps me, and hopefully others, from saying "no mas" and abandoning the struggle:

--Because while hatred is a cancer, gnawing the hater from within, a righteous indignation is aerobics for the soul; and, between the two-bit cartoon-figures posing as political experts on TV, who've made this campaign feel like an endless re-run of Are You Smarter Than A Third-Grader (Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer, et al), and the Clinton operatives who ceaselessly exploit those cartoon-figures (Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson, Sidney Blumenthal, etc.)--and those with a poseur's foot in both camps (like James Carville and George Stephanopolous)--we have much to be righteously indignant about.

--Because we know that all the candidates need to think deeper, harder, and more compassionately about ending the criminal occupation of Iraq -- visiting that country's hospitals to see the damage first-hand, apologizing to our victims, and working to make reparations for the horrors we have visited on the innocent men, women, and children there -- and we sense, from everything we've seen, that Obama is more likely to show that kind of honest compassion than any other candidate.

--Because we are women, old and young, who feel that if Hillary Clinton's casual threats of genocide represent a victory for feminism, then where do we go to un-burn our bras?

--Because in the same week that Clinton made that genocide threat -- perpetuating a George Bush style that is not "cowboy" at all, with that word's overtones of tough-ass heroism, but instead the epitome of prissy, fey cowardice -- Obama openly considered the possibility of the war-crimes trials for torture that are already overdue.

--Because we know the Clintons extremely well (Bill Richardson, Ted Kennedy, Cris Dodd, Joe Andrew, Robert Reich, etc.); and, rather than earning our loyalty -- which is historically almost always the case in American party politics -- amazingly enough they have earned our distrust and suspicion instead, and we have reached out to a new candidate with no favors to promise us except a chance at a fresh start...

...Or because all we know of the Clintons nowadays is what we see on TV, and between Bill's shameless and amateurish bullyboy tactics, and Hillary's profound depths of blatant insincerity, we feel an overwhelming need to finally switch channels.

--Because anyone supported by Rush Limbaugh, the openly fascist Richard Mellon-Scaife, and Everybody's Favorite Ol' Crypto-Nazi, Pat Buchanan, is probably not earning that support by pushing for progressive social change.

--Because we know that it will take at least a generation to undo the damage to America's image around the world that George Bushes I and II have created; and we know that Clinton -- not only with her Strangelove-ian threat to obliterate an entire country, but also with her prim, smug promise to continue the curious Bush policy of refusing to even meet with foreign leaders unless she decides they're nice enough guys -- has shown she's not the person to best represent our country abroad. We'd be happier with someone whose background -- as a multi-racial child, growing up in a variety of places and circumstances -- and whose vocation as a civil-rights organizer has uniquely equipped him to represent a truly diverse America.

--Because we can judge a future president's government by the company they keep in their campaign, and we know that The Porcine Mark Penn is still puppet-mastering Clinton's strategy with one sweaty paw while eagerly pocketing blood-stained Blackwater dollars with the other...and that The Human Praying Mantis, James Carville, has nothing more left in his once-scary arsenal than laughable Judas-cries, darkly veiled threats, and bizarre testimony to the size of the ex-First Lady's "cojones."

--Because we reject the worn-out politics of fear that Clinton has so passionately embraced, starting way back when with surrogate Bob Kerrey's "Obama-is-Muslim" slurs, continuing with the dissemination of the ludicrous "Arab garb" photos and the 60 Minutes "as far as I know" vaudeville routine, through The Porcine One's racist depiction of Obama as some kind of streetcorner coke-dealer, and the 3AM phone-call campaign, ad infinitum, ad nauseum...Because, frankly, the Clinton campaign has left a toxic slime-trail of fear across white America...and, as Carlos Santana just told a cheering audience at the New Orleans Jazz Festival: "We've had enough war and fear...we don't want it any more. We just...don't...want it any more."

--Because, like Bruce Springsteen, we come from dying Rust-Belt cities (Utica, New York, in my case) with our eyes wide open, and we know exactly what Bill Clinton did to us with NAFTA and GATT, and what he's still doing to earn the tens of millions that he and Hillary are banking from the union-busting billionaires in Colombia -- and no amount of horseshit shot-and-a-beer photo-ops will convince us the Clintons are on the side of the laboring man and woman.

--Because we're sick to death of blatant pandering, whether it's with laughably cynical Gas-Tax Holidays (whoopie!) or 24/7 pastor-demonizing (boo!) -- and we prefer Obama's nuanced, adult, one-to-one way of speaking to the outmoded, Huey-Long-without-the-talent campaign style of Clinton and McCain.

--Because it takes a certain kind of person to vote to authorize a criminal and transparently-phony Shock-and-Awe attack on the women and children of a foreign country and never apologize for that vote, even when the con-men and two-bit thugs who fronted it have been forced to admit the whole thing was a charade; and, ladies and gentlemen, Hillary Clinton is that kind of person.

--Because Obama has shown gentlemanly class in refusing to work the "sniper-fire" lie into every TV sound-bite -- a kind of class unknown to Clinton, who pimped out the Reverend Wright "issue" until everyone finally cried "enough" except for the insatiable Tim Russert and her own too-cute-by-half operative at ABC, LIttle Georgie Stephanopolous.

--Because we know that smart, principled people, whom we love and respect, still believe deeply in Clinton, even if we can't always understand why...But we also know that politicians work to increase their appeal to all their "target-groups"; and when one of Clinton's biggest target-groups is now, as the TV commentators are so delicately putting it, "The Low-Information Voter" -- i.e., the willfully-ignorant, which is the only real definition of "stupid" -- Penn, Wolfson, and Co. will work tirelessly to increase the amount of stupid-friendly stuff in her campaign...

--Because Clinton started out with a virtually insurmountable head-start, in every way, and it took a genuine, heartfelt, and unprecedented grass-roots movement--spearheaded by newly-energized young men and women, black and white--to wrest the invisible tiara from her head, and while we know she ain't givin' it up without a fight, we know what it would mean for a whole new generation if their hopes were to be thwarted by some kind of last-minute, nationwide gerry-mandering, or Brand New Metrics, or the don't-count-little-states, change-the-primary-rules-after-the-primaries-are-over tactics that the Clinton campaign is trying to sneak into the Democratic Party process.

----Because -- and maybe most importantly of all -- in a week when newly-discovered photos of Hiroshima reminded us of the nightmarish horror that nuclear "obliteration" can wreak on innocent human flesh, Hillary Clinton defended, without shame, her threat to commit similar genocide on women and children.

Ghost of web surf rides past: 'The Pentagon's New Map'

Since the end of the cold war, the United States has been trying to come up with an operating theory of the world—and a military strategy to accompany it.  Now there's a leading contender.  It involves identifying the problem parts of the world and aggressively shrinking them.  Since September 11, 2001, the author, a professor of warfare analysis, has been advising the Office of the Secretary of Defense and giving this briefing continually at the Pentagon and in the intelligence community.  Now he gives it to you.

LET ME TELL YOU why military engagement with Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad is not only necessary and inevitable, but good.

When the United States finally goes to war again in the Persian Gulf, it will not constitute a settling of old scores, or just an enforced disarmament of illegal weapons, or a distraction in the war on terror.  Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point—the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization.

That is why the public debate about this war has been so important:  It forces Americans to come to terms with I believe is the new security paradigm that shapes this age, namely, Disconnectedness defines danger.  Saddam Hussein's outlaw regime is dangerously disconnected from the globalizing world, from its rule sets, its norms, and all the ties that bind countries together in mutually assured dependence.

The problem with most discussion of globalization is that too many experts treat it as a binary outcome:  Either it is great and sweeping the planet, or it is horrid and failing humanity everywhere.  Neither view really works, because globalization as a historical process is simply too big and too complex for such summary judgments.  Instead, this new world must be defined by where globalization has truly taken root and where it has not.

Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder.  These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core.  But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists.  These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap. 

Globalization's "ozone hole" may have been out of sight and out of mind prior to September 11, 2001, but it has been hard to miss ever since.  And measuring the reach of globalization is not an academic exercise to an eighteen-year-old marine sinking tent poles on its far side.  So where do we schedule the U.S. military's next round of away games?  The pattern that has emerged since the end of the cold war suggests a simple answer:  in the Gap.

The reason I support going to war in Iraq is not simply that Saddam is a cutthroat Stalinist willing to kill anyone to stay in power, nor because that regime has clearly supported terrorist networks over the years.  The real reason I support a war like this is that the resulting long-term military commitment will finally force America to deal with the entire Gap as a strategic threat environment.

~ more... ~


Thirteen Strings and a $3-million fiddle

[Below, with the Orchestra of Radio France in 2000]

Music lovers can hear what a $3-million violin sounds like when Canadian violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou and her Guarneri fiddle are featured in a fundraising concert June 6 for Ottawa's Thirteen Strings.

Hou has the 1729 Guarneri for a three-year loan, thanks to the instrument bank of the Canada Council for the Arts.

The council holds a competition every three years for the prized instruments in the collection, and Hou won first prize in the 2006 competition. She's the first musician to win the competition twice in a row. Hou, who was born in Shanghai, grew up in Mississauga and studied at Juilliard, had also won top prize in 2003, and it was then that she first chose the collection's "Ex-Heath" Guarneri.

~ From: Ottawa Citizen ~

Thirteen parties to continue talks

Thirteen national parties represented at the Constituent Assembly (CA) are holding a meeting, Sunday, to find ways to resolve outstanding sticky points regarding the formation of new government.

As the meeting of the seven party task force on Saturday could not reach to any conclusion, thirteen parties are going to take up the issues such as formation of new government, the provision for president, agenda for coming CA meetings, nomination of 26 CA members and integration of army.

Once the parties reach to conclusion, the top leaders of three parties will then finalise the matter, according to reports.

The issue of which party should bag the position of prime minister and president has been one of the most vexing issue.

While the Maoists have staked claim to both the positions, Nepali Congress and Unified Marxist Leninist have said that both positions should not go to a single party. sd Jun 01 08


In solidarity with Czech opponents of Star Wars missile defense

Report from Brunwisk, Maine on hunger strike vigil

We had seven folks on the windy street today in Brunswick, Maine holding signs and handing out flyers made just for the occasion. It was easy to tell that most people passing by knew nothing about U.S. deployments of Star Wars technology in Poland and the Czech Republic. They knew even less about a hunger strike that began in Prague on May 13 and has slowly grown to involve more people, including myself.

And that is just the reason why I joined the hunger strike on May 24. The time has come for the American people to hear about this new arms race that our government is creating in Europe. We are going to pay for it, in more ways than one. We ought to know something about it and should be talking about it in our communities.

In fact, even the peace movement in the U.S. knows little about Bush's planned Star Wars deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic. Until we get the attention of hard working activists, who are understandably preoccupied with Iraq, then we will have little chance of reaching the public in general.

By the end of the hour on the street today, I was ready to sit down. But I will be back out again on the corner on Wednesday and every other weekday as long as this hunger strike goes on. I am committed to continuing my own participation in this hunger strike in solidarity with Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar in Prague as long as they continue with theirs.

It is my hope that people will begin to see the connection between the war for oil in Iraq and this new U.S. aggressive military move to essentially surround Russia -- which just happens to hold the world's largest supply of natural gas and large deposits of oil. The U.S. is undertaking a global military strategy to wrest control of the planet's remaining fossil fuels. This means massive military spending in the years to come and endless war, instability and occupation.

We have to begin to get the American people to see this larger strategic picture if we hope to stem this tide of growing militarism. It will take endless war with all nations that have fossil fuel resources in order to run our over-consuming lifestyle here in the U.S.

I am not interested in debating whether this hunger strike will stop the so-called "missile defense" interceptor and radar deployments by Bush in Central Europe or not. I am more determined than ever to make sure that people begin to know about them. As Noam Chomsky says, "The public can't react to something that they don't know about."

The American people have been well trained to bury our political emotions behind alcohol, drugs, food, TV, shopping, sex, and sports. My task right now is, in my small way, to help bring these feelings back to the surface where we can scratch them a bit and trigger some kind of creeping consciousness.

I will be posting daily updates on my blog while I am on this hunger strike so please stay tuned.

If you haven't already, please be sure to sign the Czech petition at

Winter Soldier blackout

Media still freezing out anti-war veterans


In March, dozens of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars gathered in Maryland to offer their firsthand accounts of what they had seen—and in some cases done—in both war zones. The dramatic Winter Soldier hearings were well-covered in the alternative and independent media. But the corporate media mostly took a pass (FAIR Action Alert, 3/19/08)--a trend that continued when Winter Soldier came to Capitol Hill.

The group that organized the first event, Iraq Veterans Against the War, was invited to Capitol Hill on May 15 to appear before the Congressional Progressive Caucus in an informal hearing. As before, the assembled veterans offered remarkable accounts of their war experiences. Given the proximity to the Beltway media elite and the fact that Congress was debating another round of funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one might have thought it would be hard for the corporate media to ignore Winter Soldier a second time.

But ignore it they did, offering even less coverage of these hearings than of the March events. One notable exception was the PBS NewsHour, which aired a report on May 21 about Winter Soldier. But they were a lonely exception to the media rule, which seems to be that there is now a little space to talk about certain veterans' issues—like post-traumatic stress and suicide rates—so long as you don't hear from the vets themselves, or at least this particular group of outspoken anti-war veterans.

ACTION: Ask the network newscasts why they decided, once again, to ignore the Winter Soldier hearings.


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Europe balks at $8 a gallon gas

Trucks blocking a main London highway, fishermen blockading French ports, Dutch drivers petitioning parliament, Spanish and Italian fishermen voting to strike – Europeans are becoming restless at relentlessly high energy costs.

But what can governments do about oil prices that are six times what they were six years ago? Protesters, experts, and officials disagree substantially on which is the most appropriate course of action.

• Tax relief. European drivers pay the highest gas taxes in the world. In Britain, tax accounts for around 65 percent of the pump price for diesel, which recently topped 130 pence a liter or $9.88 per gallon.

"Within a matter of weeks we could see a large number of British haulage companies go bankrupt," warns Peter Carroll, a truck-business owner whose fuel bill has jumped almost 50 percent since October. "There should be a rebate for essential users. It already applies to bus companies. It would cost money in the short term, but it will keep alive an industry."

Chancellor Alistair Darling has promised to review a fuel tax hike planned for October. But that might be too little too late. "It isn't going to make a great deal of difference," says Jonathan Loynes, an economist. "It's only 2 pence, which pales in significance compared with the rises we have seen."

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has called for European Union (EU) cuts in fuel sales taxes to help consumers, noting that as fuel prices have shot up, so has the tax take. But the EU objects. It argues this would drain public coffers and merely benefit oil producers.

"The European Commission considers this to be extremely dangerous, because it sends a very negative message to producing countries to say they can raise prices because we will counteract that with [lower] taxes," says Ferran Tarradellas, a spokesman for EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

~ more... ~


Sapphire Energy unveils world’s first renewable gasoline


Sonoma, California – May 28, 2008 – Sapphire Energy announced today they have produced renewable 91 octane gasoline that conforms to ASTM certification, made from a breakthrough process that produces crude oil directly from sunlight, CO2 and photosynthetic microorganisms, beginning with algae.

"Sapphire's goal is to be the world's leading producer of renewable petrochemical products," said CEO and co-founder Jason Pyle, speaking from the influential Simmons Alternative Energy Conference. "Our goal is to produce a renewable fuel without the downsides of current biofuel approaches.

"Sapphire Energy was founded on the belief that the only way to cure our dependence on foreign oil and end our flirtation with ethanol and biodiesel is through radical new thinking and a commitment to new technologies."

The end result — high-value hydrocarbons chemically identical to those in gasoline — will be entirely compatible with the current energy infrastructure from cars to refineries and pipelines.

Not biodiesel, not ethanol. And no crops or farm land required.

The Sapphire platform offers vast advantages – scientific, economic and social – over traditional biofuel approaches.

Company scientists have built a platform that uses sunlight, CO2, photosynthetic microorganisms and non-arable land to produce carbon-neutral alternatives to petrochemical-based processes and products. First up: renewable gasoline. Critically important, in light of recent studies that prove the inefficiencies and costs of crop-based biofuels, there is no 'food vs. fuel' tradeoff. The process is not dependent on food crops or valuable farmland, and is highly water efficient. "It's hard not to get excited about algae's potential," said Paul Dickerson, chief operating officer of the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy "Its basic requirements are few: CO2, sun, and water. Algae can flourish in non-arable land or in dirty water, and when it does flourish, its potential oil yield per acre is unmatched by any other terrestrial feedstock."

Scalability key to success

Sapphire's scalable production facilities can grow easily and economically because production is modular, transportable, and fueled by sunlight – not constrained by land, crops, or other natural resources.

"Any company or fuel that hopes to solve the biofuel conundrum must be economically scalable – and that requires conforming to the existing refining distribution and fleet infrastructure," said Brian Goodall, Sapphire's new vice president of downstream technology. Goodall led the team responsible for the highly visible, first-ever Virgin Atlantic "green" 747 flight earlier this year. In addition to a three-decade career in the petrochemical industry, he is a corporate inductee at the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Domestic production a matter of national security, economic growth

A new domestic energy platform based on sunlight and CO2 has the economic potential to herald a tectonic market shift as well as make the country more secure. Last year, the nation imported over $200 billion of foreign oil, and, with oil prices reaching record heights every week, that number is expected to increase dramatically. Protecting these strategic overseas interests is an increasingly expensive proposition.

"It is imperative, both economically and for national security reasons, that American companies figure out ways to produce oil here at home," said Sapphire co-founder Kristina Burow of ARCH Venture Partners, the company's founding investor. "Imagine if even a portion of the $200 billion we spend on foreign crude stayed here: The payoff in new jobs, and domestic economic growth would be huge."

Developments require new industrial category: Green Crude Production

In fact, Sapphire's processes and science are so radical, the company is at the forefront of an entirely new industrial category called 'Green Crude Production.' Products and processes in this category differ significantly from other forms of biofuel because they are made solely from photosynthetic microorganisms, sunlight and CO2; do not result in biodiesel or ethanol; enhance and replace petroleum-based products; are carbon neutral and renewable; and don't require any food crop or agricultural land.

The final products meet ASTM standards and are completely compatible with the existing petroleum infrastructure, from refinement through distribution and the retail supply chain...

'A fatwa denouncing terrorism and declaring it as "most inhuman crime" '

In a landmark move, leading Islamic seminary Darul Uloom on Saturday issued a fatwa denouncing terrorism and declaring it as "most inhuman crime".

"In its (Islam) eyes, on any part over the surface of the earth spreading mischief, rioting, breach of peace, bloodshed, killing of innocent persons and plundering are the most inhuman crimes," read the fatwa, issued at an Anti-Terrorism Conference in New Delhi, which was endorsed by several organisations of all religions.
The conference, organised by Jamiat-Ulma-I-Hind, was attended by clerics, scholars and religious leaders of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and over 70,000 people from across the country participated in it.
Reading out the fatwa, Deoband's cleric Riyasat Ali Bijnouri, quoted Holy Koran as saying: "Do not mischief on the earth after it has been set in order."
"Islam loves peace. Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence... and does not allow it in any form," the fatwa said.
The fatwa further read: "The religion of Islam has come to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace."
The conference, however, expressed deep concern and agony on the present global condition in which most of the nations are adopting an adverse attitude towards Muslims.
"It is a matter of greater concern that the internal and external policies of a country are getting heavily influenced by these forces," MP and Jamiat leader Maulana Mahmood Asad Madani said. The gathering also condemned attempts to implicate Muslim.
~ From: the Netagiri blog ~

"We are urging people to reflect on whether it is appropriate for them to maintain their links with Israeli institutions"

"It is one step short of urging people to consider a boycott." He said UCU members needed to discuss the situation in the Middle East in more detail before any moves toward carrying out a full boycott could begin.

The intention is for members to reflect on "the apparent complicity" of most Israeli academics in the "humanitarian catastrophe imposed on Gaza by Israel", according to the motion.

It says union members should "be asked to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions".

The motion states that "criticism of Israel or Israeli policy are not, as such, anti-Semitic".

But it notes the "continuation of illegal settlement, killing of civilians and the impossibility of civil life, including education" as a result of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

It criticises previous attempts to stop UCU members debating a "boycott of Israeli academic institutions".

After last year's vote, Jewish leaders condemned the union for its "frightening" assault on academic freedom.

Steven Weinberg, a physicist who won a Nobel prize, cancelled a planned visit to Britain in protest at the boycott calls.

Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the UK, said: "Any call to an academic boycott on Israel is an act of folly since boycott stands as a contradiction of what academy symbolizes and represents.

Those who call for this boycott are not interested in anything but the vilification of Israel, ignoring even the efforts of both Israelis and Palestinians to achieve peace.

"They abuse the system which allows them to promote their destructive agenda."

"It's about time for all of us to speak up loudly and clearly against this marginal yet vocal group which represents the antithesis of academic cooperation".

The Stop the Boycott campaign, which is backed by the Jewish Leadership Council, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and other groups, has condemned the latest UCU motion as "shameful" and "utterly irresponsible".

Jeremy Newmark, co-chair of the Stop the Boycott campaign said: "Trade Unions exist to defend their members in the workplace, not to discriminate against them."

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the UCU, emphasised that "freedom of thought and the freedom to learn are rights that are at the heart of democratic civil society".

"Our international obligation is to provide meaningful solidarity wherever we can," she said.

This could be to teachers in Colombia, lecturers in Zimbabwe "or students and staff in Palestine unable to get through checkpoints in order to continue study".

~ more... ~


"Religious values can inform globalization and make it more humane," Blair said

While fundamentalists can use religion to create cultural divisions and breed extremism, Tony Blair is calling on world leaders to "get faith in action" and unleash shared moral values as a force for peace and positive change.

"Religious values can inform globalization and make it more humane," Blair said Thursday at a fundraising dinner for the Women's College Hospital in Toronto.

The call to action comes as Blair, a former Anglican who converted to Catholicism earlier this year, launches his Faith Foundation in New York on Friday, a new project aiming to build bridges between religions through dialogue and humanitarian work.

"Show (religion) doing something good" and it can be a powerful force, said the former British prime minister, who added communities in Africa beset by malaria could be better served through faith-based outreach.

[ ... ]

Rather than an abandonment of our principles, though, Blair said adapting is "a way of making our way of life relevant."

Blair should know.

He brought Britain's Labour party back into power after years in the political wilderness by abandoning many of it founding principles.

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The genetics of voting

It seems as if people with one variant of the MAOA gene are more likely to vote than those with the other version. Among regular churchgoers, those with one type of the gene that make the 5HTT transporter molecule in the walls of neuron cells (don't ask) are substantially more likely to vote than those with the other.

According to the researchers, James H. Fowler and Christopher T. Dawes, it works more or less like this: stress causes the release of excess serotonin in the brain, which can kill off neurons if it is not metabolized. People with the right versions of the MAOA gene and 5HTT are better at handling stress because they are better at synthesizing the molecules needed to reabsorb serotonin and break it down. And people who are better at handling stress deal better with the conflicts and strains inherent in forming political opinions and voting.

Similarly, folks with the A2 version of the D2 dopamine receptor gene are more likely to identify as partisans because better dopamine signaling in the brain is related to more social attitudes and promotes attachment to groups like political parties.

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Inside a case against 2 men who sold arms

Last spring, while flying in custody from Romania to New York, a Syrian arms dealer named Tareq Mousa al-Ghazi turned to the American agent sitting next to him on the plane and asked why he had just been arrested. The agent told Mr. Ghazi that the United States government was, in fact, interested in one of his business partners, court papers say: a wealthier and much more prolific arms dealer named Monzer al-Kassar.

Mr. Ghazi, 62, had told the agent that more than a decade had passed since he had had dealings with Mr. Kassar when the agent asked whether he was familiar with the works of Shakespeare — "Julius Caesar," in particular, the papers say, wherein Marc Antony states, "The evil that men do lives after them."

Not many investigations can boast of a Shakespeare-quoting federal agent; then again, not many investigations are as intricate as the Drug Enforcement Administration's three-year pursuit of Mr. Ghazi and Mr. Kassar, who are being prosecuted in federal court in Manhattan.

The evil that the agent was alluding to, the government says, was Mr. Ghazi's 20-year relationship with Mr. Kassar, a bond that started in a Polish safe house in the 1980s and continued through a series of arms deals in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Yemen, many on behalf of Palestinian terror groups, investigators say.

The friendship eventually led to a sprawling sting investigation in which the D.E.A. claims to have caught the men trying to ship millions of dollars of rifles, pistols, grenade launchers and shoulder-fired rockets on a Greek freighter bound from Romania to Suriname for members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Before his arrest in the case last June at Madrid Barajas International Airport, Mr. Kassar, also 62, was a vastly successful weapons dealer, a wanted man for more than 30 years and a globe-trotting criminal, investigators say, who played roles in the Iran-contra affair, the Achille Lauro hijacking and the Iraqi insurgency. His arrest in Spain was the capstone of the investigation, which ended with an indictment last June in New York charging him in a plot to ship the weapons to guerrillas in Colombia seeking to kill American forces there on anti-drug missions.

Mr. Ghazi was also charged in that indictment, accused of acting as Mr. Kassar's chief partner and logistical expert. While his lawyers claim that he was drawn into the plot unwittingly and by a D.E.A. operative who used him only to get to Mr. Kassar, the government has laid out his involvement in the case in a series of previously undisclosed papers, which, in essence, provide an anatomy of the deal the two men are accused of setting up.

The story begins in May 2005, in southern Lebanon, where, according to papers filed by his own lawyer, Mr. Ghazi was living peaceably with his wife, Amal, selling religious trinkets on the street. One day, a man claiming to be "a wealthy businessman" arrived at his home wearing handsome clothing and smoking an expensive cigar.

Though the man told Mr. Ghazi he had contacts in the Palestine Liberation Front, a terror group that Mr. Ghazi once belonged to, he was, in fact, an undercover agent for the D.E.A. known in the papers only as Samir.

For months, the defense papers say, Samir engaged Mr. Ghazi in pleasantries at restaurants where Mr. Ghazi eventually made some startling admissions.

According to the government's papers, he told Samir that he had once helped Abu Abbas, leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, escape on a private jet from Yugoslavia after the group had hijacked the Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, in 1985. Mr. Ghazi also told Samir that he and an associate once planned to murder the president of Egypt, Anwar el-Sadat, in the Ivory Coast, the government claims. (Mr. Ghazi's lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said that Mr. Ghazi was a member of the group but that he never played a role in its terrorist operations.)

Slowly, the government's papers show, the conversations turned toward Mr. Kassar, who for many years had been living in a seaside palazzo in Marbella, Spain. Samir had a deal, the papers say — the sale of 1,000 rifles to an unnamed customer in the Ivory Coast — which he thought might benefit from Mr. Kassar's participation. According to his lawyer's papers, Mr. Ghazi hesitated, telling Samir that he and Mr. Kassar were no longer friends and that he had no intention of doing business with him anymore. And yet after "much pressure," the defense papers say, Mr. Ghazi called Mr. Kassar and eventually the three men met, on Dec. 28, 2006, in southern Lebanon.

Mr. Kassar was not a man to trifle with, investigators say. His earliest arrest was in the 1960s, for stealing cars in Syria. He was also a hashish dealer who, according to the United States government, eventually sold arms in Nicaragua, Brazil, Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, Somalia and Iran. In 1995, he was tried — and acquitted — in Spain on charges relating to the Achille Lauro hijacking and, five years later, was indicted in Argentina on charges of obtaining false passports.

Directly in advance of the American invasion of Iraq, he sold night-vision goggles and bulletproof vests to the Iraqi Army, the United States attorney's office in Manhattan says. Prosecutors also claim in filings that he personally helped Saddam Hussein and his cronies spirit nearly $1 billion out of Iraq on a private plane just before the war began.

~ more... ~

Emergence: 'The organization comes from the bottom up'

From: NOVA's The Big Deal report on CERN (transcript)

STEVE AHLEN: The fact is, from a physicist's point of view, from a philosopher's point of view, from an observational point of view, mass is actually quite mysterious.

DAVE WARK: In our best theory of matter, the Standard Model, all the really fundamental particles are like photons—the particles of light—in that they have no intrinsic mass.

But we know that objects in the real world have mass, and scientists know that particles like protons and electrons also have mass. So where does that mass come from?

PETER FISHER: Why do particles have different masses? And why do they have mass at all? Mass is not something that emerges naturally from a theory.

MEENAKSHI NARAIN: We basically do not understand why some particles got mass and others didn't. What happened? What gave mass?

DAVE WARK: The leading idea for explaining mass is something called the Higgs field, a field which we believe pervades all of space and which the fundamental particles interact with.

The Higgs field is like cosmic cotton candy; it sticks to everything. And, according to this idea, it's actually that stickiness that gives particles their mass.

If the Higgs field, along with a Higgs particle, really exists, then the Large Hadron Collider should find it. And that would be a triumph for the Standard Model.

But since the LHC will take the particle hunt to a whole new level, many physicists are hoping it will uncover types of matter we've never even dreamed of.

MEENAKSHI NARAIN: The best case, in my mind: we do not find the Higgs particle, and we find a whole new set of new particles.

STEVE AHLEN: I don't really care what we find. You know, I just want to go off there and look at something and see something no one's ever seen before. That's what motivates me.

PETER FISHER: It's just a voyage of discovery. It's looking out into the cosmos and trying to see where we fit in it.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Many people think that the laws of nature and the universe tell us that everything breaks down. Things fall apart, energy wanes, living things grow old and die. Yes, we have some good laws which explain all that, but what about the emergence of life? What about the complexity of life? Where do they come from? Are these rare, miraculous developments? Or is this kind of complexity inevitable, following natural laws we just haven't quite figured out yet?

Correspondent Carla Wohl went looking for the answer.

CARLA WOHL (Correspondent): It is mysterious how a flock of birds or a school of fish move as one, with such grace and coordination, as if there's one brain behind them all or an invisible force at play. An explanation may be found in emergence, a science that tries to explain complex patterns and behavior that arise in the world around us.

Some believe emergence may reveal more than just how birds and fish do this, but how we think and how life itself began in the first place.

But while many of science's mysteries long have been explained—gravity, we predict with Newton's laws of gravity, and magnetism, through Maxwell's laws—but things like this remain largely unpredictable.

JOHN HOLLAND: Emergence, when you first see it, seems mysterious. But then, if I go back and read the papers at the time of Maxwell, electromagnetism seemed very mysterious, too.

CARLA WOHL: Let's start with what we do know about emergence. It's an order we might not expect to see. Usually where there is order, there is a leader—a conductor of an orchestra or a general with his army—orders come from the top, and they go down.

JOHN HOLLAND: Yeah, and they go down.

KEITH STILL (Crowd Dynamics Limited): Top-down order, where you have one brain controlling the functions of the entire group.

CARLA WOHL: A leader at the top and many who follow down below: it's just how we expect things to be.

So who's in charge here? Him? No.

Him? Unh uh.

JOHN HOLLAND: There's no conductor; there's no general.

ROBERT HAZEN: There's no leader. There's no director that's telling every fish where to go.

CARLA WOHL: Well, then what about these birds?

KEITH STILL: There's no one in charge of the birds either.

CARLA WOHL: So if the order isn't coming from the top down, where is it coming from?

JOHN HOLLAND: The organization comes from the bottom up. So, at the bottom, we have these things that are following their own sets of rules, often fairly simple. One is to go in the same direction as the other guys. Another is "Don't get too close, but don't get too far from my neighbors."

CARLA WOHL: And perhaps the most important rule: if someone's coming after you, get out of the way.

From these simple rules, very complex patterns can spontaneously emerge.

JOHN HOLLAND: What we see is a pattern emerging from the bottom up.

CARLA WOHL: And so it came to be called "emergent complexity" or simply, "emergence."

Of course, different creatures have different rules, but whether ants or wildebeests or this slime mold...

JOHN HOLLAND: The behavior emerges from the actions that are controlled by the rules, and behavior of the whole is more than the sum of the parts. And that's the flag for emergence.

CARLA WOHL: And you might not have noticed it, but it's not just seen in animals.

KEITH STILL: Similarly, with crowds; there are no leaders within certain types of crowds.

CARLA WOHL: Crowds of people? We do it just like the birds and fish?

KEITH STILL: Movement is happening at a very much subconscious level. You don't think about how to walk, you just do it.

CARLA WOHL: Keith Still studies the emergent complexity in crowds. He says these people crossing the street have no idea they're part of a larger pattern.


'We shouldn't be surprised that an Oxbridge exam paper pits Amy Winehouse against Raleigh'

I had a kind, haggard old hippy of an English teacher at school. Didn't everyone? He would sometimes steal the class's attention by swearing with the self-conscious gusto of a toddler breaking boundaries for effect. 'What Byron is talking about here... [pause] is fucking [raise eyebrow in conspiratorial-triumphal arch].'

He would sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into his poetry handouts, alongside Auden and Larkin. It wasn't as radical then, in the late Eighties, as it would have been 20 years earlier, but it still felt a bit subversive. The idea that popular culture might merit the same critical appraisal as canonical work was still mildly controversial. Now it is orthodoxy. Students sitting their final-year English Literature exams at Cambridge this year were asked to compare 'As You Came from the Holy Land' by Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) with the lyrics of 'Love is a Losing Game' by soul singer Amy Winehouse (1983- ).

I imagine the don who set the paper, anticipating the disorientation students would feel on bumping into Amy Winehouse in the exam room, wore an expression of naughty self-satisfaction like the one mastered by my old English teacher.

But only the most cosseted undergraduate would be surprised to see a contemporary musician ranked alongside the starched ruff brigade of Eng Lit textbooks. That is because anyone who has happened across real life in the last few years, perhaps by turning on the radio, will know that Britain is in the midst of a lyrical Golden Age. As it happens, Winehouse, all adolescent angst and Sixties nostalgia, is a remarkably poor example. Her best claim to be a poet is that, in her self-destructing narcissism, she conforms to a Romantic ideal of alienated youth. But her decadent forebears expanded their horizons a bit further than the pub round the corner. Rimbaud (an influence cited by that other self-styled bard of debauchery Pete Doherty) ended up as an arms dealer in Ethiopia. Byron fought the Austrian Empire in the revolutionary Carbonari. Today's rebels just about manage a scuffle with the paparazzi.

~ more... ~


How the Pentagon shapes the world

 A full-fledged cottage industry is already focused on those who eagerly await the end of the George W Bush administration, offering calendars, magnets and t-shirts for sale as well as counters and graphics to download onto blogs and websites. But when the countdown ends and Bush vacates the Oval Office, he will leave a legacy to contend with. Certainly, he wills to his successor a world marred by war and battered by deprivation, but perhaps his most enduring legacy is now deeply embedded in  Washington-area politics - a Pentagon metastasized almost beyond recognition.

The Pentagon's massive bulk-up these past seven years will not be easily unbuilt, no matter who dons the presidential mantle on January 19, 2009. "The Pentagon" is now so much more than a five-sided building across the Potomac from Washington or even the seat of the Department of Defense. In many ways, it defies description or labeling.

Who, today, even remembers the debate at the end of the Cold War about what role US military power should play in a "unipolar" world? Was US supremacy so well established, pundits were then asking, that Washington could rely on softer economic and cultural power, with military power no more than a backup (and a domestic "peace dividend" thrown into the bargain)? Or was the US to strap on the six-guns of a global sheriff and police the world as the fountainhead of "humanitarian interventions"? Or was it the moment to boldly declare ourselves the world's sole superpower and wield a high-tech military comparable to none, actively discouraging any other power or power bloc from even considering future rivalry?

The attacks of September 11, 2001, decisively ended that debate. The Bush administration promptly declared total war on every front - against peoples, ideologies, and, above all, "terrorism" (a tactic of the weak). That very September, administration officials proudly leaked the information that they were ready to "target" up to 60 other nations and the terrorist movements within them.

The Pentagon's "footprint" was to be firmly planted, military base by military base, across the planet, with a special emphasis on its energy heartlands. Top administration officials began preparing the Pentagon to go anywhere and do anything, while rewriting, shredding, or ignoring whatever laws, national or international, stood in the way. In 2002, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld officially articulated a new US military posture that, in conception, was little short of revolutionary. It was called - in classic Pentagon shorthand - the 1-4-2-1 Defense Strategy (replacing the Bill Clinton administration's already none-too-modest plan to be prepared to fight two major wars - in the Middle East and Northeast Asia - simultaneously).

Theoretically, this strategy meant that the Pentagon was to prepare to defend the United States, while building forces capable of deterring aggression and coercion in four "critical regions" (Europe, Northeast Asia, East Asia, and the Middle East). It would be able to defeat aggression in two of these regions simultaneously and "win decisively" in one of those conflicts "at a time and place of our choosing." Hence 1-4-2-1.

And that was just going to be the beginning. We had, by then, already entered the new age of the mega-Pentagon.

British dealers supply arms to Iran

Investigators have identified a number of British arms dealers trading with Tehran, triggering alarm among government officials who fear Iran's nuclear programme may be receiving significant support from UK sources.

The probe by customs officers suggests that at least seven Britons have been defying sanctions by supplying the Iranian air force, its elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, and even the country's controversial nuclear ambitions.

Officials say they are perturbed by the number of British dealers who appear to be trading with Tehran, despite a third round of restrictions being recently imposed by the United Nations on exporting arms and components to Iran. However, investigators argue that it is the generous riches being offered by Iran, not any shared ideology, that is seducing the dealers.

Among the examples uncovered is the case of a UK businessman caught smuggling components for use in guided missiles through a front company that proved to be the Iranian Ministry of Defence. Another case involves a group that included several Britons which, investigators alleged, attempted to export components intended to enhance the performance of Iranian aircraft.

Other examples involve a British millionaire arms dealer caught trading machine-guns used by the SAS and capable of firing 800 rounds a minute with a Tehran-based weapons supplier.

Customs offers are also working on a number of 'active investigations' which include several Britons and breach sanctions aimed at curbing Iran's military strength.

At least two other UK nationals are also being investigated over claims they are working, or have worked with, Iran to import components for the country's alleged nuclear weapons programme. These individuals are understood to have long-standing links to nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's 'father of the bomb', who has admitted helping North Korea, Iran and Libya to develop nuclear weapons.

A Foreign Office source said evidence that Iranian authorities are contacting British companies as it tries to circumvent sanctions 'through the backdoor' was a concern. 'We shouldn't be naive enough to know that [Iran] will not try to get these items,' he added.

~ more... ~


Dr. David Kelly's shady suicide revisited

Well, unlike Tony, I am not one of those Christians who have had ever an audience with His Holiness the Pope and it is a while since I attended Church. But let me see, if I cast my mind back to my humble Christian upbringing, the Bible said, "Thou shalt not bear false witness." Hmm so, if you want to be a genuine Christian, lying is out then. But hey, perhaps that's what the author of the article in Time meant when he said about Blair, "He handles questions about religion deftly." Because Blair seems to have deftly reconciled two seemingly opposite positions -- lying and telling the Truth, all at the same time. That's very deft!

So we have two Tony Blairs it seems: The politician who stood before the British Parliament, the British people and the wider world back in 2002/2003, and swore that he had conclusive proof that Saddam Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction with the intention of deploying them. Among the many, many informed high level people who questioned that claim at the time, were seasoned parliamentarians, senior diplomats and senior military men and yet, Blair repelled their objections as if he were fulfilling some divine purpose.

At one point in the lead up to the war Blair appeared on television to plead with a studio audience who were against going to war, of the moral rightness of his course of action. Once again, with Tartuffian skill, Blair gave a cleverly choreographed quasi religious performance: He appeared, like a Biblical Daniel in the Lion's Den surrounded by threatening doubters and sinners with only his Faith and God to protect him.

When presented with intelligent arguments and serious questions from the audience, Blair had no convincing answers to give, so retreated instead behind the all-but- visible mask of Christianity which he and Campbell had so cleverly created, to project an image that would overshadow the words of the audience. It is a technique he has practised to perfection.

Then, further along the road, there was the shameful business of the death of Dr David Kelly, the weapons expert whose shining reputation for integrity shone out like a beacon from the midst of the whole mendacious apparatus of government that Blair and his associates had knowingly spun around them.

We were told via the media that Dr Kelly took his own life. However, the news broke in the midst of all the lies about the whole sordid affair of the Iraq war. The accusations and denials came so thick and fast it became impossible for ordinary members of the public to unravel Truth from the lies. In spite of the Hutton Report, in the end it came down to a matter of what you believed to be so.

When the poor man's death was announced, Blair was on a foreign tour but again he made his entrance onto the stage before the world's media to give another of those polished Tarfuffian performances at which he is so very accomplished.

As I looked at his image on the television news, I wondered had he been more carefully and skillfully made up than usual for the cameras? His appearance was striking. He looked gaunt, sunken cheeked, tired and even... well... ill. In fact, he looked rather pathetic and deserving of our sympathy -- not our scorn. How deeply troubled and concerned Tony looked for poor Dr Kelly. But then, hang on a minute, who had set the dogs on poor Dr Kelly in the first place?
Cherie Blair has been accused by the family of British government scientist David Kelly of deliberately misrepresenting his suicide to downplay her husband's role in it.

Derek Vawdrey, the brother of Dr Kelly's widow, Janice, said the former prime minister's wife "should be ashamed of herself" for the misleading way she presents the suicide in her memoirs which are due to be released today.

Dr Kelly slashed his wrists in 2003 after being named by the Government as the expert who had allegedly told a BBC reporter that the Government had "sexed up" evidence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

In her memoirs, Mrs Blair says her husband and his spokesman, Alastair Campbell, were distraught after the suicide but she fails to mention that they had been responsible for naming Dr Kelly to the press and pushing the reserved scientist into the public eye.

"It's somehow so typical of the Blairs to make use of Dai's death to show the world what a wonderful man Tony Blair is," Mr Vawdrey told the Daily Mail.

"So far as I'm concerned my brother-in-law's death was caused by what went on at No 10 and what they said about him."

He said that "Dai" - the family's name for Dr Kelly - "was badly used then, and he's being badly used now".

The angry comments by Mr Vawdrey, who has spoken on behalf of his sister in the past, were extraordinary because the family has previously said little in public and Mrs Blair revealed in her book, Speaking for Myself, that the Blairs invited Mrs Kelly and her daughters to their country residence to tell them how sorry they were about his death.

While ignoring the Government's role in "outing" Dr Kelly, Mrs Blair even pointed the finger at the press for invading his family's privacy.

"It was clear to me that what had made Mrs Kelly's life even more intolerable was the behaviour of the press after he had killed himself, to the point of taking pictures through their front windows, utterly failing to respect their privacy at all."

Extracts published in British newspapers this week revealed Mrs Blair's version of the aftermath of Dr Kelly's death, which came while the Blairs were on an official visit to Asia.

"I have never seen Tony so distraught and I felt helpless to do anything," she wrote.

"In the 25 years since I had known Tony I had never seen him so badly affected."

Mrs Blair said she had reassured her husband that he was "a good man" with "pure motives".

"And it's true, Tony knew David Kelly was a loyal public servant driven to despair because of all the furore."

"Although only a six-day tour, Tony seemed to age 10 years and the stress was written on his face. Back in London, Alastair (Campbell) was going to pieces and Tony spent half the time on the phone trying to calm him down: physically and emotionally he was exhausted."

But Mr Vawdrey told the Mail: "It's a bit late for Cherie Blair to write that her husband 'knew that David Kelly was a loyal public servant driven to despair because of the furore'.

"Where else was the furore created but in her husband's office, with all that wicked nonsense being fed to the media that Dai was a Walter Mitty character and so on?"

Mrs Kelly has spoken about her husband's death only when giving evidence to a government inquiry into the tragedy.

In the latest extracts from the book, Mrs Blair says she and her husband had stayed at the summer residence of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2004 only to try to win votes for London's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

"Tony felt we might be able to use the relationship to get the three Italian votes for the London Olympics."

The visit produced embarrassing photographs of the Blairs stepping out with the right-wing Italian billionaire, who was wearing a pirate-style bandanna which Mrs Blair said had "foolish photo potential written all over it".

From: Dr Kelly's death: a black day by Cherie Blair

[2003: David Kelly, the scientist at the centre of a row between Downing Street and the BBC over weapons of mass destruction, has gone missing. The Blairs are on an official trip to the Far East.]

As I watched Tony hand back the phone, I saw him slump into his seat. From sitting upright he just crashed. David Kelly was dead, he said. His body had been found in woodland close to his home. It was awful. He decided there and then that there had to be an investigation and spoke to Charlie Falconer, now Lord Chancellor, from the plane to see which judge might be available. I have never seen Tony so distraught and I felt helpless to do anything. Eventually he spoke to Alastair - God knows what time it was for either of them - who had just arrived back in London. Alastair said he couldn't handle any more and wanted out.

After a night in Tokyo in which he barely slept, Tony had a meeting with the Prime Minister while I visited a centre for disadvantaged children. It should have been a great trip. We realised soon enough that it was going to be quite the opposite. In the 25 years I had known Tony, I had never seen him so badly affected by anything. At the Tokyo press conference, a journalist from the The Mail on Sunday shouted at my husband: "What's it like, Mr Blair, to have blood on your hands?"

Throughout the trip Tony did his best to look cheerful for the sake of his hosts, but it was desperate. In Beijing we saw an installation of hand-sized terracotta figures by Antony Gormley. There is a photograph of the two of us taken that morning that I keep in my study: Tony crouching down among these thousands of tiny figures, me behind him, my arms around him, giving him the support he needed.

"You are a good man," I told him as we crouched there, the cameras whirring. "And God knows your motives are pure, even if the consequences are not as you had hoped." And it's true. Tony knew that David Kelly was a loyal public servant driven to despair because of all the furore, caught up in something he could never have imagined...

Have your say (comments)

Yes it was a black day, for Dr Kelly and his family. This attempt to gain sympathy for those responsible makes one wonder how much lower Mrs Blair can go. At least until the next shameless revelation.

D.L. Stephens, York, England

Is this an attempt for sympathy for Bliar.

Dr Kelly's death lays at the foot of Blair. "Sure" he may have slumped back into his seat as she says, but it certainly was not out of concern or sorrow, but knowing he and cronies caused this.

This begs answers whether was suicide. Truth is not out.

ASW, Hong Kong,

surely the man from the mail on sundays question is relevant. the only difference now being "what's it like to have the blood of hundreds of thousands of people on your hands"

paul, London,

China Cybarmageddon

Posted over at the Wired Blog Network.

US investigates 'laptop espionage'on China trip

US authorities are investigating whether Chinese officials secretly copied the contents of a government laptop computer during a visit to China by commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez and used the information to try to hack into commerce computers, officials said.

Surreptitious copying is believed to have occurred when a laptop was left unattended during Gutierrez's trip to Beijing for trade talks in December, people familiar with the incident said, on condition of anonymity.
Gutierrez said on Thursday he could not discuss whether or how the laptop's contents might have been copied. "Because there is an investigation going on, I would rather not comment on that," he said. "To the extent that there is an investigation going on, those are the things being looked at, those are the questions being asked. I don't think I should provide any speculative answers."

A commerce department spokesman, Rich Mills, said he could not confirm such an incident in China. Asked whether the department has issued new rules for carrying computers overseas, Mills said: "The department is continuing to improve our security posture, and that includes providing updates, guidances and best practices to staff to maintain security."

It was not immediately clear what information on the laptop might have been compromised, but it would be highly unorthodox for any US official to carry classified data on a laptop overseas to China, especially one left unattended.
~ Source: The Times of India ~

Why the West ignores the looming China threat

Lev Navrozov emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1972 He settled in New York City where he quickly learned that there was no market for his eloquent and powerful English language attacks on the Soviet Union. To this day, he writes without fear or favor or the conventions of polite society. He chaired the "Alternative to the New York Times Committee" in 1980, challenged the editors of the New York Times to a debate (which they declined) and became a columnist for the New York City Tribune. His columns are today read in both English and Russian.

"Accuracy in Media" (for which I once wrote) had been created to correct the biases of the U.S. media. Thus, the bias of the U.S. media today is to minimize the catastrophic military threat from China to the USA (and hence to the free world in general). Accordingly, on March 4, 2008, "Accuracy in Media" printed the article "The Threat from China and the Threat from Inaction: Which Is Worse?" The author? Not a government or university spokesman: George W. Bush and the three presidential candidates have been maintaining total silence about the threat from China as well as the U.S. inaction concerning this threat.

The author of the article is collective: editors of "Family Security" They have been taking care of the security of the family and could well be expected to be sensitive to the conquest of the free world by the dictatorship of China, which has been torturing people to death for "wrong" physical exercises.

The authors' reference to "the threat from inaction" is appropriate: China's military strategy (see the Chinese military book "Unrestricted Warfare") is based on deception and hence on the surprise of the attack.

The situation is catastrophic: it resembles the situation in Chamberlain's Britain in 1938. Chamberlain's glorious achievement was his gift of part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler in exchange for a piece of paper signed by Hitler as a peace agreement. If Hitler had been riding through London with Chamberlain in 1938, after their "peace agreement," there is no doubt that the Londoners would have greeted Hitler as they did Chamberlain. But Hitler was a fool (he became the "Leader" since his Reichstag party received a majority vote because it was against the Treaty of Versailles). So Hitler invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia, then Poland and then France and thus made himself the worst enemy of the civilized world.

Compare today's behavior of the dictatorship of China with respect to Taiwan, which even some Chinese dissidents consider it necessary to make part of China by force.

A catastrophic threat to the free world today is the threat from inaction, as in Britain in 1938. Why this inaction?

~ read on... ~


Anti-terror law used to snoop on fishermen

A council which used anti-terrorism powers to check whether a child lived within a school's catchment area has used the same law to spy on fishermen, it has emerged.
Poole council used a covert surveillance team to gather evidence of shellfish being illegally gathered in Poole Harbour, Dorset.
The snooping was carried out under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which was originally intended for use in the fight against crime and terrorism but which has been used by some councils to clamp down on such minor offences as dog fouling.
Last month, officials in Poole authorised a two-week spying mission against Jenny Paton and her partner Tim Joyce, who were wrongly accused of lying on a school application form.

Prosecutors open inquiry into possible spying by Deutsche Telekom

German prosecutors said Thursday that they had opened an investigation into the monitoring of telephone records at Deutsche Telekom related to the company's attempts to trace media leaks.

Reinhard Kowalewsky, a journalist who covers Deutsche Telekom for Capital magazine, filed a complaint with prosecutors to uncover how much personal information Deutsche Telekom obtained about him. The complaint was filed Wednesday in Bonn, said Winfried Seibert, a lawyer for Kowalewsky. Deutsche Telekom may have violated telecommunications privacy laws, Seibert said.

Jörg Schindler, a spokesman for the prosecutors' office in Bonn, confirmed that the investigation had begun, just days after Deutsche Telekom, the largest telecommunications company in Europe, announced an internal investigation.

Schindler said the former company chief executive, Kai-Uwe Ricke, and its former supervisory board chief, Klaus Zumwinkel, were under investigation.

Monika Nostadt-Ziegenberg, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor, said that about 80 people searched offices of Deutsche Telekom, its T-Mobile unit and an unidentified Berlin-based company Thursday.

Deutsche Telekom acknowledged Saturday that "there were cases of misuse of call records at Deutsche Telekom in 2005 and, according to latest allegations, also in 2006." The company has emphasized that there is no suggestion that calls were tapped, but rather that call records detailing the time, participants and duration of calls were improperly monitored.

~ read on... ~


Germany cites threat of Russian espionage

German intelligence officials Thursday accused Russia of employing spies and Internet technology to obtain industrial secrets that could hurt the German economy, Europe's biggest, and destroy jobs.

The domestic federal intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said Germany was highly attractive to foreign spies because of its cutting-edge technology and market leadership in several sectors.

"Intelligence agents are setting their sights on an increasingly wide range of targets in the industrial sector and among science and technology," said the Office's 2007 report, unveiled by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Overall, Russia and China were responsible for a good deal of intelligence-gathering activity in Germany, the report said.

But the report singled out Russia in the field of industrial espionage.

~ more... ~



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