Monday, September 29, 2008

Priest seriously wounded by crazed knife-wielding Da Vinci Code viewer

A Rome priest was in intensive care on Wednesday after suffering serious injuries from being stabbed in the neck and stomach by a disturbed man who had recently watched the movie The Da Vinci Code on television.

The 25-year-old attacker, Mario Luzi, reportedly asked to see the 68-year-old Father Canio Canistri, parish priest at the church of Santa Marcella on the Avantine hill. According to the Times Online, Luzi then attacked the priest with a knife hidden in a cloth.

Retired policeman and parishioner Antonio Farrace, 78, was wounded by the attacker after coming to the assistance of the priest. He was reportedly in serious condition at a hospital.

The assailant fled through a park, stabbing a Peruvian nanny in the shoulder as she protected the three-year-old in her care. One policeman was lightly wounded in the stomach as he and his fellow officer detained Luzi.

Luzi, a former medical student with a history of psychiatric problems, admitted to watching the film of The Da Vinci Code the night before the attack.

He told police he was the antichrist, claiming he had heard voices telling him to attack the priest.

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Olmert says attack on settlement critic threatens democracy

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert blamed an attack on an outspoken critic of Jewish settlement in the West Bank on what may be a newly formed Jewish underground and said the violence threatened the country's democracy.

``An evil wind of extremism, hatred, violence, malice, of unlawfulness, of lack of restraint, of disregard for the state has swept through certain sectors of the Israeli society and is threatening Israeli democracy,'' Olmert told his Cabinet today.

Police have not yet found the unknown assailants who threw a pipe bomb at Zeev Sternhall, who won the Israel Prize for political science this year, injuring him as he locked up his home on Sept. 24.

Violence between opposing Jewish political groups is not unknown in Israel. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by Yigal Amir, who sought to stop him from handing over land for peace to the Palestinians. Peace activist Emil Grunzweig was killed in 1983 when a Jewish radical lobbed a grenade at demonstrators rallying against Israel's war in Lebanon.

Olmert drew a direct line between Rabin's assassination, Grunzweig's murder and the attack on Sternhall.

``Security forces have been instructed to act with the greatest speed to find those responsible, who appear to be part of a new Jewish underground, and bring them to court,'' Olmert said in his remarks, which were published on his Web site.

Leaflets Found

In police searches of the vicinity of Sternhall's home last week, leaflets were found offering a 1 million-shekel ($290,000) reward to anyone who murdered a member of Peace Now, an Israeli movement that monitors construction in West Bank Jewish settlements.

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Peter Camejo dies - helped found Green Party

Third-party political activist Peter Camejo, a perennial candidate for state and national office who helped pioneer the financial market niche of socially responsible investments, died Saturday. He was 68.

Mr. Camejo, who had been battling a recurrence of lymphoma, died at home in Folsom (Sacramento County).

He helped found the California Green Party in 1991 and ran three times for governor of California. He also ran as independent Ralph Nader's vice presidential running mate in the 2004 presidential election in which President Bush won a second term. In 1976 he ran for president as the Socialist Workers Party candidate.

Mr. Camejo described himself as a watermelon - red on the inside, green on the outside.

"Peter used his eloquence, sharp wit and barnstorming bravado to blaze a trail for 21st century third-party politics in the U.S.," Nader said in a prepared statement, which described Mr. Camejo as a "politically courageous champion of the downtrodden and mistreated of the entire Western Hemisphere."

Active in the Free Speech Movement and in protests against the Vietnam War as a student at UC Berkeley in the late 1960s, Mr. Camejo landed on then-Gov. Ronald Reagan's list of the 10 most dangerous people in California. School officials eventually expelled him, two quarters shy of a degree.

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Unusual press freedom victory in Panama

A Panama City judge today dismissed a case of criminal defamation brought against Eric Jackson, publisher of The Panama News and based on a complaint filed by one Mark Boswell.

Boswell, who is also known as "Rex Freeman" filed his complaint for "crimes against the honor" after Jackson had published an article about him calling him an "offshore hustler" and a "scammer" who was running unlicensed and probably fraudulent banking and High Yield Investment schemes in Panama after having fled creditors in Costa Rica.

Jackson also exposed Boswell's past as a member and talkradio wombat of the ultra right-wing patriot militia movement:

Remember the US "patriot" militia movement from which Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh came? That confluence of racist, neo-fascist, survivalist, tax resistance, weapons obsessed, "Christian identity" and apocalyptic strains was shoved farther out into the margins of the political wilderness when McVeigh lived out one of their favorite fantasies and then the Bush administration carried out some of their other ones. 

But for the most part, the people involved didn't just go away. Some of them are grabbing headlines today in the guise of anti-immigrant militias.

However, for some people the patriot movement was good business. Take one Mark Boswell, for example. A law school dropout, he formed the "American Law Club" and hosted Denver meetings at which followers of the right-wing militia movement were instructed that they could become rich by filing "non-commercial judicial liens" against their least-favorite prosecutors, judges, elected officials or companies. In addition to a series of pricey "law seminars," Boswell would sell his "Civil Rights Task Force" jackets, deliberately made to look like the FBI and ATF apparel, and genuine-looking fake law enforcement badges. Boswell urged his customers to buy the things, wear them to court when their favorite tax resister or weapons law violator was in the defendant's dock, and warn judges and prosecutors that they were being watched.

Boswell filed a criminal "calumnia y injuria" complaint and could almost immediately count on the unconditional support of another member of the extreme right within the expatriate American community in Panama: Donald Kent Winner, a retired member of US air force intelligence who now runs the website Panama Guide. In between ripped content from legitimate news outlets, Winner promotes the often shady schemes of his "sponsors". Years ago, he went through great lengths supporting one Tom McMurrain, another American con man who ran a land, teak and noni investment fraud and was eventually arrested and extradited to Atlanta, Georgia, where he now resides in jail. That case bears many similarities to the current Boswell affair; in both cases the Panamanian authorities didn't act against the fraud but instantly moved upon criminal libel complaints filed against the journalists who exposed them, which in both cases were eventually dismissed. McMurrain was a wanted man in the US, and Boswell has a warrant for his arrest outstanding against him in Costa Rica.

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Nothing can stop India from testing again: Kalam

The Missile Man of India, former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who has supported the Indo-US nuclear deal previously also, spoke exclusively to NDTV in his first reaction a day after the NSG waiver to the nuke deal.

Kalam described how the nuclear deal is good for India, what more does he foresee apart from the waiver and the final pact and on any possible Pokharan III. He also spoke about what he told Mulayam Singh and others that saved the present UPA government and about his relationship with the PM.

The former President said that political groups should come forward, leaving behind their political inclination. They must see to it that the Uranium mines of the country are opened so that our scientists use the Uranium materials what is available within the country, he said.
Here are the excerpts of what Dr Kalam's told NDTV's Science Editor Pallava Bagla in an interview:
[ ... ]
Pokharan II is actually our nuclear scientist. They all worked together and you know I believe when you say, when you declare moratorium for nuclear test, what does this mean - you have built certain capability and you can build certain types of nuclear weapons with that confidence you said - I will not conduct any more test.

Temporarily, a moratorium you have put, so I believe that is very important. It is an important message. That means we have certain capability, we can do certain types of system.

Now whether we can do further test - you see there is always supreme national interest. When the supreme national interest is there, no pact no treaty nothing can come in between in a nation that is supreme sovereign interest.

So in that case suppose India decides it has to go for supreme sovereign, that means international situation made the nation to do a test.

It has to do a test then the question comes in - now there is a pact we have, they can see the reason why the international situation they are forcing us to the test. Well then the waiver, the pact may stay or the second thing is they may withdraw. but the national interest is always the highest priority.

India will do the test in the supreme national interest, nobody can stop, nobody can stop, but in that case, your question is - what happens to the pact - two things may happed, the may still stand, they may see why you have done the test. There is a reason why we did the test. Otherwise they'll say goodbye, and we'll say goodbye.

Supreme national interest of the nation is to be protected. I am happy there. I told you when supreme national interest comes in - India has to decide, because nothing can come in between.

Report: Effort to recover oil royalties undercut by top Justice Dept. officials

Senior Justice Department officials blocked the U.S. attorney in Colorado from supporting a whistle-blower's suit last year, jeopardizing the government's prospects for recovering as much as $40 million from a major oil company for its alleged underpayment of royalties.
U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said Washington overruled his request to enter the case against the Kerr-McGee Corp.
A lawyer for the whistle-blower said he was told that decision was made "at the highest levels" of the Justice Department, then run by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
"I recommended strongly that we intervene," Eid said. "My view did not prevail."
Moreover, McClatchy Newspapers found that the Justice Department has participated in only a handful of the 80 whistle-blower cases brought against the oil industry since 1995.
At issue in Colorado was whether the federal government would join in a suit filed by a former senior auditor for the federal Minerals Management Service, known as MMS, under the False Claims Act, which gives whistle-blowers a share of any cash they recover for taxpayers. MMS collects as much as $10 billion in royalties each year from federal oil and gas leases.
In January 2007, a federal jury ruled that Kerr-McGee owed $7.5 million to former senior MMS auditor Bobby Maxwell and the federal government because the company had understated the proceeds of oil sales to hold down royalty costs.
After the jury's verdict, the presiding judge signaled he might overturn the verdict on grounds that Maxwell did not meet the law's strict definition of a whistle-blower.
As a result, Richard LaFond, a Denver lawyer for Maxwell, said he urged the U.S. Attorney's Office to intervene to protect taxpayers' interests by keeping the case alive.
LaFond and co-counsel Michael Porter estimated that the U.S. Treasury would lose as much as $40 million if the Justice Department did not intervene and they lost on appeal.
LaFond said that an official in the Denver office agreed, and she later told him she got approval from Eid, the U.S. attorney, to take on the case.
His bosses in Washington, however, reversed him.
and here

Defense agency rescinds whistleblower's gag order

The Defense Contract Audit Agency has rescinded a controversial, and possibly illegal, nondisclosure memo filed in 2007 against an agency whistleblower, Government Executive has learned.

Two days after a Sept. 10 hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in which lawmakers excoriated agency leaders for appearing to retaliate against employees who had raised concerns about suspicious contractor fees, DCAA lifted the year-old gag order against veteran auditor Diem-Thi Le.

In a Sept. 12 memo obtained by Government Executive, Jan Findley, branch manager of DCAA's Santa Ana, Calif., office, wrote that Le was now free to share agency records with the Office of Special Counsel or any other government investigator.

"You are encouraged to fully cooperate with any investigations conducted by representatives of federal government investigative authorities by providing testimony and documents," Findley wrote to Le, a 19-year agency employee. "Rest assured, you may cooperate without fear of harassment or reprisal from agency management officials."

The 2007 nondisclosure memo, drafted by the DCAA's Office of General Counsel and signed by Le's supervisor, had threatened Le with "disciplinary action," including possible prosecution for criminal theft if she shared -- or even possessed -- any DCAA document that was used to file a complaint against the agency.

In a separate Sept. 12 memo sent to agency employees, DCAA Director April Stephenson reinforced the agency's policy that whistleblowers should not fear speaking with federal investigators.

"It is the firm policy of the Defense Contract Audit Agency that employees are encouraged to cooperate with any investigations conducted by representatives of the federal government investigative authorities by providing testimony and documents in accordance with federal law, including the Whistleblower Protection Act, DoD and DCAA policies and regulations," Stephenson wrote.

During the hearing, Stephenson initially told the committee that the nondisclosure memo was issued because of concern that Le would disclose proprietary contractor data to the OSC. But under questioning from lawmakers, Stephenson acknowledged that the tone and content of the letter was "wholly inappropriate."

Neither Le, Findley nor the Defense Department responded to requests for comment.

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Time for a Taxpayers Revolt

Even if the bailout somehow unclogs the banking sector, few economists think it will jumpstart the consumer credit machine. For one, over-leveraged, money-strapped banks will eagerly dump near-worthless securities on taxpayers for cash to bulk up their reserves. Plus, with working hours and wages declining, unemployment, home foreclosures and inflation surging, banks are in no mood to give consumers more credit, so consumption – and hence the economy – will continue to contract.

This is why the bill is a scam. For all the talk of transparency in the bailout, there has been zero transparency in the political process. We weren't allowed to see any details of the bailout other than the government will go on a shopping binge of buying toxic mortgage-backed securities.
Our elected officials – who work for us – are trying to hide the fact that the fix is in. They are planning a shotgun wedding by slathering makeup on a rotting corpse, dumping it at the altar and hoping taxpayers don't catch on before we're trapped in a 30-year marriage to pay for this financial debacle.

The plan will be sold as fair to everyone and "the best deal" possible. Bullshit.

First, the cost is being minimized. The Wall Street Journal cheerily reports that in the worst-case scenario, the annual cost would be a measly $42 billion in interest and principal.

A new study of banking crises around the world, however, puts the average cost at 16 percent of a country's gross domestic product, which would amount to more than $2 trillion here. That's more than $10,000 of future income for every single adult in the United States.

Everything else in the proposed bill is window dressing. Language in the draft states "The government can use its power … to help reduce the 2 million projected foreclosures in the next year." That's can, not will. Other measures for housing relief amount to tax breaks – so the banks get socialism, while the rest of us get to eat conservative orthodoxy.

Similarly, there are waffling words like "Meaningful judicial review of the Treasury Secretary's action." Does anyone believe that a Republican administration of the present or future would subject itself to "meaningful" review?

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Greek FM rejects joint maneuver with Israel against Iran

Greek FM Dora Bakoyannis said here on Saturday said her country did not and will not launch any maneuver against its friendly country, Iran.
She made the remarks in a meeting with her Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki held on the sidelines of the 63rd annual session of the UN General Assembly.

She further briefed Mottaki on efforts made by the Europe with regards to the latest developments in the Caucasus.

Mottaki voiced Iran's readiness to further expand bilateral relations in all areas, particularly in the energy and trade fields.

The Iranian foreign minister then criticized recent joint Greece-Israel military exercises.

Greece, Turkey to give Cyprus reunification another chance

The divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus faces its best opportunity in more than three decades to reunite - a prospect that could also improve Turkey's chances of joining the European Union, analysts say.

The president of the Republic of Cyprus, Dimitris Christofias, and his Turkish-Cypriot counterpart, Mehmet Ali Talat, began discussions to resolve the 34-year-old quarrel earlier this month in the no-man's-land dividing their capital, Nicosia.

"We must, at long last, put an end to the suffering of our people and reunite our country," Mr. Christofias said as he headed into the meeting. Mr. Talat underlined that the final goal was to make "a divided island a common place where two nations are living."

The Sept. 3 meeting, which was largely ceremonial, was followed by talks Sept. 18 that dealt with issues of governance and power-sharing. A third round between the rival leaders is scheduled for next week.

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Engineered alfalfa ban upheld on appeal

A federal appeals court upheld a nationwide ban on the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa Tuesday until the government completes a study on whether the altered seeds would contaminate other farmers' alfalfa crops.

In a 2-1 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a federal judge's decision that halted the planting of Monsanto Co.'s herbicide-resistant strain of alfalfa on March 30, 2007. The suit was filed by alfalfa farmers who feared that the Monsanto product, spread by winds and bees, would pollinate their crops and take over their fields.

The ruling was "a major victory for farmers, both conventional and organic, for consumers and for the environment," said attorney George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, which represented the plaintiffs. He said it helps consumers who don't want dairy products from cattle that forage on altered alfalfa and protects growers who want to export crops to Japan, which bans genetically modified alfalfa.

Monsanto had no comment.

It was the second victory in a week for opponents of genetically modified food. The state Legislature passed a bill last week that would shield California farmers from lawsuits by companies such as Monsanto when patented pollen and seed drift onto their land.

The bill, AB541, was a response to patent infringement suits by biotech companies against farmers who grew genetically altered crops because of uninvited pollination. The measure would protect farmers who acquired such crops unknowingly and had minimal levels of patented seeds on their land.

Tuesday's ruling involved Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa, so named because it is designed to withstand applications of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Alfalfa, used for hay and cattle feed, is grown on 23 million acres and is the nation's fourth-largest crop. California, with 1 million acres, is the leading producer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the Monsanto alfalfa in 2005, saying buffer zones around organic farms would protect them from unwanted pollination.

But U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco rejected the USDA's assurances last year and ruled that the department had failed to conduct a thorough study of the product's safety and environmental effects.

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A call for Turkey to jump on the Chinese bandwagon

In fact, this is the very dark side of colonialism, a vast phenomenon of monstrous and evil Western European invention and implementation that only slightly is attested at the economic, political and military levels, as it predominantly affects the cultural, behavioural, spiritual, intellectual, theoretical, philosophical, moral, religious and mental levels.

This is the summarization of all colonial endeavours and projects: the peremptory projection of values, traditions, principles and Weltanschauung shared by few marginal peoples – who were living in a small part of the world (Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, England at the end of the 15th century) and were not the world leaders in Science, Knowledge, Arts, Letters, Philosophy and Socioeconomic development (the Islamic World and China were more advanced) – on all the other nations through a process that involved the most immoral, the most perfidious, the most merciless, and the most inhuman treatment of all the rest – those who were targeted to adopt the projected system by force and then become its slaves.

Turkey and China, being in parts of their territories the only countries of the world that were not (at least totally) colonized, will never be able to prevail and implement their values and vision – even on the territories that belong to them, namely the Islamic and the Chinese worlds in their entity –, if they fail to perceive their concerted action within the correct anti-colonial context, namely that of the total rejection of the colonial order at all levels, not only the economic, the political and the military.

In fact, the aforementioned percentage (45%) represents ca. 3.2 billion people, i.e. the figure that is the result of the mere addition of the world´s Muslim and Chinese populations. It goes without saying that the percentage of the colonized people can reach an extremely high figure if we add other colonized nations in Asia (notably Hindu India), Africa (the non Muslim part of it), America (Mexico, Central and South America), Eastern Europe (notably Russia – culturally colonized in force by the authoritarian rule of Peter I against the will of the outright majority of the Russians), and Oceania.

China and Turkey (as representative of the Islamic World) must progressively gain to their Cause all these populations and this approach should be reflected in every point of their concerted action and alliance.

Masons chip away at secrecy to build ranks

It used to be that Freemasons would act as stealthy public servants, shunning the spotlight and sealing their lodges and secrets from those outside their brotherhood.

But statewide, the fraternity is suffering from decreased enrollment and has been forced to open up a bit.

Since 2000, the number of Freemasons in New Jersey has decreased by nearly 8,000 to 27,800.

In its heyday, after World War II, the fraternity had 110,000 members statewide because of postwar morale, said Douglas Policastro, administrator at the Masonic Home of New Jersey on Jacksonville Road here, which now provides health care to the general public.

Freemasonry, which grew from the stone gills of the Middle Ages, has a long history in this state.

New Jersey claims to have the first known Freemason in America, John Skene of Scotland, who settled in Burlington County in October 1682, according to Freemason historian Richard Mekenian, who joined the fraternity 27 years ago. Other foreign-born Freemasons, such as Andrew Robeson, followed Skene and settled in Greenwich, the 73-year-old Spring Lake resident said.

Daniel Coxe from Burlington County was the first provincial Grand Master Mason in America in 1730, governing Masons in the state under the auspices of the Grand Lodge in England where modern Freemasonry was founded in 1717, he added.

New Jersey's first local lodge, St. John's No. 1, opened in Newark in 1761, Mekenian said.

Freemasons of the state's 145 local lodges are men, 21 and older, of diverse careers and religions, living clean lives of service, said Mekenian.

Numbers have declined because some men have turned to different types of organizations while some have more than one job or take care of their children, Policastro said.

Freemasons are not allowed to solicit potential members. Instead, those interested must ask a Master Mason to join.

"However, now we're more open and say "Have you considered it? Here's a pamphlet,' " Policastro said. "We try to take good men and make them better."

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Twin terrors of the Holy Land

Like many Americans on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, I turned to the Bible for an answer, a problematic move for an atheist such as myself. Predictably, I went straight to verse 9:11 in the Book of Revelation and found a short blurb about Abaddon the Destroyer; admittedly, an interesting coincidence, but not a "big picture" explanation.

However, thanks to Providence or serendipity, the very next verse, 9:12, was a godsend: "One terror now ends, but there are two more coming."

Considering the last seven years, plagued to biblical proportion as they have been by the Bush administration's criminal domestic and international response to 9/11, no prophet is needed to give meaning to the first half of Rev 9:12, while only a cursory vita review of the Republican and Democratic vice presidential candidates is needed to illuminate the rest of the verse.

John McCain will be the oldest man ever elected as a first-term president. He is also the fellow who made an enemy of the religious right in 2000 when he blasted them for "the evil influence that they exercise over the Republican Party." McCain needs youth and sex appeal and religious right muscle to prevail. He needs Sarah Palin . . . who happens to be an "end times" fundamentalist.

Barack Obama will be the first "black" man ever elected president. He is young and inexperienced in foreign affairs. He is also not polling well among influential older white voters. Obama needs age and white hair and foreign policy muscle to prevail. He needs Joseph Biden . . . who happens to be a self-professed Zionist.

Behold the twin "terrors" of the Holy Land: a sexy fundamentalist and a white-haired Zionist.

Introducing Governor Palin to Master's Commission graduates, a youth ministry whose vision is to "see young men and women who are not afraid to lead and are violent in their pursuit of righteous," Ed Kalnins, pastor of the Wasilla Assembly of God church where Palin was baptized, told the audience that she is the "real deal."

Pastor Kalnins is the same guy who believes that certain parts of the world are controlled by demons—guess which parts—and preaches an "end times" theology, the radical fundamentalist belief that the corruption of the Holy Land, that would be Muslims, Jews, sundry heretics and unbelievers, must be purified by God's cleansing fire before the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ can occur.

Knowing Palin is the "real deal" and that several of the churches she's attended are associated with the likes of Christians United for Israel, a right-wing "end times" organization dedicated to leading the charge to Armageddon (beginning with the nuking of Iran), odds are good Palin embraces this apocalyptic vision.

Frederick Clarkson, author of "Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy" recently told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, "[Palin's] well-documented belief that she's living in the "end time" . . . and her interpretation of the Book of Revelation may be driving her public policy and particularly her foreign and military policy views."

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Biblical America wary of EU 'Antichrist'

One of the surest things about the future is that the world will see the rise of a final world dictator. He will rise over the newly formed EU and will extend his rule across the globe not by warfare but through the most attractive economic system the world has ever seen. Yes it is connected to the mysterious and infamous number 666. That connection cannot be explained in a paragraph but to the nominally versed in the study of Biblical Eschatology most of the details are already known.

I pondered the idea of just waiting until the election was over to write this piece but because prophecy is motivated by God's desire to warn both the unbeliever and the faithful it is in keeping with the very nature of prophetic utterance to give people a chance to ponder the consequences and implications of the paths they choose.

When I started a look into Bible prophecy over 40 years ago I was surprised to see how many people believed we were in the last period of time. Certain prophecies have been fulfilled in this generation that can't be ignored. Just the re-birth of Israel alone is a fulfillment of one of the most important last day's warnings in the entire Bible. Today the number of people who have become aware of these prophecies has risen exponentially. It is befitting because God has promised that when he is about to do something many of his servants will be warned. (Amos 3:7)

America is patently unaware of the meaning of the meteoric rise of the EU. Europe has survived the direct onslaught of two world wars and now has the strongest currency in the world, three times the GDP of America and controls over fifty percent of the world's trade. America dances to the tune of its own politics and domestic affairs while largely ignoring the rise of the EU giant, almost as if Europe is still only our post war recovering little brother. Using terms to describe ourselves like "super power" and "leaders of the free world" the awesome spread of EU power has remained oblique to the average American and most of our leaders as well.

One undisputed teaching of the Bible is that all nations including America are heading toward a major intersecting with Europe, in some ways it will be more of a collision course. The EU will succeed. Another unquestionable teaching of scripture is that the last and worst dictator the world will ever know emerges from the newly formed European Union shortly after it begins as a sovereign nation with leaders like a president and vice president. He will not immediately plunge the world into war but in fact will be heralded as the most attractive world leader to arise in history. Up through normal political channels he will prove his prowess through a world economy and diplomatic achievements heretofore never seen. In short he will be loved not hated!

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EU influence falls at UN as Russia rises

Editorial writers around the world have called the recent Russia-Georgia war a watershed in how Russia views the world and the world views Russia. Moscow's response to criticism—"we don't need the G8, the WTO, and anything the West has to offer"—has been met with handwringing over a supposedly new multi-polar world where, in fact, Russia might not actually need the West. And without any sticks or carrots, the West might just have to settle for a new imperialistic Russia that will act with hubris and without regard for the consequences.

If any more evidence was needed for that viewpoint, a new report out this week provides plenty of ammunition. The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has issued a detailed analysis of voting records at the United Nations in recent years and come up with some startling conclusions. Behind the scenes, Russia and China have successfully built coalitions at the UN to an extent where the majority of the world's nation states are more likely to vote with them than with the European Union, let alone the United States.

That isn't the case. In "A Global Force for Human Rights? An Audit of European Power at the UN," the authors, Richard Gowan and Franziska Brantner, show the reversed fortunes of the EU and US, compared with Russia and China. In the late 1990s, over 70 percent of the votes cast at the UN General Assembly on human rights issues supported EU positions; over the past two years, such "voting consistency" has fallen to only around 50 percent. The EU has lost the regular support of 41 former allies (including most of the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia). The U.S. has done even worse, seeing its consistency on human rights votes plummet from 77 percent to a mere 30 percent over the past decade.

Over the same time period, support for Russian positions, in contrast, has skyrocketed from around 50 percent to 76 percent today. China came in only slightly worse, at 74 percent.

"A pattern is emerging which points to declining EU influence throughout the UN to promote an international rule of law based on human rights and justice," the authors write. "That is bad news for Europe and bad news for the world."

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There were calls of "Death to Jews"

It's time we had another look. Against the wishes of the organisers, Durban became an arena where people screamed and hurled insults at each other in a re-enactment of the comedy of damned, in the face of the white exploiter. "The pain and anger are still felt. The dead, through their descendants, cry out for justice", Kofi Annan said on August 31 of the same year – an astounding choice of words for a UN secretary general and more a call for revenge than reconciliation. The delegates at the conference, particularly those from the Arab-Muslim states, also understood it as such and, together with the African group, they transformed the conference into a stage for anti-colonialist revenge. The West, which is genocidal by nature, should recognise its crimes, beg for forgiveness and pay symbolic and financial reparations to the victims of its oppression. Emotions ran high and anger was brought to the boil by coverage of the second antifada which was being violently quashed by the Israeli army.

Zionism was condemned outright as the contemporary form of Nazism and apartheid, but so was "white viciousness", which had caused "one Holocaust after the other in Africa" through human trafficking, slavery and colonialism. Israel should disappear, its politicians should be brought before an international tribunal similar to the one in Nuremberg. Anti-Semitic cartoons were circulated, copies of "Mein Kampf" and the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were handed out. Beneath a photo of Hitler were the words that Israel would never have existed and the Palestinians would never have had to spill their blood if he had been victorious. A number of delegates were physically threatened, there were calls of "Death to Jews". This farce came to a head when the Sudanese Minister of Justice, Ali Mohamed Osman Yasin, demanded reparations for historical slavery, while in his own country, people were being shamelessly thrown into slavery as he spoke. It was like a cannibal suddenly calling for vegetarianism.

One might think that this sinister comedy would give the UN second thoughts about repeating its mistake. But there is no underestimating the extraordinary determination of dictators and fundamentalists, who have transformed the UN Human Rights Commission into a platform for their demands. A Durban II (The Durban Review Conference) is due to take place in Geneva 20 to 24 April 2009, and it promises to be a repeat of Durban 1 (more information here).

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A critique of Germany's infatuation with Obama

Frankfurter Rundschau 13.09.2008

Mely Kiyak finds the frenzied enthusiasm for Barack Obama deeply hypocritical in a country where he wouldn't stand a chance of becoming Bundeskanzler. "If participation means that immigrants should be politically integrated, then this country should be ashamed of the state of its political hierarchies. Because politicians of Turkish origin are making a huge effort and are spending a considerable part of their energy in fighting their way up electoral lists within their own parties. Not even half a percent of German-Turks have their own mandate. And with citizenship conditions growing more difficult by the year, they have to hear that they must speak primarily to German voters. Has anyone ever heard of a Turkish mayor? Why don't we have a single minister-president with an immigration background. Why not in federal states like North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Würtemberg or Bavaria which have the largest immigrant populations?"

Mink raiders are back and attack Utah farms

The attack last week on a Kaysville farm that freed 6,000 minks was the second recent raid in Utah claimed by a shadowy animal rights group and marks the resurgence of such crimes after a long lull. 
Utah members of the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the Sept. 21 raid and another on Aug. 19 in South Jordan in which breeding records were destroyed and 800 pens opened. 
The attacks are a blow to a big industry in Utah. The state ranks second only to Wisconsin in mink production, producing 1.5 million pelts annually. Sixty-six farms in Utah raise more than 620,000 minks annually and the pelts are valued at almost $41 million, according to Fur Commission USA.
"Nobody is putting anyone out of the mink business," said Ryan Holt, who spent last Sunday helping to round up minks freed from the Kaysville farm. "If anything, it's turning people against the animal rights movement." 
Holt's own Salt Lake County mink farm was targeted in 1996 when vandals jumped a fence, spray painted "blood money" on buildings and broke into cages, freeing 3,000 minks.
Federal agents say the Animal Liberation Front is organized around small, separate cells akin to organizations such as the Irish Republican Army, making investigation difficult. The group believes that "non-human animals deserve to live according to their own natures, free form harm, abuse and exploitation," according to the group's Web site.

'Today, the most important publication in America is the Federal Register'

Bush's Bureaucratic Dark Arts: Why the Federal Register Is the Most Important Publication in America Right Now
By Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive

Bush has vowed to sprint through the final five months of his Administration, and you better believe him.
Because he is pulling all the bureaucratic levers in the Executive Branch to advance his right-wing agenda.
Unable to accomplish his goals legislatively, Bush is trying to get them done by fiat.

If you look at proposed regulatory changes at the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the Justice Department you get a sense of how vast this hustle is.

"Political appointees at the Department of Labor are moving with unusual speed to push through in the final months of the Bush Administration a rule making it tougher to regulate workers' on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins," The Washington Post reported last month.

The Department of Labor is not exactly making the safety of workers a priority. As the Post reported, this change "would address longstanding complaints from business."

The Bush Administration was trying to sneak this one through. "The agency did not disclose the proposal, as required, in public notices," the Post reported.

The proposed change at the Department of Health would redefine some kinds of contraception as abortion, even contraception before implantation. Hospitals that offered such contraception would forfeit federal aid. They would also forfeit the aid if they refused to hire health professionals who opposed abortion or birth control. This regulatory change "could also undermine state laws that require hospitals to prove emergency contraception to rape victims," according to womensenews.

At the Department of the Interior, the Bush Administration is going after the Endangered Species Act. It has published a proposed regulatory change in the Federal Register that would, as the New York Times noted, "eliminate the requirement for independent scientific reviews of any project that could harm an endangered species living on federal land."

We already knew the Bush Administration was anti-science, but this is just further proof.

And the Bush apparatchiks over at the Justice Department published a proposed regulatory change in the Federal Register on July 31 that would wipe out just about every restriction on the sharing of intelligence information about U.S. citizens who are being spied upon.

The old regulations, still in place, were designed to protect "the privacy and constitutional rights of individuals," says the statute that brought the regulations into being.

But now those rights would be as to nothing compared with the demands of the authoritarian state.

Today, the most important publication in America is the Federal Register.

That's where Bush has to publish his intentions to alter federal regulations.

And his intentions, by now, are all too clear.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive.

~ Coastal Post Online ~


Arms dealer Viktor Bout faces Thai court for extradition to US

The man described as the world's most notorious arms smuggler faces extradition to the US on terrorism charges when he appears in a Thai court today.

Viktor Bout, 41, a Russian dubbed the Merchant of Death, appeared shackled hand and foot at the Bangkok court. He wore prison-issue orange shorts and T-shirt with the number 8 chalked on the back.

Bout was seized at a Bangkok luxury hotel in March in the culmination of a year-long sting by US agents. He said nothing as he arrived for the hearing, which had been repeatedly delayed.

His defence lawyer, Preecha Prasertsak, announced he had petitioned the court to dismiss the proceedings on four terrorism conspiracy counts filed in the US on the grounds the former Soviet air force officer had been held illegally.

The judges adjourned for 30 minutes but then said they would consider Preecha's appeal at another hearing to be fixed later. "My client is innocent," Preecha said.

Bout has denied any wrongdoing. He has long been one of the world's most wanted men for arms smuggling. He has a reputation for busting UN weapons embargoes to supply infamous warlords like Liberia's Charles Taylor.

~ more... ~



Israel and the Dark Arts

Recent reports in the Israeli media, for example, suggest that the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, far from reducing the opportunities for collaboration, may actually have increased them. The current siege of the Strip -- in which Israel effectively governs all movement in and out of Gaza -- has provided an ideal point of leverage for encouraging collusion.

Masterminding this strategy is the Israeli secret police, the Shin Bet, which has recently turned its attention to sick Gazans and their relatives who need to leave the Strip. With hospitals and medicines in short supply, some patients have little hope of recovery without treatment abroad or in Israel.

According to the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights, the Shin Bet is exploiting the distress of these families to pressure them to agree to collaborate in return for an exit permit.

Last month, the group released details of 32 cases in which sick Gazans admitted they were denied permits after refusing to become informants.

One is Shaban Abu Obeid, 38, whose pacemaker was installed at an Israeli hospital and needs intermittent maintenance by Israeli doctors. Another, Bassam Waheidi, 28, has gone blind in one eye after he refused to co-operate and was denied a permit.

But these cases are only the tip of an enormous iceberg. Those Palestinians who refuse to collaborate have every interest in making their problems public. By contrast, those who agree to turn informant have no such interest.

As with other occupation regimes, Israel has long relied on the most traditional way of recruiting collaborators: torture. While a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999 banned torture, the evidence suggests the Shin Bet simply ignored the ruling.

Two Israeli human rights groups, B'Tselem and Hamoked, found last year that seven "special" interrogation methods amounting to torture are still being regularly employed, including beatings, painful binding, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation.

FYROM: Albanian MPs stripped of immunity

Macedonia's parliament yesterday revoked the right to immunity to two ethnic Albanian lawmakers.

Hisen Dzemaili and Hajrulu Misini, elected on the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) ticket, are suspected of committing crimes during the conflict in that country in 2001.

The prosecution in Skoplje has announced it intends to issue war crimes indictments against the two.

The AP news agency reminds that DUI, a member of the ruling coalition in Macedonia, was formed by "the former Albanian rebels".

Dzemaili is one of 23 persons suspected of kidnapping and torturing four construction workers in 2001. Misini will be charged with taking part in a sabotage operation that cut off Kumanovo's water supply.

Previously, the pair said they would "voluntarily" give up their immunity and appear before the court. But neither they nor other suspects showed up as the trial kicked off on Sept. 16, prompting the judge in charge of the process to order their arrests.

Activists rally at UN against efforts to block ICC investigation

Human rights activists with Amnesty International USA demonstrated outside the United Nations on Thursday evening to press the UN Security Council to reject the efforts of some countries to block the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes committed in the Darfur region of Sudan.

About 200 demonstraters gathered in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York to support the ICC process and to urge member states to keep the promises they have made for more than a year to send 26,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians in Darfur. The United States would like to see an increase of 4,000 troops in Darfur before the end of the year, a US diplomat said Thursday – still putting the total number of peacekeepers at significantly less than 26,000.

"Delays in deployment are putting millions of lives at further risk in a region where hundreds of thousands of individuals have died in more than five years of unrelenting, horrific violence," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

At the demonstration on Thursday, activists from 15 organizations erected 15 eight-foot-high silhouette figures blindfolded and carrying scales of justice.

"Nobody, including the current head of state of Sudan, should be protected from prosecution for the most serious crimes under international law," said Cox. "If attempts to block the ICC's investigation of President Bashir succeed, it would set a dangerous precedent for others to try to undermine international law. It would send a message that the international community is not serious about ending impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes."

~ more... ~


Naked or not, Frederick Shaw was ahead of his time

Mystery obscures the life of Frederick Shaw (1827-1914), the indigent inventor, health promoter, social crusader and purported naked man of Laurel Canyon.

Did he really attempt to hang-glide from atop a second-story building in downtown Los Angeles, breaking his hip in the process?

Did his mail-order bride really flee his property when she discovered that he lived in a tree?

And was he really insane, as a judicial panel ruled, or just a hermit whose vegetarian diet, clothing-optional lifestyle and boundary disputes annoyed the neighbors?
Shaw was "among the first to promote Southern California as a refuge for health seekers . . . to actively campaign for a public harbor and to promote public sanitation," said Shaffer, an emeritus history professor at Cal Poly Pomona.

Shaw also inveighed against monopolies long before they were outlawed, pleaded with schools to add nutrition and physical education to the curriculum and advocated fire-prevention measures in brushy and forest areas, just to name a few of his causes.

He was "the first counterculture resident of Laurel Canyon," Shaffer wrote, "an apt forerunner of the Zappas, Mamas and Papas and all the other denizens of the canyon almost a century later."
Then there's the matter of Shaw's most colorful marriage. He may have been married up to seven times.

In 1879, he wed an Eastern schoolmistress named Margaret Wright via Western Union. Her "I do" was sent from Newark, N.J. He telegraphed his from Los Angeles. As to whether she later ran away after seeing her hubby's tree abode, we have only the word of some not-so-friendly neighbors in court records.

A contrary account said that the couple "set up housekeeping in a shanty which Shaw had built under the branches of his favorite tree" and that the groom had "succumbed to feminine rule so far as to wear a suit of clothes." Records show that the couple divorced six years later.

'We would not be turned back'

The MOBE is predicting thousands of young mainstream "Clean for Gene" supporters of anti-war presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy will descend on Chicago, while we Yippies use the underground press to try and attract countercultural youth with an imaginary scheme to put LSD in the drinking water. This act, FYI, is physically impossible; given the amount of LSD needed to make any difference. I know, I once put hundreds of packets red dye in the reflecting pool in Washington DC to protest the war and it just dissipated.

For the sake of historical accuracy, I will also disclose that we Yippies claim we're going to fuck on the beaches and burn Chicago to the ground. Ok, so, this sounds a little over the top threatening, but why would anyone in their right mind actually take Yippie seriously?

Mayor Daley is not a Yippie.

Nor is FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

By the time we roll into town, police forces from all over the state have been brought in, the cops are wired, the National Guard is mobilized, and tension is extremely high. Stew always believed that Mayor Daley, a Democrat, was set up by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to overreact to our Yippie exaggerations, so Americans would watch approvingly on television as hippies and anti-war demonstrators are rightfully put down and Richard Nixon gets elected as a law and order candidate.

Which is, in fact, what comes to pass. Mayor Daley denies all permits.

In fact, six months before the Convention, Mayor Daley had issued a "shoot to kill" order for demonstrators.

~ more... ~


The problem for them was that they underestimated us.  We were frightened but despite our fears we persisted.  They may have thought their threats before the Convention would deter us.  They were wrong.  They may have thought the first round of tear gas would deter us.  They were wrong.  They may have thought the first cracked head would stop us.  They were wrong.  We would not be turned back.

It was an amazing few days and a yippie's delight in the sense that we were always out to capture the media's attention and in this case we did.  The media reported the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, because they found themselves at the end of the same billy clubs and tear gas as we.  Even reporters as respectable as Dan Rather were attacked by the cops.  They were not embedded journalists.  For that moment in time there seemed to actually be a free press!  One reporter is quoted as saying, "This whole thing has moved me so far left, I can see the back of my head." 

The long-term impact of Chicago 68 has been much debated.  There are many layers to such an analysis and that is not the subject of this piece.  But there is no doubt that Chicago 68 became an iconic moment in American history.

As I write this there are people outside both Democratic and Republican conventions chanting, "Let's recreate 68."  Of course history cannot be recreated.  These are very different times.  But let's hope the determination to be part of a worldwide process for peace and justice persists.

~ more... ~


Chicago 10 is a cleverly conceived, if at times disappointingly realized, attempt at historical narration that strives to deliver a contemporary resonance. The most affecting piece of the film comes from the longest uninterrupted archival footage, which shows Chicago police wading into streets jammed with demonstrators with clubs and fists raging wildly. The tear gas residue, the carnal brutality at the hands of the state, and the transparently false statements by elites justifying their savagery will be familiar to anyone who saw footage from the 2008 Republican National Convention protests. And in a frightening example of history's repeating cycle, eight protest organizers arrested during the recent protests now face up to seven and a half years for conspiracy charges amplified by Minnesota's version of the Patriot Act. Yesterday's allegation of communist subversion is today's terrorism enhancement charge.

Yet with a different political climate and a different convention protest, the Minnesota 8 trial, should it come to that, will hardly resemble their Chicago forbearers. In providing a representation both romantic and convincing, Chicago 10 shows that "state of mind trials," as Hoffman described the conspiracy, are corrupt forms of theater. Perhaps the best advice from that trial for thinking about the current one comes not from Hoffman but Dellinger. In his pre-sentencing statement, which he quotes in his memoir, From Yale to Jail, Dellinger said "I think I shall sleep better and happier and with a greater sense of fulfillment in whatever jails I am in for however many years than if I had compromised, if I had pretended the problems were any less real than they are, or if I had sat here passively in the courthouse while justice was being throttled and the truth was being denied. I salute my brothers and sisters in Vietnam, in the ghetto, in the women's liberation movement, all the people all over the world who are struggling to make true and real for all people the ideals on which this country was supposed to be founded, but never, never lived up to."

~ more... ~


The Yippie Show

In Nixonland, his insightful study of the period, the historian Rick Perlstein points out that Nixon "welcomed conflict that served him politically. A briefing paper came to the president's desk in the middle of March instructing him to expect increased violence on college campuses that spring. 'Good!' he wrote across the face." Jerry Rubin welcomed the polarization as much as Nixon did. "We yippies must reprint [George] Wallace speeches, get him TV time and open up offices for him all over the country," he wrote in his 1970 book Do it! "He's the best Marxist rabble-rouser in Amerika today. He's our best organizer." And: "To build their myth they exaggerate our myth—they create a Yippie Menace. The menace helps create the reality."

Then there's this remarkable passage:
The right wing is the left wing's best ally.

Who was the first person to call the battles at San Francisco State College "a guerilla war—Vietnam at home"?


Fuck no.

Ronnie Reagan!

(I can now reveal a secret. The last time I voted in an election, I cast my free Amerikan vote for the only movie star in the race, Ronnie Prettyboy.)
I doubt it's literally accurate that Rubin voted Reagan for governor, but there's a poetic truth lurking behind the sarcasm. The party of anarchy thrived on repression. The party of law and order thrived on disorder.

Santa Claus to run for U.S. president

A man who changed his name to Santa Claus three years ago has successfully registered as a presidential candidate in the U.S. state of West Virginia, local authorities said.

A total of 14 people, including an inmate at a Texas prison, have managed to register as write-in presidential candidates in the state, thanks to its simple registration process.

"All they have to do is file a form at least 42 days before the election," a local electoral official said.

Santa Claus, who sports a long white beard, changed his name from Thomas O'Connor in 2005.

The write-in candidates' names will not appear on West Virginia ballots at the November election, but voters can write the name of any officially registered candidate on the ballot paper.

In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, the revolutionary movement the Yippies attempted to put forward a pig for U.S. president. The pig, along with seven Yippie members, was later detained by police.

~ RIA Novosti ~



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