VNN’s Free Talk Live Friday, Feb.10th, 2007 Notes/Download


Helos Crashing

Al-Qaida-tied insurgents release video

By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 27 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq – An insurgent group linked to al-Qaida posted a Web video Friday showing what it said was the downing of a U.S. military helicopter this week. Seven Americans were killed in the crash.


The U.S. military has said it did not believe the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter was shot down in the crash Wednesday northwest of Baghdad.

The two-minute video — which says it shows the “downing of U.S. aircraft on Feb. 7” — shows a helicopter that appears to be a Sea Knight flying. An object trailing smoke is seen in the sky nearby, and then the craft bursts into orange and red flames, with a spray of debris emerging from it.

It is not clear whether the object is a rocket, and it cannot be clearly seen connecting with the craft. In the footage, the helicopter heads downward, but appears to be at least partially in control, though smoke and bright flames are trailing from it. The helicopter then disappears behind a line of trees as it hits the ground.

The video was issued by the “Islamic State in

Iraq,” an umbrella group of Iraqi insurgent groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq. The group on Wednesday issued a written claim of responsibility for the craft’s downing and had promised a video would follow.

The Islamic State in Iraq has also claimed responsibility for downing two other U.S. helicopters — a Black Hawk which crashed northeast of Baghdad on Jan. 20, killing 12 Americans, and an Apache shot down Feb. 12, in which two U.S. soldiers died.

At least six U.S. helicopters have crashed or been forced down under hostile fire since Jan. 20. In the wake of the recent crashes, U.S. officials have said they were reviewing flight operations and tactics but maintain there is no evidence of sophisticated new weapons used in any of the latest attacks.

As to what caused the crash, Lute said “there are some eyewitness accounts that cause professional aviation officers to believe it was most likely … mechanical.”

Jews Perform a “limited hangout” on 9/11?

Rabbi Michael Lerner, the longtime activist and editor of Tikkun magazine, has published an essay saying he is open to the possibility that the American government may have been behind the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“I would not be surprised to learn that some branch of our government conspired either actively to promote or passively to allow the attack on 9/11,” Lerner wrote in an essay published in the new book, “9/11 and American Empire: Christians, Jews, and Muslims Speak Out.” Lerner added that he would also not be surprised if it turned out that the attacks were not the result of a government conspiracy.

“I am agnostic on the question of what happened on 9/11,” he wrote in his essay for the book, which includes articles by other contributors arguing that a government conspiracy was behind the September 11 attacks. “As other authors in this collection have shown, there are huge holes in the official story and contradictions that suggest that we do not know the whole story.”

Lerner, the founder of Tikkun and the newly formed Network of Spiritual Progressives, is arguably the most prominent contributor to “9/11 and American Empire.” In the 1990s he gained national attention after a meeting with then-first lady Hillary Clinton, during which they discussed his ideas about the need for a new “politics of meaning.” Since then, he has emerged as a leader of efforts to reconcile left-wing politics and religious belief, calling for a “Spiritual Covenant” to transform America.

The Berkeley, Calif.-based Renewal rabbi occupies a distinctive niche on the political landscape, keeping one foot planted in the Jewish community and the other in the world of left-wing activism. Maintaining credibility in both milieus has involved a delicate balancing act. Lerner, for instance, has been an outspoken critic of Israeli policies, but he also has firmly defended Israel’s right to exist. Recently, Lerner sent an e-mail to supporters saying that he had recently spoken on the phone with former president Jimmy Carter in an effort to build support for a left-wing pro-Israel lobby to take on more hawkish elements in the Jewish community.

The book in which Lerner’s essay appears is billed as having been “inspired by” David Ray Griffin’s “The New Pearl Harbor,” a seminal text of the so-called “9/11 Truth” movement. The new book includes an essay by Griffin in which he makes the case that the September 11 attacks were likely “orchestrated, like many previous false-flag attacks, by U.S. agents as a pretext for a war to expand the American empire.”

In his own essay for “9/11 and American Empire,” Lerner wrote: “For those who watched the reactionary political uses made of this tragedy, it’s easy to conjure up a variety of possible conspiratorial motives that would have led the president, the vice president, or some branch of the armed forces or CIA or FBI or other ‘security’ forces to have passively or actively participated in a plot to re-credit militarism and war. We’ve learned enough about the subsequent ways that the Bush administration lied to the American public to no longer be shocked if there had been some active involvement by them in these deeds.”

But, Lerner immediately added, “Neither would I be surprised if, when all the archives were opened and all the communications revealed, it turned out that there was some other non-conspiratorial explanation for elements of the story that currently seem to make no sense.”

Lerner told the Forward that he has good reason to be suspicious of the government.

“I’ve had a lot of personal experience of government lying and doing things that are very destructive and pretending that they weren’t doing it,” Lerner said. “I was part of antiwar demonstrations in which violence was done and the violence later turned out was being done by police agents. I had that personal experience…. After that, nothing surprises me about what this government would do to achieve what its perceived ends are. Nothing would surprise me. That doesn’t mean I believe it. That doesn’t mean that I believe that that’s actually happening right now.”

In his essay, Lerner argued that searching for conspiracies — “even when there are real conspiracies” — tends not to be politically useful. He wrote that focusing on conspiracy theories wrongly leads people to believe that “the major problems we face are those generated by evil people in powerful positions, not on something more systemic.” Lerner wrote that September 11 conspiracy theorists should work to create a “Spiritual Covenant” to heal American society.

While Lerner is willing — if only skeptically — to entertain those who posit a plot by the American government, he has no such indulgence for another popular conspiracy theory, namely that Israel was behind the September 11 attacks. He said that whereas the Bush administration benefited politically from the attacks, and thus had a “plausible motivation,” Israel had no such interest in seeing the attacks occur.

“Anything about Israel and the relationship to 9/11,” Lerner said, “I think is total baloney.”

Berlin Pushes E.U. Ban on Holohoax Denial

Marc Perelman | Fri. Feb 09, 2007

Germany’s push for all European Union member states to adopt legislation criminalizing Holocaust denials is gaining traction as several key countries that expressed concerns over potential free-speech infringement have indicated a new willingness to join the effort.

Berlin announced early this year that during its six-month presidency of the E.U., it would press to make Holocaust denial punishable by law in each of the 27 member states. German officials have described their effort as a moral imperative, as well as a practical effort to unify European legal standards on the issue.

A similar attempt by Luxembourg in 2005 was blocked by Britain, Denmark and Italy, three countries that saw the measures as overstepping the rights of expression under their respective national laws. But supporters of the campaign believe that new British laws against inciting terrorism, the controversy over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and a new government in Italy, as well as the backlash over statements questioning the Holocaust by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could lead to a successful outcome in the coming months.

“We are optimistic we will see a positive result, even if it is not a perfect one,” said Pierre Besnainou, president of the European Jewish Congress, in an interview with the Forward. “Our advocacy for a pan-E.U. legislation has been well received in various capitals, and we believe [German] chancellor [Angela] Merkel is determined to get it done.”

Among E.U. members, only Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Romania and Spain have laws specifically targeting Holocaust revisionism on the books — meaning that Berlin needs to convince 20 other countries to come on board by July, when it will relinquish the E.U. presidency.

As a result of the disparity in E.U. legal standards, Holocaust deniers have been prosecuted in some countries while being left alone in others. The most high-profile case involved controversial British historian David Irving, who spent 13 months in an Austrian jail but faced no legal threat in his native country.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the E.U., is publicly supporting the Germans’ initiative. Last month, on the eve of international commemorations to mark the Holocaust, E.U. Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini called on all member nations to “finally adopt” tough new rules to criminalize the incitement of hatred and acts of racist violence.

The new German plan envisions the introduction of minimum E.U.-wide prison terms — between one and three years — for those convicted of purposely inciting racist violence or hatred, or for those who deny the Holocaust.

Last month, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries expressed hope that unifying E.U. legal standards regarding Holocaust denial and xenophobic acts was now possible because Italy had dropped its opposition. But Italy’s stance is still ambiguous.

The center-left government in Rome was set to include an explicit reference to Holocaust denial in a draft law imposing jail terms of up to four years for racist or ethnically motivated crimes, on the advice of the bill’s author, Italian Justice Minister Clemente Mastella. But the center-left coalition government heeded protests from several of its ministers, as well as from academics and even some Jewish leaders, who argued that jail time was not a proper way to address the issue. Rome’s former chief rabbi, Elio Toaff, who was tortured by the Nazis during the German occupation of Italy, publicly said he doubted that the measure could stop antisemitism.

Several members of the Italian government expressed misgivings about using criminal procedures to deal with what they see primarily as a cultural and educational problem. In addition, about 200 Italian historians publicly argued that such laws could impinge on free speech, echoing an argument made by common-law countries in the E.U., first and foremost the United Kingdom.

As a result of any remaining differences, Besnainou said that an agreement on criminalizing Holocaust denial in all the E.U. would be reached but the tough jail sanctions proposed by Germany would be lessened.

In Aipac Talk, Clinton Offers Up Red Meat Before Calling for Engagement With Iran

Jennifer Siegel | Fri. Feb 09, 2007

When Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed a packed crowd of Israel supporters in New York last week, she opened with a joke that signaled she was among respected old friends.

Earlier in the afternoon, Clinton said, she had been frantic, as a critical Senate vote on the minimum wage delayed her trip north for the dinner, a yearly fundraiser held by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Her staff was at wit’s end trying to ensure that the lawmaker would make her scheduled 7 p.m. flight — until, that is, an Aipac “mitzvah” came to the rescue.

“At 5:00 we got a call — not from my Senate leadership or my colleagues — but from Aipac, saying that the vote would be at 5:30,” Clinton recounted, chuckling. “Your intelligence sources are certainly beyond anything we have in Washington.”

The 1,700-member audience laughed heartily, notwithstanding the allusion — however unintentional — to Aipac’s recent legal troubles, involving two former staffers accused of passing classified information to the Israelis. And they cheered as Clinton wasted little time emphatically making a hard-line case for tough action to block Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. But if Clinton started off the February 1 event with plenty of red meat, the senator eventually had plenty of attendees squirming in their seats when she issued a call for American engagement with Iran and Syria.

Making a forceful, if measured, case for diplomacy, Clinton also acknowledged that “there are no easy answers to the complex situation we face today.” She called President Bush’s steadfast rejection of talks with Iran and Syria a “good-faith position to take” that was, nevertheless, perhaps not the “smartest strategy.”

Once a first lady pilloried for publicly embracing Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha, Clinton worked hard in 2000 during her first senatorial run and her re-election campaign last year to shore up support among pro-Israel hawks in the Empire State. As she sets her sights on the White House, however, she must find a way to maintain her pro-Israel bona fides without alienating liberals already fuming over her unwillingness to disavow completely her support for the Iraq War.

The inherent risk of Clinton’s sugar-and-medicine approach at the Aipac gathering was quickly apparent: The next day, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney blasted Clinton’s alleged “timidity” toward Iran in a speech to conservative politicians.

“At this point, we don’t need a listening tour about Iran,” Romney said.

As if to head off any such effort to paint her as a naive liberal, Clinton had assured the Aipac audience that she had “no expectations whatsoever” that “anything positive would come” from talks.

Engagement with Iran, Clinton argued, would be a way to gain more information about a formidable adversary, as it was with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“If we are having to pursue potential action against Iran, then I want to know more about the adversary that we face,” Clinton said. “I want to understand better what the leverage we can bring to bear on them will actually produce. I want to get a better sense of what the real power centers and influentials are.”

The senator also argued that in the event the United States does need to take “drastic actions” against Iran, diplomatic action would be critical for building support in the world community and among the American people, many of whom, she said, are moving “away from a belief that the United States has a role in promoting freedom and democracy” due to the problems in Iraq.

Clinton spoke forcefully about the gravity of the threats Israel faces, especially from an Iran bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. “U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal,” the senator said, in a line that earned the evening’s biggest applause from the crowd. “We cannot, we should not, we must not, permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons, and in dealing with this threat, as I have said for a very long time, no option can be taken off the table.”

Clinton concluded her address with some more affection for Israel, then shot a final warning: “It is not enough for us to say the right things,” she said, her voice in full crescendo. “We’ve got to be smart and tough enough to do the right things that will protect American and Israeli interests now and forever.”

Underscoring the political backdrop of her speech was the appearance of one of Clinton’s chief rivals, former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards. He pressed the flesh at the cocktail reception preceding her address.

Edwards, for his part, stuck almost entirely to hawkish campaign rhetoric while addressing the American and Israeli security experts gathered for Israel’s Herzliya Conference in late January. Like Clinton, Edwards stressed the line that Iran cannot be permitted nuclear weapons, but his address made no mention of engagement. Afterward, when an audience member asked, “Would you be prepared, if diplomacy failed, to take further action against Iran?” the former senator said he supported talking with Tehran.

“As to what to do, we should not take anything off the table,” Edwards said.

“More serious sanctions need to be undertaken, which cannot happen unless Russia and China are seriously on board, which has not happened up until now. I would not want to say in advance what we would do, and what I would do as president, but there are other steps that need to be taken. For example, we need to support direct engagement with the Iranians; we need to be tough. But I think it is a strategic mistake to avoid engagement with Iran.”

At Clinton’s Aipac turn, a faint smattering of applause could be heard as the senator referenced Bush’s policy of shunning all talks with Tehran, while polite clapping greeted her own call for diplomatic engagement.

Milling around coffee and nondairy cookies after the address, the crowd had a mixed reaction to Clinton’s call for engagement.

Two 30-something Republicans from Manhattan thought Clinton’s call for talks was naïve; some Democrats could be heard echoing the same view, while a self-described “dyed in the wool liberal” doctor from Livingston, N.J., said he was pro-Israel and fully in support of Clinton’s remarks.

A broad, cautious middle included Eli Hertz, an American citizen who has lived in the United States for more than three decades but who was raised in Haifa. Hertz, who chairs the Middle East watchdog group known by the acronym Camera, voted for Bill Clinton twice and then George Bush in 2000 and 2004 — and said his vote for 2008 is wide open.

“I just want to know that a commitment is a commitment,” Hertz said, pondering his chances of backing Clinton. “What she said is logical. It was very important that she qualified [her call for engagement]. She made it very clear that it might not work from the beginning — and I don’t think you get bad points for trying.”

Ahmadinejad losing it quick

Eli Weasel questioned in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO – In a bizarre attack, a well-known author and Holocaust scholar was dragged out of a San Francisco hotel elevator by an apparent Holocaust denier who reportedly had been trailing him for weeks.

Police escorted Elie Wiesel to San Francisco International Airport on Feb. 1 after a man accosted Wiesel in the elevator at the Argent Hotel, at 50 Third St., after Wiesel participated in a panel discussion at a peace conference and before Wiesel was scheduled to catch a flight back to New York.

Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and author of more than 40 books, including the memoir “Night,” about his experiences at Auschwitz, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Last fall, the Boston University professor was suggested as a possible replacement for Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who faces sexual assault charges.

Police confirmed this week that the attack took place and that officers escorted Wiesel to the airport following the attack. According to police, the suspect accosted Wiesel in the hotel elevator at around 6:30 p.m., saying he wanted to interview him. Wiesel said he would do the interview in the lobby. That’s when the attacker pulled him out of the elevator, police reported.

In a posting Tuesday on the anti-Zionist Web site ZioPedia, a writer using the name Eric Hunt takes credit for the attack: “After ensuring no women would be traumatized by what I had to do (I had been trailing Wiesel for weeks), I stopped the elevator at the sixth floor. I pulled Wiesel out of the elevator. I said I wanted to interview him.”

Wiesel grabbed at his chest and yelled for help, according to the posting. “I told him, ‘Why don’t you want people to know the truth?’ His expression changed, and he began screaming again. …” the posting reads.Police reported that the suspect tried to force Wiesel into one of the rooms, but ran away when Wiesel started yelling.

The online posting states that the writer intended to “bring Wiesel to my hotel room where he would truthfully answer my questions regarding the fact that his non-fiction Holocaust memoir, Night, is almost entirely fictitious.” Later in the posting, the Holocaust is portrayed as a “myth.”

Cold War-like stress between U.S., Russia

MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 9 (UPI) — Ahead of a large security conference in Germany, Russia and the United States are on a confrontation course reminiscent of the Cold War era.

Moscow has been furious about Washington’s plans to place its multi-billion-dollar missile defense system on Polish and Czech territory. Washington claims the missiles are to intercept rockets from Iran and North Korea, but Moscow feels it has moved into the gridlock of the Americans.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov called the plan an “unfriendly signal.”

“Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, apparently there are conditions to be established for the continent to be once again helpless without American protection and an increased military presence of the Americans,” he wrote in a commentary in Friday’s Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, on the same day that a high-ranking security conference kicks off in the Bavarian city.

Ivanov added the moved forced Russia to take cheap asymmetrical countermeasures, like stationing 50 Topol-M rockets that would be able to overcome the U.S. missile system.

Harsh backfire came from U.S. Senator John McCain, who accused Russia of exerting imperialistic influence on its neighboring states.

The verbal exchange clouds the 43rd edition of the Munich Conference on Security Policy, a top level meeting that will draw 250 officials from 40 nations, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Banning the freedom to deny

I SAW THAT DANGER_MAN posted this in the forum.…pe/6336513.stm
By Clare Murphy
BBC News

Germany is courting a row over freedom of speech as it seeks to clamp down on those who deny genocide or mass murder.

Before its six-month spell at the helm of the EU is up, it hopes to push through measures which would criminalise, and possibly imprison, not just those who downplay the Holocaust but also those who belittle genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Historically proven facts must not be denied,” said German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries in a radio interview this week.

“When an international court determines that such crimes have taken place, then you should no longer be able to say: ‘You’re making that all up.'”

It is a proposal which Germany sees as part of its historical responsibility to fight racism and xenophobia.

But it has drawn fire from those who prefer to put up with Holocaust deniers than relinquish freedom of speech, and others who worry historians will stop researching mass murder, for fear of prosecution if they come up with the “wrong” conclusion.

Take two

Criminalising those who deny the murder of six million Jews in World War II has long been a fraught issue.

The EU has been thwarted in its efforts to do this in the past. An attempt two years ago was rejected by Italy, but Berlin hopes that with a new centre-left government in Rome, it can breathe new life into the measures.

We have immense difficulty defining what constitutes genocide… any attempt to stifle discussion is very worrying
Stephane Bruchfeld, Uppsala Programme for Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Yet the conviction of British historian David Irving in Austria last year for Holocaust denial sparked an intense debate about freedom of speech in several member states.

Some of his most ardent foes expressed their discomfort with jailing him for his views, however unsavoury they might be.

In Italy, nearly 200 historians have signed a manifesto against criminalising Holocaust denial.

But a string of European countries already ban it, including France, Belgium, and Poland, as well as Austria and Germany, arguing that such views have no place in societies which reject outright the crimes of the Nazis.

Czech Republic

Indeed it is the genocide denial aspect of the package which looks set to draw the most consternation.

“With Holocaust denial, there are some cases where the justice system is the only way to stop it pervading society, where public debate isn’t enough,” says Stephane Bruchfeld, a researcher at Sweden’s Uppsala Programme for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

“But we have immense difficulty defining what constitutes genocide. Observers, scientists, historians, they need the freedom to research, to debate. These discussions are incredibly important – any attempt to stifle them is very worrying.”

The deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during World War I is a case in point. Some countries have declared that a genocide took place, but others have resisted calls to do so – and in Turkey it is even a crime to give the killings that label.

‘Heart not head’

Under the proposals, a person would face up to three years in jail for “approving, denying, or grossly minimising” a war crime that had been proved to be such at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The court, which has just agreed to hear its first case – the trial of DR Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga, deals only with crimes committed after 1 July 2002.

Questions surrounding genocide and war crimes committed in the Balkans during the 1990s for instance would not be at issue under the German proposals.

In any event, some EU observers doubt the proposals will ever make it into European law, noting they are likely to fall foul of countries like Sweden, which cherish the right to freedom of speech.

The proposals will be formally discussed at a Council of Ministers meeting before June, according to a spokeswoman from the German government.

But the failure to ratify the European Union constitution, which would have facilitated more joint action in the field of justice and home affairs, means that even if the measures were accepted it would be hard to foist them upon those countries wary of them.

“There’s a lot of wrangling going within the EU about who we are, how we see the world, what we find acceptable and what we find abhorrent,” says Hugo Brady, research fellow at the London-based Centre for European Reform. “But it’s all happening within a very legally ambiguous atmosphere.”

“These proposals prompt debate – but I predict nothing more. They are from the heart, not the head.”

G.B. Mail Bombs (CLIP)

South Africa faces crime challenge


Three weeks ago, President Thabo Mbeki insisted that most South Africans did not think the crime rate in their country was getting out of hand.

Now, in his annual State of the Nation address to parliament, he has admitted that people live in fear. He has promised an increase in police numbers.

It is a turnaround which compares with his change of heart on Aids.

In a recent television interview Mr Mbeki said: “Nobody can show that the overwhelming majority of the 40 or 50 million South Africans think that crime is out of control.”

The other night in Hillbrow, the most crime-ridden area of Johannesburg, my camera team and I stood on the corner of Claim Street and Pretoria Street, speaking to passers-by.

An angry crowd built up so fast that our security man advised us to leave. But there was no threat to us. They were desperate to talk about crime.

One man showed us the scars he had received from a stabbing. Another said crime was overwhelming in Hillbrow.

A woman told us how she could not wear good earrings or good clothes for fear of being robbed.

Two days later a man was stabbed to death on the very corner where we had filmed.

The government often suggests that only white people are worried about crime.

“They should get out if they don’t like it,” one minister said recently.

Our experience showed that black people are just as frightened by it.

Every day, more than 300 murders and violent attacks take place in South Africa. Together with Iraq and Colombia, it is one of the three most dangerous countries on earth.

But there are two important points to make.

First, this is not a question of black versus white. Far more black people than white people are affected by crime, though the white population is certainly suffering heavily.

Secondly, South Africa is hugely successful, with eight years of uninterrupted economic growth. Every opinion poll shows that a large majority of people, black and white, is highly optimistic about the country’s future.

Some believe the growth is partly responsible for the crime, since people from the rest of Africa are flowing in at an unprecedented rate.

One study suggests that there are six million illegal immigrants in South Africa. Many fall easily and quickly into crime.

So what is the answer? Johan Burger, a former senior policeman who now works for the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria, believes that President Mbeki’s promise to increase police numbers is not enough on its own.

“The criminal justice system cannot deal with crime on its own. There has to be a holistic solution, involving every part of society. Crime goes down when societies change, not the other way round,” he said.


Professor Barney Pityana, the head of one of South Africa’s largest universities, UNISA, agrees.

“There has been a breakdown of societal values in South Africa,” he says.

“It is not enough to blame the legacy of apartheid. This is something we each have to take responsibility for as individuals.”

In Soweto, we spoke to a successful entrepreneur whom everyone knows simply as Tebogo. He explained what he did to lessen crime.

“We only hire people whose backgrounds we know and can trust. We never buy stolen goods, even though they are cheaper. And we report every crime we come across,” he says.

It does not help when senior figures close to the government seem protected against the law. Jackie Selebi, the police chief, is still in his job even though he has been shown to have friends in the mafia.

The ANC chief whip, Tony Yengeni, sentenced to prison for four years for corruption, spent four months in a comfortable open prison, and was then released.

Professor Pityana says pointedly that there must be change right at the top.

Yet South Africa has succeeded in transforming itself when no one thought it was possible. Now it faces another huge challenge: to end the virtual civil war which crime represents.

Increasing police numbers will not do it alone. The police are poorly paid, poorly trained, and easily corrupted. Society itself has to rise up against the criminals.

But it helps that President Mbeki has finally accepted that there is a problem.

Historian Gives Credence To Blood Libel (POsted by J3115 to

An Israeli historian of Italian origin has revived “blood libel” in an historical study set to hit Italian bookstores on Thursday. Ariel Toaff, son of Rabbi Elio Toaff, claims that there is some historic truth in the accusation that for centuries provided incentives for pogroms against Jews throughout Europe.

Toaff’s tome, Bloody Passovers: The Jews of Europe and Ritual Murders, received high praise from another Italian Jewish historian, Sergio Luzzatto, in an article in the Corriere della Serra daily entitled “Those Bloody Passovers.”

Luzzatto describes Toaff’s work as a “magnificent book of history…Toaff holds that from 1100 to about 1500…several crucifixions of Christian children really happened, bringing about retaliations against entire Jewish communities – punitive massacres of men, women, children. Neither in Trent in 1475 nor in other areas of Europe in the late Middle Ages were Jews always innocent victims.”

“A minority of fundamentalist Ashkenazis…carried out human sacrifices,” Luzzatto continued.

Toaff offers as an example the case of Saint Simonino of Trent. In March 1475, shortly after a child’s body was found in a canal near the Jewish area of Trent, the city’s Jews were accused of murdering Simonino and using his blood to make matzot.

After a medieval trial in which confessions were extracted by torture, 16 members of Trent’s Jewish community were hanged.

Toaff reveals that the accusations against the Jews of Trent “might have been true.”


Israeli, Lebanese troops clash at border

Lebanese PM blasts Israeli ‘violation,’ but Israel says it is not seeking an escalation.

Israeli and Lebanese troops exchanged fire across the border late Wednesday night when Lebanese troops shot at two Israeli bulldozers clearing mines at the “Blue Line” that separates the two countries.

Haaretz reports that Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said the bulldozers crossed the Blue Line into Lebanese territory, which he called a violation that “compounded the daily violations of Lebanese sovereignty by Israeli aircraft.”

Siniora discussed the border clash with UN envoy Geir Pedersen, telling him that his government condemned what he described as the new Israeli aggression on Lebanon’s sovereignty and what he called the violation of the Blue Line, the UN-recognized border between the two countries.

Liam McDowell, a spokesman for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, said the exchange was initiated by the Lebanese army and that the Israeli bulldozer had crossed the border fence, but not the Blue Line, to clear mines.

Al Jazeera reporters write that the two bulldozers had not actually crossed the Blue Line, but only crossed a fence on the Israeli side of the border. An Israeli tank fired on the Lebanese Army position after the shooting started, but no one was hurt. UNIFIL said the bulldozers were apparently trying to clear mines that had been placed on the Israeli side of the border for defensive reasons.

The security situation has been escalating in the area over the last couple of days following the testimony of Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, before the commission investigating last year’s war.

Olmert said one of the successes of the Israeli offensive was to drive Hezbollah forces away from the border. Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Lebanon, says that, subsequently, Hezbollah flags and signs can be seen frequently in the area as a demonstration that they still have a strong presence and support in the border area.

However, The Daily Star of Lebanon contradicts the Al Jazeera report, writing that the bombs exploded by the Israeli bulldozers had been on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line.

Contrary to earlier reports, UNIFIL’s assessment team, and the Lebanese Army, said the devices were just north of the Blue Line so Israeli fire had to cross the Blue Line in order to detonate the devices, which constitutes an Israeli violation of the cease-fire that ended the war.

The Associated Press reports that UNIFIL troops had talked to senior officers on both sides and the incident has since “calmed down.”

AP also reports that Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz Wednesday accused Syria of allowing Hizbullah to rearm itself in the southern region of Lebanon, and that Israel retained the right to “act forcefully” to counter the threat. The Jerusalem Post reports that Syrian leader Bashir Assad, at a two-day convention of the Baath Party in Damascus, reiterated his regime’s support of both Hizbullah and Hamas, but he did not specifically mention Mr. Peretz’s accusations.

Finally, Haaretz reports that during a visit to London, Mr. Olmert asked British Foreign Secretary Magaret Beckett to enact a law preventing the arrest of Israeli military officers in British territory.

According to a political source in Jerusalem, British authorities promised Israel roughly a year and a half ago that the country would enact a law similar to a Belgian law, passed in the wake of the Belgian warrant issued for the arrest of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon.

The Belgian law transferred the authority to issue arrest warrants for foreign citizens on accusations of war crimes from the courts to the government.

Haaretz reports that Ms. Beckett told Olmert that she would “take care of the issue.”

Also, Indiana University Professor Alvin Rosenfeld recently wrote an essay posted by the American Jewish Committee, “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” that accused liberal Jews, through their speaking and writing, of “feeding a rise in virulent anti-Semitism by questioning whether Israel should even exist.” The article has touched off a furious debate in Israel and the US over how critical anyone, be they Jewish or not, can be of Israel government policy, and if such criticism is anti-semitic. Following are articles from both sides of the debate.

U.S. fire chiefs to Israel Fourteen American fire chiefs went to Israel to learn about responding to terrorist attacks. (FROM JTA)

AIPAC’s American Israel Education Foundation partnered with the International Association of Fire Chiefs for the trip.

Israeli representatives from the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Fire Brigades, Israel Police, Magen David Adom and other organizations provided demonstrations.

“Israel has been preparing for and responding to terror attacks for 50 years,” AIPAC board member Harriet Zimmerman said.

“Our goal is to ensure that U.S. first responders have the opportunity to learn from Israel’s vast experience and bring home those important lessons to help save American lives.”

Other highlights included tours of Hadassah Hospital’s trauma unit, the Haifa Fire Department and northern areas that were most devastated by last summer’s war with Hezbollah.

The firefighters came from major U.S. cities including New York City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami and Las Vegas.

How Neocon Shi’ite Strategy Led to Sectarian War
by Gareth Porter at

The supreme irony of President George W. Bush’s campaign to blame Iran for the sectarian civil war in Iraq, as well as attacks on U.S. forces, is that the Shi’ite militias who started to drive the Sunnis out of the Baghdad area in 2004 and thus precipitated the present sectarian crisis did so with the support of both Iran and the neoconservative U.S. war planners.

The U.S. policy decisions that led to the sectarian war can be traced back to the conviction of a group of right-wing zealots with close ties to Israel’s Likud Party that overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq would not destabilize the region, because Iraqi Shi’ites would be allies of the United States and Israel against Iran.

The idea that Iraqi Shi’ites could be used to advance U.S. power interests in the Middle East was part of a broader right-wing strategy for joint U.S.-Israeli “rollback” of Israel’s enemies. In 1996, a task force at the right-wing Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, under Richard Perle advised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that such a strategy should begin by taking control of Iraq and putting a pro-Israeli regime in power there.

Three years later, the former director of that think tank, David Wurmser, who had migrated to the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, spelled out how the United States could use Iraqi Shi’ites to support that strategy in “Tyranny’s Ally.” Wurmser sought to refute the realist argument that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would destroy the balance of power between Sunni-controlled Iraq and Shi’ite Iran on which regional stability depended.

Wurmser proposed replacing the existing “dual containment” policy toward Iran and Iraq with what he called “dual rollback.” He did not deny that taking down Hussein’s regime would “generate upheaval in Iraq,” but he welcomed that prospect, which would “offer the oppressed, majority Shi’ites of that country an opportunity to enhance their power and prestige.”

Whereas the “realists” had assumed the Iraqi Shi’ites would be “Iran’s fifth column,” Wurmser argued that the Iraqi Shi’ite clerics would “present a challenge to Iran’s influence and revolution.” He cited their rejection of the central concept of the Iranian revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini – the “rule of the jurisprudent” – justifying clerical rule.

From that fact, Wurmser leaped to the conclusion that Iraqi Shi’ites would be an ally of the United States in promoting a “regional rollback of Shi’ite fundamentalism.” Wurmser even suggested that Iraqi Shi’ites could help pry Lebanese Shi’ites, with whom they had enjoyed close ties historically, away from the influence of Hezbollah and Iran.

Wurmser was close to the key officials in the Pentagon and the White House who were planning the invasion of Iraq: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. After 9/11 it was Wurmser who set up the now-infamous Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group in Feith’s office to produce the evidence that could be used to justify invading Iraq. After the U.S. occupation, he became Vice President Cheney’s Middle East adviser.

The neoconservative plan for invading Iraq reflected Wurmser’s assumption that the United States would not need to plan a long military occupation of Iraq, because toppling Hussein’s regime would unleash the power of the Iraqi Shi’ites.

But the political realities in Iraq were nothing like Wurmser and his allies imagined them. They had not counted on the Sunnis mounting an effective resistance instead of rolling over. Nor had they anticipated that Shi’ite clerics of Iraq would demand national elections and throw their support behind the militant Shi’ite parties, SCIRI and Dawa, which had returned from exile in Iran in the wake of the U.S. overthrow of Hussein.

SCIRI and Dawa were not what the hardliners had in mind when they thought about Shi’ite power in Iraq. Their paramilitary formations had been created, trained and nurtured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and their views on international politics were not known to be distinguishable from those of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The neoconservatives also knew that the Dawa Party was a terrorist organization. Its operatives were behind the bombing of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983 in an effort to drive the U.S. out of the country. (One of the Shi’ites elected to the Iraqi parliament in December 2005, Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, was said by the U.S. embassy spokesman Tuesday to be under investigation for his participation in that bombing.)

When Ahmed Chalabi’s U.S. enemies accused the neoconservative favorite of having spied for Iran, and the National Security Council wrote a policy paper called “Marginalizing Chalabi,” the neocons outside the government were livid. Michael Ledeen wrote a column for National Review online May 28, 2004, pointing out that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of SCIRI, and Ibrahim Jaafari of the Dawa were still on the Iranian payroll, but were nevertheless “in our good graces.”

Meanwhile, the AEI’s Michael Rubin began warning in spring 2004 that Iran was consolidating its influence in Shi’ite southern Iraq by funneling large amounts of money into support for their Iraqi clients.

But Wolfowitz, Feith, and Wurmser, faced with a rising tide of Sunni armed resistance, had already decided that they had to accept the pro-Iranian groups as temporary allies against the Sunnis. When Wolfowitz testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 18, 2004, he suggested that the administration had accepted the continued existence of these Shi’ite militias, as long as they remained friendly to the United States.

As for disarming them, he said, “That is not part of the mission unless it is necessary to bring them under control.” Once the United States had been able to build an “alternative security institution,” he said, “then the militias can go away.”

The war planners in the Bush administration had also decided that the militant Shi’ites would get their election in January 2005, which meant that a Shi’ite government would be formed later that year. With those decisions, the descent of Iraq into sectarian civil war became unavoidable.

Throughout 2004 and the first half of 2005, the Shi’ite militias took advantage of the supportive policy of the United States to consolidate their power in Baghdad and began terrorizing Sunni communities. After the government formed under the Dawa Party’s Ibrahim Jaafari, the Shi’ite Badr Brigade moved into the Ministry of Interior, which became a vehicle for state terror. Despite media coverage of Shi’ite death squads operating freely in the capital, the Bush administration refused to admit that there was any problem with Shi’ite militias.

Only in October 2005, after what must have been a fierce internal struggle in Washington, did the U.S. embassy begin to oppose the Shi’ite effort to force Sunnis out of the capital. By then it was far too late. The genie of sectarian civil war could not be put back in the bottle.

(Inter Press Service)

Iran says 100 spies working for US, Israel identified

From the French Press Agency
Date: 02-08-07

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran has said it had identified 100 spies working for the United States and Israel in border areas of the Islamic state.

“One hundred people who were directly working for the US and Israeli intelligence … who were intending to collect political and military information were identified and are now in our intelligence net,” Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie was quoted as saying.

The minister added that a number of Iranians who wanted to take part in spying courses abroad had also been arrested, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Thursday.

“We were able to identify and arrest all those who wanted to take part in espionage course abroad under the guise of taking part in educational courses,” Mohseni Ajaynee said, without elaborating.

Early last month, Iranian MP Ahmad Tavakoli said that Iran had arrested a spy working in parliament’s research centre who had been passing information on its nuclear programme to outlawed armed opposition group, People’s Mujahedeen.

Iranian authorities claim that the United States supports armed groups in the country’s border provinces, whose population includes Kurd, Arab or Baluch ethnic minorities.

Pentagon did “inappropriate” Iraq work, sources say

Date: 02-08-07

By JoAnne Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. watchdog agency has concluded a Pentagon office conducted intelligence work in the build-up to the Iraq war that was not illegal but was inappropriate, U.S. defense officials said on Thursday.

Democrats in Congress have alleged the unit, under former U.S. defense policy chief Douglas Feith, a strong advocate of deposing Saddam Hussein, twisted intelligence information to suggest links between Iraq and militants from al Qaeda.

The Pentagon inspector general’s report concluded the Office of Special Plans in Feith’s department had done nothing illegal or unauthorized but that some of its activities were “inappropriate,” two U.S. defense officials told Reuters.

The report found the office had produced “alternative intelligence estimates,” one official said.

The Pentagon took issue with that finding, believing Feith’s office had given a critique of intelligence information but not produced intelligence products, the official said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as the report has not been released. An unclassified summary is to be published on Friday morning, when the Senate Armed Services Committee is briefed on its findings.

Both officials said the report made no recommendations.

Top Bush administration officials cited alleged ties between Iraq and al Qaeda as a justification for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But the bipartisan commission which investigated the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 later reported that no collaborative relationship existed between the two.

The inspector general’s office declined to comment on its report ahead of the Senate briefing.

But the report was made available to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday afternoon and its chairman, a Democrat, was swift to speak out.

“The IG (inspector general) has concluded that this office was engaged in intelligence activities. The Senate Intelligence Committee was never informed of these activities,” Sen. John Rockefeller (news, bio, voting record) of West Virginia said in a statement.

“Whether these actions were authorized or not, it appears that they were not in compliance with the law.”

He said he would consult with the committee’s vice chairman, Republican Kit Bond of Missouri, to determine whether any further action was warranted.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray)

Germany Agonizes over a Brain Drain

Mark Landler, New York Times, Feb. 6, 2007

Benedikt Thoma recalls the moment he began to think seriously about leaving Germany. It was in 2004, at a New Year’s Day reception in nearby Frankfurt, and the guest speaker, a prominent politician, was lamenting the fact that every year thousands of educated Germans turn their backs on their homeland.

In December, as his work with the company became an intolerable grind because of labor disputes, Mr. Thoma quit and made plans to move to Canada. In its wide-open spaces he hopes to find the future that he says is dwindling at home. As soon as he lands a job, Mr. Thoma, his wife, Petra, and their two teenage sons will join the ranks of Germany’s emigrants.

There has been a steady exodus over the years, but it has recently become Topic A in a land already saddled with one of the most rapidly aging and shrinking populations of any Western nation. With evidence that more professionals are leaving now than in past years, politicians and business executives warn about the loss of their country’s best and brightest.

The trigger for this latest bout of angst was the release last fall of new government statistics showing that 144,800 Germans emigrated in 2005, up from 109,500 in 2001. At the same time, only 128,100 Germans returned, a decline of nearly 50,000 from the year before. That made it the first year in nearly four decades that more people left than came home.

Demographic experts also say the nature of the emigrants is changing. These are not just young unskilled workers like those who fled the economically blighted eastern part of Germany after the country was reunified in 1990 to work in restaurants in Austria or Switzerland.

They are doctors, engineers, architects and scientists—just the sort of highly educated professionals that Germany needs to compete with economic up-and-comers like China and India.

Other experts contend, though, that such fears are overblown. Germany has long sent its scientists and engineers to work or study abroad, they say, with the number of returnees historically balancing out those who leave. The latest statistics merely reflect an acceleration of that trend, as German academia and industry adjust to an increasingly global economy.

The numbers, she said, may also overstate the incidence of brain drain, because they do not distinguish between native and naturalized Germans. For example, Turkish guest workers who adopt German citizenship and later go home are classified as German emigrants.

Germany is not the only European country losing people. Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative presidential candidate in France, recently held a rally in London, home to 300,000 French citizens living in Britain, urging them to return and “make France a great nation.”

The number of French citizens living in Britain jumped 8.4 percent in 2005, according to government statistics. But the total number of French people living outside the country grew only 1.2 percent, or 15,300 people, roughly equivalent to Germany’s net loss of about 16,700 citizens.

Caveats aside, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that Germany has become less attractive for people in fields like medicine, academic research and engineering. Those who leave cite chronic unemployment, a rigid labor market, stifling bureaucracy, high taxes and the plodding economy—which, though better recently, still lags behind that of the United States.

Nuclear terrorism risk seen growing

By Mark Trevelyan, Security CorrespondentWed Feb 7, 7:17 PM ET

Western governments must take seriously the possibility of terrorists exploding a nuclear bomb as the necessary materials and know-how become easier to acquire, security analysts argue in two new reports.

“The threat of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons is real … moreover, the likelihood of terrorists acquiring such weapons is growing as more states aggressively pursue their own nuclear ambitions,” the EastWest Institute said in a study.

It said the first nuclear terrorist may turn out to be an American or European, reflecting a likely evolution in security threats over the next 10-15 years and a possible shift away from al Qaeda-style Islamist militancy toward eco-terrorism.

In a separate report, London’s influential Chatham House think-tank said it was feasible that terrorists could acquire an atomic bomb, build one themselves, create an “improvised nuclear device” or blow up a nuclear power station.

Another risk was the collapse of government control over civil and military nuclear facilities and materials in countries like Pakistan or North Korea.

The design, materials and engineering for a bomb “have all become commodities, more or less available to those determined enough to acquire them,” said Paul Cornish, head of the international security program at Chatham House.

He said the science and engineering challenges were very difficult but not insurmountable.


Rather than aiming to build a military-grade atomic weapon, terrorists might settle for a cruder improvised device that would require more uranium but a lesser degree of enrichment, thereby reducing one of the key technical barriers.

“The device might then ‘fizzle’ rather than detonate its entire mass instantly and efficiently. But if the resulting explosion were to be equivalent to just one or a few kilotons of TNT rather than tens of kilotons, terrorists could still find this option attractive,” Cornish wrote.

He stressed that such a scenario was just one of a range of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats which were all appealing options for terrorist groups.

Security analysts see a CBRN attack as a logical escalation for groups such as al Qaeda, which in the past has frequently varied its strikes and sought to increase their scale — notably with the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5, said in November that future threats “may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology.”

Ken Berry, author of the EastWest Institute report, said the rise of environmental militants would bring “an even bigger prospect that scientific personnel from the richest countries will aid eco-terrorist use of nuclear weapons or materials.”

Some security analysts believe the effects of global warming will exacerbate the world’s rich-poor divide, intensify conflicts over land, water and other resources and help to radicalize populations and fan terrorism.

The study highlighted the recent poisoning of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London, apparently with radioactive polonium smuggled in from Russia, as proof that the international community lacks proper controls on nuclear materials that could be used by terrorists.

Greg Austin, a Brussels-based analyst for the institute, said the episode showed that secular Europeans were not averse to using nuclear substances as weapons. “We need to deal with the prospect that the first nuclear terrorist is in fact more likely to be American or European,” he said.


The U.S. continues its pro-Iran shift

The marriage of U.S. and Iranian destinies in Iraq continued last week with Speaker Nancy Pelosi refusing to meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Pelosi’s snub, and the increasing talk one hears in the U.S. media and the halls of Congress about the “Armenian Genocide” are indicative of Turkey’s obvious loss of influence. The break with Turkey will be nearly complete once we begin seeing a Congressional condemnation of the Armenian Genocide later this session.

The way the Department of State sees it, the alliance with Turkey is a relic of the Cold War, where the Turks were strong anti-Communists and moderate Muslims. Moreover, the Turks were unable to deliver their bases for use as a northern invasion route into Iraq in 2003 because their Parliament insisted on voting on the matter, and listening to their population. The Turkish Parliament has stripped away just enough power from the military establishment to be able to do such things, therefore they’re simply not as useful to the U.S. as they once were.

It was always an unpleasant balancing act between our allies of Kurdistan and Turkey. Turkey hosts a large Kurdish minority who have kept up a low-grade insurgency for decades. The Turks have at times been brutal in suppressing Kurdish ambitions for their own land. Oddly enough, the U.S. has stayed out of that struggle up until now, but it now appears ready to visibly throw its lot in with the Kurds.

The Turkish foreign minister visited the U.S. in order to ask for a postponement of a Kurdish referendum on Kirkuk. Another sign that the Turks have lost out in Washington is in Washington’s refusal to postpone this December’s Kurdish referendum in Iraq that will bring the Kurds ever closer to an autonomous state. This will enrage both the Turks and the Iraqi resistance. The referendum is about the destiny of oil-rich Kurkuk, where Kurdish control is rather weak, yet they claim it, citing their traditional control of the city.

This is about like the U.S. abruptly reasserting control over an area like Los Angeles, if the Mexicans both claimed it–and had a much stronger military.

U.S. support of both the Kirkuk referendum and the Iranian and Kurdish veto of the Iraqi government’s petroleum law implies that the oil rich areas of Kirkuk and Basra will be taken by the Kurds and Iranians, respectively, and the rest of the country will be thrown to the wind.

The Turks and Syrians also lose, since their respective rivals gain stronger footholds against them.

Look for a regional conference in Baghdad taking place this spring. Iraq’s internal politics are currently a mess and the situation is getting worse by the week. The U.S. is serving as a destabilizing force on all sides. How does one get the Syrians, Iranians, Turks, and Lebanese to pay attention to something other than Israel? Just like this, of course.

The revolution will not be televised, but it will be webcast

History of politics and media

The key to politics is human loyalty and fealty to a system, which is required for even the basic things like “driving on the proper side of the road.” It’s what one talking about when mentioning “the social contract.” A person gives up sovereignty and agrees to a system of that which is in the general interest.

It first requires someone perceiving of their own interests. This is one of the fatal flaws in this struggle. However, we are clearly moving towards a time when Whites understand that they have racial interests against other tribes that have captured our labor and use the fruits thereof against us.

The media enforces this, although it’s nothing new that media of all types informs a person’s politics. One can trace advances in media, and with a great deal of reliability, we can link those advances with change in the political order. For instance, it would be hard to imagine the rise of nationalism before wide usage of the printing press and the ensuing boom in literacy. For the first time, a wide swath of individuals could perceive that there were people living hundreds of miles away who spoke their language and shared their national customs. These realizations made continent-wide revolution inevitable because individuals gained a wider understanding of their own political interests.

Now, something similar is happening. The mainstream, the controlled, the occupied, the tyrannical, the government media is losing its grip. If the Jew cannot survive the internet, it will only be another case where humanity has been rescued by technology.

Part of the cause and the effect of the weakening grip media has on the popular psyche is that the old media is slowly dying, and death is gaining ground:

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times Co. posted a $648 million loss for the fourth quarter on Wednesday as it absorbed an $814.4 million charge to write down the value of its struggling New England properties, The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

The company said the non-cash charge reflected declines in current and projected results at the newspapers, which have been hit hard by the consolidations of key advertisers in the New England area as well as greater competition from online media.

The company originally paid $1.1 billion for the Globe in 1993 and $296 million for the Worcester paper in 2000.

The Times reported a loss amounting to $4.50 a share for the October- December period. It earned $63.1 million, or 43 cents a share, a year ago.

Results at the Times’ Boston-area properties have been slumping badly in the past year, amid a tough economic climate there and the consolidation of key advertisers including the retailers Macy’s, part of Federated Department Stores Inc., and Retail Ventures Inc.’s Filene’s.

Advertising revenues at the New England properties declined again in the fourth quarter, falling 6.1 percent in the period and 9 percent for all of 2006.

Add to that this other headline last Friday: NYT to post user-generated content—sounds like youtub. I think it’s already been invented for news, though—they’re called blogs.

In real terms, the effects can seem innocuous. An example I would use is this article about the Davos, a convention of internationalist busisnessfreaks and politicians where they try to figure out how to send your job to Shanghai.

From the Belfast Telegraph, it slips out that:

The present growth phase promises to break all previous ones. The last time the mood at Davos was as upbeat as this was in January 2000.

Before, this line would have been relegated to a trade or international politics publication. But here it is, admitting that it’s party-time for these corrupt enforcers of our demise while quality of life in the U.S. worsens by the month.
Historically, political misleadership of this caliber sees the managers literally torn limb from limb in the streets, but the commanding heights won’t be just ceded back to us.

They are beginning to react: From ZDNEt: FBI turns to broad new wiretap method

The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed.

Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords.

It’s too late though. The cat is out of the bag. We have reached a point of no return on the road to revolution.

Escape via Kurdistan:

US operations in Baghdad give significant political and military advantages to the Kurds. Many observers say the US favors the Kurds because the US will have to rely on Kurdish territory for troop withdrawals if Iraq descends into outright civil war. The US’s Plan B, is pulls back US forces to Kurdistan and exiting via Turkey. However, Plan B may be a non-starter due to future conflict between Turkey and the Kurds.

Only the Kurds are happy with President Bush’s surge policy. . . for several reasons.

First, none of the fighting is taking place in or around Kurdish territory. Instead, the fighting will occur in Baghdad and al-Anbar province. Listen for “Battle of Baghdad.” Also, US forces are attacking only Sunnis and Shiites, we are in solid alliance with the Kurds, and have been for a long time.

Second, Kurdish leverage over the US is increasing on issues like Kirkuk due to US needs for peshmerga battalions in Baghdad, as well as US needs for an exit corridor from Iraq via Kurdistan. The US cannot rely on the Basra exit corridor because of uncertain and volatile US-Shia relations following US combat operations against Muqtada al-Sadr, whose forces control the route to Basra.

Third, the overall US objective is to weaken Muqtada al-Sadr, who strongly opposes Kurdish independence and the transfer of Kirkuk and its oil wealth to the Kurds. Instead, Sadr is largely in sympathy with Turkey on this issue. Sadr also stands with Maliki in that he opposes Iranian involvement beyond armaments for his militia.

Fourth, and most importantly, the main thrust of US policy is still for Iraq’s partition, which is what the Kurds have always wanted. US support for Iraq’s central government in Baghdad is a joke.

The US exit strategy is actually premised on a pro-Kurdish bias because Kurdistan is the key to withdrawing US forces from Iraq. Under this scenario, US forces spread throughout Iraq would be redeployed into Kurdistan, prior to being withdrawn from Iraq altogether.

In short, President Bush does not have a viable Plan B for withdrawing US troops via Kurdish territory in the event his Baghdad surge fails (the odds do not favor a US success in Baghdad). If a US withdrawal via Kurdistan is not an option, the Bush Administration must clarify how it intends to withdraw US forces, prior to sending an additional 22,000 US troops to Iraq.

Science and Technology

DNA clue to presidential puzzle BBC News (SOUND CLIP)


DNA tests carried out on two British men have shed light on a mystery surrounding the ancestry of Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president.

In the 1990s, DNA was taken from male relatives of Jefferson to see if he fathered a son with one of his slaves.

They found the president had a rare genetic signature found mainly in the Middle East and Africa, calling into question his claim of Welsh ancestry.

But this DNA type has now been found in two Britons with the Jefferson surname.

Professor Mark Jobling, from the University of Leicester, and colleagues discovered the two British Jeffersons possessed the same rare male (or Y) chromosome type as the third US president.

Genetic analysis showed the British men shared a common ancestor with Thomas Jefferson about 11 generations ago. But neither knew of any family links to the US.

The unusual lineage has not been found in white Britons before. This discovery scotches any suggestion that Jefferson – who was president between 1801 and 1809 – must have had recent paternal ancestors from the Middle East.

Last month, Professor Jobling’s group reported the discovery of seven white men from Yorkshire carrying a West African Y chromosome.

Welsh extraction

The Y chromosome is a package of genetic material passed down from father to son, more or less unchanged – just like a surname.


Over many generations, it does accumulate small changes in its DNA sequence, allowing relationships between different male lineages to be studied.

Y chromosomes can be classified into broad groups (haplogroups) which, to some extent, reflect a person’s geographical ancestry.

Certain haplogroups might be common in, for example, East Asia but rare in Europe. In Britain, sharing a surname raises the likelihood of sharing the same Y chromosome type.

The two men in the latest study had paternal ancestry in Yorkshire and the West Midlands respectively.

Thomas Jefferson’s haplogroup – shared with the two men from Britain – is known as K2.

K2 makes up about 7% of the Y chromosome types found in Somalia, Oman, Egypt and Iraq. It has now been found at low frequencies in France, Spain, Portugal and Britain.

Of the K2s looked at by the study, Jefferson’s Y chromosome was most similar to that of a man from Egypt. But genetic relationships between different K2s are poorly understood, and this may have little significance.

Instead, say the researchers, their study makes Jefferson’s claim to be of Welsh extraction much more plausible.

Common ancestor

Professor Jobling told BBC News: “Finding that Jefferson’s Y chromosome was one mutational step away from an Egyptian type makes you think ‘crikey, could he have a relatively recent origin in the Middle East?’

“Our point is that we find, at lower frequencies, French, British and Iberian K2s and they are jolly diverse. His fits into that picture of a west European sub-population of K2.”

The DNA sequences of individual K2s – including those from Europe – are quite different from one another.

This “genetic diversity” has to accumulate over time, supporting the idea that Jefferson’s haplogroup is not a recent introduction into Europe.

The haplogroup has probably been present for centuries in the “indigenous” population of western Europe, says Professor Jobling, and is not exclusive to the Middle East and Africa.

Paternity case

It could have been introduced to Europe by the first modern humans to colonise the continent 40,000 years ago.

Another theory concerns the Phoenicians, an ancient maritime trading culture that spread out across the Mediterranean from their home in what is now Lebanon. K2 is relatively common in Lebanon, leading to suggestions that European K2s may be descendents of these ancient traders.

In 1998, Jobling and others completed an investigation looking at whether Jefferson, main author of the Declaration of Independence, fathered a son with Sally Hemings, a slave he owned.

Rumours had long existed that they had one or more children. Since Jefferson had no legitimate surname-bearing progeny, the team used samples from descendents of his paternal uncle.

They compared these with descendents of Eston Hemings Jefferson, Sally’s last son. The Y chromosomes matched, suggesting Jefferson, or one of his paternal relatives, was Eston’s father.

Details appear in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

The brain scan that can read people’s intentions


Call for ethical debate over possible use of new technology in interrogation

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Friday February 9, 2007
The Guardian


A team of world-leading neuroscientists has developed a powerful technique that allows them to look deep inside a person’s brain and read their intentions before they act.

The research breaks controversial new ground in scientists’ ability to probe people’s minds and eavesdrop on their thoughts, and raises serious ethical issues over how brain-reading technology may be used in the future.

The team used high-resolution brain scans to identify patterns of activity before translating them into meaningful thoughts, revealing what a person planned to do in the near future. It is the first time scientists have succeeded in reading intentions in this way.

“Using the scanner, we could look around the brain for this information and read out something that from the outside there’s no way you could possibly tell is in there. It’s like shining a torch around, looking for writing on a wall,” said John-Dylan Haynes at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, who led the study with colleagues at University College London and Oxford University.

The research builds on a series of recent studies in which brain imaging has been used to identify tell-tale activity linked to lying, violent behaviour and racial prejudice.

The latest work reveals the dramatic pace at which neuroscience is progressing, prompting the researchers to call for an urgent debate into the ethical issues surrounding future uses for the technology. If brain-reading can be refined, it could quickly be adopted to assist interrogations of criminals and terrorists, and even usher in a “Minority Report” era (as portrayed in the Steven Spielberg science fiction film of that name), where judgments are handed down before the law is broken on the strength of an incriminating brain scan.

“These techniques are emerging and we need an ethical debate about the implications, so that one day we’re not surprised and overwhelmed and caught on the wrong foot by what they can do. These things are going to come to us in the next few years and we should really be prepared,” Professor Haynes told the Guardian.

The use of brain scanners to judge whether people are likely to commit crimes is a contentious issue that society should tackle now, according to Prof Haynes. “We see the danger that this might become compulsory one day, but we have to be aware that if we prohibit it, we are also denying people who aren’t going to commit any crime the possibility of proving their innocence.”

During the study, the researchers asked volunteers to decide whether to add or subtract two numbers they were later shown on a screen.

Before the numbers flashed up, they were given a brain scan using a technique called functional magnetic imaging resonance. The researchers then used a software that had been designed to spot subtle differences in brain activity to predict the person’s intentions with 70% accuracy.

The study revealed signatures of activity in a marble-sized part of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex that changed when a person intended to add the numbers or subtract them.

Because brains differ so much, the scientists need a good idea of what a person’s brain activity looks like when they are thinking something to be able to spot it in a scan, but researchers are already devising ways of deducing what patterns are associated with different thoughts.

Barbara Sahakian, a professor of neuro-psychology at Cambridge University, said the rapid advances in neuroscience had forced scientists in the field to set up their own neuroethics society late last year to consider the ramifications of their research.

“Do we want to become a ‘Minority Report’ society where we’re preventing crimes that might not happen?,” she asked. “For some of these techniques, it’s just a matter of time. It is just another new technology that society has to come to terms with and use for the good, but we should discuss and debate it now because what we don’t want is for it to leak into use in court willy nilly without people having thought about the consequences.

“A lot of neuroscientists in the field are very cautious and say we can’t talk about reading individuals’ minds, and right now that is very true, but we’re moving ahead so rapidly, it’s not going to be that long before we will be able to tell whether someone’s making up a story, or whether someone intended to do a crime with a certain degree of certainty.”

Professor Colin Blakemore, a neuroscientist and director of the Medical Research Council, said: “We shouldn’t go overboard about the power of these techniques at the moment, but what you can be absolutely sure of is that these will continue to roll out and we will have more and more ability to probe people’s intentions, minds, background thoughts, hopes and emotions.

“Some of that is extremely desirable, because it will help with diagnosis, education and so on, but we need to be thinking the ethical issues through. It adds a whole new gloss to personal medical data and how it might be used.”

The technology could also drive advances in brain-controlled computers and machinery to boost the quality of life for disabled people. Being able to read thoughts as they arise in a person’s mind could lead to computers that allow people to operate email and the internet using thought alone, and write with word processors that can predict which word or sentence you want to type . The technology is also expected to lead to improvements in thought-controlled wheelchairs and artificial limbs that respond when a person imagines moving.

“You can imagine how tedious it is if you want to write a letter by using a cursor to pick out letters on a screen,” said Prof Haynes. “It would be much better if you thought, ‘I want to reply to this email’, or, ‘I’m thinking this word’, and the computer can read that and understand what you want to do.”

Explore posts in the same categories: Tomorrow Belongs to Us

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