Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Your Internet provider is watching you

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By Peter Svensson

Fine print reveals that you have fewer rights than you might realize

NEW YORK - What’s scary, funny and boring at the same time? It could be a bad horror movie. Or it could be the fine print on your Internet service provider’s contract.

Those documents you agree to — usually without reading — ostensibly allow your ISP to watch how you use the Internet, read your e-mail or keep you from visiting sites it deems inappropriate. Some reserve the right to block traffic and, for any reason, cut off a service that many users now find essential.

The Associated Press reviewed the "Acceptable Use Policies" and "Terms of Service" of the nation’s 10 largest ISPs — in all, 117 pages of contracts that leave few rights for subscribers.

"The network is asserting almost complete control of the users’ ability to use their network as a gateway to the Internet," said Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group. "They become gatekeepers rather than gateways."

But the provisions are rarely enforced, except against obvious miscreants like spammers. Consumer outrage would have been the likely result if AT&T Inc. took advantage of its stated right to block any activity that causes the company "to be viewed unfavorably by others."

Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, said this clause was a "piece of boilerplate that is passed around the corporate lawyers like a Christmas fruitcake.

"The idea that they would ever invoke it and point to it is nuts, especially since their terms of service already say they can cut you off for any reason and give you a refund for the balance of the month," Zittrain said.

AT&T removed the "unfavorably by others" wording in February after The Associated Press asked about the reason behind it. Subscribers, however, wouldn’t know that it was gone unless they checked the contract word for word: The document still said it was last updated Oct. 8, 2007.

Most companies reserve the right to change the contracts at any time, without any notice except an update on the Web site. Verizon used to say it would notify subscribers of changes by e-mail, but the current contract just leaves that as an option for the company.

This sort of contract, where the subscriber is considered to agree by signing up for service rather than by active negotiation, is given extra scrutiny by courts, Zittrain said. Any wiggle room or ambiguity is usually resolved in favor of the consumer rather than the company.

Yet the main purpose of ISP contracts isn’t to circumscribe the service for all subscribers, but rather to provide legal cover for the company if it cuts off a user who’s abusing the system.

"Without the safeguards offered in these policies, customers could suffer from degradation of service and be exposed to a broad variety of malware threats," said David Deliman, spokesman at Cox Communications.

The language does matter: In a case involving a student accused of hacking, a federal appeals court held last year that subscribers should have a lower expectation of privacy if their service provider has a stated policy of monitoring traffic.

But these broadly written contracts still don’t provide all the legal cover ISPs want. Comcast Corp. is being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission for interfering with file sharing by its subscribers. The company has pointed to its Acceptable Use Policy, which said, in general terms, that the company had the right to manage traffic. Since the investigation began, it has updated the policy to describe its practices in greater detail, and recently said it would stop targeting file-sharing once it puts a new traffic-management system in place late this year.

The Comcast case is a rare example of the government getting into the nitty-gritty of one of these contracts.

"There really should be an onus on the regulators to see this kind of thing is done correctly," said Bob Williams, who deals with telecom and media issues at Consumers Union.

If there were more competition, market forces might straighten out the contracts, he said. But most Americans have only two choices for broadband: the cable company or the phone company.

Williams himself knows that it’s tough to pay attention to the contracts. He recently had Verizon Communications Inc.’s FiOS broadband and TV service installed in his home. Only after the installation was completed did he get the contract in the mail.

He could have read some of the terms earlier, when placing the order online, but he just clicked the "Accept" button.

"I’m a hard-nosed consumer advocate type ... I really should have examined it better than I did," he said. But, he added, he acted like most consumers, because of the lack of alternatives. "You click the ’Accept’ button because it’s not like you’re going somewhere else."

Other common clauses of ISP contracts:

ISPs can read your e-mail
Practically all ISPs reserve the right to read your e-mails and look at the sites you visit, without a wiretap order. This reflects the open nature of the Internet _ for privacy purposes, e-mails are more like postcards than letters. It’s also prompted by the ISPs’ need to identify and stop subscribers who use their connections to send spam e-mails.

Some ISPs, like AT&T Inc., make clear that they do not read their subscriber’s traffic as a matter of course, but also that they need little or no excuse to begin doing so. Cablevision, a cable operator in the Northeast, says one of the reasons it might look at what a customer is doing online would be to help operate its service properly.

The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act protects e-mail and other Internet communications from eavesdropping, but several of its provisions can be waived by agreements between the ISP and the subscriber. Also, the law is mainly aimed at making it difficult for the government, not companies, to snoop.

Wiretapping laws may also apply, but the situation is unclear. A federal appeals court panel in 2004 dismissed charges against a company that provided e-mail services for booksellers and snooped on their Amazon.com order confirmations. The charges of illegal wiretapping were reinstated by the full appeals court the next year, but the case hasn’t been tried.

ISPs can block you from Web sites
Or at least they would like to think so. In a clause typical of ISPs, Comcast reserves the right to block or remove traffic it deems "inappropriate, regardless of whether this material or its dissemination is unlawful."

The ISP sees itself as the sole judge of whether something is appropriate.
Broad enforcement of this kind of clause for business purposes other than protecting users is likely to draw attention from regulators like the FCC, as is happening in the Comcast file-sharing case.

ISPs can shut you down for using the connection too much
For cable ISPs, up to 500 households may be sharing the capacity on a single line, and a few traffic hogs can slow the whole neighborhood down. But rather than saying publicly how much traffic is too much, some cable companies keep their caps secret, and simply warn offenders individually. If that doesn’t work, they’re kicked off.

It’s difficult to reach these secret bandwidth caps unless users are downloading large amounts of high-quality video from the Internet, but the advent of high-definition Internet video set-top boxes like the Apple TV and the Vudu could make it more common.

Oddly, some ISPs, like Cox, say it’s the responsibility of subscribers to ensure that they don’t hog the traffic of other subscribers, a determination that’s impossible for a home broadband user. Cox, however, does make the monthly download and upload limits public on its Web site.

Time Warner Cable Inc. has said it will test putting public caps on how much new subscribers in Beaumont, Texas, can download per month, and charge them more if they go over.

Digital subscriber line providers like AT&T and Verizon aren’t as concerned about bandwidth hogs, because phone lines aren’t shared among households.

Enhanced Tracking Technology May Propel Adoption of RFID

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Los Angeles start-up says it has developed a way to dramatically expand the range of a popular wireless tracking technology, opening up many new applications for low-cost identification tags.[chart]

Closely held Mojix Inc. says its enhancements to a technology known as RFID -- for radio frequency identification -- sharply reduce the cost of setting up wireless networks that can cover entire warehouses, stores, distribution centers and yards where heavy equipment is stored.

Such networks can be used to quickly locate goods and track their movements without having to be close to a scanning device. Networks with similar capabilities today typically require sophisticated RFID tags that cost anywhere from around $4 to more than $1,000 each, said John Fontanella, an analyst at AMR Research. Mojix says its hardware uses simpler tags that cost as little as 10 cents each.

"I think this could have significant impact," said Michael Liard, an analyst at ABI research, of Mojix’s technology.

RFID, a more-sophisticated successor to bar codes, is used for applications such as preventing shoplifting of garments in stores and handling payments at bridge toll gates. Applying identification tags to pallets and boxes of goods has been touted as a better way to track inventories at retailers, manufacturers and other companies. But adoption has been slower than some companies expected, because of conversion costs and other issues.

The least-expensive form of the technology uses what the industry calls "passive" RFID tags, which have no power source or means to transmit data on their own. They are activated by radio signals from a device called a reader, which allows the tags to answer by sending information such as product identification numbers.

Readers for passive tags typically have a maximum transmission range of about 30 feet, said Ramin Sadr, Mojix’s chief executive. Partly as a result, companies often only deploy RFID networks in limited locations, such has around loading docks so they can track goods entering and leaving warehouses.

But in the late 1980s, Mr. Sadr and other Mojix engineers worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on technology used in long-range communications to spacecraft. They attempted to apply some of those concepts to RFID. The system they developed uses a grid of low-cost transmitters to provide radio energy to nearby RFID tags, which respond by sending signals to an unusually sensitive central receiver, Mr. Sadr said.

Each of the company’s receivers can manage signals from 512 transmitters -- each as far as 600 feet away, Mr. Sadr said. The resulting coverage area can be up to 250,000 square feet, or about 100 times the coverage area of previous systems based on conventional tag readers, he added. Mojix isn’t disclosing exact pricing, but estimates that a network based on its technology will cost 20% to 25% less than other typical RFID systems as well as offer more-sophisticated capabilities.

Mojix isn’t likely to lack for competition. Ronny Haraldsvik, vice president of marketing and industry relations at Alien Technology Corp., a maker of RFID tags and readers in Morgan Hill, Calif., said Mojix appears to be targeting long-range applications now served by companies that use active RFID tags. "They are very entrenched," he said.

Write to Don Clark at don.clark@wsj.com

Will recession kill or renew labor unions

Mosaic News - 4/14/08: World News from the Middle East

History of Republican Economic Malfeasance

Credit crunch? The real crisis is global hunger. And if you care, eat less meat

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By George Monbiot

Never mind the economic crisis. Focus for a moment on a more urgent threat: the great food recession that is sweeping the world faster than the credit crunch. You have probably seen the figures by now: the price of rice has risen by three-quarters over the past year, that of wheat by 130%. There are food crises in 37 countries. One hundred million people, according to the World Bank, could be pushed into deeper poverty by the high prices.

But I bet that you have missed the most telling statistic. At 2.1bn tonnes, the global grain harvest broke all records last year - it beat the previous year's by almost 5%. The crisis, in other words, has begun before world food supplies are hit by climate change. If hunger can strike now, what will happen if harvests decline?

There is plenty of food. It is just not reaching human stomachs. Of the 2.13bn tonnes likely to be consumed this year, only 1.01bn, according to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation, will feed people.

I am sorely tempted to write another column about biofuels. From this morning all sellers of transport fuel in the United Kingdom will be obliged to mix it with ethanol or biodiesel made from crops. The World Bank points out that "the grain required to fill the tank of a sports utility vehicle with ethanol ... could feed one person for a year". This year global stockpiles of cereals will decline by around 53m tonnes; this gives you a rough idea of the size of the hunger gap. The production of biofuels will consume almost 100m tonnes, which suggests that they are directly responsible for the current crisis.

On these pages yesterday Ruth Kelly, the secretary of state for transport, promised that "if we need to adjust policy in the light of new evidence, we will". What new evidence does she require? In the midst of a global humanitarian crisis, we have just become legally obliged to use food as fuel. It is a crime against humanity, in which every driver in this country has been forced to participate.

But I have been saying this for four years, and I am boring myself. Of course we must demand that our governments scrap the rules that turn grain into the fastest food of all. But there is a bigger reason for global hunger, which is attracting less attention only because it has been there for longer. While 100m tonnes of food will be diverted this year to feed cars, 760m tonnes will be snatched from the mouths of humans to feed animals - which could cover the global food deficit 14 times. If you care about hunger, eat less meat.

While meat consumption is booming in Asia and Latin America, in the UK it has scarcely changed since the government started gathering data in 1974. At just over 1kg per person per week, it's still about 40% above the global average, though less than half the amount consumed in the United States. We eat less beef and more chicken than we did 30 years ago, which means a smaller total impact. Beef cattle eat about 8kg of grain or meal for every kilogram of flesh they produce; a kilogram of chicken needs just 2kg of feed. Even so, our consumption rate is plainly unsustainable.

In his magazine The Land, Simon Fairlie has updated the figures produced 30 years ago in Kenneth Mellanby's book Can Britain Feed Itself? Fairlie found that a vegan diet produced by means of conventional agriculture would require only 3m hectares of arable land (around half Britain's current total). Even if we reduced our consumption of meat by half, a mixed farming system would need 4.4m hectares of arable fields and 6.4 million hectares of pasture. A vegan Britain could make a massive contribution to global food stocks.

But I cannot advocate a diet that I am incapable of following. I tried it for about 18 months, lost two stone, went as white as bone and felt that I was losing my mind. I know a few healthy-looking vegans, and I admire them immensely. But after almost every talk that I give, I am pestered by swarms of vegans demanding that I adopt their lifestyle. I cannot help noticing that in most cases their skin has turned a fascinating pearl grey.

What level of meat-eating would be sustainable? One approach is to work out how great a cut would be needed to accommodate the growth in human numbers. The UN expects the population to rise to 9 billion by 2050. These extra people will require another 325m tonnes of grain. Let us assume, perhaps generously, that politicians such as Ruth Kelly are able to "adjust policy in the light of new evidence" and stop turning food into fuel. Let us pretend that improvements in plant breeding can keep pace with the deficits caused by climate change. We would need to find an extra 225m tonnes of grain. This leaves 531m tonnes for livestock production, which suggests a sustainable consumption level for meat and milk some 30% below the current world rate. This means 420g of meat per person per week, or about 40% of the UK's average consumption.

This estimate is complicated by several factors. If we eat less meat we must eat more plant protein, which means taking more land away from animals. On the other hand, some livestock is raised on pasture, so it doesn't contribute to the grain deficit. Simon Fairlie estimates that if animals were kept only on land that is unsuitable for arable farming, and given scraps and waste from food processing, the world could produce between a third and two-thirds of its current milk and meat supply. But this system then runs into a different problem. The Food and Agriculture Organisation calculates that animal keeping is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental impacts are especially grave in places where livestock graze freely. The only reasonable answer to the question of how much meat we should eat is as little as possible. Let's reserve it - as most societies have done until recently - for special occasions.

For both environmental and humanitarian reasons, beef is out. Pigs and chickens feed more efficiently, but unless they are free range you encounter another ethical issue: the monstrous conditions in which they are kept. I would like to encourage people to start eating tilapia instead of meat. This is a freshwater fish that can be raised entirely on vegetable matter and has the best conversion efficiency - about 1.6kg of feed for 1kg of meat - of any farmed animal. Until meat can be grown in flasks, this is about as close as we are likely to come to sustainable flesh-eating.

Re-reading this article, I see that there is something surreal about it. While half the world wonders whether it will eat at all, I am pondering which of our endless choices we should take. Here the price of food barely registers. Our shops are better stocked than ever before. We perceive the global food crisis dimly, if at all. It is hard to understand how two such different food economies could occupy the same planet, until you realise that they feed off each other.

Global hunger, corporate greed: When will enough be enough?

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By Debnath Guharoy

Media around the world are currently feeding off the increasing price of food everywhere. The World Bank chief has joined in with the prediction that starvation is a distinct possibility for many of the weaker nations, leading to political turmoil.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) chief says only 14 percent of available water is used in Asia, 2 percent in Africa, with the rest flowing into the oceans each year. If this is the sorry state of affairs, what do our political leaders and their henchmen do at the office every day?

The instinctive urge to shoot the messenger is of course misdirected energy. But when you put the disparate pieces of our puzzling world on the table, the emerging picture is embarrassing indeed.

A kilogram of rice costs more than US$1 and a barrel of oil costs over $100. One influences the other. The subprime loan crisis will cost more than $1 trillion and the Iraq war will cost the United States alone as much as $3 trillion.

Different problem, same instinct. Many pundits will argue none of this has any connection to global hunger, as if these colossal costs aren't real and do not affect the common man.

It is all too easy to throw stones at our politicians and bureaucrats. But those of us in business would do well to spend a minute pondering the glass houses we go to work in.

The altar of the shareholder has become the convenient excuse for inexcusable conduct. The voracious appetite for dividends and stock prices has allowed CEOs to hold boards and investors alike to ransom.

Systemic deception has become acceptable culture in too many boardrooms, with nothing more than a wink and a nod required down the chain of command. When it gets to a point that an accountant is unable to explain complex new financial instruments and their equally befuddling acronyms, disaster cannot be far away.

Not even a decade ago, the Internet bubble exploded with disastrous consequences, ripples felt around the globe. Everybody who then believed the lessons were learned have been proven wrong not even a decade later. For every errant CEO who has gone to jail, there are hundreds who have made millions in severance pay alone. Regulators and lawmakers appear not to be troubled.

It seems as if the profit motive is no longer an adequate driver of business today. Unbridled greed has taken over, a global corporate culture spreading like a cancer unchecked.

Anybody who would like to believe Indonesia has yet to be tainted by this malaise could ask a simple question as a test. How many people have a cellular phone connection? A simple answer, a number that resembles the truth, should not be too much to expect. But you are unlikely to get one.

You are more than likely to be told that it all depends on "terminology" or "definitions". Forty million. Sixty million. Eighty million. One hundred million subscribers. These numbers have all been quoted in this newspaper in the last 60 days. They cannot all be right; only one comes close to the truth. Similar mysteries abound in other industries.

On the other hand, does anybody want to know that at least 60 million SIM cards will be thrown away this year? It's not a number you will find rolling off an industry analyst's lips.

That's apparently because that kind of talk doesn't build investor confidence. As if shareholders, investors, bankers and financial advisers were incapable of handling the truth.

Regardless of the rising price of rice, the Indonesian people seem constantly divided in a 40:60 ratio, the "haves" and "have-nots". At any point in time, only about 40 percent "feel financially stable", or think it's a "good time to buy major appliances", or have not "cut down their spending recently", or believe that "the Indonesian economy appears to be improving".

For the remaining 60 percent the everyday struggle to put food on the plate gets occasionally even harder, as when the price of fuel jumps up. For the overwhelming majority, having to choose between a 4 kg bag of rice or a cell phone is an easy decision.

Yet many industry analysts and bankers have difficulty coming to the same conclusion.

These observations are based on Roy Morgan Single Source, the country's largest syndicated survey with over 27,000 Indonesian respondents annually, projected to reflect almost 90 percent of the population over the age of 14. The results are updated every 90 days. The opinions expressed are my own.

The silent majority have little ability to improve their lot all by themselves. As corporate citizens and fellow humans, working with the truth should be a basic prerequisite.

There is plenty of opportunity in Asia and in Indonesia, if effort and monies are directed appropriately. What is unfortunately in oversupply is greed, fostered too often with the need to distort the truth.

The Martial Law Act of 2006

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By James Bovard

Martial law is perhaps the ultimate stomping of freedom. And yet, on September 30, 2006, Congress passed a provision in a 591-page bill that will make it easy for President Bush to impose martial law in response to a terrorist “incident.” It also empowers him to effectively declare martial law in response to what he or other federal officials label a shortfall of “public order” – whatever that means.

It took only a few paragraphs in a $500 billion, 591-page bill to raze one of the most important limits on federal power. Congress passed the Insurrection Act in 1807 to severely restrict the president’s ability to deploy the military within the United States. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 tightened those restrictions, imposing a two-year prison sentence on anyone who used the military within the United States without the express permission of Congress. (This act was passed after the depredations of the U.S. military throughout the Southern states during Reconstruction.)

But there is a loophole: Posse Comitatus is waived if the president invokes the Insurrection Act.

The Insurrection Act and Posse Comitatus Act aim to deter dictatorship while permitting a narrow window for the president to temporarily use the military at home. But the 2006 reforms basically threw any concern about dictatorial abuses out the window.

Section 1076 of the Defense Authorization Act of 2006 changed the name of the key provision in the statute book from “Insurrection Act” to “Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act.” The Insurrection Act of 1807 stated that the president could deploy troops within the United States only “to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.” The new law expands the list of pretexts to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition” – and such a “condition” is not defined or limited.

One might think that given the experience with the USA PATRIOT Act and many other abuses of power, Congress would be leery about giving this president his biggest blank check yet to suspend the Constitution. But that would be naïve.

The new law was put in place in response to the debacle of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. There was no evidence that permitting a president far more power would avoid future debacles, but such a law provides a comfort blanket to politicians. The risk of tyranny is irrelevant compared with the reduction of risk of embarrassment to politicians. According to Washington, the correct response to Katrina is not to recognize the failure of relying on federal agencies a thousand miles away but rather to vastly increase the power of the president to dictate a solution, regardless of whether he knows what he is doing and regardless of whether local and state rights are trampled.

The new law also empowers the president to commandeer the National Guard of one state to send to another state for as many as 365 days. Bush could send the South Carolina National Guard to suppress anti-war protests in New Haven. Or the next president could send the Massachusetts National Guard to disarm the residents of Wyoming, if they resisted a federal law that prohibited private ownership of semi-automatic weapons. Governors’ control of the National Guard can be trumped with a simple presidential declaration.

Section 1076 had bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, including support from Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Since the law would give the feds more power, it was very popular inside the Beltway.

On the other hand, every governor in the country opposed the changes. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned on September 19, 2006, that “we certainly do not need to make it easier for presidents to declare martial law.” Leahy’s alarm got no response. Ten days later, he commented in the Congressional Record, “Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy.”

A U.S. Enabling Act

The new law vastly increases the danger from the actions of government provocateurs. If there is an incident now like the first bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993, it would be far easier for the president to declare martial law – even if, as then, it was an FBI informant who taught the culprits how to make the bomb. Even if the FBI masterminds a protest that turns violent, the president could invoke the “incident” to suspend the Constitution.

“Martial law” is a euphemism for military dictatorship. When foreign democracies are overthrown and a junta establishes martial law, Americans usually recognize that a fundamental change has occurred. Perhaps some conservatives believe that the only change when martial law is declared is that people are no longer read their Miranda rights before they are locked away. “Martial law” means: Obey soldiers’ commands or be shot. The abuses of military rule in Southern states during Reconstruction were legendary, but they have been swept under the historical rug.

Section 1076 is an Enabling Act-type legislation – something which purports to preserve law and order while formally empowering the president to rule by decree.

Bush can commandeer a state’s National Guard any time he declares a “state has refused to enforce applicable laws.” Does this refer to the laws as they are commonly understood – or to the “laws” after Bush “fixes” them with a signing statement? Unfortunately, it is not possible for Americans to commandeer the federal government even when Bush admits that he is breaking a law (such as the Anti-Torture Act).

Section 1076 is the type of “law” that would probably be denounced by the U.S. State Department’s Annual Report on Human Rights if enacted by a foreign government. But when the U.S. government does the same thing, it is merely another proof of benevolent foresight. The “comfort blanket” on Section 1076 is that the powers will not be abused because the president will show more concern with the Bill of Rights than Congress did when it rubberstamped this provision. This is the same “pass the buck on the Constitution” that worked so well with the PATRIOT Act, the McCain Feingold Campaign Reform Act, and the Military Commissions Act. As long as there is hypothetically some branch of the government that will object to oppression, no one has the right to fear losing his liberties.

The military on the home front

Section 1076 is more ominous in light of the Bush administration’s long record of Posse Comitatus violations. Since 2001, the Bush administration has accelerated a trend of using the military as a tool in the nation’s domestic affairs. From its support of the Total Information Awareness surveillance vacuum cleaner, to its use of Pentagon spy planes during the Washington-area sniper shootings in 2002, to the Pentagon’s seizures of Americans’ financial and other private information without a warrant, the Bush administration has not hesitated to use military force and intimidation at home whenever convenient. And Americans may have little or no idea of how far the military has actually gone on the home front, given the Bush team’s obsessive secrecy.

The Pentagon has sent U.S. military intelligence agents on domestic fishing expeditions. In 2004, two U.S. Army intelligence agents descended on the University of Texas’s law school in Austin. They entered the office of the Journal of Women and the Law and demanded that the editors turn over a roster of the people who attended a recent conference on Islam and women. The editors denied having a list; the behavior of one agent was described as intimidating. The agents then demanded contact information for the student who organized the conference, Sahar Aziz. University of Texas law professor Douglas Laycock commented,

We certainly hope that the Army doesn’t believe that attending a conference on Islamic law or Islam and women is itself ground for investigation.

Military officials later declared that U.S. Army intelligence agents had overstepped their bounds. But this did not stop the Bush administration from having a provision inserted in a bill passed in secret session by the Senate Intelligence Committee that would allow military intelligence agents to conduct surveillance and recruit informants in the United States. Wired.com reported,

Pentagon officials say the exemption would not affect civil liberties and is needed so that its agents can obtain information from sources who may be afraid of government agents.
The provision would authorize military agents to go undercover and never inform their targets that they were dealing with a G-man. Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, denounced the provision:

This ... is giving them the authority to spy on Americans. And it’s all been done with no public discussion, in the dark of night.
The controversy over the amendment scuttled its enactment, though it is unclear whether that has deterred the military from expanding its domestic spying.

There is no Honesty-in-Absolute-Power mandate in the federal statute books. The more power government seizes, the more easily it can suppress the truth. There is nothing to prevent a president from declaring martial law on false pretexts – any more than there is to prevent him from launching a foreign war on false pretenses. And when the lies become exposed years later, it could be far too late to resurrect lost liberties.

Israel's senior politicians and security service snub Carter visit

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By Rory McCarthy

Jimmy Carter faced a cold reception in Israel yesterday where senior political leaders avoided meeting him and the Israeli secret service declined to help the American agents guarding him.

The former US president was at the start of a Middle East tour, in which he is expected to meet on Friday the exiled head of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, Khaled Meshal. The proposed meeting has brought criticism in Israel.

On Sunday, Carter met the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, who told him that meeting Meshal was "a very big mistake". He has no meetings scheduled with Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, or foreign and defence ministers. Carter will meet the trade and industry minister. Asked about the lack of high-level meetings, he told Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper: "I'm disappointed but not distressed."

The Israeli security service Shin Bet declined to meet the head of Carter's US secret service detail or provide assistance. One US source told Reuters the snub was "unprecedented". An Israeli security source told the news agency no request for help had been made, though Carter's delegation insisted it had. The authorities also refused permission for him to meet Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian activist regarded by some as a future leader, who is in an Israeli jail for murder.

The reception given to Carter, who helped negotiate 1979's Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt, is unusual and stems not only from his proposed meeting with the Hamas leader but also from the anger caused within Israel by his 2006 book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. It was not the book's criticisms of the Israeli occupation that created controversy; it was that such a senior US political figure had questioned Israeli policy.

Carter has held other meetings on his Israeli visit, including with the parents of an Israeli soldier captured near Gaza two years ago and with Yossi Beilin, a leftwing politician. Yesterday, Carter travelled to Sderot, a southern Israeli town frequently targeted by rockets fired by militants in Gaza. "I think it's a despicable crime for any deliberate effort to be made to kill innocent civilians, and my hope is there will be a ceasefire soon," Carter said.

In the meeting with Meshal, Carter says he intends to test the Hamas leader's support for the Arab peace initiative, a Saudi proposal under which the Arab world would give Israel diplomatic recognition in return for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Although Israel has not rejected the proposal, it has not embraced it either and continues to refuse to talk to Hamas, which won the Palestinian election two years ago.

"I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind that if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with its next-door neighbours, the Palestinians, Hamas will have to be included in the process," Carter told the US television network ABC News.

In an interview this month with the Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam, Meshal appeared to accept a two-state solution, though he refused to recognise Israel. He talked of a return to the 2006 Prisoners' Document, in which Hamas agreed that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of rivals Fatah, should be in charge of negotiations with Israel.

War Crimes in Occupied Afghanistan

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By Dr Gideon Polya

Anti-China Tibet Hypocrisy

Everyone wants to see more democratization and human rights accountability in China as urged recently in the Amnesty International statement on Tibet to the UN Human Rights Council.

However there is an anti-China geo-political agenda behind the hypocritical US-, UK-, EU- and Australian criticisms of China over Tibet. Thus without minimizing either tragedy, 34 died in the Watts, Los Angeles riots in 1965 as compared to Tibetan exile estimates of 150 deaths in the recent Tibet riots.

The most fundamental human right is the right to life. According to data from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the UN Population Division, China has made huge advances in dramatically reducing mortality rate and infant mortality rate in both the Tibetan Autonomous Region and in China as a whole and to similar levels.

Thus the "annual under-5 year old infant death rate" is about the same (about 0.6%) in Tibet and China as a whole as compared to 6.2% for US- and Australia-occupied Afghanistan, 0.12% for Occupier Australia and 0.16% for Occupier United States.

The annual infant death rate in Occupied Afghanistan (6.2%) is 51 times that in Occupier Australia, 38 times that in Occupier US and similar to the “annual death rate” of 10.2% for Australian prisoners of war of the Japanese in World War 2 – a war crime for which key Japanese leaders were tried and hanged (for details and documentation see: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/21671/42/ ).

Manifest Destiny and Israel Hidden Agenda

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By Uri Avnery

NEXT MONTH, Israel will celebrate its 60th anniversary. The government is working feverishly to make this day into an occasion of joy and jubilation. While serious problems are crying out for funds, some 40 million dollars have been allocated to this aim.

Bur the nation is in no mood for celebrations. It is gloomy.

From all directions the government is blamed for this gloom. "They have no agenda" is the refrain, "Their only concern is their own survival." (The word "agenda", with its English pronunciation, is now fashionable in Israeli political circles, pushing aside a perfectly adequate Hebrew word.)

It is hard not to blame the government. Ehud Olmert speechifies endlessly, at least one speech per day, today at an industrialists' convention, tomorrow at a kindergarten, saying absolutely nothing. There is no national agenda, nor an economic agenda, nor a social agenda, nor a cultural agenda. Nothing.

When he came to power, he presented something that sounded like an agenda: "Hitkansut", an untranslatable word that can be rendered as "contracting", "converging", "ingathering". That was supposed to be a historic operation: Israel would give up a large part of the occupied territories, dismantle the settlements east of the "Separation" Wall and annex the settlements between the Green Line and the Wall.

Now, two years and one war later, nothing of this remains, even the word has been forgotten. The only game in town is the "negotiations" with the Palestinian Authority, which were a farce to start with. Like actors on the stage drinking from empty glasses, all parties pretend that there are negotiations going on. They meet, embrace, smile, pose for photographs, convene joint teams, hold press conferences, make declarations - and nothing, absolutely nothing, really happens.

What is the farce for? Each of the participants has his own reasons: Olmert needs an agenda to fill the void. George Bush, a lame duck who leaves behind him nothing but ruins in every field, wants to present at least one achievement, fictitious as it may be. Poor Mahmoud Abbas, whose continued existence depends on his ability to show some political achievement for his people, clings to this illusion with all his remaining strength. And so the farce goes on.

BUT ANYONE who believes that the government has no agenda, and that the State of Israel has no agenda, is quite wrong. There certainly is an agenda, but is hidden. More precisely: it is unconscious.

People say that ideology is dead. That, too, is a mistake. There is no society without an ideology, and there is no human being without an ideology. When there is no new ideology, the old ideology continues to operate. When there is no conscious ideology, there is an unconscious one, which can be much more potent - and much more dangerous.

Why? A conscious ideology can be analyzed, criticized, opposed. It is much more difficult to fight against an unconscious one, which directs the agenda without giving itself away.

That's why it is so important to locate, uncover and analyze it.

IF YOU ask Olmert, he will strenuously deny that he has no agenda. He has a perfect agenda: to make peace (which is nowadays called "permanent status"). And not just any peace, but a peace based on "Two States for Two Peoples". Without such a peace, Olmert has pronounced, "the State is finished".

In that case, why is there no negotiation, only a farcical pretense? Why does the massive building activity go on, even in the settlements east of the Wall, well within the area that government spokespersons propose for the Palestinian state? Why does the government carry out dozens of military and civilian actions daily that push peace even further away?

According to the government itself, and contrary to what it said at the beginning, it has no intention of achieving peace in 2008. At most, perhaps, maybe, there will be a "shelf agreement". That is an original Israeli invention, meaning an agreement that would be put on the shelf "until conditions are ripe". In other words, meaningless negotiations for a meaningless agreement. Now they say that there is no chance even for that, not in 2008, not in the foreseeable future.

There is no escape from the inevitable conclusion: the government is not working for peace. It does not want peace. And, also, that there is no effective parliamentary opposition pressing for peace, nor any pressure from the media.

What does all this mean? That there is no agenda? No, it means that behind the fictitious agenda, which appears in the media, there hides another agenda that does not meet the eye.

THE HIDDEN agenda is opposed to peace. Why?

Conventional wisdom has it that the government does not pursue peace because it is afraid of the settlers and their supporters. The peace that is being talked about - the peace of Two States for Two Peoples - demands the dismantling of dozens of settlements, including those which harbor the political and ideological leadership of the whole movement. That would mean a declaration of war on all the 250 thousand settlers, apart from those who will leave voluntarily for generous compensation. The current argument is that the government is too weak for such a confrontation.

According to the fashionable formula, "both governments, the Israeli and the Palestinian, are too weak to make peace. Everything must be postponed until strong leaderships emerge on both sides." Some people add the Bush administration to the count - a lame duck president cannot impose peace.

But the settlements are only a symptom, not the heart of the problem. Otherwise, why doesn't the government freeze them, at least, as it has undertaken again and again? If the settlements are the main obstacle to peace, why are they being enlarged even now, and why are new settlements still being set up, disguised as new "neighborhoods" of existing settlements?

Clearly, the settlements, too, are in reality only a pretext. Something more profound is causing the government - and the entire political system - to reject peace.

That is the hidden agenda.

WHAT IS the heart of peace? A border.

When two neighboring peoples make peace, they fix, first of all, the border between them.

And that is precisely what the Israeli establishment opposes, because it negates the basic ethos of the Zionist enterprise.

True, at different points in time the Zionist movement has drawn up maps. After World War I, it submitted to the peace conference the map of a Jewish state extending from the Litani River in Lebanon to El-Arish in the Sinai desert. The map of Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky, which became the Irgun emblem, copied the borders of the original British Mandate on both sides of the Jordan. Israel Eldad, one of the Stern Group leaders, distributed for many years a map of the Israeli Empire that reached from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates and included all of Jordan and Lebanon, with great chunks of Syria and Egypt thrown in. His son, the extreme right-wing Member of the Knesset Arieh Eldad, has not given up this map. And after the Six Day War, the map favored by the right-wing covered all the conquests, including the Golan Heights and the entire Sinai peninsula.

But all these maps were only games. The real Zionist vision does not recognize any maps. It is a vision of a state without borders - a state that expands at all times according to its demographic, military and political power. The Zionist strategy resembles the waters of a river flowing to the sea. The river snakes through the landscape, goes around obstacles, turns left and right, flowing sometimes on the surface and sometimes underground, and on its way takes in more springs. In the end it reaches its destination.

That is the real agenda, unchanging, hidden, conscious and unconscious. It does not need decisions, formulations or maps, because it is encoded in the genes of the movement. This explains, among other things, the phenomenon described in the report of senior prosecution lawyer Talia Sasson on the settlements: that all the organs of the establishment, the government and the military, without any official coordination but with miraculously effective cooperation, acted to set up the "illegal" settlements. Every one of the thousands of officials and officers who spent decades involved in this enterprise knew exactly what to do, even without receiving any instructions.

That is the reason for David Ben-Gurion's refusal to include in the Declaration of Independence of the new State of Israel any mention of borders. He did not intend for a minute to be satisfied with the borders fixed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution of November 29, 1947. All his successors had the same approach. Even the Oslo agreements delineated "zones" but did not fix a border. President Bush accepted this approach when he proposed a "Palestinian state with provisional borders" - a novelty in international law.

In this respect, too, Israel resembles the United States, which was founded along the Eastern seaboard and did not rest until it had reached the Western shores on the other side of the continent. The incessant stream of mass immigration from Europe flowed on westwards, breaching all borders and violating all agreements, exterminating the Native Americans, starting a war against Mexico, conquering Texas, invading Central America and Cuba. The slogan that drove them on and justified all their actions was coined in 1845 by John O'Sullivan: "Manifest Destiny".

The Israeli version of "Manifest Destiny" is Moshe Dayan's slogan "We are fated". Dayan, a typical representative of the second generation, made two important speeches in his life. The first and better known was delivered in 1956 at the grave of Roy Rutenberg of Nahal Oz, a kibbutz facing Gaza: "Before their [the Palestinians in Gaza] very eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived This is the fate of our generation, the choice of our life - to be prepared and armed, strong and tough - or otherwise, the sword will slip from our fist, and our life will be snuffed out."

He did not mean only his own generation. The second, lesser known speech is more important. It was delivered in August 1968, after the occupation of the Golan Heights, before a rally of young Kibbutzniks. When I asked him about it in the Knesset, he inserted the entire speech into the Knesset record, a very unusual procedure in our parliament.

This is what he told the youth: "We are fated to live in a permanent state of fighting against the Arabs For the hundred years of the Return to Zion we are working for two things: the building of the land and the building of the people That is a process of expansion, of more Jews and more settlements That is a process that has not reached the end. We were born here and found our parents, who had come here before us It is not your duty to reach the end. Your duty is to add your layer to expand the settlement to the best of your ability, during your lifetime ... (and) not to say: this is the end, up to here, we have finished."

Dayan, who was well versed in the ancient texts, probably had in mind the phrase in the Chapter of the Fathers (a part of the Mishnah, which was finished 1800 years ago and formed the basis of the Talmud): "It is not up to you to finish the work, and you are not free to stop doing it."

That is the hidden agenda. We must haul it up from the depths of our unconscious minds to the realm of consciousness in order to face it, to reveal the terrible danger inherent in it, the danger of an eternal war which may in the fullness of time lead this state to disaster.

Approaching the 60th anniversary of the state, we must draw a line under this chapter of our history, exorcise the dybbuk and say clearly: yes, we have ended the chapter of expansion and settlement.

This will enable us to change the course of the river. To put an end to the occupation. To dismantle the settlements. To make peace. To effect a reconciliation with the neighboring people. To turn Israel into a peaceful, democratic, secular and liberal state, that can devote all its resources to the creation of a flourishing, modern society.

And first of all: to agree on a border.

Source: U.S. Strike on Iran Nearing

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By Jim Meyers

Contrary to some claims that the Bush administration will allow diplomacy to handle Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a leading member of America’s Jewish community tells Newsmax that a military strike is not only on the table – but likely.

“Israel is preparing for heavy casualties,” the source said, suggesting that although Israel will not take part in the strike, it is expecting to be the target of Iranian retribution.

“Look at Dick Cheney’s recent trip through the Middle East as preparation for the U.S. attack,” the source said.

Cheney’s hastily arranged 9-day visit to the region, which began on March 16, included stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman, Turkey, and the Palestinian territories.

Tensions in the region have been rising.

While Israel was conducting the largest homefront military exercises in its history last week, Israel’s National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned Tehran about expected attacks on the Jewish state.

“An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel, which will destroy the Iranian nation,” he said.

He predicted that in a future war, “hundreds of missiles will rain on Israel,” but added that Iran “is definitely aware of our strength.”

In addition to long-range missiles Iran has been developing to strike Israel, Israel’s military strategists see the Iranians using terror groups they back like Hamas operating from Palestine and Hezbollah from Lebanon to launch attacks.

Iran has supplied Hezbollah with an arsenal that now contains “tens of thousands of missiles,” according to the Washington Post.

IIsrael’s recent war exercises, including preparations for chemical and biological weapons attacks, drew a sharp response from Syria which held its own military drills. The Syrian government accused Israel of preparing for a war which Damascus predicted would be begin anytime between May 1 and the end of June.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently told foreign journalists that Israel needs to confront the threat posed by Iran. Privately he has been telling associates his number one priority is have the Israeli military strike Iran if the U.S. is unwilling.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz disclosed that Israel is concerned that North Korea has transferred technology and nuclear materials to Iran to aid Tehran’s secret nuclear weapons program.

Iran remains intransigent to international pressure that it offer full transparency relating to its nuclear program. On Sunday the head of Iran’s nuclear program “abruptly canceled a meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, dealing a blow to the U.N. monitor’s efforts to investigate allegations that Iran tried to make nuclear arms, an agency official said,” according to an AP report.

“But a senior diplomat had told the AP that IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] head Mohamed ElBaradei likely planned to use the meeting with Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s nuclear program, to renew a request for more information on allegations Tehran had tried to make atomic arms.”

A number of signs indicate that, contrary to the belief President Bush is a lame duck who will not act before he leaves office, the U.S. is poised to strike before Iran can acquire nuclear weapons and carry out the threat of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to “wipe Israel off the map”:

  • According to intelligence sources, the administration now rejects the National Intelligence Estimate report issued in December that asserted Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in late 2003.

    The French daily Le Monde reported in March that newly surfaced documents show that Iran has continued developing nuclear weapons. In late 2006, U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted a phone conversation in Iran’s Defense Ministry in which the nuclear weapons program was discussed.

  • The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, resigned in March amid media reports that he broke with President Bush’s strategy on Iran and did not want to be in the chain of command when the order comes down from the President to launch a strike on the Islamic Republic.

    Democrats suggested he had been forced out because of his candor in opposing Bush’s Iran plans, and Esquire magazine contended that Fallon’s departure signaled that the U.S. is preparing to attack Iran.

  • According to a Tehran-based Iranian news network, Press TV, Saudi Arabia is taking emergency steps in preparing to counter any “radioactive hazards” that may result from an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

    The Saudi newspaper Okaz disclosed that the Saudi government has approved nuclear fallout preparations, and the Iranian network reported that the approval came a day after Cheney met with the kingdom’s high-ranking officials, further stating that the U.S. “is now informing its Arab allies of a potential war.”

  • The American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, has stepped up criticism of Iran, telling Congress last week that Iranian support for Shiite militias posed the most serious threat to Iraq’s stability. He told senators : “Iran has fueled the violence in a particularly damaging way.” Last week, the U.S. said Iran was providing insurgents with missiles that were killing Americans and hitting targets within the U.S. occupied Green Zone in Baghdad.

    MSNBC Commentator Pat Buchanan said Petraeus’ remarks to Congress lay the groundwork for a U.S. attack on Iran.

  • President Bush said in a speech at the White House on April 10 that Iran, along with al-Qaida, are “two of the greatest threats to America.”

    He said Iran “can live in peace with its neighbors,” or “continue to arm and train and fund illegal militant groups which are terrorizing the Iraqi people … If Iran makes the wrong choice, America will act to protect our interests and our troops and our Iraqi partners.”

    He later told ABC News that if Iran continues to help militants in Iraq, “then we’ll deal with them.”

    Members of Congress are said to have been briefed by the administration about the rising Iran threat.

    Iran did little to cool tensions when it announced that it had begun installing 6,000 new centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz.

    Centrifuges can enrich uranium to a low level to produce nuclear fuel or a high level for use in weapons.

    The announcement of the new centrifuges by President Ahmadinejad came on April 8, Iran’s National Day of Nuclear Technology, which marked the second anniversary of Iran’s first enrichment of uranium.

    Iran already has about 3,000 centrifuges operating in Natanz, and the new announcement was widely seen as a show of defiance to international demands to halt a nuclear program that the U.S. and its allies insist is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

  • Big US Study Links Breast Cancer to Drinking

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    By Deena Beasley

    San Diego - A large U.S. study has linked alcohol consumption to an increased risk of the most common type of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

    The analysis of data from more than 184,000 women is the biggest of three major studies to conclude that drinking raises the risk of breast cancer for older women, Jasmine Lew, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute and the study's lead investigator said on Sunday.

    The research found that women who had one to two small drinks a day were 32 percent more likely to develop a hormone-sensitive tumor. Three or more drinks a day raised the risk by 51 per cent.

    "Regardless of the type of alcohol, the risk was evident," said Lew, presenting the findings here at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

    About 70 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have tumors that are positive for both the estrogen and progesterone receptors.

    Lew said results from the NCI study lend credence to the theory that alcohol's interference with the metabolism of estrogen raises the risk of cancer.

    She said it was too early to make public health recommendations but said women should talk with their doctors to assess risk factors and consider lifestyle changes.

    Other studies have linked light consumption of alcoholic drinks, especially red wine, to heart protection.

    Breast cancer is the second most common cancer killer of women, after lung cancer. It will be diagnosed in 1.2 million people globally this year and will kill 500,000.

    AFL-CIO: CEOs' Pay Packages Played Role in Mortgage Crisis

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    By Judith Burns

    Washington - Labor union officials, who blame the nation's mortgage mess in part on runaway executive pay, are calling for Congress to adopt a "say on pay" bill that would let shareholders weigh in on CEO compensation.

    Chief executives at Countrywide Financial and Washington Mutual Inc. were paid "obscene amounts" even when their company's performance faltered as subprime borrowers defaulted on home mortgage loans, AFL-CIO Secretary- Treasurer Richard Trumka said at a press briefing Monday. The bad loans devalued mortgage-backed securities tied to them, leading to large write-downs in assets at a number of financial firms..

    Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo, Washington Mutual CEO Kerry Killinger, former Bear Stearns Cos. CEO James Cayne, and former Citigroup Inc. CEO Charles Prince were among those rewarded lavishly for betting on risky loans, according to labor officials. Mozilo and Cayne are also chairmen.

    "When the house of cards fell, they didn't pay for it, we did," said Trumka.

    Killinger's 2008 bonus excludes consideration of loan loss provisions, restructuring costs and expenses related to foreclosed assets, according to AFL-CIO officials, shielding him from any pain related to mortgage losses.

    Lenders encouraged excessive risk-taking by rewarding CEOs for short-term gains in revenue and return on equity, said Daniel Pedrotty, who heads the AFL-CIO investment office.

    "The orientation was all wrong at these companies," said Pedrotty.

    Labor officials urged lenders to rethink their approach and compensate top executives based on risk-adjusted, longer-term measures, such as total shareholder return over periods as long as five years. Unions also want corporate boards to adopt proposals for a "responsible" approach to CEO compensation and severance packages that would not tie the board's hands in the future.

    Executive Paywatch, an online database that the AFL-CIO debuted in 1997, includes a new feature this year allowing users to compare CEO pay to corporate financial performance over periods of one, three and five years, and union officials said results demonstrate the gap between lofty pay and slumping performance. The executive compensation data includes results reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the AFL-CIO's own calculations, which include stock-based compensation when granted, rather than when received, an approach union officials think is superior to the SEC's tally.

    Washington can help, too, according to AFL-CIO officials, who called for a moratorium on home foreclosures and changes that would require subprime mortgages with short-term "teaser" rates to be converted to 30-year loans carrying the original, low teaser rate.

    On the pay front, labor union officials said they hope Senate lawmakers will act this year on legislation requiring public companies to give shareholders an advisory vote on CEO compensation. A "say on pay" bill has cleared the House of Representatives but the Senate is yet to take up the matter.

    Trumka also faulted a 1999 law removing longstanding barriers between investment and commercial banking and called for the U.S. "to go back and re- regulate" in this area. He described a recently released Treasury Department blueprint for financial regulatory reform as "a step backwards" that favors a deregulatory approach.

    A more liberal SEC stance on "proxy access" would be welcome as well, according to Pedrotty. The SEC split along party lines last year on the issue of whether shareholders should have the right to place their own nominees for corporate boards on the company's proxy ballots, and ultimately voted to bar such access. Critics say that makes it harder and costlier to bring fresh blood into boardrooms.

    US Military Holds Hearing in First Contractor Case

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    Baghdad - The U.S. military held a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday for an interpreter accused of a stabbing in Iraq, the first attempt to apply military law to civilian contractors working for U.S. forces in Iraq.

    Alaa Mohammad Ali, who holds Iraqi and Canadian citizenship, has been charged with aggravated assault, accused of stabbing another interpreter while working for U.S. forces at a combat outpost in the western Iraqi town of Hit.

    His pre-trial hearing took place in a courtroom at a U.S. base in Baghdad with witnesses who were unable to be present testifying by video link, the military said in a statement.

    Ali is the first contractor charged under an amendment passed by Congress in 2006 which authorizes military trials for contractors accompanying U.S. troops. He has been held by U.S. military authorities since February.

    The U.S. military says he will be given the same rights as a U.S. service member facing military court.

    The legal status of contractors in Iraq has been the subject of substantial controversy, especially since last September when contractors from the U.S. firm Blackwater were accused of wrongly killing 17 people in a shooting in Baghdad.

    The FBI is investigating whether Blackwater employees broke any laws in that incident, which the Iraqi government has described as a "massacre." Blackwater says its employees believed they were in danger.

    The Blackwater staff were employed by the U.S. State Department to guard embassy officials and it is not clear if they could be prosecuted under laws covering contractors accompanying the military, or other U.S. laws.

    The State Department announced earlier this month it was extending Blackwater's contract for another year. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki complained that Iraq was not consulted before the contract was extended.

    Location of Mass Graves of Residential School Children Revealed

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    By Brenda Norrell

    Squamish Nation Territory ("Vancouver, Canada") - At a public ceremony and press conference held today outside the colonial "Indian Affairs" building in downtown Vancouver, the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD) released a list of twenty eight mass graves across Canada holding the remains of untold numbers of aboriginal children who died in Indian Residential Schools.

    The list was distributed today to the world media and to United Nations agencies, as the first act of the newly-formed International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada (IHRTGC), a non-governmental body established by indigenous elders.

    In a statement read by FRD spokesperson Eagle Strong Voice, it was declared that the IHRTGC would commence its investigations on April 15, 2008, the fourth Annual Aboriginal Holocaust Memorial Day. This inquiry will involve international human rights observers from Guatemala and Cyprus , and will convene aboriginal courts of justice where those persons and institutions responsible for the death and suffering of residential school children will be tried and sentenced. (The complete Statement and List of Mass Graves is reproduced below).

    Eagle Strong Voice and IHRTGC elders will present the Mass Graves List at the United Nations on April 19, and will ask United Nations agencies to protect and monitor the mass graves as part of a genuine inquiry and judicial prosecution of those responsible for this Canadian Genocide.

    Eyewitness Sylvester Greene spoke to the media at today’s event, and described how he helped bury a young Inuit boy at the United Church’s Edmonton residential school in 1953.

    "We were told never to tell anyone by Jim Ludford, the Principal, who got me and three other boys to bury him. But a lot more kids got buried all the time in that big grave next to the school."

    Press Statement: April 10, 2008 Mass Graves of Residential School Children Identified – Independent Inquiry Launched

    We are gathered today to publicly disclose the location of twenty eight mass graves of children who died in Indian Residential Schools across Canada , and to announce the formation of an independent, non-governmental inquiry into the death and disappearance of children in these schools.

    We estimate that there are hundreds, and possibly thousands, of children buried in these grave sites alone.

    The Catholic, Anglican and United Church , and the government of Canada, operated the schools and hospitals where these mass graves are located. We therefore hold these institutions and their officers legally responsible and liable for the deaths of these children.

    We have no confidence that the very institutions of church and state that are responsible for these deaths can conduct any kind of impartial or real inquiry into them. Accordingly, as of April 15, 2008, we are establishing an independent, non-governmental inquiry into the death and disappearance of Indian residential school children across Canada .

    This inquiry shall be known as The International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada (IHRTGC), and is established under the authority of the following hereditary chiefs, who shall serve as presiding judges of the Tribunal:

    Hereditary Chief Kiapilano of the Squamish Nation
    Chief Louis Daniels (Whispers Wind), Anishinabe Nation Chief Svnoyi Wohali (Night Eagle), Cherokee Nation
    Lillian Shirt, Clan Mother, Cree Nation
    Elder Ernie Sandy, Anishinabe (Ojibway) Nation
    Hereditary Chief Steve Sampson, Chemainus Nation
    Ambassador Chief Red Jacket of Turtle Island

    Today, we are releasing to this Tribunal and to the people of the world the enclosed information on the location of mass graves connected to Indian residential schools and hospitals in order to prevent the destruction of this crucial evidence by the Canadian government, the RCMP and the Anglican, Catholic and United Church of Canada.

    We call upon indigenous people on the land where these graves are located to monitor and protect these sites vigilantly, and prevent their destruction by occupational forces such as the RCMP and other government agencies.

    Our Tribunal will commence on April 15 by gathering all of the evidence, including forensic remains, that is necessary to charge and indict those responsible for the deaths of the children buried therein.

    Once these persons have been identified and detained, they will be tried and sentenced in indigenous courts of justice established by our Tribunal and under the authority of hereditary chiefs.

    As a first step in this process, the IHRTGC will present this list of mass graves along with a statement to the United Nations in New York City on April 19, 2008. The IHRTGC will be asking the United Nations to declare these mass graves to be protected heritage sites, and will invite international human rights observers to monitor and assist its work.

    Issued by the Elders and Judges of the IHRTGC
    Interim Spokesperson: Eagle Strong Voice
    Email: genocidetribunal@yahoo.ca pager: 1-888-265-1007

    IHRTGC Sponsors include The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared, The Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada, the Defensoria Indigenia of Guatemala, Canadians for the Separation of Church and State, and a confederation of indigenous elders across Canada and Turtle Island.

    Issued on Squamish Territory , 10 April, 2008, under the authority of Hereditary Chief Kiapilano. For more information: www.hiddenfromhistory.org, or write to the IHRTGC at: genocidetribunal@yahoo.ca

    Mass Graves at former Indian Residential Schools and Hospitals across Canada

    A. British Columbia

    1. Port Alberni: Presbyterian-United Church school (1895-1973), now occupied by the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council (NTC) office, Kitskuksis Road . Grave site is a series of sinkhole rows in hills 100 metres due west of the NTC building, in thick foliage, past an unused water pipeline. Children also interred at Tseshaht reserve cemetery, and in wooded gully east of Catholic cemetery on River Road .

    2. Alert Bay : St. Michael’s Anglican school (1878-1975), situated on Cormorant Island offshore from Port McNeill. Presently building is used by Namgis First Nation. Site is an overgrown field adjacent to the building, and also under the foundations of the present new building, constructed during the 1960’s. Skeletons seen “between the walls”.

    3. Kuper Island: Catholic school (1890-1975), offshore from Chemainus. Land occupied by Penelakut Band. Former building is destroyed except for a staircase. Two grave sites: one immediately south of the former building, in a field containing a conventional cemetery; another at the west shoreline in a lagoon near the main dock.

    4. Nanaimo Indian Hospital: Indian Affairs and United Church experimental facility (1942-1970) on Department of National Defense land. Buildings now destroyed. Grave sites are immediately east of former buildings on Fifth avenue , adjacent to and south of Malaspina College .

    5. Mission: St. Mary’s Catholic school (1861-1984), adjacent to and north of Lougheed Highway and Fraser River Heritage Park . Original school buildings are destroyed, but many foundations are visible on the grounds of the Park.

    In this area there are two grave sites: a) immediately adjacent to former girls’ dormitory and present cemetery for priests, and a larger mass grave in an artificial earthen mound, north of the cemetery among overgrown foliage and blackberry bushes, and b) east of the old school grounds, on the hilly slopes next to the field leading to the newer school building which is presently used by the Sto:lo First Nation. Hill site is 150 metres west of building.

    6. North Vancouver: Squamish (1898-1959) and Sechelt (1912-1975) Catholic schools, buildings destroyed. Graves of children who died in these schools interred in the Squamish Band Cemetery , North Vancouver .

    7. Sardis: Coqualeetza Methodist-United Church school (1889-1940), then experimental hospital run by federal government (1940-1969). Native burial site next to Sto:lo reserve and Little Mountain school, also possibly adjacent to former school-hospital building.

    8. Cranbrook: St. Eugene Catholic school (1898-1970), recently converted into a tourist “resort” with federal funding, resulting in the covering-over of a mass burial site by a golf course in front of the building. Numerous grave sites are around and under this golf course.

    9. Williams Lake : Catholic school (1890-1981), buildings destroyed but foundations intact, five miles south of city. Grave sites reported north of school grounds and under foundations of tunnel-like structure.

    10. Meares Island (Tofino): Kakawis-Christie Catholic school (1898-1974). Buildings incorporated into Kakawis Healing Centre. Body storage room reported in basement, adjacent to burial grounds south of school.

    11. Kamloops : Catholic school (1890-1978). Buildings intact. Mass grave south of school, adjacent to and amidst orchard. Numerous burials witnessed there.

    12. Lytton: St. George’s Anglican school (1901-1979). Graves of students flogged to death, and others, reported under floorboards and next to playground.

    13. Fraser Lake : Lejac Catholic school (1910-1976), buildings destroyed. Graves reported under old foundations and between the walls.


    1. Edmonton : United Church school (1919-1960), presently site of the Poundmaker Lodge in St. Albert . Graves of children reported south of former school site, under thick hedge that runs north-south, adjacent to memorial marker.

    2. Edmonton : Charles Camsell Hospital (1945-1967), building intact, experimental hospital run by Indian Affairs and United Church . Mass graves of children from hospital reported south of building, near staff garden.

    3. Saddle Lake : Bluequills Catholic school (1898-1970), building intact, skeletons and skulls observed in basement furnace. Mass grave reported adjacent to school.

    4. Hobbema: Ermineskin Catholic school (1916-1973), five intact skeletons observed in school furnace. Graves under former building foundations.


    1. Brandon : Methodist-United Church school (1895-1972). Building intact. Burials reported west of school building.

    2. Portage La Prairie: Presbyterian-United Church school (1895-1950). Children buried at nearby Hillside Cemetery .

    3. Norway House: Methodist-United Church school (1900-1974). “Very old” grave site next to former school building, demolished by United Church in 2004.


    1. Thunder Bay : Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital , still in operation. Experimental centre. Women and children reported buried adjacent to hospital grounds.

    2. Sioux Lookout: Pelican Lake Catholic school (1911-1973). Burials of children in mound near to school.

    3. Kenora: Cecilia Jeffrey school, Presbyterian-United Church (1900-1966). Large burial mound east of former school.

    4. Fort Albany : St. Anne’s Catholic school (1936-1964). Children killed in electric chair buried next to school.

    5. Spanish: Catholic school (1883-1965). Numerous graves.

    6. Brantford : Mohawk Institute, Anglican church (1850-1969), building intact. Series of graves in orchard behind school building, under rows of trees.

    7. Sault Ste. Marie: Shingwauk Anglican school (1873-1969), some intact buildings. Several graves of children reported on grounds of old school.


    1. Montreal : Allan Memorial Institute, McGill University , still in operation since opening in 1940. MKULTRA experimental centre. Mass grave of children killed there north of building, on southern slopes of Mount Royal behind stone wall.


    - Eyewitness accounts from survivors of these institutions, catalogued in Hidden from History: The Canadian Holocaust (2nd ed., 2005) by Kevin Annett. Other accounts are from local residents. See www.hiddenfromhistory.org .

    - Documents and other material from the Department of Indian Affairs RG 10 microfilm series on Indian Residential Schools in Koerner Library, University of B.C.

    - Survey data and physical evidence obtained from grave sites in Port Alberni , Mission , and other locations.

    This is a partial list and does not include all of the grave sites connected to Indian residential Schools and hospitals across Canada. In many cases, children who were dying of diseases were sent home to die by school and church officials, and the remains of other children who died at the school were incinerated in the residential school furnaces.

    This information is submitted by The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD) to the world media, the United Nations, and to the International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada (IHRTGC). The IHRTGC will commence its investigations on April 15, 2008 on Squamish Nation territory.

    For more information on the independent inquiry into genocide in Canada being conducted by the IHRTGC, write to: genocidetribunal@yahoo.ca

    Bush's Torture Quote Undercuts Denial

    Go to Original
    By Jason Leopold

    President George W. Bush’s comment to ABC News – that he approved discussions that his top aides held about harsh interrogation techniques – adds credence to claims from senior FBI agents in Iraq in 2004 that Bush had signed an Executive Order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation and other tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.

    When the American Civil Liberties Union released the FBI e-mail in December 2004 – after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit – the White House emphatically denied that any such presidential Executive Order existed, calling the unnamed FBI official who wrote the e-mail “mistaken.”

    President Bush and his representatives also have denied repeatedly that the administration condones “torture,” although senior administration officials have acknowledged subjecting “high-value” terror suspects to aggressive interrogation techniques, including the “waterboarding” – or simulated drowning – of three al-Qaeda detainees.

    But the emerging public evidence suggests that Bush’s denials about “torture” amount to a semantic argument, with the administration applying a narrow definition that contradicts widely accepted standards contained in international law, including Geneva and other human rights conventions.

    The FBI e-mail – dated May 22, 2004 – followed disclosures about abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and sought guidance on whether FBI agents in Iraq were obligated to report the U.S. military’s harsh interrogation of inmates when that treatment violated FBI standards but fit within the guidelines of a presidential Executive Order.

    According to the e-mail, Bush’s Executive Order authorized interrogators to use military dogs, “stress positions,” sleep “management,” loud music and “sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc.” to extract information from detainees in Iraq.

    The FBI e-mail was put into a new light by news reports last week that senior White House officials – including Vice President Dick Cheney and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice – did meet secretly to discuss specific interrogation methods that could be used against detainees.

    “The most senior Bush administration officials repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al-Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA,” ABC News reported, citing unnamed sources.

    “The high-level discussions about these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed – down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

    “These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al-Qaeda suspects – whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding, sources told ABC News.”

    On Friday, President Bush confirmed the report, stating matter-of-factly: “I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

    ACLU Comment

    Reacting to Bush’s comment, the ACLU called on Congress to demand that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate whether the President and other officials broke federal and international laws, “including the War Crimes Act, the federal Anti-Torture Act, and federal assault laws.”

    "No one in the Executive Branch of government can be trusted to fairly investigate or prosecute any crimes since the head of every relevant department, along with the President and Vice President, either knew or participated in the planning and approval of illegal acts," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.

    "Congress cannot look the other way; it must demand an independent investigation and independent prosecutor. Congress is duty-bound by the Constitution not only to hold the President, Vice President and all civil officers to account, but it must also send a message to future presidents that it will use its constitutional powers to prevent illegal, and immoral conduct."

    Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU’s executive director, said the fact President Bush admitted he approved of high-level meetings so members of his Cabinet could brainstorm about brutal interrogation methods “confirms our worst fears.”

    "We have always known that the CIA’s use of torture was approved from the very top levels of the U.S. government," Romero said. "It is a very sad day when the President of the United States subverts the Constitution, the rule of law, and American values of justice."

    FBI E-Mail

    The May 2004 FBI e-mail stated that the FBI interrogation team in Iraq understood that despite revisions in the Executive Order that occurred after the furor over the Abu Ghraib abuses, the presidential sanctioning of harsh interrogation tactics had not been rescinded.

    "I have been told that all interrogation techniques previously authorized by the Executive Order are still on the table but that certain techniques can only be used if very high-level authority is granted,” the author of the FBI e-mail said.

    “We have also instructed our personnel not to participate in interrogations by military personnel which might include techniques authorized by Executive Order but beyond the bounds of FBI practices.’’

    One month after the e-mail was sent to FBI counterterrorism officials in Washington, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales held a news conference in an attempt to contain the fallout from the Abu Ghraib scandal.

    Gonzales told reporters that the abuses, which included sexual humiliation of Iraqi men, were isolated to some rogue U.S. soldiers who acted on their own and not as result of orders being handed down from high-level officials inside the Bush administration.

    “The President has not directed the use of specific interrogation techniques,” Gonzales said on June 22, 2004. “There has been no presidential determination necessity or self-defense that would allow conduct that constitutes torture.

    “There has been no presidential determination that circumstances warrant the use of torture to protect the mass security of the United States.”

    Prior to the news conference, the White House selectively declassified and released documents to reporters, including one dated Feb. 7, 2002, and signed by President Bush, that cited the Geneva Convention’s rules about humane treatment of prisoners during conflicts.

    Describing the contents of the Feb. 7, 2002, memo, Gonzales said, “This is the only formal, written directive from the President regarding treatment of detainees. The President determined that Geneva does not apply with respect to our conflict with al-Qaeda. Geneva applies with respect to our conflict with the Taliban. Neither the Taliban or al Qaeda are entitled to POW protections.”

    Gonzales added: “But the President also determined – and this is quoting from the actual document, paragraph 3; this is very important – he said, ‘Of course, our values as a nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment. Our nation has been, and will continue to be, a strong supporter of Geneva and its principles. As a matter of policy, the Armed Forces are to treat detainees humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva’.”

    But the FBI e-mail’s reference to an Executive Order describing specific harsh interrogation techniques, allegedly approved by President Bush, appeared to contradict Gonzales’s assertions.

    Yoo’s Memo

    The issue surrounding U.S. interrogation methods and whether they amount to torture resurfaced two weeks ago when the Defense Department released an 81-page document in response to the ACLU’s ongoing FOIA lawsuit.

    John Yoo, then a deputy in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, drafted the document, dated March 14, 2003. It essentially provided military interrogators with legal cover if they resorted to brutal and violent methods to extract information from prisoners.

    "If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al-Qaeda terrorist network," Yoo wrote.

    "In that case, we believe that he could argue that the Executive Branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions."

    The legal opinion for military interrogators was virtually identical to an earlier memo that Yoo had written in August 2002 for CIA interrogators. Widely called the “Torture Memo,” it provided CIA interrogators with the legal authority to use long-outlawed tactics, such as waterboarding, when interrogating so-called high-level terrorist suspects.

    In declaring that the United States does not engage in torture, Bush administration officials appear to be relying on a narrower U.S. definition of torture than that is accepted under international law, such as the 1984 Convention Against Torture that was signed by the Reagan administration in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994.

    “The threshold for torture is lower under international law: acts that do not amount to torture under U.S. law may do so under international law,” wrote Philippe Sands, law professor at University College London, in a column published in the Dec. 9, 2005, edition of The Financial Times.

    “Waterboarding – strapping a detainee to a board and dunking him under water so he believes that he might drown – plainly constitutes torture under international law, even if it may not do so under U.S. law. …

    “When the U.S. joined the 1984 convention it entered an ‘understanding’ on the definition of torture, to the effect that the international definition was to be read as being consistent with the U.S. definition. The administration relies on the ‘understanding.’

    “So, when Ms. Rice says the U.S. does not do torture or render people to countries that practice torture, she does not rely on the international definition. That is wrong: the convention does not allow each country to adopt its own definition, otherwise the convention’s obligations would become meaningless. That is why other governments believe the U.S. ‘understanding’ cannot affect U.S. obligations under the convention.”

    At the June 22, 2004, news conference, Gonzales said the White House defined torture as a “a specific intent to inflict severe physical or mental harm or suffering. That’s the definition that Congress has given us and that’s the definition that we use.”

    However, on March 8, 2008, President Bush vetoed congressional legislation that called for a specific ban on waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques, including stripping prisoners naked, subjecting them to extreme cold and staging mock executions.

    "This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," the president said in a radio address explaining his veto.

    "We created alternative procedures to question the most dangerous al-Qaeda operatives, particularly those who might have knowledge of attacks planned on our homeland." Bush said. "If we were to shut down this program and restrict the CIA to methods in the [Army] field manual, we could lose vital information from senior al-Qaeda terrorists, and that could cost American lives."

    FBI slowed terror investigation by using 'secret letter'

    Go to Original
    By John Byrne

    Documents undermine FBI defense of ’National Security Letters’

    The use of National Security Letters by the Bush Administration has long been controversial -- allowing the Justice Department and the FBI to demand financial and telephone records, e-mails and conduct surveillance without the supervision of a court.

    The FBI says these letters are critical to law enforcement, because it allows the agency to act in a more timely manner with regard to terrorist suspects than waiting for a court-issued warrant.

    But new documents, obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, seem to upend that claim.

    In the investigation of a student suspected of links to terrorism, the FBI delayed its own investigation by employing an improper NSL to seek information on the suspect, at the direction of FBI Headquarters. The FBI failed to report the misuse for almost two years.

    The report comes on the eve of hearings in the House and Senate on the misuse of the letters.

    "This report raises important questions about the FBI’s use of these very powerful investigative tools," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Congress should determine why FBI headquarters insisted on an improper NSL instead of using the appropriate tools, and why the FBI failed to report the misuse for almost two years."

    More from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

    In the report, EFF used documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request coupled with public information to detail the bizarre turns in the FBI’s investigation of a former North Carolina State University student. Over the span of three days in July of 2005, FBI documents show that the bureau first obtained the educational records of the suspect with a grand jury subpoena. However, at the direction of FBI headquarters, agents returned the records and then requested them again through an improper NSL.

    As expanded by the PATRIOT Act, the FBI can use NSLs to get private records about anyone’s domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions without any court approval -- as long as it claims the information could be relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation. However, NSL authority does not allow the government to seek educational records, and the university refused the request. The FBI finally obtained the documents again through a second grand jury subpoena. Later in July of 2005, FBI Director Robert Mueller used the delay in gathering the records as an example of why the FBI needed administrative subpoena power instead of NSLs so investigations could move faster.

    "The FBI consistently asks for more power and less outside supervision," said Opsahl. "Yet here the NSL power was misused at the direction of FBI headquarters, and only after review by FBI lawyers. Oversight and legislative reforms are necessary to ensure that these powerful tools are not abused."

    The EFF report, and the documents referenced, can be found here.