Friday, September 12, 2008

Kennedy introduces new national service bill

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By Andrew Miga

Sen. Edward Kennedy is introducing a major new national service bill aimed at recruiting 175,000 Americans of all ages to tackle national problems such as health care, education, energy and the environment.

It is Kennedy's first major piece of legislation since being diagnosed with a malignant brain turmor in May. The 76-year-old senator has been working from his Hyannis Port, Mass. ,home on the "Serve America Act" with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a longtime friend.

Details of the legislation will be presented Friday at an event in New York City. Kennedy's niece, Caroline Kennedy, and Hatch are expected to attend. Aides said the Massachusetts senator did not plan to be at the event.

"Time and again we've learned that large numbers of Americans are ready, willing, able, and even eager to be involved in service, and that all we have to do is ask them to do so," Kennedy, D-Mass., said in a statement. "The Serve America Act will ask. It will connect every generation through service, and enable them to help tackle a wide range of national challenges, from the dropout crisis that plagues our schools to the lack of health care in our neediest communities to the energy and environmental crises that threatens our planet."

The Kennedy-Hatch bill would expand the number of national service participants to 250,000 and ask that they devote a year to some of the nation's most pressing challenges. The measure also seeks to expand opportunities for people to serve their communities at every stage of life, from students and working adults to retirees. Aging baby-boomers would be among those encouraged to perform community service.

"America faces more challenges today than ever before," Hatch said in a statement. "And new challenges require a new level of commitment. By harnessing the talents and efforts of the American people, faith-based groups and nonprofit organizations, we can empower more people, improve more communities and tackle more of our nation's greatest challenges."

The bill seeks to build on national service efforts begun under past presidents, including former President Kennedy.

Kennedy, who is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, in recent weeks has been laying the groundwork for a renewed push early next year on his signature issue, universal health care. He hopes to capitalize on any momentum that the next president carries into office, particularly if it is Democrat Barack Obama, an ally on health care.

This summer Kennedy has also been working closely with his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., on a mental health parity bill requiring equal health insurance coverage for mental and physical illnesses.

Kennedy was not on Capitol Hill this week as Congress returned from its summer break. He plans to work from his Massachusetts home this fall and return to the Senate in January.

At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Kennedy made a surprise appearance for a speech that drew a rousing response from delegates. He made the appearance despite suffering from a bout of kidney stones. Kennedy has been one of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's strongest supporters.

In July, Kennedy made a surprise visit to the Senate to cast an important Medicare vote.

Gazan students trapped as Israel withholds visas

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By Oakland Ross

Ryerson enrollee among 400 not allowed to travel; Israeli broadcaster refuses ads stating their plight

More than 400 would-be university students remain trapped in the Gaza Strip, unable to leave for studies abroad – including one accepted at Ryerson University – and now the Israel Broadcasting Authority is refusing to accept paid advertisements calling attention to their plight.

"There's a clause in the broadcasting authority's rules that allows them to refuse a paid ad if the issue is `politically or ideologically controversial,'" said Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli organization advocating freedom of movement for Palestinians.

"But it's not a controversial statement to say that everybody, including Gazans, deserves an education."

Gisha (which means "access" or "approach" in Hebrew) has appealed the IBA's decision, and yesterday a committee listened to the group's complaints but did not make a ruling either to uphold or reverse its refusal to accept the ads.

Bashi said a ruling might be announced as early as Sunday. She did not seem optimistic it would go in favour of the Gazan students.

Several of the stranded students intend to enrol in Canadian universities, Bashi said, including at least one who is hoping to study at Ryerson.

Bashi believes Israel's refusal to allow the students to leave is part of a strategy aimed at punishing all Gazans for the acts of a few.

Since the radical Islamist group Hamas took power in Gaza more than a year ago, Israel has sought to isolate the territory and its 1.5 million people, limiting fuel, food, and other supplies while sharply restricting the movement of people in or out of the narrow coastal strip.

Israel's critics decry the policy as a form of "collective punishment" that fails to distinguish armed Palestinian militants from the vast majority of Gaza's residents who are innocent of any wrongdoing.

"There is no allegation that these students have done anything wrong," said Bashi.

This past May, Israel suffered international embarrassment when the U.S. State Department withdrew Fulbright scholarships it had previously granted to seven Gazan students, explaining Israel would not allow them to leave.

The scholarships were later reinstated, and Israel subsequently granted exit visas to a small number of Gazan students bent on study abroad. Previously, there had been what Bashi calls a "blanket ban" on such permits, but the government not long ago clarified its position, saying it would grant exit visas for international study only to Gazans who can show they have been granted a "recognized scholarship."

According to Bashi, this still leaves more than 400 Gaza students in an untenable situation, including Riham Al-Nahhal, the student who hoped to attend Ryerson.

"Israel is preventing the very people it should be encouraging," she said. "Israel is not only denying Palestinian rights. It is also hurting its own interests."

To heighten awareness of the issue among Israelis, Gisha recently prepared a series of three radio spots, in which famous Israelis call on the government to reverse itself and allow the students to leave.

But the IBA – a government body that operates several TV channels as well as seven radio stations – refused to accept the ads, citing a provision in its charter that prohibits the airing of controversial material.

A spokesperson for the broadcasting authority declined yesterday to comment on the dispute.

Meanwhile, Mark Regev, spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister's office, defended the government's denial of exit visas to most of Gaza's prospective international students.

"Students in Gaza who have achieved a position at a university in Western countries – we support that, and we will facilitate their studies," he said. "That is in our interest. We want to see more Palestinians study in Canada, the U.S. and Europe."

But he rejected the position taken by many of Israel's critics who say this country should give a green light to all those in Gaza who have the resources and the desire to study at universities abroad.

"We say no," he said. "That's simply not realistic."

Regev said many such students might end up attending madrassas in Pakistan – where they could become steeped in extremist Islamist thought – or studying chemistry in Iran, acquiring knowledge that could prove useful, for example, in the fabrication of explosives.

"You could have hundreds of Palestinians studying in Tehran tomorrow," he said.

But Bashi insists Israel's policy is dashing the hopes of Gazan youths who pose no security threat.

She gave the example of Azhar Al-Boraey, who wants to earn a master's degree in architectural preservation studies and has been accepted this academic year at a university in Germany. She lost her place at a Chinese institution last year because she was not permitted to leave. Now, Israel is again refusing to let Al-Boraey go, a decision Gisha is appealing to Israel's High Court of Justice.

"There is no allegation she's a security risk," said Bashi. "She's an example of the ridiculousness of this policy."

Bush secret order to send special forces into Pakistan

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By Simon Tisdall

· Fear of escalating regional conflict
· White House seeks British backing

A secret order issued by George Bush giving US special forces carte blanche to mount counter-terrorist operations inside Pakistani territory raised fears last night that escalating conflict was spreading from Afghanistan to Pakistan and could ignite a region-wide war.

The unprecedented executive order, signed by Bush in July after an intense internal administration debate, comes amid western concern that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and its al-Qaida backers based in "safe havens" in western Pakistan's tribal belt is being lost.

Following Bush's decision, US navy Seals commandos, backed by attack helicopters, launched a ground raid into Pakistan last week which the US claimed killed about two dozen insurgents. Pakistani officials condemned the raid as illegal and said most of the dead were civilians. US and Nato commanders are anxious to halt infiltration across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border of insurgents and weapons blamed for casualties among coalition troops. The killing of a US soldier in eastern Afghanistan yesterday brought American losses in 2008 to 112, the deadliest year since the 2001 intervention. The move is regarded as unprecedented in terms of sending troops into a friendly, allied country.

But another American objective is the capture of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader held responsible for organising the 9/11 attacks. He and his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are thought to be hiding in the tribal areas of north and south Waziristan.

Bush's decision to extend the war into Pakistan, and his apparent hope of British backing, formed the background to a video conference call with Gordon Brown yesterday. "What's happening on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan is something where we need to develop a new strategy," Brown said before talking to Bush.

Brown said he would discuss the border issue with Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, who visits Britain next week.

Bush's unusual move in personally calling the prime minister for an Afghan strategy discussion has led to speculation that the US president was trying to line up British support for the new policy, including the possible involvement of British special forces in future cross-border incursions.

Bush's executive order is certain to cause strains with some Nato allies fearful that a spreading conflict could bring down Pakistan's weak civilian government and spark a wider war. Last night there were indications of open disagreement.

James Appathurai, a Nato spokesman, said the alliance did not support cross-border attacks or deeper incursions in to Pakistani territory.

"The Nato policy, that is our mandate, ends at the border. There are no ground or air incursions by Nato forces into Pakistani territory," he said.

Nato has 53,000 troops in Afghanistan, some of which are American. But the US maintains a separate combat force dedicated to battling al-Qaida and counter-terrorism in general. Nato defence ministers are due to discuss Afghanistan in London next week.

Last week's raid, and a subsequent attack on Monday by a Predator drone firing Hellfire missiles, provoked protests across the board in Pakistan, with only Zardari among leading politicians refusing to publicly condemn it.

Pakistan's armed forces chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the army would defend the country's sovereignty "at all costs". He went on: "No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan."

He denied there was any agreement or understanding to the contrary. His comments were widely interpreted as a warning to Zardari not to submit to the American importunity. But his tough words also raised the prospect of clashes between US and Pakistani forces if American military incursions continue or escalate.

Until now, Washington has regarded Pakistan as a staunch ally in the "war on terror" that was launched in 2001. But the alliance has been weakened by last month's forced resignation of the army strongman, former general Pervez Musharraf, and his replacement by Zardari, Benazir Bhutto's widower.

Polls suggest most Pakistanis favour ending all counter-terrorism cooperation with Washington, which is blamed for a rising civilian casualty toll in Afghanistan and in the tribal areas.

Yousaf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, joined the chorus of condemnation yesterday. He reportedly told state media Kayani's warning that unilateral US actions were undermining the fight against Islamist extremism represented the government's position.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, and Robert Gates, defence secretary, told Congress this week that victory in Afghanistan was by no means certain and the US needed to take the fight to the enemy inside Pakistan.

Mullen called for a "more comprehensive strategy" embracing both sides of the border. "Until we work more closely with the Pakistani government to eliminate the safe havens from which they operate, the enemy will only keep coming," he said.

US and Pakistani forces have clashed by accident in the past during operations to root out militants, although sections of the Pakistani military and intelligence services are said to harbour deep resentment about perceived American interference.

The GOP is working to keep eligible African-Americans from voting in several states.

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By Jonathan Alter

It was a mainstay of Jim Crow segregation: for 100 years after the Civil War, Southern white Democrats kept eligible blacks from voting with poll taxes, literacy tests and property requirements. Starting in the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court declared these assaults on the heart of American democracy unconstitutional.

Now, with the help of a 2008 Supreme Court decision, Crawford vs. Marion County (Indiana) Election Board, white Republicans in some areas will keep eligible blacks from voting by requiring driver’s licenses. Not only is this new-fangled discrimination constitutional, it’s spreading.

GOP proponents of the move say they are merely trying to reduce voter fraud. But while occasional efforts to stuff ballot boxes through phony absentee voting still surface, the incidence of individual vote fraud—voting when you aren’t eligible—is virtually non-existent, as "The Truth About Vote Fraud," a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, clearly shows. In other words, the problem Republicans claim they want to combat with increased ID requirements doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, those ID hurdles facing individuals do nothing to stop the organized insiders who still try to game the system.

The motive here is political, not racial. Republicans aren’t bigots like the Jim Crow segregationists. But they know that increased turnout in poor, black neighborhoods is good for Democrats. In that sense, the effort to suppress voting still amounts to the practical equivalent of racism.

In Crawford, the court upheld an Indiana law essentially requiring a passport or driver’s license in order to vote. But more than two thirds of Indiana adults have no passports and nearly 15 percent have no driver’s licenses. These eligible voters, disproportionately African-American, will need to take a bus or catch a ride from a friend down to the motor vehicles bureau to make sure they obtain a nondriver photo ID. Otherwise, they cannot vote in Indiana this year.

To get an idea of how many African-Americans nationwide lack driver’s licenses, recall Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when thousands were stranded without transportation. "Crawford Republicans" could make the old "Jim Crow Democrats" look like pikers when it comes to voter suppression.

Consider Wisconsin, a swing state. Republicans officials there are suing to enforce a "no match, no vote" provision in state regulations, where voters must not only show a photo ID, but establish that it matches the name and number in the Department of Motor Vehicles or Social Security Administration database. (Democrats are resisting the suit.) These lists are riddled with errors in every state, as the Brennan Center has proven in its report, "Restoring the Right to Vote."

How error prone? Florida wrongly purged tens of thousands of law-abiding, mostly Democratic, voters from the rolls in 2000, claiming they were felons. (This, among other things, cost Al Gore the presidency). Even after the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and worldwide attention, the Florida software is still flawed. It requires only an 80 percent match to the name of a convicted felon. "So if there’s a murderous John Peterson, the software disenfranchises everyone named John Peters," Andrew Hacker writes in a recent New York Review of Books.

Voters caught in these snafus can have their rights restored but not if they fail to straighten things out before Election Day. Otherwise they are granted "provisional ballots" that are sometimes counted and sometimes not. Even obtaining a provisional ballot can require an appearance in front of a judge in some states. Faced with the hassle, most voters just give up.

The ability of actual felons to get their right to vote back varies by state. It’s especially hard for felons to vote in Virginia; a bit easier in Pennsylvania and Michigan. (Other countries are far more generous to ex-convicts, figuring that having paid their debt to society they should be allowed to vote again.)

All of this would seem to favor John McCain over Barack Obama this year, but some voting-rights trends are pointing in the opposite direction.

In Ohio, where the governor and secretary of state changed in 2006 from Republican to Democrat, a new law allows voters to register to vote and fill out an absentee ballot at the same time between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6. This will mean a week of furious campaigning and early voting in a key state.

Advantage Obama. With 470,000 students enrolled in Ohio’s public colleges and universities (and nine out of 10 are Ohio residents), expect a bumper crop of young voters.

The combination of voter suppression and early voting make turnout predictions perilous. And without knowing turnout, most polling is deeply flawed.

So about the only thing we know for sure this year is that with the Crawford decision we are seeing a return to the days when one political party saw a huge advantage in preventing as many poor people as possible from voting. That’s understandable politically, but also un-American.

Congress Asks: Who Misled the Anthrax Investigation by Pointing at Iraq?

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By Bill Simpich

On September 16, the House Judiciary Committee will hold oversight hearings to review the FBI’s role in investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks, followed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on the 17th. (Glenn Greenwald, August 20 interview with Charles Grassley).

Chairmen Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman John Conyers have asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to attend. Conyers has specifically asked Mueller to address whether White House officials initially pressed the FBI to show the attacks were linked to Iraq, why Steven Hatfill was a key suspect in the investigation and why Bruce Ivins kept his security clearance for so many years.

If these committees hope to uncover the truth, they have to order several journalists and scientists to provide the basis for their claims that Iraq was a prime suspect in these attacks. No shield law protects journalists or their sources who plant phony evidence in a terror investigation.

Journalist Gary Matsumoto, other journalists and their sources have repeatedly provided false information about the contents of the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks. These sources claimed the anthrax was milled, that it was coated and that it had additives. Any of these telltale factors would be critical evidence that would indicate the need of several specialists working as a team - hence, "state sponsorship" and possible Iraqi involvement. Every one of these claims was wrong, but played a key role in leading the US into war. Later, these same claims were used to justify the war.

The FBI resisted the pressure to focus on Iraq - it had sole custody of the evidence and quickly knew that these sources had it wrong. After genetic analysis showed the anthrax was derived from the Ames strain used in the US military biodefense program, the FBI released a profile on November 9, 2001, indicating a domestic terrorist was responsible. The early finding of one trillion spores per gram was compelling proof that the anthrax came from the US program - no other country can attain anything near that level of purity. (William Broad, New York Times, Terror Anthrax Linked to Type Made By U.S., 12/13/01,

In November 2002, during the build-up to war with Iraq, FBI counterterrorism chief Tom Carey told ABC "the information that came out there that led weapons inspectors and others to suspect the Iraq connection was wrong information." Just three weeks ago, the FBI confirmed their anthrax findings in a transcribed scientific briefing.

Despite the FBI’s knowledge of this misinformation, it appears that professor Barbara Hatch Rosenberg’s sources succeeded in misleading the FBI into a four-year wild goose chase - looking at virologist Stephen Hatfill - until a new team of agents was appointed to re-examine the evidence in 2006.

Did the FBI Investigate Those Who Were Misleading the Investigation?

Did the FBI try to determine who planted phony evidence designed to finger Iraq as the state sponsor of the anthrax attacks? From 2001 to the present, this investigation has been surrounded with misleading claims about the nature of the anthrax. The initial goal was to push the US into a war with Iraq. Then, the goal became to justify the US occupation.

The FBI knew this case was being used by the Bush administration for political gain. Terry Turchie, a chief of the FBI’s counterterrorism division in the 1990s, has spoken candidly on this subject:

In hindsight, it’s easy to see what was going on. The president wanted to invade Iraq. The first attempt to find justification was anthrax. It didn’t work. The next attempt involved developing the "relationship" between al-Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence. It didn’t work. Finally, Saddam Hussein possessed and was preparing to use against the United States weapons of mass destruction. It held the day.

Turchie adds, "When one person with integrity (Joseph Wilson) tried to influence the outcome by drawing a different conclusion for the Bush administration, his wife’s identity as a CIA employee was leaked to the media." (Simon Barrett, "The WSJ and ABC Blow Hot (Anthrax Laced) Air Over Hatfill and the FBI," 7/1/08.

After Judith Miller of The New York Times used that leak, she spent several months in jail until she admitted that Scooter Libby repeatedly talked to her about Valerie Plame, a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) expert, before Robert Novak’s column publicly identified Plame as a covert CIA operative.

The "Iraq-Did-It" Lobby of Matsumoto, Ross, Jacobsen and Spertzel Beat the Drums of War

During the height of the terror surrounding the attacks, Gary Matsumoto (with the aid of Brian Ross of ABC News and others) claimed the anthrax contained bentonite, an aluminum-based clay that is a trademark of the Iraqi anthrax weapons arsenal.

Although the bentonite story quickly collapsed, Matsumoto has been joined over the years by certain ideologically driven right-wing scientists who support the "Iraq-Did-It" theory. His primary sources, who are not anonymous, are Stuart Jacobsen, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) research chemist and Free Republic blogger (see his "Technical Intelligence" article on the anthrax attacks), and Richard Spertzel, an ex-Iraq WMD inspector, who is a virulent right-winger and a favorite source of The Wall Street Journal. (See Spertzel’s August 5 Wall Street Journal editorial, which states, "Ivins is innocent - look at state sponsored terrorism."). Spertzel’s editorial didn’t include any hint of his comment in a letter he wrote last year: "I have believed all along that Iraqi intelligence had their dirty hands on this event." Spertzel was the weapons inspector, who FBI counterterrorism chief Tom Carey said was working with "misinformation."

Matsumoto, Jacobsen and Spertzel have been the public face of the stories over the years, claiming that 1) the anthrax was finely milled, 2) that it had a coating, with 3) an additive - silica, polyglass, or (in Matsumoto’s case) bentonite. If any of these three claims were true, it would point to a state sponsor such as Iraq. The committee needs to call these men as witnesses and ask, "Are you the source of these lies, or who is feeding you these lies?"

The FBI had sole custody of all the evidence, and has known the nature of the anthrax all along: It was not milled. It had no coating. It contained no additive - no silica, polyglass or bentonite. These factors are why the key suspects were those with access to the anthrax at Fort Detrick, rather than Iraq. This case took seven years to reach this point because of these lies.

The Initial Suspect, Steven Hatfill, Was Singled Out by the FBI Precisely Because of His Role in the "Iraq-Did-It" Lobby

Dr. Stephen Hatfill, a virologist and lecturer on the medical effects of biological agents, hated the FBI’s theory of domestic origin. In the first months of the investigation, he offered to serve as a consultant to ABC’s Brian Ross, telling him and his staff they were "wasting their time looking at American scientists" and boasting "he could prove" that "Saddam Hussein and Iraq" were behind the attacks. (Ross Deposition in the Hatfill case, 3/23/06)

Hatfill’s belief that "Iraq did it" was central to the belief of many in the FBI that Hatfill was the prime suspect. One FBI agent testified that for several years Hatfill was "one spore away from indictment." Again, all the evidence in the FBI’s hands pointed to US origin, not Iraqi origin. There was a long chain of corroborating evidence based on Hatfill’s unique expertise in working with anthrax.

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a professor affiliated with the Federation of American Scientists, talked to Ross about Hatfill’s reputation. Hatfill worked with a white supremacist group in South Africa known as the "Selous Scouts," who allegedly had used anthrax against a black tribe in the 1978 to 1980 period. Hatfill claimed to have a PhD from Rhodes University, which was later found to be false, and he forged signatures to support that claim. Judge Claude Hilton, in a recent court ruling, described how Hatfill gave classified lectures to the CIA on bioweapons production and once delivered a lecture on how to weaponize anthrax . Although the Justice Department (DOJ) has now exonerated Hatfill of any role in the anthrax case, Hatfill is no choir boy.

Who Convinced Barbara Hatch Rosenberg That Hatfill Was the Prime Suspect?

In December 2001, Rosenberg wrote a memo stating that she believed "the perpetrator is an American microbiologist who has access to recently-weaponized anthrax or to the expertise or materials for making it." The recently deceased Bruce Ivins, who only recently became the FBI’s chief suspect, was a microbiologist who had such access at Fort Detrick. There is solid evidence Ivins had stalked members of a certain sorority since college days and had harbored homicidal tendencies for a number of years. The FBI should have at least carefully scrutinized Ivins throughout their investigation. But that didn’t happen - in fact, Ivins himself analyzed the Daschle anthrax and came to the scene of one of the Hatfill searches.

In February 2002, Rosenberg wrote a second memo, changing the description of her prime suspect to "an insider in US biodefense, doctoral degree in a relevant branch of biology [Hatfill was a virologist] ... experienced and skilled in working with hazardous pathogens, including anthrax, and avoiding contamination, works for a CIA contractor in Washington, DC area."

The FBI obtained its first search warrant of Hatfill’s property in June 2002, commencing a futile four-year wild goose chase. Hatfill proceeded to subpoena virtually every reporter involved in the case and obtained orders that forced them to reveal sources - with Matsumoto as a glaring exception. Matsumoto interviewed Hatfill just a few days before he wrote a major anthrax article for The Washington Post during October 2002, and promised to go to jail before revealing Hatfill was a source. (Hatfill v. Ashcroft, Docket 235-4, Exhibit 38)

So another big question is: Who got to Barbara Hatch Rosenberg between December 2001 and February 2002? As a personal adviser to President Clinton on bioweapons in 1998, she was a mighty force in keeping the heat on the FBI to quickly find a domestic culprit. She has indicated willingness to correspond by email, and queries have been posed to her. In our email exchange to date, she said she "learned more," but "she can’t discuss her discussions with Brian Ross." The answers might be a key factor in solving this case.

We do know that one of her sources appears to have been Gary Matsumoto. Rosenberg writes that a "reporter who writes on the anthrax vaccine" unsuccessfully tried to convince her in late 2001 that "four labs have told him that under the electron microscope the sample looks just like material obtained by UNSCOM in Iraq." Are these "four labs" related to the "four former and present Fort Detrick scientists" that Brian Ross claimed as his bentonite source?

The most well-known reporter on the dangers of the anthrax vaccine was Matsumoto. His 2004 book, "Vaccine-A: The Covert Government Experiment That’s Killing Our Soldiers," accuses Dr. Bruce Ivins as the inventor of an experimental anthrax vaccine that Matsumoto claims caused the spread of Gulf War Syndrome throughout the US armed forces from 1991 to the present. The DOJ’s theory of the case is that "by launching these attacks, [Ivins] creates a situation, a scenario, where people all of a sudden realize the need to have this vaccine," and that Ivins mailed the anthrax to justify the need for an effective anthrax vaccine. (Eric Lipton, The New York Times, August 9, 2008)

The only reporter mentioned in the FBI’s search warrant affidavits for Bruce Ivins is Matsumoto. The warrant states that Matsumoto filed Freedom of Information Act requests just three weeks before 9/11, demanding that Ivins provide numerous notebooks regarding his vaccine research. Ivins’s response was, "We’ve got better things to do than shine his shoes and pee on command." Matsumoto subsequently complained in his book that Ivins refused to give him an interview.

After 9/11, a Disinformation Campaign Tried to Blame the Anthrax Attacks on Iraq

After 9/11 and the ensuing anthrax attacks, the focus of Matsumoto and certain media colleagues turned to a peculiar kind of terrorist - one who warned his potential victims and tried to limit the loss of life.

One week after the 9/11 attacks, the first wave of anthrax letters were sent to the media. Notes inside said, "This is anthrax. Take Penacilin [sic]." That sure didn’t sound like al-Qaeda. Some of the envelopes’ seams were even taped, to keep the anthrax spores inside. The perpetrator became known in some circles as the "bioevangelist."

Experts suggested the perpetrator’s plan may have been to give a shot in the arm to the vaccine industry. With a handful of Fort Detrick scientists at the center of the FBI’s list of approximately 20 to 50 suspects, there was the potential for a quick break in the case.

Meanwhile, Democratic majority leader Tom Daschle and Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy were two of the main opponents of President Bush’s attempt to get the PATRIOT bill passed despite its numerous threats to fundamental civil rights. Bush was insisting that he wanted the bill passed "in 24 hours."

On October 12, New York Times reporter Judith Miller opened an envelope, only to find white powder on her face, sweater and hands. She was wrapping up a book on bioterror, later released as "Germs." She thought that the odds were high that it was a copycat crime, but admits "her calm evaporated" when she found out that NBC had a confirmed report of anthrax earlier that day.

ABC also took a hit with the real anthrax - one of its staffers wound up in the hospital. So did CBS, The New York Post, and The National Enquirer. One reporter died.

Then, on October 15, one of the staffers of Democrat majority leader Tom Daschle opened an envelope filled with anthrax. Leahy’s envelope did not reach him or his staff, due to a quarantine placed on the Senate mail. Twenty-eight Daschle staffers went to the hospital. The Hart Senate Office Building was shut down, causing the biggest exodus from Congress since the War of 1812. Panic ensued in Washington, DC, and throughout the country. The PATRIOT Act zipped through Congress and became law in less than two weeks.

The next day, October 16, Gary Matsumoto, of ABC, floated a trial balloon, musing what would happen if it appeared the anthrax was made in Iraq, based on aluminum-tainted clay - commonly known as bentonite - as the telltale sign of Iraqi manufacture.

On October 17, Judith Miller co-wrote a news analysis citing government sources reporting that the anthrax was "finely milled so that it would float a considerable distance" and would be easier to reach a victim’s lungs - one of the aforementioned three telltale signs of state sponsorship pointing to Iraq. (She reversed her position in an article two months later.)

On October 18, ex-CIA chief James Woolsey wrote a feature for The Wall Street Journal that noted the "professionally prepared" anthrax and compared Bush’s decision about war on Iraq with whether Churchill should have kept fighting Hitler when things looked tough during World War II.

On October 21, Spertzel was featured on "Face the Nation," charging that the anthrax "most likely" came "from some other country" and calling for an attack on Iraq. Following Spertzel, Washington Post foreign correspondent Jim Hoagland went so far as to say that even though the evidence of Iraqi involvement might not yet exist, it "should bring home to us the danger of having a regime in place" that might be motivated to attack the US.

On October 24, two Fort Detrick scientists were stunned to find what they mistakenly believed to be "probably" an additive of silica in the Daschle anthrax sample, in a pattern that suggested Iraqi manufacture. When they reported their finding to the White House, the White House considered a declaration of war on Iraq on the spot. (Richard Preston, "Demon in the Freezer")

On October 26, in this tense atmosphere, Matsumoto, Brian Ross, and two other ABC reporters put together a groundbreaking story alleging that bentonite was contained in the Daschle anthrax. According to Ross, this story was based on four unnamed "former and present scientists" at Fort Detrick, and their information had led Ross to believe the bentonite was a "brown substance" inside the anthrax. A similar story about a "brown ring" around the spores was reported by Amanda Ripley of Time Magazine.

The Iraqi-bentonite story was repeatedly hurtled into the media stratosphere for the next 72 hours, until Fort Detrick’s Maj. Gen. John S. Parker announced that bentonite could be ruled out. "If I can’t find aluminum, I can’t say it’s bentonite." (US State Department briefing, 10/29/01)

Matsumoto countered with a final ABC story of November 1, suggesting there might be such a thing as "aluminum-free bentonite," so "mineralogists suggest the matter of the bentonite may not be closed."

On the anniversaries of the anthrax attacks in 2002 and 2003, Matsumoto amplified his story about the anthrax’s probable Iraqi origin, focusing on the "coating of silica" and the presence of polyglass. He repeatedly referred to his favorite sources, Jacobsen and Spertzel, as well as unidentified sources. As mentioned above, he interviewed Hatfill just a few days before The Post article, but it is not known if he cited Hatfill in the article.

Daschle and Leahy were deeply shaken by Matsumoto’s 2002 Washington Post story, and asked for an immediate briefing by the head of the FBI Investigation (Hatfill Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Vol. 11, Ex. 131). This recurring anthrax story aided the Bush administration’s public relations campaign to convince Americans that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Did the FBI investigate the sources of Matsumoto’s yarns of silica and polyglass? Two of them were the aforementioned right-wing scientists Jacobsen and Spretzel. Have these three men been making up these stories, or have they been set up to play the fool?

Did the FBI investigate the source of Miller’s report that the anthrax was "finely milled"?

Did the FBI investigate the bentonite story, which could have caused an immediate war?

The FBI went so far as to have one of their hazardous materials specialists, who was at the crime scene, publish an article in a scientific journal in 2006 that singled out Matsumoto’s articles as the reason for the confusion as to the state of the evidence ("no milling, no coating, no additives").

Politically-Motivated Leaks Continue to Disrupt the Investigation and Justify the War

In the wake of Ivins’s death, knowing that the FBI had custody of the evidence and was under close scrutiny, Matsumoto claimed that the agency had failed to "connect the dots" and falsely said that Hatfill "had not worked with anthrax at all." (Time Magazine, 8/15/08; "As It Happens," audio interview, 8/1/08,) But Matsumoto pointedly refrained from returning to his earlier arguments regarding the presence of "coatings of silica" and polyglass, realizing this would go nowhere.

Apparently, Matsumoto’s colleagues Spertzel and Jacobsen have not got the word. Spertzel wrote an editorial in the August 5 Wall Street Journal that continues to claim "the spores were coated with a polyglass" that bound silica to each particle, based on a supposed FBI leak. Similarly, Jacobsen continues to write articles blaming Iraq for the anthrax attacks based on this phony evidence.

The FBI is not immune to stories about leaks, in the face of pressure to solve the case. Both the FBI and the DOJ were forced to admit to dozens of leaks in the Hatfill case. Leakers included case agents, public information officers and even the US attorney himself. These leaks caused Director Mueller to issue an order saying that the investigation would be compartmentalized, with many of the case agents not allowed to talk to each other.

Between this compartmentalization caused by leaks and the misinformation created by reporters who say they relied on "leaks," is it any wonder it took seven years to start cracking the case? In 2004, tests pointed to Fort Detrick as the source of the spores. But the match between Ivins’s flask and the Daschle anthrax was not made until two years ago, with a new FBI investigative team re-examining all the evidence in the case. It turned out that the FBI had obtained the key flask sample that was critical in moving the case forward from Ivins back in early 2002.

Rosenberg and Judith Miller should be asked to come forward with their full stories about what they know. The Judiciary Committee has the power to call Matsumoto, Ross, Spertzel and Jacobsen and force them to either tell the truth or go to jail for refusing to provide the malevolent sources that led the US toward war.

Rule Changes Would Give FBI Agents Extensive New Powers

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By Carrie Johnson

The Justice Department will unveil changes to FBI ground rules today that would put much more power into the hands of line agents pursuing leads on national security, foreign intelligence and even ordinary criminal cases.

The overhaul, the most substantial revision to FBI operating instructions in years, also would ease some reporting requirements between agents, their supervisors and federal prosecutors in what authorities call a critical effort to improve information gathering and detect terrorist threats.

The changes would give the FBI's more than 12,000 agents the ability at a much earlier stage to conduct physical surveillance, solicit informants and interview friends of people they are investigating without the approval of a bureau supervisor. Such techniques are currently available only after FBI agents have opened an investigation and developed a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or that a threat to national security is developing.

Authorities say the changes would eliminate confusion for agents who investigate drug, gang or national security cases.

The overhaul touches on several sensitive areas. It would allow, for example, agents to interview people in the United States about foreign intelligence cases without warrants or prior approval of their supervisors. It also would rewrite 1976 guidelines established after Nixon-era abuses that restrict the FBI's authority to intervene in times of civil disorder and to infiltrate opposition groups.

"We wanted simpler, clearer and more uniform standards and procedures for domestic operations," said a senior Justice Department official. "We view this as the next step in responding to post-9/11 requests that the FBI become better at collecting intelligence and using that intelligence to prevent attacks."

The move comes a year after the Justice Department's inspector general documented widespread lapses involving one of the bureau's most potent investigative tools, secret "national security letters" that FBI agents send to banks and phone companies to demand sensitive information in terrorism probes.

The revisions are the latest in a series of efforts to tear down a wall that, prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, prevented intelligence investigators from sharing some information with their counterparts working on criminal cases. Senior Justice Department and FBI lawyers who discussed the proposal yesterday said such powers are necessary to continue the transformation of the FBI into a proactive organization that can prevent terrorist strikes, as recommended by several independent commissions that addressed intelligence failures after the attacks.

The rule revisions require the approval of Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, who has signaled that they will take effect Oct. 1. FBI agents already are being trained on the changes, though officials said yesterday that they would consider making adjustments after receiving suggestions from interest groups and lawmakers.

Congressional aides examined the draft guidelines behind closed doors last month and FBI and Justice lawyers will present them today to an array of civil liberties and privacy advocates, as well as Arab American groups that have expressed concerns about their impact on religious and ethnic minorities.

The groups say they fear that agents will use ethnicity or religion as the basis for a threat assessment. But top Justice Department leaders, including the attorney general, noted the illegality of racial profiling and said investigations will not be opened based "solely" or "simply" on a person's race or religion.

Previous changes to FBI operating instructions, made by Attorney General John D. Ashcroft in 2002 and 2003, did not receive a public airing before they took effect. Still, civil liberties advocates are asking whether protections built into the rules will be strong enough.

"It is an extraordinarily broad grant of power to an agency that has not proven it uses its power in an appropriate manner," said Michael German, policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The revised rules largely eliminate the requirement that FBI agents file reports to their supervisors on early-stage investigations, in favor of audits at bureau field offices by lawyers in the Justice Department's National Security Division.

Threat assessments and early-stage investigations that cover political, religious or media figures and full-scale investigations of people in the United States, however, are special cases that must be flagged for bureau supervisors and lawyers, according to both current standards and the proposed changes.

Monitoring conversations between informants who agree to wear recording devices and subjects of investigations, which now requires the permission of an assistant U.S. attorney, could occur without a prosecutor's approval, except in sensitive cases involving state and federal officials and judges, as well as federal prisoners.

One of the areas still under discussion, according to a senior Justice Department official, is the standard for the FBI's rare involvement in responding to civil disorder. Under the current standards, FBI involvement requires the approval of the attorney general and can last for only 30 days.

The new approach would relax some of those requirements and would expand the investigative techniques that agents could use to include deploying informants. FBI agents monitoring large-scale demonstrations that they believe could turn dangerous also would have new power to use those techniques.

Policy guidance for FBI agents and informants who work as "undisclosed participants" in organizations is still being written, the officials said yesterday.

Sarah Palin is a Disaster in Waiting

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By Joan Burnie

I AM going to burn in Hell. Well, I suppose it's one way of keeping warm this winter.

This is what will happen to me because of my words last week on Sarah Palin, the Republican's candidate for vice-president.

According to my critics, I only had a go at Palin because she's a Christian. No, I had a go at the woman because she is potentially more destructive than the Large Hadron Collider.

I'll leave the CERN boffins, when they've finished playing with their new expensive toy in Switzerland, to argue with her over whether God did or didn't make the world in six days.

The problem is that with Sarah in charge, it could be unmade in six minutes flat. For, should the elderly Senator McCain become president, Palin is a heart beat away from the nuclear button.

All the rest, from the lies she's told, such as maintaining she was against a ruinously expensive bridge in Alaska when in fact she campaigned for it, to her views on sex education, which have resulted in her state now having the highest rate of chlamydia in the country, aren't our problem.

That is the US's business. Let them deal with it. Except, America also treats the rest of the world as its backyard in which it can - and does - interfere at will.

That is why Sarah Palin, with her rigid belief that God and the gun can solve everything, scares the lipstick off me.

Meanwhile, Obama and Co seem paralysed, unable to attack her, lest they be accused of sexism and being nasty to a girlie.

Furthermore, there are some dames, not all of them hard-line Republicans or even Americans, who think Palin should be supported simply because she's a woman. That, my deluded loves, IS sexism.

US a Step Closer to Iran Blockade

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By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

The United States government has imposed new sanctions on Iran, this time targeting its shipping industry, by blacklisting the main shipping line and 18 subsidiaries, accusing the maritime carrier of being engaged in contraband nuclear material, a charge vehemently denied by Iran.

While the economic impact of the measures against Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) will be minimal in light of the near absence of any connection between the shipping company and US businesses, this latest US initiative against Iran sends a strong signal about the US's intention to escalate pressure on Iran, even unilaterally if need be. And, perhaps, it is a prelude for more serious and dangerous actions in the near future, above all a naval blockade of Iran to choke off its access to, among other things, imported fuel.

The outgoing George W Bush administration is slowly but surely taking strident actions that will effectively tie the hands of the next US president, particularly if that happens to be Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama, who in the past has expressed an interest in direct dialogue with Tehran.

Should the new sanctions prove as catalysts for more aggressive US actions against Iran in international waters or the Persian Gulf, as called for by some members of US Congress seeking the interdiction of Iranian cargo ships, then by the time Bush's successor takes over at the Oval Office next January, the climate in US-Iran hostility may have degenerated to such depths that it would take a monumental effort to undo what appears to be Bush's last hurrah.

On the other hand, on the eve of US presidential elections in November, more tensions between the US and Iran are tantamount to greater prioritization of national security issues by the average American voter, something that benefits Obama's Republican rival, "bomb, bomb Iran" John McCain.

Indeed, the coupling of crisis in Georgia and the Iran crisis represents a major bonus for McCain and his "get tough" approach toward the US's external foes.

According to American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who has done several reports on US covert actions against Iran, Bush has on more than one occasion vowed not to leave the White House with Iran's nuclear program still intact.

With the new tensions with Russia over Georgia lessening the prospects for fresh "multilateral" Iran diplomacy at the United Nations this autumn, the White House has now begun a new chapter in coercive, unilateral action against Iran that may well be part of a comprehensive "package approach". This could include the interdiction of Iranian ships on the high seas and even incremental steps toward imposing a regime of "smart blockade" aimed at denying Iran access to badly needed imported fuel.

The purpose of the latter would be to in effect target the Iranian population by applying tangible pain that could dissipate the popular support for the government's nuclear policy, that is, its insistence that it has the right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium. Doubtless, this is playing with fire and things could get nasty and rather quickly, spiralling out of control in the event of a stern Iranian reaction.

As far as Washington and Tel Aviv are concerned, their efforts to create a wedge between Iran and Syria is paying off, thanks in part to the tireless efforts of France, and Israeli politicians have made no secret of their hope that their negotiations with Damascus will create a timely dividend in the form of breathing cold air into the hitherto hot furnace of the Iran-Syria alliance.

In Iran murmurings of "weak and reactive diplomacy" can already be heard, thus putting the President Mahmud Ahmadinejad administration on the defensive.

Consequently, Washington hawks increasingly smell a late opportunity to defang Iran. They will surely have made their own threat analysis and estimates of risks. Should their calculations prove incorrect, it could prove disastrous with incalculable, monstrous new headaches for the US government for years to come.

For Iran's part, a spokesperson for IRISL has denounced the US's measure as "illegal" and based on "false accusations", promising to complain to international tribunals. IRISL is, in fact, a stock-owned private company and not government owned, and the US's action may be in violation of the terms and ambit of UN sanctions imposed by the Security Council on Iran over its nuclear program. For instance, these sanctions exempt the Bushehr power plant in Iran, thus allowing the shipment of nuclear material for the Russian-made plant nearing completion.

This means that the US might seek to seize Russian nuclear goods bound for Iran, thus raising the ire of Moscow and using this as a payback for Russia's offensive in pro-West Georgia. Alternatively, the US could use the threat of such action as leverage with regard to both Tehran and Moscow. Russia, from Washington's point of view, needs to be brought into line on Iran.

Again, any such action by the US is bound to have both intended and unintended consequences, and it would be foolhardy for Washington hawks to pretend to know the full scope of the ramifications, which could be dramatic in terms of heating up a new cold war and outright militarizing the Iran nuclear crisis.

Tehran does not appear to welcome any new escalation with the US. A deputy foreign minister, Mehdi Safari, announced Iran's preparedness to engage in good-faith negotiations with the "Iran Six" nations (the UN Security Council's permanent five - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - plus Germany).

Ahmadinejad is due in New York in less than two weeks to attend the annual UN General Assembly gathering, and by all indications the US and Israel are deliberately picking up serious momentum in their anti-Ahmadinejad campaign, thus warranting a letter by Iran's ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee, complaining of blatant threats against Iran's president by Israeli politicians - they even said they would kidnap him.

In conclusion, as tough new decisions on Iran are being plotted in Washington and Tel Aviv, the fate of peace and stability in the volatile oil region of the Persian Gulf seems once again on the verge of being compromised in the drive towards open confrontation with Iran.

Leaked Draft Agreement Calls for Indefinite Iraq Occupation

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By Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman: President Bush announced Tuesday he would withdraw 8,000 troops from Iraq by February. He also called for a, quote, "quiet surge" in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The President outlined his plan in a speech at the Naval War College.

President George W. Bush: [General Petraeus has] just completed a review of the situation in Iraq, and he and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended that we move forward with additional force reductions. And I agree. Over the next several months, we will bring home about 3,400 combat support forces, including aviation personnel, explosive ordinance teams, combat and construction engineers, military police and logistical support forces. By November, we’ll bring home a Marine battalion that is now serving in Anbar province. And in February of 2009, another Army combat brigade will come home. This amounts to about 8,000 additional American troops returning home without replacement.

AG: Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, criticized President Bush for keeping troop levels in Iraq largely unchanged. Speaking in Ohio on Tuesday, Obama said, "In the absence of the timetable to remove our combat brigades we will continue to give Iraq’s leaders a blank check instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences."

But neither Senator Obama nor President Bush made reference to a recently leaked draft of an Iraqi-U.S. agreement that outlines the long-term status of U.S. forces in Iraq. Iraqi blogger and political analyst Raed Jarrar has read and translated the leaked document. He says the agreement doesn’t set a deadline for the withdrawal of non-combat U.S. troops in Iraq. He joins us also from Washington, D.C.

Welcome, Raed. Talk about what you have found, what this leaked document says that you’ve translated.

Raed Jarrar: Well, it’s a long document. It has twenty-seven articles. And most of them are outrageous. They give the U.S. unprecedented authorities and rights and immunities. Maybe a major point that is related to this discussion is the fact that the agreement legitimizes or legalizes these long-term bases, that indefinite number of U.S. troops will stay there.

Now, this is a huge issue that is not being discussed in the U.S. enough. We usually get stuck in discussing troops level, how many troops are the U.S. going to keep in Iraq, or what’s the mission of these troops. But from an Iraqi point of view, the majority of Iraqis and the majority of Iraqi parliamentarians and other representatives of the Iraqi community are demanding a complete withdrawal that leaves no permanent bases, no troops and no private contractors. And unfortunately, from this side, from the U.S. side, both of the ruling parties and both of the mainstream candidates are planning to leave permanent bases with troops indefinitely.

AG: And what about the Iraqi leadership right now? What are they saying?

RJ: Now, the Iraqi leadership in the executive branch, which is a non-elected branch of the Iraqi government, are allied with the Bush administration. They are using the same terminology of the Bush administration. They’re asking for a withdrawal, a partial withdrawal or withdrawal of what they call "combat troops," without really defining that. And they are OK with leaving permanent bases and U.S. troops in the long run that have immunity inside and outside the bases.

Now, the Iraqi leadership in the other branch of the government, the only elected branch, the parliament, actually is asking for a complete withdrawal. And these calls do reflect -- the calls for a complete withdrawal do reflect what the majority of Iraqis want. More than three-fourths of the Iraqi population are asking the U.S. to leave completely, not leave, you know, half and keep some tens of thousands of troops behind to do some extra missions.

AG: And Barack Obama, does he represent something different, Raed?

RJ: Maybe from a U.S. point of view, there is a difference in rhetoric. But from an Iraqi point of view, I think both the candidates, Obama and McCain, are planning to leave troops in the long run. So from an Iraqi point of view, I don’t think there is a major difference in the U.S. foreign policy in Iraq between the two candidates, because both of them are not for ending the intervention in Iraq. Both of them are for keeping troops in Iraq. They call it residual force; they call it whatever they want to call it. But they want to continue interfering in Iraq militarily and politically in the long run.

And this is something that is completely rejected by Iraqis. Iraqis see the complete U.S. withdrawal as the first step towards their national reconciliation and reconstruction, not the same way that some of the candidates now are trying to use withdrawal as a tool to punish Iraqis or, you know, make sure that Iraqis are not being lazy or sleeping. I mean, it’s not that way. Iraqis are fighting politically and in other ways to end this illegal occupation of their country. And it’s not a gift that -- or not something that we should be bargaining with them. It’s their right to ask to get their country back. And unless they get their country back completely, I don’t think Iraq will become a stable place.

AG: Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has said all U.S. troops should be out by the end of 2011. How does that fit into this picture? And what about the latest deal that has been made between, I think the report was, Shell, the oil company, and the Iraqi government?

RJ: Again, what Nouri al-Maliki is saying is that all U.S. combat troops will leave, but there will be exceptions that will stay in Iraq indefinitely. Now, this view that Mr. al-Maliki is representing in Iraq is completely rejected. Iraqis do not support the idea of half-withdrawal and leaving U.S. troops on the long run. In fact, the full agreement, that can be viewed on my organization’s website now, on, can show you in details how the U.S. will stay on the long run and who gets to decide the troops level and the troop tasks. It’s neither the Iraqi nor the U.S. elected officials.

Now, a good thing that you bring up the issue of the oil deals, because we went through a very similar discussion to what we’re discussing now last year about the oil law. The Bush administration and al-Maliki’s administration tried to pass an oil law, and then the Iraqi legislative branch blocked it, the same way that now they are trying to pass this long-term agreement and the Iraqi parliament is blocking it. And they ended up losing that battle, because the majority of Iraqis and the majority of Iraqi parliamentarians rejected the law … Many people are expecting that the Iraqi parliament will reject this U.S. long-term agreement, and maybe they will end up finding other loopholes to pass it.

Did McCain Tamper With the Drug Enforcement Agency to Protect His Career?

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By Matt Stoller

A whistleblower is coming forth against John and Cindy McCain, and the picture he is painting is not a pretty one. You’ve probably heard about Cindy McCain stealing prescription drugs from her charity in the 1990s. Today, Tom Gosinski, her former employee and once a close friend of the McCains, came out on the record about the entire sordid episode.


And it appears that McCain used his Senate staff and resources to cover up Cindy’s drug use, and potentially to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency from investigating his wife’s theft of illegal prescription drugs. John McCain certainly used his political connections to begin a campaign of intimidation against Gosinski, because at the time -- this was after the Keating 5 scandal -- another major scandal would have derailed his career. Gosinski stayed quiet out of fear until today; a recent fight with cancer has strengthened his resolve. As he told me today, if he can beat cancer, he can go on the record regarding how the McCains do business.

Gosinski was an employee of Cindy McCain who helped her run her charity, the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT), in the early to mid-1990s. At the time Gosinski worked for her, Cindy McCain was addicted to prescription painkillers, taking between 30 and 50 pills a day of Vicodin and/or Percocet. She had doctors writing out prescriptions in other people’s names, including Gosinski’s. When Gosinski found one of the prescription slips, he got angry, and Cindy had him fired. This part of the story is just kind of sad, but not damning; Cindy McCain was a lonely and bored wife who turned to drugs in place of what was a loveless marriage full of fundraisers and, in all likelihood, various infidelities (or so were the rumors Gosinski heard at the time).

Now, it begins to get dangerous and vicious after Gosinksi was fired. At first the McCains said they’d help him find a job, but it became clear to Gosinksi that McCain was using his political connections to blackball him from another job in Republican politics in Arizona. So he sued the McCains for wrongful termination and went to the Drug Enforcement Agency to find out the legal repercussions of having prescriptions for painkillers written in his name. To retaliate, McCain then had his political ally Rick Romley open an extortion investigation against Gosinksi. In the course of that investigation, it was revealed that the DEA was circling around Cindy McCain and her charity. It’s not clear what they were investigating her for, but it is clear she was bringing illegal prescription drugs around the world on a diplomatic passport secured for her by McCain’s Senate office.

McCain’s Senate staff and Senate resources were intimately involved in Cindy’s work with the charity. John McCain procured her a diplomatic passport, which meant that her bags were not searched by customs, and Mark Salter and Torie Clarke were both coordinating with Gosinski on logistics for the trips abroad. Here’s Gosinski on the coordination with McCain’s Senate staff.

Increased Nuclear Energy Demand Boosts Namibia

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By Brigitte Weidlich

The worldwide scramble for energy sources due to dwindling fossil fuel reserves has placed renewed emphasis on nuclear energy as solution for future needs. As a result, Namibia in south-western Africa is experiencing a uranium boom.

With around 3,800 tons of annual production, Namibia is the world’s sixth largest uranium producer. Its delivery of seven percent of world uranium production has led to the country being wooed by big powers that wish to secure supplies for their nuclear energy expansion plans.

Spot prices doubled in 2007, reaching 136 dollars per pound but recently levelling at around 82 dollars a pound.

Currently over 40 foreign companies obtained exclusive prospecting licences (EPLs) from Namibia’s mines and energy ministry (MME). Two uranium mines are operational and 12 more are in the pipeline.

The MME has in the meantime stopped issuing EPLs and will lift the temporary ban only once it has drafted a nuclear policy with the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Once the policy is completed, a law on nuclear energy will follow.

‘‘The interest in uranium is a boost for Namibia’s economy,’’ says Joseph Iitha, MME permanent secretary. ‘‘The increase in local uranium mining enables Namibia to contribute towards resolving the global energy shortage.’’

French nuclear group Areva managed to slip through the ban on EPLs. The company bought local company UraMin and the EPL was part of the deal. Areva plans to invest 750 million dollars to create one of the world's largest uranium mines in Namibia.

‘‘Construction has started and production is planned towards the end of 2009,’’ Iain McPherson, manager of Areva's local subsidiary UraMin, says. UraMin will process 100,000 tonnes of ore per day to extract about six to eight million pounds of uranium per annum.

The mine will have a lifespan of some nine years. The deal caught the Namibian government off-guard. ‘‘Government will undertake measures that this will not happen again,’’ said Prime Minister Nahas Angula after the 2,5 billion dollar deal was announced.

Namibia, rated by US minerals advisors Behre Dolbear Group this year as twelfth among 25 mineral importers to the US, has been pursued by investors since 2007.

China’s premier Hu Jin Tao and Russia’s (former) prime minister Mikhail Fradkov discussed energy matters while Japan and recently India have expressed interest in buying processed uranium – also called yellow cake – from Namibia.

India’s minister of state for commerce, Jairam Ramesh, discussed uranium supply during his visit in April this year. India is restricted from importing uranium from the 45 nuclear supplier group (NSG) countries because it is outside the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Namibia and Niger, along with Uzbekistan, are the three major non-NSG countries producing sizeable amounts of uranium.

Namibia’s oldest uranium producer, Rössing Uranium – in operation since 1976 with around 3,400 tons annually – started exporting an undisclosed amount of uranium to China in 2006, while its remaining exports go to the U.S. (30 percent), Japan (28 percent) and the European Union (13 percent).

Rössing is a subsidiary of British mining giant Rio Tinto and is one of the largest open pit mines in the world. It was doomed to close in 2009 due to low spot prices but the unexpected boost for uranium, which started two years ago, resulted in a turnaround strategy. The mining area has been expanded and the mine’s life span is predicted to last until 2021.

Rio Tinto owns a 68 percent stake in Rössing, the government of Iran 15 percent, South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) 10 percent and the Namibian government has three percent. The latter however holds 51 percent when it comes to voting rights.

A second mine, Langer Heinrich Uranium, a subsidiary of Australian company Paladin Energy, started operations in December 2006 and has produced 348 tons of processed uranium with a target of 1,000 tons for 2008.

Canadian Forsys Metal Corporation was granted Namibia’s third uranium mining licence in August for an open pit mine on the farm Valencia, almost the size of the nearby Rössing mine.

To get at the ore, 122,4 million tons of waste rock have to be moved. The final pit will be 1,400 metres long, 700 metres wide and 360 metres deep.

Forsys Metals entered into a memorandum of understanding with South Korean company Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) as both companies mull possible joint venture arrangements for the future exploration and development of Valencia.

Namibia imports about 50 percent of its electricity from neighbouring South Africa, which experiences dwindling supply against rising energy demands locally and in the southern African region.

Russia has offered to build a nuclear power plant in Namibia as Moscow seeks to break into the African nuclear market. Russia’s nuclear chief Sergey Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s atomic energy agency Rosatom, said last year that Russia was looking to build a floating nuclear power plant for Namibia to secure local electricity demand and for exports to South Africa.

‘‘We are ready to build one,’’ Kiriyenko said when he accompanied Russian natural resources minister Yuri Trutnev to Namibia in February 2007. Russia is pioneering efforts to build offshore nuclear power plants, shrugging off criticism by environmentalists who say they are inherently unsafe.

Already in July 2006, Russian VTB Bank and Namibia’s private company Capricorn Investment Holding set up a joint venture in Namibia. Under the contract, VTB's share in the authorised capital of VTB Capital (Namibia) (PTY) Ltd. will be 50 percent plus two shares.

However, the expanding uranium mining activities in the Namib Desert require huge volumes of water.

The state-owned water corporation NamWater cannot supply sufficient amounts of water and agreed that Areva subsidiary UraMin constructs a 15 million cubic metre per year desalination plant at the coast, which is progressing rapidly.

‘‘We have to respond to the challenges of supplying water in a desert environment and government has decided that all NamWater mining clients, old and new, must be supplied with desalinated water in future. We aim for early 2010,’’ NamWater chief executive Vaino Shivute told local reporters at a recent briefing on the project.

Environmentalists are worried about huge water pipelines soon criss-crossing the scenic Namib Desert. They fear the pace of the uranium boom is detrimental to the area’s ecology.

Environmental non-governmental group Earthlife Namibia called for greater public consultation between government and the public before the MME approves new uranium mines.

‘‘We want the processes of the Areva mine to be transparent and to have no secrecy about their plans and operations,’’ Earthlife Namibia spokesperson Bertchen Kohrs says.

‘‘We do not want to see our government approving new mining licences with the same horrible speed that it did with the Langer-Heinrich mine. They must give the public a fair chance to respond to the findings of the environmental impact assessments (EIA),’’ demands Kohrs.

The MME is about to develop a mining charter which includes a black economic empowerment content. Foreign mining companies will have to give shares to previously disadvantaged Namibians in future, once the charter is finalised.

US bailout of mortgage giants sets stage for wider financial crisis

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By Barry Grey

Since the Bush administration announced on Sunday the US government takeover of mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in the largest corporate bailout in American history, developments have underscored the profound and systemic nature of the crisis that precipitated the action.

A week of wild gyrations on US stock markets, fueled by fears of an impending collapse of the Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers and the country’s largest savings and loan bank, Washington Mutual, demonstrates that the rescue of the government-sponsored mortgage companies is a stop-gap measure that does not begin to resolve the underlying crisis of American capitalism.

On the contrary, the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sets the stage for an intensification of the crisis in the coming months. At heart, the demise of the mortgage firms, which account for 80 percent of new home mortgages in the US and have a combined liability of $5.3 trillion in mortgage-backed securities which they own or guarantee, is a result of the collapse of the colossal credit bubble which sustained the super-profits of US banks and investment firms and the seven- and eight-figure salaries of their top executives.

It is the product of an economic system that has increasingly based itself on speculation and various forms of economic parasitism, while gutting the productive base of the country—at the cost of millions of jobs and the living standards of the American working class.

The decay of American capitalism has produced an economy that is drowning in debt and is dependent on massive inflows of capital from abroad for its survival. Now, the assumption by the government of the debt of the mortgage companies, carried out to protect the financial interests of banks and big investors, has placed a question mark over the solvency of the US government itself.

This threatens a curtailment of the inflow of international capital, a further erosion in the status of the US dollar and a drastic increase in the interest paid by the government to borrow money from its creditors. The US is already by far the world’s biggest debtor nation, with a balance of payments deficit of $800 billion and an economy that is sustained by a yearly inflow of $1 trillion in overseas capital.

The quantum leap in the national debt and government budget deficits resulting from the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—and the further corporate bailouts that are all but certain to follow—must inevitably lead to a realignment of social conditions within the US in accordance with the actual, deeply eroded, position of the United States in the world economy. This means an even more drastic lowering of the living standards of the American people.

On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) declared that as a result of the government bailout, the finances of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to be “directly incorporated into the federal budget,” and its liabilities added to the US national debt. This means, in effect, a near doubling of the US sovereign debt to a figure equivalent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The Financial Times reported Wednesday that the bailout had already resulted in a sharp rise in the price of credit default swaps on five-year US government debt. Credit default swaps are private contracts to buy insurance against the default of various forms of debt.

As the Financial Times wrote, “... the price suggests the market believes the US government is more likely to default on its obligations than some other industrialised countries.” It went on to cite a credit research strategist as saying, “The USA is now ‘riskier’ than Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Austria, France, Denmark, Quebec and Japan.”

The CBO statement on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac accompanied its report on the US government budget deficit for the current fiscal year, which ends September 31, and its projections for fiscal 2009 and beyond. The CBO put the current deficit at $407 billion, more than double the $161 billion deficit for fiscal 2007.

It projected, on the basis of current tax laws, that the budget gap would rise to a record $438 billion in the 2009 fiscal year that begins October 1. However, as CBO Director Peter Orszag noted, that figure could easily climb to $540 billion if Congress acts in the coming months, as expected, to curtail the growth in the alternative minimum tax and extend a variety of expiring business tax breaks.

Orszag further noted that these figures did not take into account the full scale of government expenditures related to the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Sunday the government would commit up to $200 billion to prop up the companies. Given the continuing decline in home prices and rise in foreclosures, that figure is virtually certain to rise by tens, if not hundreds, of billions.

Orszag said that the deficit would remain at between 3 and 4 percent of the GDP for the next decade, resulting in a $7 trillion rise in the national debt. Even these dire projections assume that Bush’s massive tax cuts for the rich will not be extended beyond their scheduled expiration in 2010.

Significantly, Orszag pointed to government health care spending—not the cost of corporate bailouts or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which have to date consumed a combined sum of $850 billion)—as the main source of exploding deficits going forward. The CBO warned that Medicare and Medicaid spending, which currently account for an estimated 4.6 percent of GDP, could account for up to 12 percent of GDP by 2050.

The mounting financial crisis of American capitalism was further underscored by the Commerce Department’s report Thursday on the US trade deficit, which surged in July by 5.2 percent to $62.2 billion, the highest level in 16 months.

The headlong rush of Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual toward collapse—or new federal bailouts—within days of the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has underscored the depth of the financial crisis.

The stock of the 158-year-old Wall Street investment bank collapsed this week after it was reported that Lehman’s efforts to secure a capital infusion from the state-owned Korea Development Bank had collapsed. At the close of the financial markets on Thursday, the value of Lehman’s stock—down by more than 90 percent since its peak last February—was about $2.9 billion. It stood at $37.2 billion at the start of 2008.

Once the biggest underwriter of mortgage-backed securities, the firm has seen its speculative investments collapse and would have already gone bankrupt were it not for the Federal Reserve’s decision, taken at the time of the government-subsidized sale of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan Chase last March, to extend low-cost loans to investment banks and accept virtually worthless mortgage-related securities in return for highly rated Treasury securities.

It was reported Thursday that the firm was in talks with potential buyers, including Bank of America, for a buyout that would avoid bankruptcy or a government bailout—at the cost of billions in losses to shareholders and the jobs of thousands of Lehman employees. On Wednesday, when it announced a third quarter loss of $3.9 billion and a plan to spin off much of its business and shrink its operations, the company said it was slashing 1,000 to 1,500 jobs, its fourth round of layoffs this year.

Over the past year, US banks and brokerages have cut more than 110,000 jobs.

The collapse of both Lehman and the two government-sponsored mortgage giants starkly illustrates the immense dependence of American capitalism on overseas capital. Lehman went to ground after its bid for funds from a South Korean bank failed, and the government bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was precipitated by the dumping of the firms’ securities by central banks and major investors in Asia and Russia.

The stock of the giant savings and loan bank Washington Mutual, which has some $180 billion in mortgage-related loans, has fallen by 34 percent since Monday and 92 percent over the past year. This week it reported a $3.33 billion second quarter net loss and has said its mortgage losses could reach $19 billion through 2011.

Raising the possibility of another government bailout, Christopher Whalen, a managing partner at Institutional Risk Analytics, said of Washington Mutual, “If this goes on until the end of the year, the bank is either going to have to be sold or recapitalized by the government. Those are the only choices.”

The Financial Times on Wednesday worried that the massive US budget deficits were limiting the ability of the government to continue propping up Wall Street with injections of hundreds of billions in capital. It wrote:

“Yesterday’s new deficit projections by the Congressional Budget Office highlight the troubled state of US government finances as it embarks on a new stage of interventions to contain the chronic impact of the credit crisis....

“Some economists worry that as the Federal Reserve has spent much of its ammunition, and as fighting the credit crisis falls more to the government, weak public finances mean the government does not have unlimited ammunition either.”

Noting that the Federal Reserve was seeking to conserve its capital for further corporate bailouts, the newspaper wrote, “Many Fed officials share this view, which is why the Fed is lukewarm on further fiscal stimulus, preferring to see the limited government funds spent on shoring up the financial system.”

The response to mushrooming budget deficits and soaring national indebtedness, as well as the spreading crisis on Wall Street, by the next administration, whether headed by Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama, will be a policy of brutal austerity directed against the working class.

One can safely predict that not long after the November election, the incoming president will announce that his transition advisers have shown him the country’s financial books, that the dire state of the nation’s economy makes inoperative any and all promises of health care reform or relief to distressed homeowners, and that a regime of discipline and “sacrifice” will have to be imposed in the “national interest.”

Senator Kent Conrad, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, sounded just such a note when he said, in response to the CBO report, that “the next president will be inheriting a budget and economic outlook that is far worse than most people realize.”

As the CBO report indicates, the next administration will be tasked with dismantling basic entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Obama and McCain on 9/11: “unity” in support of war and repression

Go to Original
By Bill Van Auken

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his Republican rival John McCain walked side by side down the ramp into the pit where the World Trade Center once stood Tuesday in what was promoted as a demonstration of national unity on the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

The symbolic gesture followed a week of bitter attacks by the Republican campaign against Obama, including a lying ad charging that he had promoted “comprehensive sex education” for kindergarten students, and a ludicrous controversy—amplified and endlessly repeated by the media—over whether the Democratic candidate’s use of the words “lipstick on a pig” constituted a sexist smear.

The appearance of the two big business candidates at the site where some 2,700 died will do nothing to assuage the enduring grief of those who lost children, parents, spouses and loved ones seven years ago. Nor will it do anything to further the rebuilding of the area, which, after all of this time, remains a gaping hole in the ground, with neither new buildings erected nor any memorial erected to those who perished.

What the appearance was meant to bolster is the fading pretense that the 9/11 attacks are a common touchstone of national unity. This was always a hollow myth propagated by the ruling establishment and the corporate media. Before the dust had settled from the collapsed twin towers, the stark class divisions, the corruption and parasitism that pervade American capitalism made themselves felt in this catastrophe, just as they do in every other facet of social life.

While hundreds of firefighters and other emergency service workers gave their lives in an attempt to rescue people from the towers-and thousands of others sacrificed their health in an attempt to recover the dead—the top financiers on Wall Street used the occasion to further enrich themselves, grabbing hundreds of millions worth of stock options at fire-sale prices after the attacks forced the markets to close.

New York’s Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani attempted to parlay the catastrophe into a national political career, casting himself as “America’s mayor” and the hero of 9/11. The firefighters who had seen 343 of their comrades die that day, however, blamed him for the shady deals that left those in the towers without radios capable of receiving orders to evacuate the shattered buildings.

The real content of the myth of national unity promoted in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks was the attempt to manufacture popular support for war abroad and repression at home. This is the cause to which both candidates leant themselves to again on Thursday.

Obama issued a statement for the occasion, expressing thanks to “the Americans defending us every day in our communities at home, and in our military abroad.” He called on the American people to “remember that the terrorists responsible for 9/11 are still at large and must be brought to justice” and vowed to “defeat terrorist networks” and “defend the American homeland.”

McCain, meanwhile, used the occasion to deliver a speech at the memorial service in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where hijacked United Flight 93 crashed on September 11. Pennsylvania is among the most hotly contested states in the presidential election.

In the evening, both candidates participated—separately—in a forum on “national service” held at Columbia University in New York City.

For most of the past seven years, the American people have been subjected to government propaganda that has systematically attempted to intimidate them with the supposedly omnipresent threat of terrorism. The unending refrain has been that, without wars of aggression, domestic spying, torture, extraordinary rendition and the evisceration of the US Constitution, there would be “another September 11” or worse.

Recent polls have indicated that this relentless campaign of fear is producing diminishing returns. While in 2002 and 2004, fully a quarter of those surveyed in the US described terrorism or national security as the number one problem confronting the country, that share fell to 16 percent in 2006 and, in the current election year, has plummeted to 4 percent.

Media reports have attributed this decline largely to passage of time since the tragic events of seven years ago. It is an “issue that has lost prominence for American voters as the deadly attacks recede in the public memory,” the Washington Post asserted.

However, far more powerful forces have been at work on mass consciousness than merely fading memories.

First there are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that the government used September 11 to promote, which have become deeply unpopular. Then there is the real economic terror that has been unleashed against broad masses of working people, who are now facing the loss of both their jobs and their homes, as the unemployment rate has risen to the highest level in more than five years and home foreclosures have set a new record.

Finally, there is 9/11 itself, which remains an event shrouded in mystery. To this day, there has not been a single genuinely independent investigation of what was worst single loss of civilian life on American soil. Nor has anyone in the US government ever been held accountable for what was at the very least the most egregious failure of US security and intelligence agencies in history.

What is indisputable is that the terrorist organization that is blamed for the attack was led by individuals—including Osama bin Laden—who had earlier been counted among Washington’s allies and the CIA’s “assets” in a US-funded effort to overturn a Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan.

Moreover, there is ample evidence that those who carried out the hijackings seven years ago included individuals who were well known to US intelligence agencies and whose movements were carefully tracked. Yet, they were allowed into the country and even permitted to renew their visas.

The apparent high-level protection enjoyed by these individuals strongly suggests that there were those in the US government who knew that a terrorist act of some kind was being prepared and decided that it would prove politically useful to allow it to happen.

The events of 9/11 were not the cause of the eruption of American militarism that followed, but rather the pretext for this violent shift in US foreign policy. They provided a propaganda justification for the launching of long-planned military interventions aimed at asserting US hegemony over the energy-rich regions of Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. In this effort, the Bush administration enjoyed the full support of the Democratic Party.

The World Socialist Web Site warned that this was Washington’s aim within days of the attacks.

“The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have been seized on as an opportunity to implement a far-reaching agenda for which the most right-wing elements in the ruling elite have been clamoring for years,” the WSWS warned on September 14, 2001. “Within a day of the attack, before any light had been shed on the source of the assault or the dimensions of the plot, the government and the media had launched a coordinated campaign to declare that America was at war and the American people had to accept all the consequences of wartime existence.”

The shoulder-to-shoulder walk down the ramp into the pit at New York’s “Ground Zero” by Obama and McCain only serves to demonstrate that the militarist policy initiated on the false pretense of avenging the dead of 9/11 retains the bipartisan support of America’s ruling elite.

Both parties continue to promote the fundamental conception that the US remains engaged in a “global war on terrorism” which justifies military aggression abroad and political repression at home.

There are tactical differences to be sure. Obama has criticized the Bush administration and Republican candidate McCain not for their support for war in general, but rather for what he charges is the over-concentration of US military power in Iraq at the expense of the American intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which he presents as the “real central front” in the so-called war on terror.

McCain has charged Obama with seeking “failure in Iraq” by proposing a timetable for the withdrawal of US combat troops.

However, as the Los Angeles Times noted Thursday, “Beneath the harsh rhetoric, the two candidates—who meet today in New York City to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks—seem to be moving toward consensus on their broad-brush strategies.”

The newspaper went on to quote Brian Michael Jenkins, described as a “leading authority on terrorism” at the Rand Corp. “The process of political campaigning has exaggerated the differences of the two candidates on trivial issues,” said Jenkins. “But when it comes to where the campaigns have outlined their platforms on Iraq, Afghanistan and national security, there isn’t a great deal of difference.”

In other words, both candidates support policies that translate into the protracted occupation of Iraq—albeit, if possible, with fewer ground troops—an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and its extension across the border into Pakistan and the continuation of domestic spying and other forms of political repression in the US itself.

And, as the display of “unity” on September 11 indicated, both are determined to continue promoting a global “war on terror” as the pretext for the use of military power in pursuit of US global hegemony, a policy that threatens new and even bloodier wars to come.

Under these conditions, mass opposition to militarism can find no viable political expression through either of the two corporate-controlled parties. The struggle against war and the fight to defend living standards and basic democratic rights cannot be waged outside of an irrevocable break with the Democratic Party and the building of a new independent political movement of the working class based on a socialist program.