A Message From The American Corporate Plutocracy

February 05, 2008 By Paul Street

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I could swear this happened last night (I am writing on the morning of Thursday, January 31st), but it may be my addled, anxious, and overworked mind playing tricks on me.

I was watching “American Idol” and trying to balance my checkbook.

I was thinking I should try out for “Idol.” I was also thinking about the gap between my income and my irreducible life expenditures.

A commercial for a drug that promised to make me happy and relaxed flashed across the television. I reached for the clicker to hit “mute.”

But before I could turn off the sound, the ad was interrupted by the image of a sixty-something businessmen sitting behind a giant desk in a plush corporate office.

A message ran across the bottom of the screen. It said: “A Message from the American Corporate Plutocracy.”

The businessman was wearing a pinstripe suit. Behind him hung pictures of J.P. Morgan, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, and Bill Clinton.

He looked very serious. He read the following speech:

“American subjects, we are interrupting this important pharmaceutical advertisement to tell you of the special satisfaction we feel at learning that John Edwards has dropped out of the Democratic presidential campaign.”

“Edwards was on the cover of Newsweek a little more than a month ago. He was charismatic, handsome, and very effective on the campaign trail and in debates. He had star quality and many millions of dollars.”

“In the last big match-up survey taken before the Iowa Caucus, he polled as the most electable candidate in the presidential race. He was the only Democratic contender who defeated all of the likely Republican presidential candidates – even John McCain, who defeated Hillary Clinton and tied Barack Obama.”

“Democratic Party primaries have been held in just four small states and he’s already done.”

“We are very pleased to hear of his early surrender, in which we played our usual quiet but powerful role. It is we who made sure that Edwards’ more explicitly corporate and centrist opponents could outspend him by a wide margin.”

“It is we who pushed him to the margins of the all-powerful media system we own and manage in your interest – and ours.”

“We’ve already voted John Edwards off the presidential version of ‘American Idol'” – so you don’t have to.

“We’ve winnowed the presidential field to four (4) officially elect-able and corporate-friendly candidates and the election is more than ten months away!”

“It’s all about he hidden primary of the rich and powerful operating behind the scenes, in the hidden corridors of power under the benevolent reign of Empire and Inequality, Inc. We are the Simon Cowells of American presidential politics. We love it and you should too.”

“We do it for you, to save you the effort and heartbreak of ‘democracy,’ for which you lack the time, skill, energy, and resources.”

“Take note, would-be critics of our caring rule! The spectrum of permissible debate grows narrower with each quadrennial election extravaganza we stage.”

“Do not misunderstand us, American subjects. John Edwards was no radical threat to the corporate system we have crafted in response to our need for spectacular wealth and your inability to construct a better social order. Edwards said repeatedly that be believed in what he called ‘a market economy’ – what we and you should understand as a heavily state-managed system of private profit and class rule.”

“He followed our counsel when he wrapped his call for universal health insurance in a plan that continued – beneath all his anti-corporate bluster – to protect the very insurance and pharmaceutical companies that have done so much to create your health care crisis.”

“He made it clear again and again that he supported the broader global framework of the splendid imperial order and the related military-industrial complex we have built for the good of the world – and our own profit”.

“He agreed to never to mention the overseas victims of our clumsy oaf George W. Bush’s foreign policies, including the 1 million Iraqis killed by ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ – an action that continues to generate considerable profits for us.”

“He remains ridiculously wealthy (like us) and never really challenged the core inequalities inherent in the workings of the ‘market economy.’ ”

“He stood to the right of those malevolent radical mischief-makers Ralph Nader and – to mention another presidential candidate we recently liquidated – Dennis Kucinich.”

“But that’s all part of what makes Edwards’ early defeat all the more delightful and rewarding for us. The magnificent march of our munificent reign has progressed so far that even John Edwards is defined as too radical to make a serious run at the White House.”

“He may not have fundamentally questioned the corporate-imperial system that all of us enjoy, but he did develop some very nasty habits that displeased us. He spoke insistently about and against endemic U.S. poverty and related it to oppressive economic inequality and the supposedly ‘exorbitant’ wealth of the ‘privileged few.’ He won Nader’s approval by speaking against our ‘plutocratic’ control of government and politics as if that rule isn’t a good and necessary thing!”

“He insisted on praising the labor movement, which he repeatedly referred to as ‘the single greatest anti-poverty program in American history.'”

“He also connected his obnoxious and inherently dysfunctional and dangerous ‘populist’ appeal to very specific and detailed policy issues and agendas.”

“American subjects, we are certain you found this foolish issues and policy obsession as irritating as we did! As we hope you appreciate, we kindly cater to your limited capacities and sensibilities by framing elections around trivial and childish matters of candidate image, identity, and personality.”

“We don’t want you to tax your limited and overwrought minds with difficult matters of policy and governance. We want to help you vote for the right kind of politicians you find most likeable, pleasant and fun – kind of like the ‘American Idol’ show to which you shall momentarily be returned.”

“As part of this mission, we employ an army of marketers, researchers, data-miners, publicists, and image consultants to help you understand which one of the presidential ‘Idols’ makes you feel best about yourselves and your glorious, business-run Nation State.”

“We, the surviving four ‘Idols’ – Mitt, John (McCain that is), Hillary, and Barack – and the people around them (most of which we provide) will handle all the issues and the policies. We and they will give you all the ‘hope’ and ‘change’ and ‘unity’ you need.”

“Get ready for a long and tedious exercise in delusion and identity politics that may well guarantee the White House to our favorite party – the arch-plutocratic, messianic-militarist GOP.”

“We do it all for you, America. We are here to take and keep the last risks out of your ‘democracy.’ The nation is in good hands.”

“Thank you for your attention. We return you now to your previously scheduled anti-depressant commercial and to the rest of the countless advertisements and programs on this and any of the other 154 stations we have generously created for your endless diversion, brainwashing, marketing, and indoctrination.”

“Yours in Eternal Thought Control,”

The American Corporate Plutocracy

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Never Before: Genocide in Gaza

Last night, I watched in disbelief the reports from Gaza.

The reporters were using battery-operated lights for their cameras, and stood in a halo beyond which was the kind of darkness — and silence — few people have experienced since before the industrial revolution.

Images filmed earlier, in daylight, showed entire neighborhoods flooded with raw sewage, as the pumps in the water treatment plant stopped working, due to a lack of fuel.

Drinking water has become dangerously toxic. Children, already weakened by malnutrition, suffer from diarrhea, kidney diseases and many other debilitating effects, all preventable, deliberately inflicted on them by Israel’s malice, for the sole reason that they are not Jewish children.

After a day of crowds waiting in line for some precious bread, by nightfall the bakeries were empty: no more flour, no more fuel, no more bread. Those lucky enough to have bread, rushed home to feed their families by the light of equally-precious candles.

80% of Gazans are dependent on UNRWA for their food. UNRWA announced that they might be obliged to stop distributing food as early as Wednesday, due to the Israeli closures.

In the freezing cold, overcrowded hospitals, patients and their families prayed that the equipment that kept them alive, would continue to receive electricity. They prayed that the hospital would have the medicines they needed. Their prayers were unanswered. Already, dozens of patients have died as a direct result of Israel’s deliberately genocidal policy.

I saw hospital rooms lit by candles, screaming children being treated in the dark by doctors, as their parents tried to help with lights from their cell-phones.

While the zionist killers whine about missiles fired from Gaza, which have caused a total of 19 Israeli casualties in more than seven years, Israeli missiles, war-planes, bombs and tanks have caused thousands of Palestinian deaths, destroyed thousands of homes, roads, the main electricity plant, Gaza’s airport, hospitals, schools, and essential government buildings. They have left almost a quarter of a million human beings permanently crippled, while destroying the infrastructure that would have allowed their families to care for them properly.

They have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from these desperately poor people, they have destroyed precious agricultural crops, Gaza’s almost 3,800 factories have shut down for lack of fuel and access to the outside world, and they have prevented donors from coming to their rescue.

Israeli prisons are filled with Palestinian political prisoners and innocent civilians, including children, all of whom are tortured, most of whom have not been charged with any crime.

Never before, in the history of humankind, has an ethno-supremacist state deliberately perpetrated a murderous siege against 1.5 million human beings solely because of their ethnicity, in full view of the world.

Never before, has the world watched and listened in real time, as an entire people was ethnically-cleansed so that their land and resources could be stolen by foreign settlers, with the settlers viewed as the victims, and the victims viewed as the aggressors.

Never before has one side been guilty of so many specific, documented, severe violations of law, and yet been hailed as a democracy and a civilized, peace-loving nation, and received so much material, political and military support from the world’s democracies.

Never before have so many otherwise decent people, living in free democracies, been so genuinely afraid of speaking out against atrocities committed by a state against civilians, for fear of being labeled racists.

Never before.

AlicetheKurious @ RI

The Doomsday Clock and 2012

David Flynn has posted original and ground-breaking research of ancient mysteries, “illuminated” fraternities, gnosticism, crop circles, UFOs, and Bible prophecy on his famous Watcher Website since 1993. His debuted his book “Cydonia, The Secret Chronicles of Mars” at Ancient of Days 2003, drawing the praise of extra-terrestrial archeologist Richard C. Hoagland and PhD theologian Michael S Heiser. His 2003 & 2004 lectures are the most requested of all Ancient of Days talks, as he continues to amaze researchers and audiences of all backgrounds

The Coincidence Theorist’s Guide to 9/11

The Coincidence Theorist’s Guide to 9/11

Happy coincidenting!

That governments have permitted terrorist acts against their own people, and have even themselves been perpetrators in order to find strategic advantage is quite likely true, but this is the United States we’re talking about.

That intelligence agencies, financiers, terrorists and narco-criminals have a long history together is well established, but the Nugan Hand Bank, BCCI, Banco Ambrosiano, the P2 Lodge, the CIA/Mafia anti-Castro/Kennedy alliance, Iran/Contra and the rest were a long time ago, so there’s no need to rehash all that. That was then, this is now!

That Jonathan Bush’s Riggs Bank has been found guilty of laundering terrorist funds and fined a US-record $25 million must embarrass his nephew George, but it’s still no justification for leaping to paranoid conclusions.

That George Bush’s brother Marvin sat on the board of the Kuwaiti-owned company which provided electronic security to the World Trade Centre, Dulles Airport and United Airlines means nothing more than you must admit those Bush boys have done alright for themselves.

That George Bush found success as a businessman only after the investment of Osama’s brother Salem and reputed al Qaeda financier Khalid bin Mahfouz is just one of those things – one of those crazy things.

That Osama bin Laden is known to have been an asset of US foreign policy in no way implies he still is.

That al Qaeda was active in the Balkan conflict, fighting on the same side as the US as recently as 1999, while the US protected its cells, is merely one of history’s little aberrations.

The claims of Michael Springman, State Department veteran of the Jeddah visa bureau, that the CIA ran the office and issued visas to al Qaeda members so they could receive training in the United States, sound like the sour grapes of someone who was fired for making such wild accusations.

That one of George Bush’s first acts as President, in January 2001, was to end the two-year deployment of attack submarines which were positioned within striking distance of al Qaeda’s Afghanistan camps, even as the group’s guilt for the Cole bombing was established, proves that a transition from one administration to the next is never an easy task.

That so many influential figures in and close to the Bush White House had expressed, just a year before the attacks, the need for a “new Pearl Harbor” before their militarist ambitions could be fulfilled, demonstrates nothing more than the accidental virtue of being in the right place at the right time.

That the company PTECH, founded by a Saudi financier placed on America’s Terrorist Watch List in October 2001, had access to the FAA’s entire computer system for two years before the 9/11 attack, means he must not have been such a threat after all.

That whistleblower Indira Singh was told to keep her mouth shut and forget what she learned when she took her concerns about PTECH to her employers and federal authorities, suggests she lacked the big picture. And that the Chief Auditor for JP Morgan Chase told Singh repeatedly, as she answered questions about who supplied her with what information, that “that person should be killed,” suggests he should take an anger management seminar.

That on May 8, 2001, Dick Cheney took upon himself the job of co-ordinating a response to domestic terror attacks even as he was crafting the administration’s energy policy which bore implications for America’s military, circumventing the established infrastructure and ignoring the recommendations of the Hart-Rudman report, merely shows the VP to be someone who finds it hard to delegate.

That the standing order which covered the shooting down of hijacked aircraft was altered on June 1, 2001, taking discretion away from field commanders and placing it solely in the hands of the Secretary of Defense, is simply poor planning and unfortunate timing. Fortunately the error has been corrected, as the order was rescinded shortly after 9/11.

That in the weeks before 9/11, FBI agent Colleen Rowley found her investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui so perversely thwarted that her colleagues joked that bin Laden had a mole at the FBI, proves the stress-relieving virtue of humour in the workplace.

That Dave Frasca of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit received a promotion after quashing multiple, urgent requests for investigations into al Qaeda assets training at flight schools in the summer of 2001 does appear on the surface odd, but undoubtedly there’s a good reason for it, quite possibly classified.

That FBI informant Randy Glass, working an undercover sting, was told by Pakistani intelligence operatives that the World Trade Center towers were coming down, and that his repeated warnings which continued until weeks before the attacks, including the mention of planes used as weapons, were ignored by federal authorities, is simply one of the many “What Ifs” of that tragic day.

That over the summer of 2001 Washington received many urgent, senior-level warnings from foreign intelligence agencies and governments – including those of Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Afghanistan and others – of impending terror attacks using hijacked aircraft and did nothing, demonstrates the pressing need for a new Intelligence Czar.

That John Ashcroft stopped flying commercial aircraft in July 2001 on account of security considerations had nothing to do with warnings regarding September 11, because he said so to the 9/11 Commission.

That former lead counsel for the House David Schippers says he’d taken to John Ashcroft’s office specific warnings he’d learned from FBI agents in New York of an impending attack – even naming the proposed dates, names of the hijackers and the targets – and that the investigations had been stymied and the agents threatened, proves nothing but David Schipper’s pathetic need for attention.

That Garth Nicolson received two warnings from contacts in the intelligence community and one from a North African head of state, which included specific site, date and source of the attacks, and passed the information to the Defense Department and the National Security Council to evidently no effect, clearly amounts to nothing, since virtually nobody has ever heard of him.

That in the months prior to September 11, self-described US intelligence operative Delmart Vreeland sought, from a Toronto jail cell, to get US and Canadian authorities to heed his warning of his accidental discovery of impending catastrophic attacks is worthless, since Vreeland was a dubious character, notwithstanding the fact that many of his claims have since been proven true.

That FBI Special Investigator Robert Wright claims that agents assigned to intelligence operations actually protect terrorists from investigation and prosecution, that the FBI shut down his probe into terrorist training camps, and that he was removed from a money-laundering case that had a direct link to terrorism, sounds like yet more sour grapes from a disgruntled employee.

That George Bush had plans to invade Afghanistan on his desk before 9/11 demonstrates only the value of being prepared.

The suggestion that securing a pipeline across Afghanistan figured into the White House’s calculations is as ludicrous as the assertion that oil played a part in determining war in Iraq.

That Afghanistan is once again the world’s principal heroin producer is an unfortunate reality, but to claim the CIA is still actively involved in the narcotics trade is to presume bad faith on the part of the agency.

Mahmood Ahmed, chief of Pakistan’s ISI, must not have authorized an al Qaeda payment of $100,000 to Mohammed Atta days before the attacks, and was not meeting with senior Washington officials over the week of 9/11, because I didn’t read anything about him in the official report.

That Porter Goss met with Ahmed the morning of September 11 in his capacity as Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has no bearing whatsoever upon his recent selection by the White House to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

That Goss’s congressional seat encompasses the 9/11 hijackers’ Florida base of operation, including their flight schools, is precisely the kind of meaningless factoid a conspiracy theorist would bring up.

It’s true that George HW Bush and Dick Cheney spent the evening of September 10 alone in the Oval Office, but what’s wrong with old colleagues catching up? And it’s true that George HW Bush and Shafig bin Laden, Osama’s brother, spent the morning of September 11 together at a board meeting of the Carlyle Group, but the bin Ladens are a big family.

That FEMA arrived in New York on Sept 10 to prepare for a scheduled biowarfare drill, and had a triage centre ready to go that was larger and better equipped than the one that was lost in the collapse of WTC 7, was a lucky twist of fate.

Newsweek’s report that senior Pentagon officials cancelled flights on Sept 10 for the following day on account of security concerns is only newsworthy because of what happened the following morning.

That George Bush’s telephone logs for September 11 do not exist should surprise no one, given the confusion of the day.

That Mohamed Atta attended the International Officer’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base, that Abdulaziz Alomari attended Brooks Air Force Base Aerospace Medical School, that Saeed Alghamdi attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey merely shows it is a small world, after all.

That Lt Col Steve Butler, Vice Chancellor for student affairs of the Defense Language Institute during Alghamdi’s terms, was disciplined, removed from his post and threatened with court martial when he wrote “Bush knew of the impending attacks on America. He did nothing to warn the American people because he needed this war on terrorism. What is…contemptible is the President of the United States not telling the American people what he knows for political gain,” is the least that should have happened for such disrespect shown his Commander in Chief.

That Mohammed Atta dressed like a Mafioso, had a stripper girlfriend, smuggled drugs, was already a licensed pilot when he entered the US, enjoyed pork chops, drank to excess and did cocaine, was closer to Europeans than Arabs in Florida, and included the names of defence contractors on his email list, proves how dangerous the radical fundamentalist Muslim can be.

That 43 lbs of heroin was found on board the Lear Jet owned by Wally Hilliard, the owner of Atta’s flight school, just three weeks after Atta enrolled – the biggest seizure ever in Central Florida – was just bad luck. That Hilliard was not charged shows how specious the claims for conspiracy truly are.

That Hilliard’s plane had made 30-round trips to Venezuela with the same passengers who always paid cash, that the plane had been supplied by a pair of drug smugglers who had also outfitted CIA drug runner Barry Seal, and that 9/11 commissioner Richard ben-Veniste had been Seal’s attorney before Seal’s murder, shows nothing but the lengths to which conspiracists will go to draw sinister conclusions.

Reports of insider trading on 9/11 are false, because the SEC investigated and found only respectable investors who will remain nameless involved, and no terrorists, so the windfall profit-taking was merely, as ever, coincidental.

That heightened security for the World Trade Centre was lifted immediately prior to the attacks illustrates that it always happens when you least expect it.

That Hani Hanjour, the pilot of Flight 77, was so incompetent he could not fly a Cessna in August, but in September managed to fly a 767 at excessive speed into a spiraling, 270-degree descent and a level impact of the first floor of the Pentagon, on the only side that was virtually empty and had been hardened to withstand a terrorist attack, merely demonstrates that people can do almost anything once they set their minds to it.

That none of the flight data recorders were said to be recoverable even though they were located in the tail sections, and that until 9/11, no solid-state recorder in a catastrophic crash had been unrecoverable, shows how there’s a first time for everything.

That Mohammed Atta left a uniform, a will, a Koran, his driver’s license and a “how to fly planes” video in his rental car at the airport means he had other things on his mind.

The mention of Israelis with links to military-intelligence having been arrested on Sept 11 videotaping and celebrating the attacks, of an Israeli espionage ring surveiling DEA and defense installations and trailing the hijackers, and of a warning of impending attacks delivered to the Israeli company Odigo two hours before the first plane hit, does not deserve a response. That the stories also appeared in publications such as Ha’aretz and Forward is a sad display of self-hatred among certain elements of the Israeli media.

That multiple military wargames and simulations were underway the morning of 9/11 – one simulating the crash of a plane into a building; another, a live-fly simulation of multiple hijackings – and took many interceptors away from the eastern seaboard and confused field commanders as to which was a real hijacked aircraft and which was a hoax, was a bizarre coincidence, but no less a coincidence.

That the National Military Command Center ops director asked a rookie substitute to stand his watch at 8:30 am on Sept. 11 is nothing more than bad timing.

That a recording made Sept 11 of air traffic controllers’ describing what they had witnessed, was destroyed by an FAA official who crushed it in his hand, cut the tape into little pieces and dropped them in different trash cans around the building, is something no doubt that overzealous official wishes he could undo.

That the FBI knew precisely which Florida flight schools to descend upon hours after the attacks should make every American feel safer knowing their federal agents are on the ball.

That a former flight school executive believes the hijackers were “double agents,” and says about Atta and associates, “Early on I gleaned that these guys had government protection. They were let into this country for a specific purpose,” and was visited by the FBI just four hours after the attacks to intimidate him into silence, proves he’s an unreliable witness, for the simple reason there is no conspiracy.

That Jeb Bush was on board an aircraft that removed flight school records to Washington in the middle of the night on Sept 12th demonstrates how seriously the governor takes the issue of national security.

To insinuate evil motive from the mercy flights of bin Laden family members and Saudi royals after 9/11 shows the sickness of the conspiratorial mindset.

Le Figaro’s report in October 2001, known to have originated with French intelligence, that the CIA met Osama bin Laden in a Dubai hospital in July 2001, proves again the perfidy of the French.

That the tape in which bin Laden claims responsibility for the attacks was released by the State Department after having been found providentially by US forces in Afghanistan, and depicts a fattened Osama with a broader face and a flatter nose, proves Osama, and Osama alone, masterminded 9/11.

That at the battle of Tora Bora, where bin Laden was surrounded on three sides, Special Forces received no order to advance and capture him and were forced to stand and watch as two Russian-made helicopters flew into the area where bin Laden was believed hiding, loaded up passengers and returned to Pakistan, demonstrates how confusing the modern battlefield can be.

That upon returning to Fort Bragg from Tora Bora, the same Special Operations troops who had been stood down from capturing bin Laden, suffered a unusual spree of murder/suicides, is nothing more than a series of senseless tragedies.

Reports that bin Laden is currently receiving periodic dialysis treatment in a Pakistani medical hospital are simply too incredible to be true.

That the White House went on Cipro September 11 shows the foresightedness of America’s emergency response.

That the anthrax was mailed to perceived liberal media and the Democratic leadership demonstrates only the perversity of the terrorist psyche.

That the anthrax attacks appeared to silence opponents of the Patriot Act shows only that appearances can be deceiving.

That the Ames-strain anthrax was found to have originated at Fort Detrick, and was beyond the capability of all but a few labs to refine, underscores the importance of allowing the investigation to continue without the distraction of absurd conspiracy theories.

That Republican guru Grover Norquist has been found to have aided financiers and supporters of Islamic terror to gain access to the Bush White House, and is a founder of the Islamic Institute, which the Treasury Department believes to be a source of funding for al Qaeda, suggests Norquist is at worst, naive, and at best, needs a wider circle of friends.

That the Department of Justice consistently chooses to see accused 9/11 plotters go free rather than permit the courtroom testimony of al Qaeda leaders in American custody looks bad, but only because we don’t have all the facts.

That the White House balked at any inquiry into the events of 9/11, then starved it of funds and stonewalled it, was unfortunate, but since the commission didn’t find for conspiracy it’s all a non issue anyway.

That the 9/11 commission’s executive director and “gatekeeper,” Philip Zelikow, was so closely involved in the events under investigation that he testified before the the commission as part of the inquiry, shows only an apparent conflict of interest.

That commission chair Thomas Kean is, like George Bush, a Texas oil executive who had business dealings with reputed al Qaeda financier Khalid bin Mafouz, suggests Texas is smaller than they say it is.

That co-chair Lee Hamilton has a history as a Bush family “fixer,” including clearing Bush Sr of the claims arising from the 1980 “October Surprise”, is of no concern, since only conspiracists believe there was such a thing as an October Surprise.

That FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds accuses the agency of intentionally fudging specific pre-9/11 warnings and harboring a foreign espionage ring in its translation department, and claims she witnessed evidence of the semi-official infrastructure of money-laundering and narcotics trade behind the attacks, is of no account, since John Ashcroft has gagged her with the rare invocation of “State Secrets Privilege,” and retroactively classified her public testimony. For the sake of national security, let us speak no more of her.

That, when commenting on Edmond’s case, Daniel Ellsberg remarked that Ashcroft could go to prison for his part in a cover-up, suggests Ellsberg is giving comfort to the terrorists, and could, if he doesn’t wise up, find himself declared an enemy combatant.

I could go on. And on and on. But I trust you get the point. Which is simply this: there are no secrets, an American government would never accept civilian casualties for geostrategic gain, and conspiracies are for the weak-minded and gullible.

http://rigorousintuition.blogspot.com/2004/08/coincidence-theorists-guide-to-911.html

Iran, no nuke capability, what a surprize

US spies give shock verdict on Iran threat

Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Monday December 3, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

US intelligence agencies undercut the White House today by disclosing for the first time that Iran has not been pursuing a nuclear weapons development programme for the last four years.The disclosure makes it harder for President George Bush and the vice-president, Dick Cheney, to make a case for a military strike against Iran next year.

It also makes it more difficult to persuade countries such as Russia and China to join the US, Britain and France in imposing a new round of sanctions on Tehran.

A suspected Iranian nuclear research facility

The national security estimate, which pulls together the work of the 16 US intelligence agencies, today published a declassified report revising previous assessments of Iran’s weapons programme.

“Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons programme suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005,” it said.

Bush and Cheney have been claiming that Tehran is bent on achieving a nuclear weapon. The British government, which is planning to discuss the report with its US counterparts over the next few days, has also repeatedly said it suspects Iran of seeking a nuclear weapons capability.

The Iranian government insists it is only pursuing a civilian nuclear programme.

The US national security estimate disclosed that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003 and had not restarted it.

Two years ago, the national security estimate reached a different conclusion, saying Iran was still developing its nuclear weapons programme.

The White House continued to claim today that Iran remains a threat to the region and the world as a whole.

Continues 

The Taser is going wireless.

Alarmed by recent incidents? Wait’ll you see what the company is planning for 2008
Dec 02, 2007 04:30 AM
Andrew Chung
Staff Reporter

The Taser is going wireless.

Until now, the electric-shock gun consisted of two barbed darts attached to wires that shoot out and strike the victim, immobilizing the person with 50,000 volts of electricity, causing severe pain and intense muscle contraction.

But the wires could only extend a few metres. With the new “extended range electronic projectile,” or XREP, the Taser has been turned into a kind of self-contained shotgun shell and can be fired, wire-free, from a standard shotgun, which police typically have in their arsenal already.

The first electrode hooks on to the target, the second electrode falls and makes contact elsewhere on the body, completing the circuit and activating the shock. It can blast someone as far as 30 metres away, and, unlike the current stun guns, whose shock lasts five seconds, the XREP lasts 20 seconds, enough time to “take the offender into custody without risking injury to officers.”

Taser International spokesperson Steve Tuttle says the XREP would be perfect in a standoff. “Here’s someone you just don’t want to get anywhere near,” he says.

The XREP is one of two major new applications the Scottsdale, Ariz., company is preparing to field test, a prospect that makes Taser’s critics anxious. They say more study is needed of the old products, let alone the new.

Tasers are sparking all sorts of questions and concerns these days.

Like death after Tasing. Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after the RCMP Tased him when he’d become agitated after spending 10 hours inside the secure area at the Vancouver airport.

Or questionable Tasing. University of Florida student Andrew Meyer was Tased even though a handful of officers had already piled on top of him after he refused to stop asking former presidential candidate John Kerry questions at the microphone. (He’s the one who uttered that now infamous plea that has spawned bumper stickers and T-shirts: “Don’t Tase me, bro!”)

Tasers are now used by more than 11,000 law enforcement agencies in 44 countries. There are more than 428,000 Tasers in the field, not to mention the tens of thousands of Tasers that have been sold to civilians.

And the innovations keep coming.

Besides the XREP, the company has developed a device meant to keep someone from approaching a certain area – a tactic called “area denial.” “What if you could drop everyone in a given area to the ground with the simple push of a button?” asks a dramatic promotional video for the “Shockwave.”

Taser has turned its weapon into a connected series of six darts arranged in an arc. The company says the device can be extended in a chain or stacked “like Lego,” depending on the needs of the user.

So an army platoon, for instance, could use it to prevent unwanted people from approaching their camp, and not have to risk getting close to their targets.

Amnesty International, which has raised concerns for years, says the Shockwave poses serious risks of inappropriate use. When you target an entire area, or a crowd, you can’t distinguish between the individuals you’re trying to restrain, says Hilary Homes, a security and human rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada.

“It targets everybody to the same intensity or effect,” Homes says. “With materials like that, you worry about …arbitrary and indiscriminate use.”

Tuttle says the technology will be used for military applications, “not for a riot in Toronto.”

Amnesty says that between 2001 and Sept. 30, 2007, there were more than 290 deaths of individuals struck by police Tasers in North America, including 16 in Canada. It reports that only 25 of those electroshocked were armed, and none with firearms. It’s calling for a moratorium on their use by police until a full, independent inquiry is held.

Homes says the new shotgun-style Taser doesn’t pose any risks that aren’t already there with the older weapon, except that “this allows more things to be done from a greater distance.”

Mostly, it’s the concern over the expansion of this technology even as there is heated debate over the devices’ safety. “We’d prefer there weren’t new variations until a study of the central technology was done,” she says.

The safety concerns revolve around the growing number of deaths following Tasering and the increasing use of the term “excited delirium” by the company and other experts to explain the deaths, while denying the weapon any culpability.

Excited delirium is a catchall phrase to describe symptoms of extreme stress, such as disorientation, profuse sweating, paranoia, and superhuman strength.

When someone is in such a condition – heart racing, blood pressure bursting, fight-or-flight hormones like adrenalin coursing through their body – wouldn’t a giant electrical jolt just make things worse?

“Show me the medical and mechanical reasons why it would make it worse when doctors are telling us, when someone is in that situation you should treat it as a medical emergency and get that person to a medical trauma centre in the quickest way,” Tuttle says. “With no Taser, he’s impervious to pain, agitated, slippery with sweat – you won’t get control in five seconds. Maybe you’ll use batons, which won’t work, pepper spray, which is much more stressful, a bean-bag round, maybe deadly force because the situation spins out of control?”

Dr. David Evans, the Toronto regional supervising coroner for investigations, says that while there’s no proof to say the shock could make things worse, “I agree potentially it could.” But, he adds, “why aren’t they dropping dead immediately?”

Evans says that it doesn’t seem to make sense that the Taser is at fault in the deaths, because the deaths have not been instantaneous. “Normally you’d expect that if someone was going to die from electrocution related to electrical discharge, they’d die right there and then, within a few seconds,” he says.

Tasering doesn’t cause changes in the heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, which leads to death, he says.

It’s a view that Ontario’s deputy coroner, Dr. Jim Cairns, has used to help shape the Toronto Police Services Board policy toward allowing Toronto police to use Tasers. Cairns also spoke at a Taser tactical conference in Chicago last July about excited delirium.

Taser points out that the weapon has not been implicated in any of the deaths in Canada. “We’re just repeating what the medical examiners are saying,” says Tuttle. “The vast majority of those cases have been excited delirium or (drug) overdose.”

Even though “excited delirium” isn’t an accepted medical diagnosis, it may be listed as a “contributory factor” in police-custody deaths, Evans says, but not as the primary cause.

Taser isn’t the only company developing electrical stun weapons. Indiana-based Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems has, in a prototype phase, a futuristic weapon that sends out a streak of lightning, apparently by projecting an ionized gas or ionizing the air itself with a laser, which conducts the electricity forward. The technology could potentially also be used to disable vehicles and, in the future, to help militaries neutralize incoming rocket propelled grenades.

Taser expects its new products to be available by mid-2008.

http://www.thestar.com/sciencetech/Technology/article/281670

Gruesome forces

Stephen Lewis, final address