Daily Archives: January 12, 2008

Bush: US should have bombed Auschwitz

Yad Vashem’s chairman, Avner Shalev, quoted Bush as saying the U.S. should have “bombed it.”

US President George W. Bush shakes hands with a member of the choir during a ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Friday, Jan. 11, 2008. President Bush had tears in his eyes during an hour-long tour of Israel’s Holocaust memorial Friday and told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the U.S. should have bombed Auschwitz to halt the killing, the memorial’s chairman said.

Associated Press | Jan 11, 2008

By ARON HELLER

JERUSALEM – A teary-eyed President Bush stopped in front of an aerial photo of Auschwitz on Friday at Israel’s Holocaust memorial and said the U.S. should have sent bombers to prevent the extermination of Jews there.

Yad Vashem’s chairman, Avner Shalev, quoted Bush as saying the U.S. should have “bombed it.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Bush referred to the train tracks leading to Auschwitz, not the camp itself, where between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people were killed by Nazi Germany.

The issue of bombing the Nazi death camps or the rail lines leading to them has been debated for years — and the lack of action was interpreted by some as a sign of Allied indifference.

The Allies had detailed reports about Auschwitz toward the end of World War II from escaped prisoners. But they chose not to bomb the camp, the rail lines, or any of the other Nazi death camps, preferring instead to focus all resources on the broader military effort.

Some experts note only late in the war did the United States have the capability to bomb the infamous camp in occupied Poland, and also faced a moral dilemma since such an operation could kill thousands of prisoners. Even Jewish leaders at the time struggled with the issue and many concluded that loss of innocent lives under such circumstances was justifiable.

Bush twice had tears in his eyes during an hour-long tour of the museum, said Shalev, who guided Bush through the exhibits.

Upon viewing an aerial shot of Auschwitz, taken during the war by U.S. forces, he said Bush called the decision not to bomb it “complex.” He then called over Rice to discuss President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision, clearly pondering the options before rendering an opinion of his own, Shalev told The Associated Press.

Shalev quoted Bush as asking Rice, “Why didn’t Roosevelt bomb it?” He said Rice and Bush discussed the matter further and then the president delivered his verdict.

“We should have bombed it,” Shalev, speaking in Hebrew, quoted Bush as saying.

Briefing reporters later on Air Force One, Rice said Bush was talking about the rail lines to the camp.

“We were talking about the often-discussed ‘Could the United States have done more by bombing the train tracks?'” Rice said. “And so we were just talking about the various explanations that had been given about why that might not have been done.

“It was an exhibit about the train tracks. And so we were just talking about the various explanations because, you know, there are three or four different explanations about why the United States chose not to try to bomb the train tracks,” she said.

Rice did not detail those reasons.

Later Friday night, asked about Rice’s remarks to reporters, Shalev told the AP the president was not specific about what the Allies should have bombed.

Tom Segev, a leading Israeli scholar of the Holocaust, said Bush’s reported comment, which appeared spontaneous, marked the first time a U.S. president had made this acknowledgment.

“It is clear now that the U.S. knew a lot about it,” Segev said. “It’s possible that bombing at least the railway to the camps may have saved the lives of the Jews of Hungary. They were the very last ones who were sent to Auschwitz at a time when everybody knew what was going on.”

At the dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in 1993, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel famously asked, “Why weren’t the railways leading to Birkenau bombed by allied bombers? As long as I live I will not understand that.” Birkenau was the site of the main gas chambers and crematoriums at Auschwitz. UNESCO last year approved a name change from Auschwitz concentration camp to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

At that same dedication, former President Bill Clinton said that the West has to “live forever with this knowledge … (that) far too little was done,” and that “rail lines to the camps within miles of militarily significant targets were left undisturbed.”

Segev said the question of a bombing was not so clear cut, noting that it wasn’t certain the United States had the ability to carry out such an operation.

In a response to a request that U.S. forces bomb Auschwitz and the rail lines, John J. McCloy, Roosevelt’s assistant secretary of war, laid out the U.S. rationale for inaction.

“Such an operation could be executed only by the diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations elsewhere and would in any case be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not be warrant use of our resources,” he wrote in an Aug. 14, 1944, letter.

Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum said the photo presentation at the museum, and Bush’s reported comments there, do not reflect the difficulties in bombing Auschwitz.

“It would have been a much more complex decision than what is presumed here,” said Berenbaum, who teaches at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

Berenbaum said the aerial photos that Bush saw at the museum were not developed from the negatives until 1977, nor were they taken purposely to depict Auschwitz. U.S. intelligence forces took them during a bombing campaign on a German chemical plant nearby, which they carried out in August 1944.

But he also said there is no question that had the Allies been interested, they could have bombed Auschwitz and saved lives. By the time the idea was raised in summer 1944, they could have bombed the camp and the railway tracks leading to it using air bases in Italy or, if they had wanted to earlier, from Soviet territory.

“The Americans flubbed it,” Berenbaum said. “The bombing could have weakened the infrastructure and made it more difficult to kill with the efficacy with which they killed.”

In an article Berenbaum wrote for Encyclopaedia Britannica, he quoted Wiesel, who was a prisoner at Buna-Monowitz, the slave-labor camp of Auschwitz, as saying that inmates were “filled with joy” over the August 1944 Allied bombing of an adjacent plant. “We were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death,” he quoted Wiesel as saying.

The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington issued a statement praising Bush’s reported remark.

“The refusal to bomb Auschwitz was part of a broader policy by the Roosevelt administration to refrain from taking action to rescue or shelter Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Tragically, the United States turned away from one of history’s most compelling moral challenges,” said Rafael Medoff, the institute’s director.

Eliezer Schweid, a professor of Jewish Thought at Israel’s Hebrew University, said the question of a bombing is irrelevant in retrospect.

World Jewish leadership “was afraid to ask publicly” for the Allies to bomb the death camps, believing that would turn the conflict into a war for the Jews, Schweid said.

Full Story

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U.S. President George W. Bush (C) gestures during a visit to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem January 10, 2008. Passing through a tiny “Door of Humility”, Bush made a pilgrimage to the traditional birthplace of Jesus on Thursday in the occupied West Bank.

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Gold hits record $900 an ounce

AP | Jan 11, 2008

By STEVENSON JACOBS

NEW YORK – Gold futures briefly rose above $900 an ounce Friday for the first time as high oil prices, a weak dollar and fears of a U.S. recession led uneasy investors to keep buying the precious metal.

An ounce of gold for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped $6.50 to $900.10 in morning trading, an all-time high and a psychologically important milestone. Gold later slipped to $898.70 an ounce on profit-taking but remained in record territory.

“It’s a reflection of market sentiment: Gold is a hedge against uncertainty and right now it’s the best bet,” said Carlos Sanchez, a precious metals analyst at CPM Group in New York. “None of the other investment options look that great and gold does.”

Still, when adjusted for inflation, gold remains well below its all-time high. An ounce of gold at $875 in 1980 would be worth $2,115 to $2,200 today.

Gold has had a meteoric rise the past year — rising nearly 32 percent in 2007 — boosted by a falling dollar, rising prices for oil and other commodities and increased Middle East instability. Those trends have lifted the metal’s appeal as a haven; gold is seen as a safe investment in times of political and economic uncertainty around the world.

Also driving gold higher was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s pledge Thursday to cut interest rates to boost the economy, which some fear may be sliding toward recession amid turmoil in the housing and credit markets.

Lower interest rates tend to depress a country’s currency and drive investors to shift funds to hard assets, like gold. A cheap dollar can make commodities more attractive as an alternative investment, and can also raise demand from foreign buyers as their currencies gain strength.

“Concerns of a recession will keep pushing up gold prices,” Sanchez said. “Depending upon what happens in the economy and in the Middle East, we could see gold testing $1,000 an ounce, maybe even this quarter.”

Hedge and pension funds, along with other long-term investors, also flocked to gold as the mortgage and credit crisis in the U.S. intensified.

“The funds are really heavily at play … The momentum with gold is almost like mania. We keep wondering how high it will go,” said Jon Nadler, an analyst with Kitco Bullion Dealers in Montreal.

Investors looking to get in on the gold rush can expect continued volatility for the rest of the year, said Nadler, whose firm forecasts a trading range of $750 to $950 an ounce.

The steep rise in precious metals will also mean consumers in the United States — the biggest buyer of gold after India — can expect to pay higher prices for gold earrings, bracelets and other jewelry.

“People are going to feel that sticker shock when they go down Fifth Avenue,” Nadler said. “You’ll start seeing the increase reflected as early as Valentine’s Day.”

Global Cooling? Saudi Arabia covered with snow in coldest winter for 20 years

RIA Novosti | Jan 11, 2008

Northern parts of Saudi Arabia are covered with snow with schools, mosques and administrative bodies paralyzed, local media reported Friday.

The oil-rich kingdom is being hit with subzero temperatures and snow storms with freezing winds of up to 50 km/h (30mp/h). Some regions have been experiencing problems with water supplies as pipes have frozen, and livestock has died from the cold.

The Saudi Gazette reported late in December that the winter was expected to last 89 days, with temperatures reaching below zero. National media said the winter is the coldest in the country for 20 years.

Morning and afternoon prayers are being combined in many mosques because of the morning cold and some schools will reopen later than scheduled.

The bad weather is fun for children and teenagers, however, who have been making snowballs and building snowmen with enthusiasm.

Big Brother to control thermostats in homes?

Proposed mandate would grant utility companies unlimited remote access to regulate temperatures

WorldNetDaily.com | Jan 11, 2008

By Chelsea Schilling

Add thermostats to the list of private property the government would like to regulate as the state of California looks to require that residents install remotely monitored temperature controls in their homes next year.

The government is seeking to limit rolling blackouts and free up electric and natural gas resources by mandating that every new heating and cooling system include a “non-removable” FM receiver. The thermostat is also capable of controlling other appliances in the house, such as electric water heaters, refrigerators, pool pumps, computers and lights in response to signals from utility companies. If contractors and residents refuse to comply with the mandate, their building permits will be denied.

The proposal, set to be considered by the commission Jan. 30, requires each thermostat to be equipped with a radio communication device to send “price signals” and automatically adjust temperature up or down 4 degrees for cooling and heating, as California’s public and private utility organizations deem necessary.

Claudia Chandler, assistant executive director for the California Energy Commission, told WND the new systems would be highly beneficial to residents.

“From the Energy Commission’s perspective, all we’re doing is ensuring that this new technology is included in new homes instead of the older programmable technology,” she said.

The Programmable Communication Thermostat, or PCT, will allow power authorities to control home temperatures while denying consumers ability to override settings during “emergency events.” Nowhere in the proposal does it clarify what type of situation would qualify as an “emergency,” but Chandler offered her own explanation: “An emergency is when the utilities need to implement rolling blackouts and drop load in order to be able to meet their supplies because the integrity of the grid is being jeopardized.”

She claims residents will be able to manually override controls in all cases, but the 2008 Building Efficiency Standards (Page 64), known as Title 24, specifically states: “The PCT shall not allow customer changes to thermostat settings during emergency events.”

Michael Shames, executive director of California’s Utility Consumers’ Action Network, told WND he believes the idea of a chip consumers are unable to override is not feasible. While he considers the technology to be a positive development, he said denying consumers control over their own appliances is a highly problematic concept.

“The implications of this language are far-reaching and Orwellian,” he said. “For the government and utility company to say, ‘We’re going to control the devices in your house, and you have no choice in that matter,’ that’s where the line is drawn. That sentence must be removed.”

Additionally, no provisional exceptions for people with health conditions worsened by excessive temperatures are mentioned in the current proposal; however, the Energy Commission spokeswoman said existing supply problems are more worrisome to Californians with health issues than the projected solution.

“I actually was more concerned in the 2001 electricity crisis that folks on critical medical devices like respirators, kidney dialysis machines and things like that were going through rolling blackouts,” Chandler said. “That’s a very challenging thing to face. Moving somebody’s temperature up by a few degrees really seems mild by comparison.”

Jim Gunshinan, managing editor of Home Energy, based in Berkley, Calif., told WND the changes would also provide consumers with an option to control thermostats via the Internet.

“That means someone can turn on the air conditioning before they leave work for home and have the house comfortable when they walk in the door. Or if they forgot before leaving home for a ski trip, they can remotely lower the thermostat at home and save money.”

Gunshinan claims the new system is needed because it will be more beneficial to the environment than building new energy facilities for the state.

“Since utilities have old, inefficient and dirty power plants on reserve to use during peak demand hours, dropping demand will mean less use of these dirty power plants and less pollution.”

Some critics say California authorities will be incapable of enforcing compliance if homeowners and renters bootleg heating and cooling systems from other states, block radio reception with inexpensive FM transmitters or simply install window air conditioning units and space heaters, a bypass method that could use more energy than traditional units.

Concerned California residents expressed outrage with the proposal in several online postings:

“I hate this state. Why don’t we just fly a communist flag while we are at it? We are planning a move out of state. I’m done.”

“This is insane. Please, everyone reading this, take action. Write your representatives, call the RINO governor, call your local radio programs and, lastly, write letters to the editors of your local papers. Dear God, just when I thought California couldn’t get much worse!”

Other opponents of the state proposal expressed concern that its mandatory nature is a sign of increasing “Big Brother” government control.