Daily Archives: January 13, 2008

Homicides by US Iraq and Afghan war vets up 90 percent

Reuters | Jan 12, 2008

NEW YORK, Jan 12 (Reuters) – A survey of public records by The New York Times found at least 121 U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing or were charged with one after returning home from duty, the newspaper reported on Saturday.

The Times said the numbers indicated a nearly 90 percent increase in homicides involving active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six-year period since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Neither the Pentagon nor the Justice Department tracks such killings, which are handled by civilian courts. An Army spokesman said the report did not offer a complete picture.

Saying its research likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, the Times found three-quarters of the veterans charged were still in the military at the time of the killings, more than half of which involved guns.

Some 25 of the offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

The overwhelming majority had no prior criminal records, the Times said, but it added that in some of the cases, “the fact that the suspect went to war bears no apparent relationship to the crime committed.”

The Times said about one-third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, while some 25 percent were fellow service members.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce told Reuters in an e-mail that Army statistics “show little or no increases in positive drug use, driving under the influence crimes or domestic abuse in the past years among the more than 300,000 soldiers who have deployed in this war.”

The findings stemmed from searches of local news reports, examination of police, court and military records and interviews with defendants, their lawyers and families as well as victims’ families and military and law enforcement officials.

Interviews with relatives of the veterans brought a common refrain of “He came back (from war) different,” the Times said, with references to substance abuse and mental instability such as paranoia.

Few of the 121 veterans received more than cursory mental health screening at the end of their deployments, the veterans, their lawyers, relatives and prosecutors said. While many showed signs of combat trauma, they were not evaluated for or diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder until after the homicides, according to the interviews.

Boyce said the newspaper’s statistics “appear to be based on a basic review of American newspaper crime stories from 2004 to 2006, rather than statistics provided by the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense, or even any interviews with military medical or judicial professionals.”

Such methodology would make it “nearly impossible for reporters to determine the extent of highly personal mental-health assistance provided to individual members of the Armed Forces,” Boyce wrote. (Writing by Chris Michaud; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Organs to be taken without consent

Telegraph | Jan 13, 2008

By Patrick Hennessy and Laura Donnelly

Gordon Brown has thrown his weight behind a move to allow hospitals to take organs from dead patients without explicit consent.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the Prime Minister says that such a facility would save thousands of lives and that he hopes such a system can start this year.

The proposals would mean consent for organ donation after death would be automatically presumed, unless individuals had opted out of the national register or family members objected.

But patients’ groups said that they were “totally opposed” to Mr Brown’s plan, saying that it would take away patients’ rights over their own bodies.

There are more than 8,000 patients waiting for an organ donation and more than 1,000 a year die without receiving the organ that could save their lives.

The Government will launch an overhaul of the system next week, which will put pressure on doctors and nurses to identify more “potential organ donors” from dying patients. Hospitals will be rated for the number of deceased patients they “convert” into donors and doctors will be expected to identify potential donors earlier and alert donor co-ordinators as patients approach death.

But Mr Brown, who carries a donor card, has made it clear he backs an even more radical revamp of the system, which would lead to donation by “presumed consent”. The approach is modelled on that of Spain, which has the highest proportion of organ donors in the world.

“A system of this kind seems to have the potential to close the aching gap between the potential benefits of transplant surgery in the UK and the limits imposed by our current system of consent,” Mr Brown writes.

He voted against such a system in 2004 – but sources close to the Prime Minister said last night that the measure proposed then was a much harder version of his latest plan, without families having the final say.

Patients’ groups said that they were appalled by Mr Brown’s intervention. “They call it presumed consent, but it is no consent at all,” said Joyce Robin, from the watchdog Patient Concern. “They are relying on inertia and ignorance to get the results that they want.” She said that the

Government had made little effort to get people to register to give up organs after death. “Where is the big media campaign, where are the leaflets? Why, when I go to see my GP, doesn’t he ask me about organ donation? These are the things they should be doing – not taking away our right to decide what happens to our bodies.”

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association charity, agreed. “We don’t think a private decision, which is a matter of individual conscience, should be taken by the state. If people want to give the gift of life, that is their right, but it must be something that is a voluntary matter. ”

While polls show 90 per cent of Britons are in favour of organ donation, 40 per cent of relatives refuse consent for the organs of their relatives to be donated, a figure which rises to 75 per cent among black and ethnic minorities. To solve this, the organ taskforce plans measures to boost donation, including putting pressure on doctors to identify patients as potential donors before they have died.

The taskforce report – to be released on Tuesday – calls for a senior doctor to be appointed in every hospital as a “champion” of donation, along with a lay person to spread the message about the importance of donation locally.

The force, which is to publish a report on “presumed consent” this summer, hopes its 14 recommendations will lead to 50 per cent more donations in five years.

It admits to a possible “conflict of interest” between medical staff, trying to save lives and those keen to ensure every possible organ is harvested. Dr Kevin Gunning, an intensive care consultant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, and a member of the UK Transplant’s advisory group, said the measures could put doctors and relatives under pressure. “If, as a doctor you have turned your thoughts to your patient being a donor when they are still living, that is a real conflict.”

Dr Bruce Taylor, of the Intensive Care Society warned that early indicators of death were not reliable. “The only way to be sure is to do all the tests which show brain stem death; anything in advance of that is only a prediction.”

But Chris Rudge, of UK Transplant, the authority in charge of organ donation and transplant, insisted patients would not be considered as donors at any point where survival was possible.

Germany pardons Dutchman beheaded for Reichstag fire

Mentally disabled Marinus van der Lubbe was cleared under a law introduced in 1998 to lift unjust verdicts dating from the Nazi era.
Agence France-Press | Jan 11, 2008

BERLIN — Seventy-five years since the Reichstag building in Berlin was gutted by fire, the Dutchman executed by the Nazis for starting the blaze has been posthumously pardoned by the German state, federal justice officials said yesterday.

Marinus van der Lubbe, a member of the Communist party, was cleared under a law introduced in 1998 to lift unjust verdicts dating from the Nazi era.

The Reichstag, the imposing stone building that housed the Nazi-controlled parliament, was gutted by fire on Feb. 27, 1933 — one month after Adolf Hitler rose to power.

A Nazi court found Van der Lubbe guilty of arson and high treason and he was beheaded in 1934.

The verdict remains a source of controversy.

Some historians say the Dutchman admitted burning down the Reichstag alone in an attempt to rouse Germans to rise up against the Nazis.

Others believe he was made a scapegoat for a fire that the Nazis started themselves.

Blair kicks off campaign to become EU President

Apparently, since he has converted to Catholicism, Blair can now become the new leader over the entire European empire with the blessings of the papacy

The Observer | Jan 13, 2008

Alex Duval Smith in Paris

Tony Blair launched his campaign to become the first fully-fledged President of the European Union yesterday by describing the notion of left- and right-wing politics as redundant.

With France preparing to oversee the appointment process, Blair set out his vision of modern European democracy at a meeting of the French governing conservative party by also claiming that EU countries could achieve far more by working together than acting in isolation.

‘Europe is not a question of left or right, but a question of the future or the past, of strength or weakness,’ said the former British Prime Minister, speaking in French.

In his most important speech since leaving Downing Street last June, addressing 2,000 supporters of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Blair said globalisation was eradicating traditional party lines and class distinctions and rendering old political remedies obsolete. ‘It’s about today versus yesterday. Less about politics and more about a state of mind; open as opposed to closed,’ he said.

‘Terrorism, security, immigration, organised crime, energy, the environment, science, biotechnology and higher education. In all these areas, and others, we are much stronger and able to deliver what our citizens expect from us as individual nations if we are part of a strong and united Europe,’ he added before supporters of Sarkozy’s Union Pour Un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) party. Blair, a close ally of Sarkozy who advised the French politician during his rise to power, is strongly backed by the French President to become President of the EU Council of Ministers in January next year, a position he has previously said he was not interested in.

Sarkozy, 52, who appeared at the Palais des Sports rally without his 40-year-old girlfriend, Carla Bruni, offered unequivocal backing for Blair yesterday, describing him as an ideal candidate to run Europe. ‘He is intelligent, he is brave and he is a friend. We need him in Europe. How can we govern a continent of 450 million people if the President changes every six months and has to run his own country at the same time? I want a President chosen from the top – not a compromise candidate – who will serve for two-and-a-half years,’ added Sarkozy.

A UMP party grandee, Jean-Pierre Rafarin, wrote in yesterday’s Le Monde newspaper that Blair’s experience in Europe positioned him well for the post. The position of President of the European Council – which meets at head-of-state and government level, usually four times a year – is due to be created by the 27-nation grouping in the second half of 2008, when France will chair EU ministerial meetings.

At the end of this month, Blair will continue his campaign to win the leadership of Europe when he addresses a conference at the Sorbonne of Les Progressistes, a breakaway socialist party group which has joined Sarkozy’s government. Blair is also due to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this month.

After Blair’s speech, Sarkozy took the former Prime Minister for lunch at the Hotel Bristol near the Elysee Palace. Despite support from Sarkozy – who is the architect of the mini-treaty for a European constitution – Blair is an outsider for the EU job. His support for the war in Iraq and Britain’s reluctance to join the euro and other core projects is likely to count against him when EU leaders vote for their president later this year.

Sedatives and chemo drugs found in drinking water

Telegraph | Jan 13, 2008

By Richard Gray

Britain’s tap water should be monitored for powerful medicines after traces of cancer and psychiatric drugs were detected in samples, a report has warned.

The 100-page statement, commissioned by the drinking water watchdog, the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), reveals that pharmaceuticals are finding their way into the water supply despite extensive purification treatments used by water companies.

Trace levels of bleomycin, a cancer chemotherapy drug, and diazepam, a sedative, have been found during tests on drinking water, the report reveals.

While the levels are considered too low to pose a direct risk to health, doctors have expressed concern about exposing pregnant women to drugs that could harm an unborn child.

The report, compiled for the DWI by the consultants Watts and Crane Associates, recommends that drinking water should be monitored for hazardous drugs.

The report states: “The observed concentrations of pharmaceuticals in raw waste water indicate that the major source of pharmaceuticals to the environment is via sewage treatment works effluent.

“Drinking water treatment works use a wider and technically more advanced range of processes, but again these are not specifically designed to remove pharmaceuticals and several compounds have been reported in drinking water.”

But it adds: “Even in the worst-case situation, there is no significant risk to health from the intake of pharmaceuticals via drinking water.”

Sue Pennison, from the DWI, said: “The recommendations are now being considered and this may include conducting testing on drinking water.”

The report comes as a separate study by environmental scientists has warned that toxic chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer patients are being washed into Britain’s rivers. They, too, have called for testing of tap water to ensure there is no risk to people.

The study, carried out at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, examined the risks posed by chemotherapy drugs that escape into the environment through sewage.

The researchers estimated that an adult drinking more than three pints of water a day would receive a weekly dose of between 300 and 30,000 times lower than recommended safety levels.

They warn that a developing foetus would also be exposed to the drugs in the womb.

Andrew Johnson, the scientist who led the Wallingford study, said: “In the foetus, which is rapidly growing and comparatively tiny, the dose would be relatively higher and any damage to its cells could be far more serious.

“There is not evidence to show that drinking water treatment removes all these drugs, so while we are not wanting to alarm people, it would be foolish to assume there is no risk.”

Lives of Poverty Untouched by China’s Boom

Li Enlan at her home in Yangmiao, a village in Henan Province in China. “We eat somehow, but it’s never enough,” she said. Photo: Ariana Lindquist for The New York Times

NY Times | Jan 13, 2008

By HOWARD W. FRENCH

YANGMIAO, China — When she gets sick, Li Enlan, 78, picks herbs from the woods that grow nearby instead of buying modern medicines. That is not a result of some philosophical choice, though. She has never seen a doctor and, like many residents of this area, lives in a meager barter economy, seldom coming into contact with cash.

“We eat somehow, but it’s never enough,” Ms. Li said. “At least we’re not starving.”

In this region of southern Henan Province, in village after village, people are too poor to heat their homes in the winter and many lack basic comforts like running water. Mobile phones, a near ubiquitous symbol of upward mobility throughout much of this country, are seen as an impossible luxury. People here often begin conversations with a phrase that is still not uncommon in today’s China: “We are poor.”

China has moved more people out of poverty than any other country in recent decades, but the persistence of destitution in places like southern Henan Province fits with the findings of a recent World Bank study that suggests that there are still 300 million poor in China — three times as many as the bank previously estimated.

Poverty is most severe in China’s geographic and social margins, whether the mountainous areas or deserts that ring the country, or areas dominated by ethnic minorities, who for cultural and historic reasons have benefited far less than others from the country’s long economic rise.

But it also persists in places like Henan, where population densities are among the greatest in China, and the new wealth of the booming coast beckons, almost mockingly, a mere province away.

“Henan has the largest population of any province, approaching 100 million people, and the land there just cannot support those kinds of numbers,” said Albert Keidel, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an expert on Chinese poverty. “It is supposed to be a breadbasket, but there has always been major discrimination against grain-based areas in China. The profit you can get from a hectare of land from vegetables, or a fish farm or oils, is so much more.”

Other experts say Henan and other heavily populated parts of the Chinese heartland are often excluded from the financial support that goes to the coastal areas, and what antipoverty measures there are have little effect. Typically, residents of those areas say, money intended for them is appropriated by corrupt local officials, who pocket it or divert it to business investments.

Paradoxically, they say, they are overlooked precisely because of their proximity to the major economic centers of the east, forced to fend for themselves on the theory that they can make do with income sent home by migrant laborers and other forms of trickle-down wealth.

“Previous poverty alleviation policy focused more on western China, places like Gansu, Qinghai or Guizhou, which were poorer,” said Wang Xiaolu, deputy director of the National Economic Research Institute, a Beijing nongovernmental organization. “Besides, the situation in the border regions is more complicated, because if things go wrong there, it becomes more than a poverty problem. That’s why policy leaned toward them.”

Here in Henan’s rural Gushi County, only 73,000 of 1.4 million farmers fall below the official poverty level of $94 a year, which is supposed to be enough to cover basic needs, including maintaining a daily diet of 2,000 calories. “We should bear in mind that this poverty standard is very low,” Mr. Wang said, echoing the view of many Chinese economists.

Many more people in this part of Henan subsist between the official poverty line and the $1 a day standard long used by the World Bank. The World Bank’s estimate of the number of poor people in China was tripled to 300 million from 100 million last month, after a new survey of prices altered the picture of what a dollar can buy. The new standard was set according to what economists call purchasing power parity. By the new calculations, estimates of the overall size of the Chinese economy also shrank by 40 percent.

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Researchers Create New Rat Heart in Lab

NY Times | Jan 13, 2008

By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN

Medicine’s dream of growing new human hearts and other organs to repair or replace damaged ones received a significant boost on Sunday when University of Minnesota researchers reported success in creating a beating rat heart in a laboratory.

Experts not involved in the Minnesota work called it “a landmark achievement” and “a stunning” advance. But they and the Minnesota researchers cautioned that the dream, if it is ever realized, is still at least 10 years away.

Dr. Doris A. Taylor, the head of the team that created the rat heart, said that she followed a guiding principle of her laboratory — “give nature the tools and get out of the way.”

“We just took nature’s own building blocks to build a new organ,” Dr. Taylor said of her team’s report in the journal, Nature Medicine.

The researchers removed all the cells from a dead rat heart, leaving the valves and outer structure as scaffolding for new heart cells injected from newborn rats. Within two weeks, the new cells formed a new beating heart that conducted electrical impulses and pumped a small amount of blood.

With modifications, scientists should be able to grow a new human heart by taking stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow and placing them in a cadaver heart that’s been prepared as a scaffold, Dr. Taylor said in a telephone interview from her laboratory in Minneapolis. The early success “opens the door to this notion that you can make any organ: kidney, liver, lung, pancreas — you name it and we hope we can make it,” she said.

“Doris Taylor’s work is one of those maddeningly simple ideas that you knock yourself on the head, saying why didn’t I think of that,” said Todd N. McAllister, of Cytograft Tissue Engineering of Novato, Calif. His team has used a snippet of a patient’s skin to grow blood vessels in a laboratory and then implanted them to restore blood flow around a patient’s damaged arteries and veins.

The field of tissue engineering has been growing rapidly. For many years, doctors have used engineered skin for burn patients. Engineered cartilage is used for joint repairs. Researchers are investigating use of stem cells to repair cardiac muscle damaged by heart attacks. Also, new bladders grown from a patient’s own cells are being tested in the same patients.

Dr. Taylor is a newcomer to tissue regeneration. She began her professional career at the Albert Einstein Medical School in the Bronx investigating gene therapy and then cell therapy. She said she switched to tissue regeneration when she realized the limiting step in trying to generate an organ was not the number of cells needed, but the complexity of creating a three-dimensional structure.

“The heart is a beautiful organ, and it’s not one that I thought I’d ever be able to build in a dish,” Dr. Taylor said.

Her view changed about three years ago when she recalled that cells are removed from human and pig heart valves before they are used to replace damaged human ones. As she contemplated replacing the old rat cells with new ones, Dr. Taylor followed another of her mantras: “trust your crazy ideas.”

Progress came in fits and starts. “We made every mistake known, did every experiment wrong and had to go back and do them right,” Dr. Taylor said.

She poured detergents like those in shampoos in the rat’s arteries to wash out the heart cells and then injected neonatal cardiac cells. The first two detergents she tested failed. But a third concoction led to a clear, translucent scaffold that retained the heart’s architecture.

After injecting the young rat heart cells into a scaffold, she stimulated them electrically and created an artificial circulation as the equivalent of blood pressure to make the heart pump and produce a pulse. The steps also helped the cells mature. Tests like examining slices of the heart under a microscope showed they were living cells.

To test the biological compatibility of the new hearts, the team transplanted them into the abdomen of unrelated live rats. The hearts were not immediately rejected. A blood supply developed. The hearts beat regularly. And cells from the host rats moved in and began to re-line the blood vessels, even growing in the wall of the hearts.

Dr. Taylor is now conducting similar experiments on pigs as a step toward human work. “Working out the details in a pig heart made a lot more sense” because the anatomy of the porcine heart is the closest to humans and pigs are plentiful, she said.

“The next goal will be to see if we can get the heart to pump strongly enough and become mature enough that we can use it to keep an animal alive” in a replacement transplant, Dr. Taylor said.

As for human hearts, the best-case scenario would be to obtain them from cadavers, remove their cells to make a scaffold and then inject bone marrow, muscle or young cardiac cells from a patient. The process of repopulating the scaffold with new cells would take a few months, she said.

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Official Version of Naval Strait of Hormuz Incident Starts to Unravel

Press-TV | Jan 10, 2008

by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON, Jan 10 (IPS) – Despite the official and media portrayal of the incident in the Strait of Hormuz early Monday morning as a serious threat to U.S. ships from Iranian speedboats that nearly resulted in a “battle at sea”, new information over the past three days suggests that the incident did not involve such a threat and that no U.S. commander was on the verge of firing at the Iranian boats.

The new information that appears to contradict the original version of the incident includes the revelation that U.S. officials spliced the audio recording of an alleged Iranian threat onto to a videotape of the incident. That suggests that the threatening message may not have come in immediately after the initial warning to Iranian boats from a U.S. warship, as appears to do on the video.

Also unraveling the story is testimony from a former U.S. naval officer that non-official chatter is common on the channel used to communicate with the Iranian boats and testimony from the commander of the U.S. 5th fleet that the commanding officers of the U.S. warships involved in the incident never felt the need to warn the Iranians of a possible use of force against them.

Further undermining the U.S. version of the incident is a video released by Iran Thursday showing an Iranian naval officer on a small boat hailing one of three ships.

The Iranian commander is heard to say, “Coalition warship 73, this is Iranian navy patrol boat.” He then requests the “side numbers” of the U.S. warships. A voice with a U.S. accent replies, “This is coalition warship 73. I am operating in international waters.”

The dramatic version of the incident reported by U.S. news media throughout Tuesday and Wednesday suggested that Iranian speedboats, apparently belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard navy, had made moves to attack three U.S. warships entering the Strait and that the U.S. commander had been on the verge of firing at them when they broke off.

Typical of the network coverage was a story by ABC’s Jonathan Karl quoting a Pentagon official as saying the Iranian boats “were a heartbeat from being blown up”.

Bush administration officials seized on the incident to advance the portrayal of Iran as a threat and to strike a more threatening stance toward Iran. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley declared Wednesday that the incident “almost involved an exchange of fire between our forces and Iranian forces”. President George W. Bush declared during his Mideast trip Wednesday that there would be “serious consequences” if Iran attacked U.S. ships and repeated his assertion that Iran is “a threat to world peace”.

Central to the depiction of the incident as involving a threat to U.S. warships is a mysterious pair of messages that the sailor who heard them onboard immediately interpreted as saying, “I am coming at you…”, and “You will explode after a few minutes.” But the voice in the audio clearly said “I am coming to you,” and the second message was much less clear.

Furthermore, as the New York Times noted Thursday, the recording carries no ambient noise, such as the sounds of a motor, the sea or wind, which should have been audible if the broadcast had been made from one of the five small Iranian boats.

A veteran U.S. naval officer who had served as a surface warfare officer aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Gulf sent a message to the New York Times on-line column “The Lede” Wednesday pointing out that in the Persian Gulf, the “bridge-to-bridge” radio channel used to communicate between ships “is like a bad CB radio” with many people using it for “hurling racial slurs” and “threats”. The former officer wrote that his “first thought” was that the message “might not have even come from one of the Iranian craft”.

Pentagon officials admitted to the Times that they could not rule out that the broadcast might have come from another source

The five Iran boats involved were hardly in a position to harm the three U.S. warships. Although Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman described the Iranian boats as “highly maneuverable patrol craft” that were “visibly armed,” he failed to note that these are tiny boats carrying only a two- or three-man crew and that they are normally armed only with machine guns that could do only surface damage to a U.S. ship.

The only boat that was close enough to be visible to the U.S. ships was unarmed, as an enlarged photo of the boat from the navy video clearly shows.

The U.S. warships were not concerned about the possibility that the Iranian boats were armed with heavier weapons capable of doing serious damage. Asked by a reporter whether any of the vessels had anti-ship missiles or torpedoes, Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, Commander of the 5th Fleet, answered that none of them had either of those two weapons.

“I didn’t get the sense from the reports I was receiving that there was a sense of being afraid of these five boats,” said Cosgriff.

The edited Navy video shows a crewman issuing an initial warning to approaching boats, but the footage of the boats maneuvering provides no visual evidence of Iranian boats “making a run on U.S. ships” as claimed by CBS news Wednesday in its report based on the new video.

Vice Adm. Cosgriff also failed to claim any run toward the U.S. ships following the initial warning. Cosgriff suggested that the Iranian boat’s manoeuvres were “unduly provocative” only because of the “aggregate of their manoeuvres, the radio call and the dropping of objects in the water”.

He described the objects dropped by the Iranian boat as being “white, box-like objects that floated”. That description indicates that the objects were clearly not mines, which would have been dark and would have sunk immediately. Cosgriff indicated that the ships merely “passed by them safely” without bothering to investigate whether they were explosives of some kind.

The apparent absence of concern on the part of the U.S. ships’ commanding officers about the floating objects suggests that they recognised that the Iranians were engaging in a symbolic gesture having to do with laying mines.

Cosgriff’s answers to reporters’ questions indicated that the story promoted earlier by Pentagon officials that one of the U.S . ships came very close to firing at the Iranian boats seriously distorted what actually happened. When Cosgriff was asked whether the crew ever gave warning to the Iranian boats that they “could come under fire”, he said the commanding officers “did not believe they needed to fire warning shots”.

As for the report circulated by at least one Pentagon official to the media that one of the commanders was “close to firing”, Cosgriff explained that “close to” meant that the commander was “working through a series of procedures”. He added, “[I]n his mind, he might have been closing in on that point.”

Despite Cosgriff’s account, which contradicted earlier Pentagon portrayals of the incident as a confrontation, not a single news outlet modified its earlier characterisation of the incident. After the Cosgriff briefing, Associated Press carried a story that said, ” U.S. forces were taking steps toward firing on the Iranians to defend themselves, said the U.S. naval commander in the region. But the boats — believed to be from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s navy — turned and moved away, officials said.”

That was quite different from what Cosgriff actually said.

In its story covering the Cosgriff briefing, Reuters cited “other Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity” as saying that “a U.S. captain was in the process of ordering sailors to open fire when the Iranian boats moved away” — a story that Cosgriff had specifically denied.

*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in June 2005.

NASA: Solar cycle may cause “dangerous” global cooling in a few years time

Changes in the Sun’s Surface to Bring Next Climate Change

spaceandscience.net | Jan 13, 2008

Today, the Space and Science Research Center, (SSRC) in Orlando, Florida announces that it has confirmed the recent web announcement of NASA solar physicists that there are substantial changes occurring in the sun’s surface. The SSRC has further researched these changes and has concluded they will bring about the next climate change to one of a long lasting cold era.

Today, Director of the SSRC, John Casey has reaffirmed earlier research he led that independently discovered the sun’s changes are the result of a family of cycles that bring about climate shifts from cold climate to warm and back again.

“We today confirm the recent announcement by NASA that there are historic and important changes taking place on the sun’s surface. This will have only one outcome – a new climate change is coming that will bring an extended period of deep cold to the planet. This is not however a unique event for the planet although it is critically important news to this and the next generations. It is but the normal sequence of alternating climate changes that has been going on for thousands of years. Further according to our research, this series of solar cycles are so predictable that they can be used to roughly forecast the next series of climate changes many decades in advance. I have verified the accuracy of these cycles’ behavior over the last 1,100 years relative to temperatures on Earth, to well over 90%.”

Related

Earth facing a mini-Ice Age ‘within ten years’ due to rare drop in sunspot activity

As to what these changes are Casey says, “The sun’s surface flows have slowed dramatically as NASA has indicated. This process of surface movement, what NASA calls the “conveyor belt” essentially sweeps up old sunspots and deposits new ones. NASA’s studies have found that when the surface movement slows down, sunspot counts drop significantly. All records of sunspot counts and other proxies of solar activity going back 6,000 years clearly validates our own findings that when we have sunspot counts lower then 50 it means only one thing – an intense cold climate, globally. NASA says the solar cycle 25, the one after the next that starts this spring will be at 50 or lower. The general opinion of the SSRC scientists is that it could begin even sooner within 3 years with the next solar cycle 24. What we are saying today is that my own research and that of the other scientists at the SSRC verifies that NASA is right about one thing – a solar cycle of 50 or lower is headed our way. With this next solar minimum predicted by NASA, what I call a “solar hibernation,” the SSRC forecasts a much colder Earth just as it has transpired before for thousands of years. If NASA is the more accurate on the schedule, then we may see even warmer temperatures before the bottom falls out. If the SSRC and other scientists around the world are correct then we have only a few years to prepare before 20-30 years of lasting and possibly dangerous cold arrive.”

When asked about what this will mean to the average person on the street, Casey was firm. “The last time this particular cycle regenerated was over 200 years ago. I call it the “Bi-Centennial Cycle” solar cycle. It took place between 1793 and 1830, the so-called Dalton Minimum, a period of extreme cold that resulted in what historian John D. Post called the ‘last great subsistence crisis.’ With that cold came massive crops losses, food riots, famine and disease. I believe this next climate change will be much stronger and has the potential to once more cause widespread crop losses globally with the resultant ill effects. The key difference for this next Bi-Centennial Cycle’s impact versus the last is that we will have over 8 billion mouths to feed in the next coldest years where as we had only 1 billion the last time. Among other effects like social and economic disruption, we are facing the real prospect of the ‘perfect storm of global food shortages’ in the next climate change. In answer to the question, everyone on the street will be affected.”

Given the importance of the next climate change Casey was asked whether the government has been notified. “Yes, as soon as my research revealed these solar cycles and the prediction of the coming cold era with the next climate change, I notified all the key offices in the Bush administration including both parties in the Senate and House science committees as well as most of the nation’s media outlets. Unfortunately, because of the intensity of coverage of the UN IPCC and man made global warming during 2007, the full story about climate change is very slow in getting told. These changes in the sun have begun. They are unstoppable. With the word finally starting to get out about the next climate change, hopefully we will have time to prepare. Right now, the newly organized SSRC is the leading independent research center in the US and possibly worldwide, that is focused on the next climate change. Some of the world’s brightest scientists, also experts in solar physics and the next climate change have joined with me. In the meantime we will do our best to spread the word along with NASA and others who can see what is about to take place for the Earth’s climate. Soon, I believe this will be recognized as the most important climate story of this century.”

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IRAQ: Less Violent But Not Less Hellish

 IPS | Jan11, 2007

By Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail

FALLUJAH, Jan 11 (IPS) – U.S. and Iraqi officials claim that security is improving across al-Anbar province and much of Iraq. Security during the last half of 2007 was indeed better than in the period between February 2006 and mid-2007. But this has brought little solace to many Iraqis, because violence is still worse than in 2005 and early 2006.

Top Iraqi and U.S. officials and politicians have been saying that Iraq is back on its feet and that security has been established in the most volatile provinces like al-Anbar, to the west of Baghdad. Security responsibilities here will be handed over to Iraqis in March, the U.S. military says.

Violence levels are down, but attacks have not ceased. “Nine U.S. soldiers were killed in 24 hours, U.S. B-1 and F-16 bombers dropped over 40,000 pounds of special munitions on the Arab Juboor villages just south of Baghdad, and Awakening (militia paid for by the U.S.) leaders and senior police officers are being assassinated all over Iraq, yet U.S. army leaders and top officials say Iraq is safe and sound,” lawyer and human rights activist Mahmood al-Dulaimy told IPS.

Dulaimy said U.S. President George W. Bush has succeeded in convincing many people in the United States that everything in Iraq is all right. “It is you media people who fool the world by transmitting false news about the situation in Iraq,” Dulaimy said. “Look around you and tell me what is good here.”

Looking around, one finds a ruined country. And neither occupation forces nor Iraqi government personnel seem to care about saving the little normal life that remains.

The independent U.S.-based group Just Foreign Policy says more than 1.1 million Iraqis have been killed through the occupation. According to an Oxfam International report, four million Iraqis are in need of emergency aid. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are more than 4.5 million Iraqis displaced from their homes.

“Is it good that we still cannot go to Baghdad to sell our crops and buy seeds and other necessary things for our farms,” said young Jassim from Fallujah. “Is it good that we only plant ten percent of our land because there is not enough electricity and fuel to run our pumps?”

Many people in Fallujah say they simply want the U.S. forces to leave. “If the U.S. generals mean they will hand over security to Iraqis and leave the province, then I will salute them all,” retired Iraqi army colonel Salman Ahmed told IPS in Fallujah. “But I know it is just another comedy like that played elsewhere in Iraq, where Iraqis (officials) are just ropes for American dirty laundry. We want our country back for real, not just on paper.”

People in Fallujah, the second biggest city of al-Anbar province after capital Ramadi, say they are still in the grip of draconian security measures implemented and backed by the U.S. military.

“If security is so good then let them end the tragedy of our city,” a member of the Fallujah City Council, speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS. “We want our freedom back and we want to leave and enter our city without this humiliation by soldiers and policemen. Fallujah is dying, and our masters (Americans) are bragging about security and prosperity.”

Fifty-five-year-old mother Um Bashar came to the house where IPS was meeting with residents.

“Let them (Americans) take everything and bring me my son back,” she said. “He stayed to guard the house in the November 2004 siege and the Americans captured him. Now he is missing. Some people who were released told us he was with them in the airport prison.”

Iraqi people do not speak of improvement. They do not see it; they see only that these claims have become important for the U.S. elections.