Daily Archives: June 6, 2008

Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

Bush wants 50 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and legal immunity for all American soldiers and contractors

Independent | Jun 5, 2008

By Patrick Cockburn

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.

The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.

America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than when the military “surge” began in January 2007. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.

The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. “It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty,” said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: “This is just a tactical subterfuge.” Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its “war on terror” in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.

Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called “strategic alliance” without modifications, by the end of next month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that such a deal would create “a permanent occupation”. He added: “The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans.”

Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.

The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.

Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political observers in Baghdad suspect they will sign in the end and simply want to establish their credentials as defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance now. The one Iraqi with the authority to stop deal is the majority Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to a referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the election of a parliament. But he is said to believe that loss of US support would drastically weaken the Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in elections in 2005.

The US is adamantly against the new security agreement being put to a referendum in Iraq, suspecting that it would be voted down. The influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his followers to demonstrate every Friday against the impending agreement on the grounds that it compromises Iraqi independence.

The Iraqi government wants to delay the actual signing of the agreement but the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney has been trying to force it through. The US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, has spent weeks trying to secure the accord.

The signature of a security agreement, and a parallel deal providing a legal basis for keeping US troops in Iraq, is unlikely to be accepted by most Iraqis. But the Kurds, who make up a fifth of the population, will probably favour a continuing American presence, as will Sunni Arab political leaders who want US forces to dilute the power of the Shia. The Sunni Arab community, which has broadly supported a guerrilla war against US occupation, is likely to be split.

US Army Research Office: Sun, Not Man, Is Causing Climate Change

Wired | Jun  3, 2008

By Noah Shachtman

The Army is weighing in on the global warming debate, claiming that climate change is not entirely man-made.  Instead, Dr. Bruce West, with the Army Research Office, argues that “changes in the earth’s average surface temperature are directly linked to … the short-term statistical fluctuations in the Sun’s irradiance and the longer-term solar cycles.”

In an advisory to bloggers entitled “Global Warming: Fact of Fiction [sic],” an Army public affairs official promoted a conference call with West about “the causes of global warming, and how it may not be caused by the common indicates [sic] some scientists and the media are indicating.”

In the March, 2008 issue of Physics Today, West, the chief scientist of the Army Research Office’s mathematical and information science directorate, wrote that “the Sun’s turbulent dynamics” are linked with the Earth’s complex ecosystem. These connections are what is heating up the planet. “The Sun could account for as much as 69 percent of the increase in Earth’s average temperature,” West noted.

It’s a position that puts West at odds with nearly every major scientific organization on the planet. “The American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling,” Science magazine observes. So has the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, for their work on global warming.

[UPDATE: West himself said during a Thursday conference call that global warming is at least partially man-made — and maybe as much as “70 percent” due to human intervention.]

West faults the IPCC and other scientific groups have “conclude[d] that the contribution of solar variability to global warming is negligible.” He argues that these groups have done a poor job modeling the Sun’s impact, however, and that’s why they have “significantly over-estimated” the “anthropogenic contribution to global warming.”

In recent days, the science and politics of climate change have once again taken center stage. NASA’s Inspector General just issued a report, acknowledging that political appointees “reduced, marginalized or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public.” Yesterday, the Senate began debating a bill that would cap carbon dioxide emissions — considered one of the leading causes of man-made global warming.

UPDATE: “The Army does not have a position on global warming. Dr. West is an Army chief scientist, and is presenting one alternative theory to the cause of global warming,” Army spokesperson Lindy Dinklage tells Danger Room. “This research is just some amongst thousands of studies being conducted by Army Scientists across the globe.”

Okay. But the Army’s Office of the Chief of Public Affairs chose to promote just this one study. And when Army public affairs rolls out research from an Army chief scientist — with no clarifications that these are just his private views — I think it’s fair to call that an official endorsement.

Bush misused Iraq intelligence: Senate report

Reuters | Jun 5, 2008

By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) –  President George W. Bush and his top policymakers misstated Saddam Hussein’s links to terrorism and ignored doubts among intelligence agencies about Iraq’s arms programs as they made a case for war, the Senate intelligence committee reported on Thursday.

The report shows an administration that “led the nation to war on false premises,” said the committee’s Democratic Chairman, Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia. Several Republicans on the committee protested its findings as a “partisan exercise.”

The committee studied major speeches by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials in advance of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and compared key assertions with intelligence available at the time.

Statements that Iraq had a partnership with al Qaeda were wrong and unsupported by intelligence, the report said.

It said that Bush’s and Cheney’s assertions that Saddam was prepared to arm terrorist groups with weapons of mass destruction for attacks on the United States contradicted available intelligence.

Such assertions had a strong resonance with a U.S. public, still reeling after al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Polls showed that many Americans believed Iraq played a role in the attacks, even long after Bush acknowledged in September 2003 that there was no evidence Saddam was involved.

The report also said administration prewar statements on Iraq’s weapons programs were backed up in most cases by available U.S. intelligence, but officials failed to reflect internal debate over those findings, which proved wrong.

PUBLIC CAMPAIGN

The long-delayed Senate study supported previous reports and findings that the administration’s main cases for war — that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was spreading them to terrorists — were inaccurate and deeply flawed.

“The president and his advisors undertook a relentless public campaign in the aftermath of the (September 11) attacks to use the war against al Qaeda as a justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein,” Rockefeller said in written commentary on the report.

“Representing to the American people that the two had an operational partnership and posed a single, indistinguishable threat was fundamentally misleading and led the nation to war on false premises.”

A statement to Congress by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the Iraqi government hid weapons of mass destruction in facilities underground was not backed up by intelligence information, the report said. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said Rumsfeld’s comments should be investigated further, but he stopped short of urging a criminal probe.

The committee voted 10-5 to approve the report, with two Republican lawmakers supporting it. Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri and three other Republican panel members denounced the study in an attached dissent.

“The committee finds itself once again consumed with political gamesmanship,” the Republicans said. The effort to produce the report “has indeed resulted in a partisan exercise.” They said, however, that the report demonstrated that Bush administration statements were backed by intelligence and “it was the intelligence that was faulty.”

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said: “We had the intelligence that we had, fully vetted, but it was wrong. We certainly regret that and we’ve taken measures to fix it.”

PUBLIC SUPPORT

U.S. public opinion on the war, supportive at first, has soured, contributing to a dive in Bush’s popularity.

The conflict is likely to be a key issue in the November presidential election between Republican John McCain, who supports the war, and Democrat Barack Obama, who opposed the war from the start and says he would aim to pull U.S. troops out within 16 months of taking office in January 2009.

Rockefeller has announced his support for Obama.

The administration’s record in making its case for Iraq has also been cited by critics of Bush’s get-tough policy on Iran. They accuse Bush of overstating the potential threat of Iran’s nuclear program in order to justify the possible use of force.

A second report by the committee faulted the administration’s handling of December 2001 Rome meetings between defense officials and Iranian informants, which dealt with the Iran issue. It said department officials failed to share intelligence from the meeting, which Rockefeller said demonstrated a “fundamental disdain” for other intelligence agencies.

Australian PM hails EU-style bloc for Asia-Pacific

EU Observer | Jun 5, 2008

By LUCIA KUBOSOVA

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has suggested that Asia and Pacific countries, including the region’s heavyweights such as China, India and Japan, form a regional bloc similar to the European Union.

“The key thing is to enhance security and regional co-operation, which at present is fragmented,” Rudd said in a radio interview on Wednesday (4 June), AFP has reported, after he presented the idea during an address to the Asia Society of Australasia.

Mr Rudd suggests Asian-Pacific community would loosely follow the EU’s integration path (Photo: Council of the European Union)

He argued that an “Asia-Pacific Community” could be founded by 2020 as a forum for tackling climate change and terrorism, as well as settling territorial conflicts, such as over Kashmir, the Taiwan Straits and the Korean peninsula.

Furthermore, it could serve as a trade platform to help exploit the benefits of the looming economic power of the region, which he thinks will be “at the centre of global affairs” throughout this century.

“Put simply, global economic and strategic weight is shifting to Asia,” he said.

Commenting on possible comparisons with the 27-strong European Union – which is set to enlarge further – Mr Rudd said that it does not serve as “an identical model of what we would seek to develop in the Asia-Pacific, but what we can learn from Europe is this: It is necessary to take the first step,” according to Radio Australia.

His suggestions come shortly after a similar process of regional integration has resulted in the creation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), set up by a founding treaty signed last month.

The new supranational and intergovernmental body has combined two previously existing customs unions – Mercosur and the Andean Community – with 12 participating countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

Its institutional structure directly copies the EU model, with UNASUR’s headquarters to be located in Quito, Ecuador, a South American parliament seated in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and a ‘Bank of the South’ to be situated in Bogota, Colombia.

Other regional groupings inspired by Europe include a single market without trade barriers for goods and services agreed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as the African Union.

Nuclear Explosion Occurs Near Epicenter of the Sichuan Earthquake

Chinese Internet surfers commented that right after the quake military Special Forces blocked traffic heading toward the epicenter on the mountain, and men in white chemical protective clothing in military vehicles were also spotted driving toward the mountain.

Epoch Times | Jun 3, 2008

By Wu Weilin

Boxun News, a Chinese-language Web site based outside China, reported that an unnamed expert has claimed that there was a nuclear explosion near the epicenter of the Sichuan earthquake, based on witness reports and the discovery of concrete rubble believed to have come from an underground military installation. The news of this nuclear explosion has raised questions about the cause of the earthquake.

Mr. He, a local resident, stated that when the earthquake occurred on May 12, people saw something erupt from the top of a mountain next to the valley, “It looked like toothpaste being squeezed out,” said He. “No, it wasn’t [magma]. It was these concrete pieces. The eruption lasted about three minutes.”

According to a China News Services (CNS) report on May 31, 2008, paramedics from People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hospitals and psychologists from Beijing onsite May 23 found concrete debris at the bottom of a valley near the epicenter. The half-mile-wide valley was covered with debris 10 – 20 inches thick, covering the valley floor for almost 1.5 miles.

No major construction was occurring in the area at the time of the earthquake.

The thickness of the concrete pieces seemed to match that used in China’s underground military bases, according to Boxun’s expert. He explained that while there are documented cases that earthquakes cause volcanic eruptions, there are no accounts of eruptions ejecting concrete.

Based on the CNS report and timing of the eruption at the scene, there seemed to be no evidence of natural volcanic activity. The expert stated he was certain a nuclear explosion shattered the underground concrete structures, hurling debris into the air.

At least one of China’s nuclear military bases is located in Mianyang City, Sichuan, near the epicenter.

Chinese Internet surfers commented that right after the quake military Special Forces blocked traffic heading toward the epicenter on the mountain, and men in white chemical protective clothing in military vehicles were also spotted driving toward the mountain. Rescue personnel near the epicenter were all military, according to witnesses.

The expert believes the nuclear explosion was not confined to the underground test area and has caused radiation contamination, stating that in a call to Beijing he recommended authorities accept help from other countries, seal the area, find and provide help to those who had been exposed to contamination during the rescue work, and take emergency measures to prevent water contamination.

The expert believes that the nuclear explosion caused the recent 8.0 magnitude Sichuan earthquake in China. However, other experts referenced by Boxun withheld judgment as to whether the explosion caused the earthquake or the earthquake the explosion.

Parents of China quake victims arrested for protesting shoddy construction

Despite remarkable openness and tolerance of foreign journalists since the quake, public displays of dissent, even by grieving parents, are not tolerated in China.

Independent | Jun 5, 2008

By Clifford Coonan in Beijing

The road to Juyuan Middle School, where hundreds of students perished in China’s earthquake on 12 May, is blocked by police as officers clamp down on potentially destabilising news about the disaster.

Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army are clearing the site but there is a risk of infection, so no journalists, volunteers or villagers are allowed in, said a policeman guarding access to the school yesterday. However, there is another reason why Juyuan School, and scores of others around the quake zone in Sichuan province, has been sealed off.

This week, anguished parents in Dujiangyan, a small city 30 miles (50km) from the provincial capital Chengdu, were taken away by riot police after protesting against officials they claim are responsible for shoddy building work that made the school collapse like a house of cards. Despite remarkable openness and tolerance of foreign journalists since the quake, public displays of dissent, even by grieving parents, are not tolerated in China.

The tremor has so far claimed nearly 70,000 lives, with thousands more missing and five million people homeless. More than 9,000 children died in the quake, many of them in their classrooms as the tremor struck.

Juyuan Middle School was a scene of horror as the bodies of teenagers were brought out of the rubble with appalling regularity, each identification marked with a volley of firecrackers.

It is not clear how many pupils died. The official death toll is 278 but parents insist the true figure is more than 400. Soldiers were reportedly still digging children out of the ruins a day or two ago.

Parents blame poor building standards and flimsy materials for the deaths, because apartment blocks nearby are still standing.

The government has conceded many schools were badly built and promised that all those in the quake zone would be inspected for signs of what the Southern Weekend newspaper referred to as “tofu construction”. It quoted a member of the Ministry of Construction disaster relief team, Chen Baosheng, as saying: “The deaths of so many children ought to make our urban planning officials, architects and structural engineers all reflect deeply.

“Juyuan Middle School’s location, architectural structure, construction process and construction materials all had problems.”

In Dujiangyan, people are much more reluctant than before to discuss the school’s plight. They have reportedly been warned not to talk to foreign journalists.

“This was my school, this was my mother’s school,” said a man selling mobile phones near the Juyuan campus. “We are not experts on the building. How should we know what happened. Many factors caused the school to collapse.”

Nearly 20% Of Army In Afghanistan Is On Prozac

Data contained in the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope.

Time Magazine | Jun 5, 2008

Seven months after Sergeant Christopher LeJeune started scouting Baghdad’s dangerous roads — acting as bait to lure insurgents into the open so his Army unit could kill them — he found himself growing increasingly despondent. “We’d been doing some heavy missions, and things were starting to bother me,” LeJeune says. His unit had been protecting Iraqi police stations targeted by rocket-propelled grenades, hunting down mortars hidden in dark Baghdad basements and cleaning up its own messes. He recalls the order his unit got after a nighttime firefight to roll back out and collect the enemy dead. When LeJeune and his buddies arrived, they discovered that some of the bodies were still alive. “You don’t always know who the bad guys are,” he says. “When you search someone’s house, you have it built up in your mind that these guys are terrorists, but when you go in, there’s little bitty tiny shoes and toys on the floor — things like that started affecting me a lot more than I thought they would.”

So LeJeune visited a military doctor in Iraq, who, after a quick session, diagnosed depression. The doctor sent him back to war armed with the antidepressant Zoloft and the antianxiety drug clonazepam. “It’s not easy for soldiers to admit the problems that they’re having over there for a variety of reasons,” LeJeune says. “If they do admit it, then the only solution given is pills.”

While the headline-grabbing weapons in this war have been high-tech wonders, like unmanned drones that drop Hellfire missiles on the enemy below, troops like LeJeune are going into battle with a different kind of weapon, one so stealthy that few Americans even know of its deployment. For the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The medicines are intended not only to help troops keep their cool but also to enable the already strapped Army to preserve its most precious resource: soldiers on the front lines. Data contained in the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials say.

At a Pentagon that keeps statistics on just about everything, there is no central clearinghouse for this kind of data, and the Army hasn’t consistently asked about prescription-drug use, which makes it difficult to track. Given the traditional stigma associated with soldiers seeking mental help, the survey, released in March, probably underestimates antidepressant use. But if the Army numbers reflect those of other services — the Army has by far the most troops deployed to the war zones — about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were on such medications last fall. The Army estimates that authorized drug use splits roughly fifty-fifty between troops taking antidepressants — largely the class of drugs that includes Prozac and Zoloft — and those taking prescription sleeping pills like Ambien.

In some ways, the prescriptions may seem unremarkable. Generals, history shows, have plied their troops with medicinal palliatives at least since George Washington ordered rum rations at Valley Forge. During World War II, the Nazis fueled their blitzkrieg into France and Poland with the help of an amphetamine known as Pervitin. The U.S. Army also used amphetamines during the Vietnam War.

The military’s rising use of antidepressants also reflects their prevalence in the civilian population. In 2004, the last year for which complete data for the U.S. are available, doctors wrote 147 million prescriptions for antidepressants, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical-market-research firm. This number reflects in part the common practice of cycling through different medications to find the most effective drug. A 2006 federally funded study found that 70% of those taking antidepressants along with therapy experience some improvement in mood.

When it comes to fighting wars, though, troops have historically been barred from using such drugs in combat. And soldiers — who are younger and healthier on average than the general population — have been prescreened for mental illnesses before enlisting.

The increase in the use of medication among U.S. troops suggests the heavy mental and psychological price being paid by soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pentagon surveys show that while all soldiers deployed to a war zone will feel stressed, 70% will manage to bounce back to normalcy. But about 20% will suffer from what the military calls “temporary stress injuries,” and 10% will be afflicted with “stress illnesses.” Such ailments, according to briefings commanders get before deploying, begin with mild anxiety and irritability, difficulty sleeping, and growing feelings of apathy and pessimism. As the condition worsens, the feelings last longer and can come to include panic, rage, uncontrolled shaking and temporary paralysis. The symptoms often continue back home, playing a key role in broken marriages, suicides and psychiatric breakdowns. The mental trauma has become so common that the Pentagon may expand the list of “qualifying wounds” for a Purple Heart — historically limited to those physically injured on the battlefield — to include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on May 2 that it’s “clearly something” that needs to be considered, and the Pentagon is weighing the change.

Using drugs to cope with battlefield traumas is not discussed much outside the Army, but inside the service it has been the subject of debate for years. “No magic pill can erase the image of a best friend’s shattered body or assuage the guilt from having traded duty with him that day,” says Combat Stress Injury, a 2006 medical book edited by Charles Figley and William Nash that details how troops can be helped by such drugs. “Medication can, however, alleviate some debilitating and nearly intolerable symptoms of combat and operational stress injuries” and “help restore personnel to full functioning capacity.”

Which means that any drug that keeps a soldier deployed and fighting also saves money on training and deploying replacements. But there is a downside: the number of soldiers requiring long-term mental-health services soars with repeated deployments and lengthy combat tours. If troops do not get sufficient time away from combat — both while in theater and during the “dwell time” at home before they go back to war — it’s possible that antidepressants and sleeping aids will be used to stretch an already taut force even tighter. “This is what happens when you try to fight a long war with an army that wasn’t designed for a long war,” says Lawrence Korb, Pentagon personnel chief during the Reagan Administration.

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Putin Opponents Digitally Erased From TV

In a still frame from video, the incomplete digital erasure of a Putin critic named Mikhail G. Delyagin from an episode of the program “The People Want to Know” can be seen. Mr. Delyagin’s leg and hand remain visible, to the right of the man holding the microphone.

NY Times | Jun 3, 2008

It Isn’t Magic: Putin Opponents Vanish From TV

By CLIFFORD J. LEVY

MOSCOW — On a talk show last fall, a prominent political analyst named Mikhail G. Delyagin had some tart words about Vladimir V. Putin. When the program was later televised, Mr. Delyagin was not.

Not only were his remarks cut — he was also digitally erased from the show, like a disgraced comrade airbrushed from an old Soviet photo. (The technicians may have worked a bit hastily, leaving his disembodied legs in one shot.)

Mr. Delyagin, it turned out, has for some time resided on the so-called stop list, a roster of political opponents and other critics of the government who have been barred from TV news and political talk shows by the Kremlin.

The stop list is, as Mr. Delyagin put it, “an excellent way to stifle dissent.”

It is also a striking indication of how Mr. Putin has increasingly relied on the Kremlin-controlled TV networks to consolidate power, especially in recent elections.

Opponents who were on TV a year or two ago all but vanished during the campaigns, as Mr. Putin won a parliamentary landslide for his party and then installed his protégé, Dmitri A. Medvedev, as his successor. Mr. Putin is now prime minister, but is still widely considered Russia’s leader.

Onetime Putin allies like Mikhail M. Kasyanov, his former prime minister, and Andrei N. Illarionov, his former chief economic adviser, disappeared from view. Garry K. Kasparov, the former chess champion and leader of the Other Russia opposition coalition, was banned, as were members of liberal parties.

Even the Communist Party, the only remaining opposition party in Parliament, has said that its leaders are kept off TV.

And it is not just politicians. Televizor, a rock group whose name means TV set, had its booking on a St. Petersburg station canceled in April, after its members took part in an Other Russia demonstration.

When some actors cracked a few mild jokes about Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev at Russia’s equivalent of the Academy Awards in March, they were expunged from the telecast.

Indeed, political humor in general has been exiled from TV. One of the nation’s most popular satirists, Viktor A. Shenderovich, once had a show that featured puppet caricatures of Russian leaders, including Mr. Putin. It was canceled in Mr. Putin’s first term, and Mr. Shenderovich has been all but barred from TV.

Senior government officials deny the existence of a stop list, saying that people hostile to the Kremlin do not appear on TV simply because their views are not newsworthy.

In interviews, journalists said that they did not believe the Kremlin kept an official master stop list, but that the networks kept their own, and that they all operated under an informal stop list — an understanding of the Kremlin’s likes and dislikes.

Vladimir V. Pozner, host of “Times,” a political talk show on the top national network, Channel One, said the pressure to conform to Kremlin dictates had intensified over the last year, and had not eased even after the campaign.

“The elections have led to almost a paranoia on the part of the Kremlin administration about who is on television,” said Mr. Pozner, who is president of the Russian Academy of Television.

In practice, Mr. Pozner said, he tells Channel One executives whom he wants to invite on the show, and they weed out anyone they think is persona non grata.

“They will say, ‘Well, you know we can’t do that, it’s not possible, please, don’t put us in this situation. You can’t invite so and so’ — whether it be Kasparov or Kasyanov or someone else,” Mr. Pozner said.

He added: “The thing that nobody wants to talk about is that we do not have freedom of the press when it comes to the television networks.”

Vladimir R. Solovyov, another political talk show host, said Mr. Pozner was complaining only because his ratings were down and he was looking for someone to blame if his program was canceled. Mr. Solovyov, a vocal supporter of Mr. Putin, said he had never been bullied by the Kremlin.

Yet last year, his show, “Throw Down the Gauntlet,” regularly featured members of opposition parties. This year, the only politicians to appear have been leaders of Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, and an allied party.

Asked why he had not invited opposition leaders lately, Mr. Solovyov said: “No one supports them. They have nothing to say.”

Vladimir A. Ryzhkov, a liberal and former member of Parliament who used to appear on the show, said Mr. Solovyov was covering up for the Kremlin.

“He lies, of course,” Mr. Ryzhkov said. “My programs with him were among the highest rated programs of any in the history of his show.”

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