The Genius of Bach
Though this is the more appropriate instrument for the piece:
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The volunteer fireman who sent the photos told me that an iron worker took them. When the fireman asked the iron worker photographer, who is now dying of cancer, for more information, he said this.
“He said access to the garages was extremely restricted. I asked him if he saw any molten metal, he told me there were pools of molten metal under the pile and in the basements. He even said that there were spots that water had pooled up and was just bubbling like a pot of boiling water with molten metal underneath, like in the Nat/Geo movies of underwater volcanic lava flows.”
Gov. George W. Bush of Texas said today that if he was president, he would bring down gasoline prices through sheer force of personality, by creating enough political good will with oil-producing nations that they would increase their supply of crude.
''I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply,'' Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, told reporters here today. ''Use the capital that my administration will earn, with the Kuwaitis or the Saudis, and convince them to open up the spigot.''
No comment needed.
Based in Connecticut, L-1 was created two years ago out of the mergers and buyouts of half a dozen major players in the biometrics field, all of which specialized in the science of identifying people through distinct physical traits: fingerprints, irises, face geometry. The mergers made L-1 a one-stop shop for biometrics. Thanks to board members like former CIA director George Tenet, the company rapidly became a homeland-security heavy hitter. L-1 projects its annual revenues will hit $1 billion by 2011, much of it from U.S. government contracts.
If Yao impresses the Ministry of Public Security with the company's ability to identify criminals, L-1 will have cracked the largest potential market for biometrics in the world. But here's the catch: As proud as Yao is to be L-1's Chinese licensee, L-1 appears to be distinctly less proud of its association with Yao. On its Website and in its reports to investors, L-1 boasts of contracts and negotiations with governments from Panama and Saudi Arabia to Mexico and Turkey. China, however, is conspicuously absent. And though CEO Bob LaPenta makes reference to "some large international opportunities," not once does he mention Pixel Solutions in Guangzhou.
After leaving a message with the company inquiring about L-1's involvement in China's homeland-security market, I get a call back from Doni Fordyce, vice president of corporate communications. She has consulted Joseph Atick, the company's head of research. "We have nothing in China," she tells me. "Nothing, absolutely nothing. We are uninvolved. We really don't have any relationships at all."
I tell Fordyce about Yao, the 10-million test, the money he paid for the software license. She'll call me right back. When she does, 20 minutes later, it is with this news: "Absolutely, we've sold testing SDKs [software development kits] to Pixel Solutions and to others [in China] that may be entering a test." Yao's use of the technology, she said, is "within his license" purchased from L-1.
The company's reticence to publicize its activities in China could have something to do with the fact that the relationship between Yao and L-1 may well be illegal under U.S. law.
U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo Bay allegedly softened up detainees at the request of Chinese intelligence officials who had come to the island facility to interrogate the men -- or they allowed the Chinese to dole out the treatment themselves, according to claims in a new government report.
Buried in a Department of Justice report released Tuesday are new allegations about a 2002 arrangement between the United States and China, which allowed Chinese intelligence to visit Guantanamo and interrogate Chinese Uighurs held there.
In the days after our hypothetical terror attack, events might play out like this: With the population gripped by fear and anger, authorities undertake unprecedented actions in the name of public safety. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security begin actively scrutinizing people who—for a tremendously broad set of reasons—have been flagged in Main Core as potential domestic threats. Some of these individuals might receive a letter or a phone call, others a request to register with local authorities. Still others might hear a knock on the door and find police or armed soldiers outside. In some instances, the authorities might just ask a few questions. Other suspects might be arrested and escorted to federal holding facilities, where they could be detained without counsel until the state of emergency is no longer in effect.
It is, of course, appropriate for any government to plan for the worst. But when COG plans are shrouded in extreme secrecy, effectively unregulated by Congress or the courts, and married to an overreaching surveillance state—as seems to be the case with Main Core—even sober observers must weigh whether the protections put in place by the federal government are becoming more dangerous to America than any outside threat.
Another well-informed source—a former military operative regularly briefed by members of the intelligence community—says this particular program has roots going back at least to the 1980s and was set up with help from the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has been told that the program utilizes software that makes predictive judgments of targets' behavior and tracks their circle of associations with "social network analysis" and artificial intelligence modeling tools.
"The more data you have on a particular target, the better [the software] can predict what the target will do, where the target will go, who it will turn to for help," he says. "Main Core is the table of contents for all the illegal information that the U.S. government has [compiled] on specific targets." An intelligence expert who has been briefed by high-level contacts in the Department of Homeland Security confirms that a database of this sort exists, but adds that "it is less a mega-database than a way to search numerous other agency databases at the same time."
A host of publicly disclosed programs, sources say, now supply data to Main Core. Most notable are the NSA domestic surveillance programs, initiated in the wake of 9/11, typically referred to in press reports as "warrantless wiretapping."
In March, a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal shed further light onto the extraordinarily invasive scope of the NSA efforts: According to the Journal, the government can now electronically monitor "huge volumes of records of domestic e-mails and Internet searches, as well as bank transfers, credit card transactions, travel, and telephone records." Authorities employ "sophisticated software programs" to sift through the data, searching for "suspicious patterns." In effect, the program is a mass catalog of the private lives of Americans. And it's notable that the article hints at the possibility of programs like Main Core. "The [NSA] effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called black programs whose existence is undisclosed," the Journal reported, quoting unnamed officials. "Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach."
"We're at the edge of a cliff," says Bruce Fein, a top justice official in the Reagan administration. "To a national emergency planner, everybody looks like a danger to stability."
The following information seems to be fair game for collection without a warrant: the e-mail addresses you send to and receive from, and the subject lines of those messages; the phone numbers you dial, the numbers that dial in to your line, and the durations of the calls; the Internet sites you visit and the keywords in your Web searches; the destinations of the airline tickets you buy; the amounts and locations of your ATM withdrawals; and the goods and services you purchase on credit cards. All of this information is archived on government supercomputers and, according to sources, also fed into the Main Core database.
Main Core also allegedly draws on four smaller databases that, in turn, cull from federal, state, and local "intelligence" reports; print and broadcast media; financial records; "commercial databases"; and unidentified "private sector entities." Additional information comes from a database known as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, which generates watch lists from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for use by airlines, law enforcement, and border posts. According to the Washington Post, the Terrorist Identities list has quadrupled in size between 2003 and 2007 to include about 435,000 names. The FBI's Terrorist Screening Center border crossing list, which listed 755,000 persons as of fall 2007, grows by 200,000 names a year. A former NSA officer tells Radar that the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, using an electronic-funds transfer surveillance program, also contributes data to Main Core, as does a Pentagon program that was created in 2002 to monitor antiwar protesters and environmental activists such as Greenpeace.
If previous FEMA and FBI lists are any indication, the Main Core database includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people.
A veteran CIA intelligence analyst who maintains active high-level clearances and serves as an advisor to the Department of Defense in the field of emerging technology tells Radar that during the 2004 hospital room drama, James Comey expressed concern over how this secret database was being used "to accumulate otherwise private data on non-targeted U.S. citizens for use at a future time." Though not specifically familiar with the name Main Core, he adds, "What was being requested of Comey for legal approval was exactly what a Main Core story would be." A source regularly briefed by people inside the intelligence community adds: "Comey had discovered that President Bush had authorized NSA to use a highly classified and compartmentalized Continuity of Government database on Americans in computerized searches of its domestic intercepts. [Comey] had concluded that the use of that 'Main Core' database compromised the legality of the overall NSA domestic surveillance project."
The epidemic of suicides among veterans of the Iraq war with PTSD continues. The latest that has surfaced involves a decorated vet who wrote about his PTSD for the Marine Corps Gazette-- and this week killed himself and his brother after a long police chase in Arizona.
According to Rumsfeld and his media sycophants, America has real problems: We're weak-willed, we're immature, we're forgetting what happened, and oh my God, we've elected Democrats to Congress. So, what's the "Correction" for those problems? Listen to him:
Another 9/11 attack.
Beyond the warlord and clan fighting, there is now a budding conflict with Western aid workers. The Bush administration has said that terrorists with Al Qaeda are hiding in Somalia, sheltered by local Islamists, and has gone after them with American airstrikes. But a recent American attack on an Islamist leader in Dusa Marreb, a town in the center of the drought zone, has spawned a wave of revenge threats against Western aid workers. The United Nations and private aid organizations say it is now too dangerous to expand their life-saving work in Dusa Marreb.
“We’re in a different contextual environment right now,” said Chris Smoot, the program director for World Vision aid projects in Somalia. He said there were anti-Western “rogue elements that can shut you down, in any shape or form, at any time.”
Aid is also a serious problem in the contested Ogaden region of Ethiopia, across the border from here. A recent report written by a contractor working for the United States Agency for International Development said the drought there was “clearly worsening” and that the response by the Ethiopian government, one of America’s closest allies in Africa, was “absolutely abysmal.”
This may be no accident. The Ethiopian government is struggling with an insurgency in the Ogaden, and the report said that “food is clearly being used as a weapon,” with the government starving out rebel areas, while a mysterious warehouse of American-donated food was discovered across the road from an Ethiopian Army base. “The U.S.G.,” meaning the United States government, “cannot in good conscience allow the food operation to continue in its current manifestation,” the report said. “This situation would be absolutely shameful in any other country.”
The report was not made public, though a copy was provided to The New York Times. When asked about it, a senior American aid official characterized the report as “just a snapshot and one person’s observations and impressions.” But the senior aid official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said: “We’re not saying there’s not a crisis in the Ogaden. We’re not saying the Ethiopian response has been satisfactory. But some progress has been made. And we need more.”
Ethiopian officials declined comment and have denied human rights abuses in the Ogaden.
"I stand before you today with the strength and clarity and resolve to declare to the military, my government and the world that this soldier will not be deploying to Iraq," Chiroux said in the sun-filled rotunda of a congressional building in Washington.
"My decision is based on my desire to no longer continue violating my core values to support an illegal and unconstitutional occupation... I refuse to participate in the Iraq occupation," he said, as a dozen veterans of the five-year-old Iraq war looked on.
Minutes earlier, Chiroux had cried openly as he listened to former comrades-in-arms testify before members of Congress about the failings of the Iraq war.
The testimonies were the first before Congress by Iraq veterans who have turned against the five-year-old war.
Former army sergeant Kristofer Goldsmith told a half-dozen US lawmakers and scores of people who packed into a small hearing room of "lawless murders, looting and the abuse of countless Iraqis."
He spoke of the psychologically fragile men and women who return from Iraq, to find little help or treatment offered from official circles.
Goldsmith said he had "self-medicated" for several months to treat the wounds of the war.
Another soldier told AFP he had to boost his dosage of medication to treat anxiety and social agoraphobia -- two of many lingering mental wounds he carries since his deployments in Iraq -- before testifying.
Some 300,000 of the 1.6 million US soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from the psychological traumas of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or both, an independent study showed last month.
A group of veterans sitting in the hearing room gazed blankly as their comrades' testimonies shattered the official version that the US effort in Iraq is succeeding.
Almost to a man, the soldiers who testified denounced serious flaws in the chain of command in Iraq.
Luis Montalvan, a former army captain, accused high-ranking US officers of numerous failures in Iraq, including turning a blind eye to massive fraud on the part of US contractors.
Ex-Marine Jason Lemieux told how a senior officer had altered a report he had written because it slammed US troops of using excessive force, firing off thousands of rounds of machine gun fire and hundreds of grenades in the face of a feeble four rounds of enemy fire.
Goldsmith accused US officials of censorship.
"Everyone who manages a blog, Facebook or Myspace out of Iraq has to register every video, picture, document of any event they do on mission," Goldsmith told AFP after the hearing.
"You're almost always denied before you are allowed to send them home."
Officials take "hard facts and slice them into small pieces to make them presentable to the secretary of state or the president -- and all with the intent of furthering the occupation of Iraq," Goldsmith added.
Chiroux is one of thousands of US soldiers who have deserted since the Iraq war began in 2003, according to figures issued last year by the US army.
A psychologist who helps lead the post-traumatic stress disorder program at a medical facility for veterans in Texas told staff members to refrain from diagnosing PTSD because so many veterans were seeking government disability payments for the condition.
Vatican: It's OK to believe in aliens
By ARIEL DAVID, Associated Press Writer
Tue May 13, 4:07 PM ET
VATICAN CITY - Believing that the universe may contain alien life does not contradict a faith in God, the Vatican's chief astronomer said in an interview published Tuesday.
A $5bn (£2.5bn) tourism and development scheme for the Green Zone being hatched by the Pentagon and an international investment consortium would give the heavily fortified area on the banks of the Tigris a "dream" makeover that will become a magnet for Iraqis, tourists, business people and investors. About half of the area is now occupied by coalition forces, the US state department or private foreign companies.
The number of Americans being secretly wiretapped or having their financial and other records reviewed by the government has continued to increase as officials aggressively use powers approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the number of terrorism prosecutions ending up in court -- one measure of the effectiveness of such sleuthing -- has continued to decline, in some cases precipitously.
Exopolitics is based upon the understanding that earth is being visited by many advanced extraterrestrial races with diverse ethics, motives and agendas. The dynamics of the interactions between ET races and their interactions with earth humanity is to be explored on this site.
It is now four years since the Abu Ghraib photographs were placed before the world ...
The photographs have hopelessly confused the issue. They focus blame on the wrong people. Abu Ghraib was not just one cell corridor and a few MPs with cameras. By the end of 2003, it was a de facto concentration camp in the middle of the Sunni triangle with close to 10,000 prisoners. There was systematic and horrendous abuse. Constant mortar attacks putting both guards and prisoners at risk. Thousands of prisoners rounded up in sweeps and kept indefinitely in outdoor "tent cities;" repeated rioting because of food shortages and squalid conditions; illegal renditions to Jordan; kidnapping, hostage-taking; children behind bars; torture, water-boarding - even murder. We put the bad apples in prison, isn't it now time to deal with the real criminals?
Meanwhile, the military has been engaged in a giant cover up that has continued until the present day. Even the cover up has been covered up. The New York Times could faithfully report on the destruction of the Zubaydah interrogation tapes, two of them, but hundreds, if not thousands of interrogation tapes were destroyed at Abu Ghraib in January 2004. Colonel Thomas Pappas, the head of the prison, in a signed written statement declared an "amnesty period" in January 2004. Soldiers were asked to destroy whatever photographs or files they had. Hard drives were erased and e-mails purged. No one seems to know about it or care. Certainly, few officials in the military or the government cared about what really happened; they cared about damage control.
It is one thing to go to war; it is another thing to promote a foreign and domestic policy without even paying lip service to ethics, morality or the law. Make no mistake, the bad apples are not completely innocent of wrongdoing, but they are not the ones truly responsible. We have punished many of them for taking pictures of abuse and have never punished the people who ordered and were responsible for the abuse.
While I was working on Standard Operating Procedure, many people asked about "the smoking gun." "Have you found the smoking gun? Have you found the smoking gun? -- presumably linking the abuses to the upper levels of the Defense Department and to the White House?" The question puzzles me. There are smoking guns everywhere but people don't see them, refuse to see them or pretend they don't exist. How many torture memos does an administration have to promulgate before the public gets the idea they are promulgating torture? Bush has recently admitted that he was present at these meetings and approved "harsh interrogation techniques." And yet this has scarcely been a news story. Well-documented attempts to subvert the Constitution, abrogation of the Geneva Conventions and simple human decency. What does it take?
We are surrounded by smoking guns on all sides. Crimes have been committed; we have ample evidence of them. But there can be no justice if there is a failure to stand up for it, if we fail to demand it. Here's the flip side of the torture memos. John Yoo can argue that the President can do anything. Let him do what he pleases, but does that mean he can't be held responsible for the things he has ordered or the things done in his name?
It is easy to dismiss all of this as the unfortunate product of war. But this is not about war, it is about us. How complacent have we become? What does it take? Each day that we allow these crimes to go unanswered erodes the very ideals that this country stands for.
How can such a critical feature of the U.S. occupation remain so hidden from view? Because most Americans don't want to know about it. The books by Iraqi vets are filled with expressions of disbelief and rage at the lack of interest ordinary Americans show for what they've had to endure on the battlefield. In "Operation Homecoming," one returning Marine, who takes to drinking heavily in an effort to cope with the crushing guilt and revulsion he feels over how many people he's seen killed, fumes about how "you can't talk to them [ordinary Americans] about the horror of a dead child's lifeless mutilated body staring back at you from the void, knowing you took part in that end." Writing of her return home, Kayla Williams notes that the things most people seemed interested in were "beyond my comprehension. Who cared about Jennifer Lopez? How was it that I was watching CNN one morning and there was a story about freaking ducklings being fished out of a damn sewer drain -- while the story of soldiers getting killed in Iraq got relegated to this little banner across the bottom of the screen?" In "Generation Kill," by the journalist Evan Wright, a Marine corporal confides his anguish and anger over all the killings he has seen: "I think it's bullshit how these fucking civilians are dying! They're worse off than the guys that are shooting at us. They don't even have a chance. Do you think people at home are going to see this -- all these women and children we're killing? Fuck no. Back home they're glorifying this motherfucker, I guarantee you."
"Generation Kill" recounts Wright's experiences traveling with a Marine platoon during the initial invasion. The platoon was at the very tip of the spear of the invasion force, and Wright got a uniquely close-up view of the fighting. In most U.S. news accounts, the invasion was portrayed as a relatively bloodless affair, with few American casualties and not many more civilian ones. Wright offers a starkly different tale. While expressing admiration for the Marines' many acts of valor and displays of compassion, he marvels at the U.S. military's ferocious fire-power and shudders at the startling number of civilians who fell victim to it. He writes of neighborhoods being leveled by mortar rounds, of villages being flattened by air strikes, of innocent men, women, and children being mowed down in free-fire zones. At first, Wright notes, the Marines found it easy, even exciting, to kill, but as the invasion progressed and the civilian toll mounted, many began to recoil, and some even broke down. "Do you realize the shit we've done here, the people we've killed?" one Marine agonizes. "Back home in the civilian world, if we did this, we would go to prison."
In an interview he gave soon after the publication of his book, Wright said that his main aim in writing it was to deglamorize the war -- and war in general. The problem with American society, he said, "is we don't really understand what war is. Our understanding of it is too sanitized." For the past decade, he explained, "we've been steeped in the lore of The Greatest Generation" -- Tom Brokaw's book about the men who fought in World War II -- "and a lot of people have developed this romanticism about that war. They tend to remember it from the Life magazine images of the sailor coming home and kissing his fiancée. They've forgotten that war is about killing." In "Generation Kill," he noted, he wanted to show how soldiers kill and wound civilians. In some cases, he said, the U.S. military justified such killings by the presence of Iraqi fedayeen fighters among the civilian population, but, he added, "when you see a little girl in pretty clothes that someone dressed her in, and she's smushed on the road with her legs cut off, you don't think, 'Well, you know, there were Fedayeen nearby and this is collateral damage. They're just civilians.'" The "real rule of war that you learn -- and this was true in World War II -- is that people who suffer the most are civilians," Wright said. "You're safest if you're a soldier. I'm haunted by the images of people that I saw killed by my country."
As Wright suggests, the sanitizing of news in wartime is nothing new. In most wars, nations that send their men and women off to fight in distant lands don't want to learn too much about the violence being committed in their name. Facing up to this would cause too much shame, would deal too great a blow to national self-esteem. If people were to become too aware of the butchery wars entail, they would become much less willing to fight them. And so the illusion must be maintained that war is a noble enterprise, that the soldiers who wage it are full of valor and heroism, that in the end their intentions are good and their actions benign.
In his reflections on politics and language, Orwell operated on the assumption that people want to know the truth. Often, though, they don't. In the case of Iraq, the many instruments Orwell felt would be needed to keep people passive and uninformed -- the nonstop propaganda messages, the memory holes, the rewriting of history, Room 101 -- have proved unnecessary. The public has become its own collective Ministry of Truth -- a reality that, in many ways, is even more chilling than the one Orwell envisioned.
An Al Jazeera cameraman who returned yesterday to his home of Sudan from Guantánamo Bay and delivered a speech broadcast live on Sudanese television described the US facility as "heinous."What was his terrible crime?
His speech was broadcast live on Sudanese television. He was held at Guantanamo for seven years, and was never charged.
"After 2,340 days spent in the most heinous prison mankind has ever known, we are honored to be here. Thank you, and thank all those defended us and of our right in freedom," said Sami al Hajj, who spoke at an event organized by his family.
Hajj is the only major mainstream news journalist ever to be held at the prison. His supporters claimed that he was being held in retaliation for US anger over the Arabic television network.
Hajj was classified as an enemy combatant because he worked as executive secretary for a beverage company whose director allegedly aided Muslim forces in Bosnia and Chechnya. He was also suspected of transfering money to a charity the US labeled as terrorist, and had interviewed Bin Laden.
CHAPEL HILL, NC—A field study released Monday by the University of North Carolina School of Public Health suggests that Iraqi citizens experience sadness and a sense of loss when relatives, spouses, and even friends perish, emotions that have until recently been identified almost exclusively with Westerners.
BAGHDAD -- He refused to take the Americans' blood money.
Mohammed Hafidh Abdul-Razzaq had been summoned by U.S. Embassy officials who wanted to make amends for the killing of his 10-year-old son. The boy died during a shooting involving employees of Blackwater Worldwide, the U.S. security firm.
Deputy Chief of Mission Patricia A. Butenis told him that she was sorry for what had happened, Abdul-Razzaq recalled. She gave him a sealed envelope. It had his name written on it. Abdul-Razzaq pushed it away.