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Suit says U.S. used its citizens as bait
SHOCK, SHOCK! Our government is run by a bunch of rotten bastards.
In the months leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government intentionally stranded 7,000 of its citizens in the Philippines, according to a federal lawsuit to be filed today by a Northwestern University Law School professor. The suit alleges that the government at first wanted to keep Americans in the Philippines to discourage Japanese aggression, and later, needing an excuse to declare war on Japan, left them there as bait. MORE>>
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posted by Hal 8:40 PM

WHY DO THEY HATE US? Bush to Create Formal Office To Shape U.S. Image Abroad
washingtonpost.com -- The Bush White House has decided to transform what was a temporary effort to rebut Taliban disinformation about the Afghan war into a permanent, fully staffed "Office of Global Communications" to coordinate the administration's foreign policy message and supervise America's image abroad, according to senior officials. The office, due to be up and running by fall, will allow the White House to exert more control over what has become one of the hottest areas of government and private-sector initiatives since Sept. 11. Known as "public diplomacy," it attempts to address the question President Bush posed in his speech to Congress the week after the terrorist attacks: "Why do they hate us?" At the time, Bush was referring to the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "They hate our freedoms," he has repeatedly said since then. But as demonstrations, boycotts and other expressions of anti-Americanism have spread across the Islamic world and beyond, the question has taken on broader meaning -- and the need for a broader response.
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posted by West 8:44 AM

Controversial Operation TIPS appears dead
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - - The Homeland Security Bill passed early Saturday by the House of Representatives appears to kill Operation TIPS, the administration's controversial effort to encourage millions of Americans to report suspected terrorists to authorities.

The question needs to be asked...What's wrong with an US Attorney General that even considers and sees nothing draconian with this type of Stasi-like policy?
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 9:34 AM

Yes, a million tipsters might be wrong

OK, Tom Ridge, you say you want Americans to be watchful - that the goal of the government's proposed citizen reporting program is for people to be vigilant, not vigilantes.

As director of homeland security, are you gonna personally explain that to every utility worker, truck driver and cable installer who signs up for the national system of concerned workers "whose routines make them well-positioned to recognize unusual events, to report suspicious activity?"

'Cause I'm a little worried about how zealously some of my fellow Americans may take their duty if and when they join Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System), the civilian watchdog branch of the new USA Freedom Corps.
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 6:56 AM

Monitor Thy Neighbor
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
July 23, 2002

Opposition to the Patriot Act, legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President last year, is growing. Americans are beginning to understand that many precious liberties have been put in jeopardy by the government's rush to enact new laws in the wake of September 11th. Federal law enforcement agencies now have broad authority to conduct secret, warrantless searches of homes; monitor phone and internet activity; access financial records; and undertake large-scale tracking of American citizens through huge databases. We're told this is necessary to fight the unending war on terror, but in truth the federal government has been seeking these powers for years. September 11th simply provided an excuse to accelerate the process and convince all of us to relinquish more and more of our privacy to the federal government.

Now the Justice department wants to extend the new investigative powers to private citizens. It recently unveiled Operation TIPS � Terrorism Information and Prevention System � as part of President Bush's Citizen Corps initiative.
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 6:50 AM

Insider Deals Catch Up with Bush
(David Corn, AlterNet, July 5, 2002)
One of Bush�s fishiest moves as a businessman who failed upward in the oil industry occurred in 1990, when Bush was on the board of directors and the audit committee of Dallas-based Harken Energy. . . . In June 1990, Bush dumped over 212,000 shares and bagged $848,000. He did so at a time when Harken was slipping but had hidden losses by selling a subsidiary, more or less, to itself in a deal the Securities and Exchange Commission later ruled a phony transaction. Moreover, Bush failed to disclose his stock sale right away, as the SEC required, and, instead, notified the SEC eight months after the federal deadline. . . . Those skeptical about these things might want to note that the SEC general counsel at the time, James Doty, had earlier represented Bush during his purchase of the Texas Rangers baseball team . . . And during that SEC inquiry Bush was represented by Robert Jordan, who had been a partner of Doty at the Baker Botts law firm. Jordan is now Bush�s ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Whether Bush broke any laws, the Harken deal stunk. . . . If Bush had not engaged in insider trading, he certainly benefited as an insider. . . . Bush�s "administration is uniquely well qualified to chase after corporate evildoers" because Bush has "firsthand experience of the subject."
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posted by Lorenzo 6:20 PM

RAINY DAY FUNDS DEPLETING: U.S. Is Living Beyond Its Means At State And National Levels
DENVER (AP) -- States have used up two-thirds of their cash on hand and their rainy-day funds trying to cope with budget crises, legislative leaders from across the country said Wednesday as they called for government help. By June 30, the end of the fiscal year for 46 states, the gap between revenues and spending hit $36 billion, leaders said at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting. The difference is expected to hit $58 billion during the next fiscal year, leaving many states scrambling to pay for continuing programs and federal mandates. "The rainy-day funds are there for a rainy day. This is somewhere between a rain storm and a hurricane," said conference president Stephen Saland, a Republican state senator from New York. Saland said many states were forced to cut reserve balances and programs this past year, while others raised taxes.
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posted by West 8:48 AM

US army to engage in largest military simulation exercise yet
Yahoo! News -- Some 13,500 people in 26 locations across the United States will take part in one of the largest US Army exercises in history beginning Wednesday and lasting three weeks. The "Millennium Challenge 2002" will combine computer simulations and live military exercises with two headquarters, one in Suffolk, Virginia, and the other in San Diego, California. The scenario, which is secret, will "cover the whole spectrum, everything from terrorism to potentially a major theater of war and the threats that loom in between there," said General William Kernan, commander in chief of the Joint Forces Command, which coordinates air, sea and land military forces.
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posted by West 9:00 PM

Pentagon Pursues Leak of Anti-Iraq Plan
(David Stout, New York Times, July 19, 2002)
The Pentagon has opened an inquiry to determine who leaked a document outlining how the United States might attack Iraq to topple President Saddam Hussein . . . Using information provided by a source familiar with the military planning and unhappy with its direction, The Times reported that military leaders envisioned an air-, land- and sea-based campaign against Iraq from the north, south and west. . . . The article listed several countries that might be used as staging areas for the campaign but emphasized that none had been formally consulted about playing such a role and that the planning was preliminary. . . . A spokesman for The Times said today that while the newspaper could not discuss the nature of its confidential sources, "we are satisfied that the article we printed on July 5 about contingency planning for action on Iraq was consistent with responsible citizenship."
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posted by Lorenzo 3:53 PM

Gore: Bush administration has lied to Americans about nation's economy
Associated Press -- MORRISON, Tenn. - Former presidential candidate Al Gore accused the Bush administration Saturday of lying to Americans about the nation's economy. At a campaign event for a congressional candidate, Gore told Democrats that electing Lincoln Davis could be the difference in continuing the Bush administration's economic policies. The Bush administration has "lied about the future liabilities they have put on our shoulders as taxpayers," Gore said. The former vice president prompted a cheer when he said: "I don't care what anybody says. I think Bill Clinton and I did a damn good job." The recent spate of corporate corruption cases reflects the administration's policies and its appointees, who are supposed to police big business, Gore said. He compared the administration's handling of the economy to business decisions that led to the collapse of Enron, saying Bush is creating a huge deficit. "It's going to lead to bigger deficits than when the first Bush was there," Gore said. He said the administration should "completely scrap its economic plan and its team on Monday ... start over from scratch and start rebuilding this economy."
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posted by West 10:04 AM

RIDGE: U.S. Should Consider Giving Military Law Enforcement Powers - Is America Moving Towards A Military/Police State Out Of Fear?
Washington, July 21 (Bloomberg) -- The government should consider reversing more than a century of tradition and law to give the U.S. military a bigger law enforcement role in the event of a terrorist attack, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and some lawmakers said. Fears that terrorists might attempt a nuclear, biological or chemical attack on U.S. territory are prompting some lawmakers to support revisions to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which restricts using the military as a civilian police force. ``I think it is time to revisit it,'' Senator Joe Biden, a Delaware Democrat, said on the ``Fox News Sunday'' program. That would ``allow for military that has expertise with weapons of mass destruction to be called in'' if such a plot was discovered.

Wake up America! A military with domestic police powers? Sound familiar? It should. By the way, that would not be a democracy.
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posted by West 9:59 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the New York Stock Exchange warned on Sunday that Wall Street may face a rough ride when stock markets open this week but urged investors to stay calm and focus on the wisdom of long-term investing. "Mondays following Friday declines have always been difficult and I suspect tomorrow will be no different," Richard Grasso, chairman of the world's No. 1 exchange, told NBC's Meet the Press. On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average sank to 1998 lows when it crumbled 390 points, or 4.6 percent, to 8019. In a bear market, stocks can be especially vulnerable on Mondays because the market closure over the weekend allows time for investor anxieties to build. The October 1987 market crash, when the Dow plunged 508 points or 22 percent, occurred on "Black Monday" -- which followed a 108-point-drop the previous Friday. A slew of corporate accounting scandals have left investors mistrustful, prompting them to dump equities.

Let the dumping begin. As the market continues its nose dive amidst the cacaphony of corporate corruption, average investors (the little guys) are pulling out in an effort to insure that what little they may have left in the way of savings and retirment isn't consumed forever in what appears to be a growing economic black hole, at least for the forseeable future.
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posted by West 3:51 PM

Mock battle in SoCal and Nevada to test battle technology: Largest military experiment in U.S. history
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Preparations are underway in Southern California and Nevada for the largest military experiment in U.S. history. The Millennium Challenge 2002, which begins next week, was mandated by Congress to help U.S. forces prepare for future wars. About 13,500 troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will use the latest in military hardware in a simulation of what planners believe the battlefield could look like in five years.

We prepare for war and wonder why we don't have peace.
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posted by West 8:30 AM

LARGEST BANKRUPTCY EVER: WorldCom Expected to Soon File Chapter 11, as Cash Reserves Dwindle Fast
Yahoo! News -- Scandal-wracked WorldCom Inc., faced with a severe cash squeeze, plans to file for bankruptcy protection as soon as this weekend, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

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posted by West 8:23 AM

Trade Deficit Hits Record $37B
washingtonpost.com -- The United States trade deficit ballooned to a record $37.6 billion in May, reflecting Americans' ravenous appetite for foreign-made cars, TVs and clothes. The Commerce Department reported Friday that the deficit was 4.1 percent higher than the revised $36.1 billion trade gap reported for April.
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posted by West 8:21 AM

'On the subject of informants'
By Michael Rivero, YellowTimes.org Guest Columnist
During the 60s heyday of COINTELPRO, informants were being beaten and in some cases killed by those they spied on; a fact the FBI tried to conceal from other informants or potential informants. Indeed the FBI went so far as to plant fake evidence on people they did not like identifying them as informants in the hopes that they would then be killed by their own people. To those considering volunteering for the informants program: Informants are not liked by the people they spy on, no matter how innocent those people are of any wrongdoing. You will get hurt. Nobody will consider you a hero. You will be considered even less socially acceptable than you are now. You might get killed. That's the truth the TIPS people don't want you to know....
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posted by Hal 4:52 AM

Ravers Against the Machine
washingtonpost.com -- Two young women on an urgent mission have been lugging boxes into the offices of U.S. senators this week. The boxes contain petitions an inch thick, one for each senator. Nearly 10,000 signatures were collected over the Internet in five days The petitions declare: "This bill is a serious threat to civil liberties, freedom of speech and the right to dance." Look out, Congress: The ravers are coming. "We're offended by the fact they're blackballing an entire musical genre," said Amanda Huie, checking senators' names off her list Tuesday afternoon. The genre in question is electronic dance music, which fans enjoy at all-night parties called raves. Legislation in Congress could hold promoters responsible if people attending the events use illegal drugs such as Ecstasy, the party drug frequently associated with raves. The Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002 -- or the RAVE Act -- has cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and is on the consent calendar, meaning it could receive final approval without a roll call vote at any time. When he introduced the bill in June, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said "most raves are havens for illicit drugs," and congressional findings submitted with the bill label as drug paraphernalia such rave mainstays as bottled water, "chill rooms" and glow sticks. The bill would expand the existing federal crack house law, which makes it a felony to provide a space for the purpose of illegal drug use, to cover promoters of raves and other events. Another bill pending in the House -- the Clean, Learn, Educate, Abolish, Neutralize and Undermine Production (CLEAN-UP) of Methamphetamines Act, introduced by Rep. Doug Ose (R-Calif.) -- goes further. It would hold concert promoters in violation if they "reasonably ought to know" that someone will use an illegal drug during an event.

The United States is becoming a police state. First the Patriot Act, now the RAVE Act. In a country that is supposed to be the shining example of a democratic and free society, our fascist/capitalist government, which is run by alcoholics with the driving records to prove it, is now trying to outlaw dance music in an effort to stop the use of so-called �club� drugs. Aside from the very obvious hypocrisy, music and dancing are protected as expressions of FREE SPEECH under the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. There should be an outcry, a rebellion, a revolution in support of the U.S. CONSTITUTION. This is a global issue. If this can happen in the United States, then it CAN and WILL happen in every other country that misguidedly looks to the US as an example. Lawmaking is contagious. I suppose that they would have us all just go to the mall, get piss drunk and run up our credit cards so that we can keep our debt-based, consume-and-waste economy booming for a little while longer. Perception is reality for the vast majority of our ill-informed electorate, and unfortunately the perception is that raves and ravers and trance parties are �evil� influences on youth and society at large. We all know that this is not true. The truth is that there is a spiritual dimension that has evolved out of that scene, and it has touched the lives of millions of members of the human family in a deep and abiding way making us more conscious of our beautiful world and our place in it. I believe that this is the message that we must get out, and since we can�t afford high-paid, high-powered lobbiests to wine and dine and golf with lawmakers, it is up to each of us to speak up and spread the word. The RAVE Act is a blatant violation of our constitutional rights. I have already sent my representatives in Congress a letter. I hope that we can get others to do the same. Thankfully, the ACLU has picked up on the issue as well, so we are not alone. THE RAVES MUST GO ON. THEY CAN'T ARREST AN ENTIRE GENERATION.
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posted by West 9:37 AM

Libertarians blast new Bush program to create network of citizen informers
A new government program (TIPS) that seeks to recruit millions of citizen-informants should be terminated immediately.

Big Brother is watching you -- and he just might be your cable guy. This program will undermine the American traditions of freedom and privacy, and make us more like the nations that we abhor . . . . The problem with TIPS is that it goes far beyond any reasonable steps to prevent terrorism and smacks of a police state. By deputizing utility workers, delivery drivers and other private employees as de facto government agents, the government has created a way to search your home without a warrant . . . . These were standard tactics for the Stasi -- the East German secret police -- but they should be repugnant to every American . . . . When TIPS is fully operational, the United States would have a higher percentage of government informers than the former communist East Germany . . . .

Here's a TIP for Mr. Bush: Abolish this program immediately. The U.S. government has no business spying on its own citizens.
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posted by Hal 4:42 AM

White House Watch: Credibility problem
WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- As he often does, President George W. Bush took on a slightly pained expression Wednesday when a reporter asked him why he wouldn't release SEC documents about his $850,000 stock transaction at Harken Energy Company -- where he was investigated for failing to report the sale promptly to the government. "As to a look at Harken," he told the inquiring reporter, "the SEC, as a result of Freedom of Information requests, has released the documents and the key document said there is no case." Bush has been making this explanation with some minor variations since he first ran for governor of Texas nearly a decade ago. There is nothing to find in Harken, he always claims. It is a dry hole. Professional Securities and Exchange Commission investigators, government employees he stresses, not political appointees, made that determination and that should settle the matter. But it never has. Harken comes up again and again, now undermining the president's effort to reassure Americans about the economy and his administration's ability to discipline fraud and malfeasance in major corporations like WorldCom that revealed last month it had hidden $3.8 billion in debts. WorldCom -- like Enron Corp., where Bush supporter Ken Lay was chief executive -- and a score of other major corporations have been accused of cooking the books over the last nine months, leaving thousands of employees out of work and millions of stockholders out of luck. No matter how many times Bush tells his tale, there are always two questions unanswered: why won't Bush order the SEC to divulge the complete record on its Harken investigation and who bought the nearly $850,000 in stock 12 years ago? The White House pooh-poohs reporter questions as being a nonsensical comparison with the billions manipulated at Enron and WorldCom, but to Bush, the Harken sale may have been on of the most crucial of his business career, clearing debts so he could invest in the Texas Rangers baseball team which led, in turn, to the $15 million windfall he got from the team's sale several years later. It is with that windfall that Bush ran for governor and the rest -- as they say -- is history.
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posted by West 7:28 PM

US planning to recruit one in 24 Americans as citizen spies - smh.com.au
(Ritt Goldstein, smh.com.au, July 15, 2002)
The Bush Administration aims to recruit millions of United States citizens as domestic informants in a program likely to alarm civil liberties groups. . . . The Terrorism Information and Prevention System, or TIPS, means the US will have a higher percentage of citizen informants than the former East Germany through the infamous Stasi secret police. The program would use a minimum of 4 per cent of Americans to report "suspicious activity" . . . Highlighting the scope of the surveillance network, TIPS volunteers are being recruited primarily from among those whose work provides access to homes, businesses or transport systems. Letter carriers, utility employees, truck drivers and train conductors are among those named as targeted recruits. . . . A pilot program, described on the government Web site www.citizencorps.gov, is scheduled to start next month in 10 cities, with 1 million informants participating in the first stage. Assuming the program is initiated in the 10 largest US cities, that will be 1 million informants for a total population of almost 24 million, or one in 24 people. . . . The Patriot Act already provides for a person's home to be searched without that person being informed that a search was ever performed, or of any surveillance devices that were implanted.

[Hagerty comment: This article was pointed out to me by a friend who is a survivor of the Soviet Union's draconian surveillance programs. Here is what he had to say about it:

I have very uneasy feelings about it. It strongly reminds me of the system implemented in the former Soviet Union, as early as 1918, to fight terrorists and counterrevolutionaries.
I do not know how many actual terrorists were caught by KGB during seven decades of perpetual existence of civil informant system, however, I do know it caused arrests and imprisonment of over 100,000,000 (!) people during the same period of time.
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posted by Lorenzo 2:59 PM

Redistribution of Wealth: Expect change in American culture
MANHATTAN, Kan., July 12 (UPI) -- A Kansas State University professor predicts a fundamental change in American culture as a result of the Enron, WorldCom and other corporate scandals. Diane Swanson, an associate professor of management, Friday likened the current situation to "a house of cards." "You expect it to fall apart at some point when you keep hearing news that the information investors are supposed to be able to use is bad," said Swanson, who teaches corporate ethics. Swanson said the recent string of corporate scandals will continue to hurt the U.S. economy and people will move their money out of stocks and into safer investments as more bad news surfaces. She herself had a bad feeling on June 24 and moved most of her money out of stocks and into a money market account. The next day, WorldCom announced it had improperly accounted for $3.8 million in expenses, sending the stock market into a tailspin. Swanson said the deregulation of business, which began in the 1970s, left the government will less money to oversee corporations and is to blame. "Corporate greed increased in the 1970s and perhaps the focus on short-term profit and stock prices has run full circle," she said. "America has bought into the idea that greed is good and has made heroes out of corporate executives. They should be seen as stewards of our resources, not objects of hero worship and executives' pay seems to me to be out of hand." Swanson criticized so-called "golden parachutes" that provide incentives to chief executive officers to inflate stock prices, knowing they are guaranteed millions when they leave no matter the circumstances. Swanson suggested placing rank-and-file employees on corporate boards to help ensure at least some oversight. She also said that unless corporate boards start re-evaluating compensation packages voluntarily, the government should mandate it."If a company's employees are laid off, the CEO has failed," Swanson said. "They are supposed to try to provide steady employment and safe products for consumers, not just short-term gains."
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posted by West 7:53 PM

Anti-fraud bill is a smokescreen to distract public from fact that corporate crooks aren't being prosecuted.
WASHINGTON, DC -- An anti-fraud bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday is an attempt to protect -- rather than punish -- the corporate criminals responsible for the recent rash of Wall Street scandals. That's because writing new laws will do nothing to punish the corporate crooks at Enron, WorldCom, and other companies who have already defrauded their shareholders and employees.
Crimes have been committed -- and current laws should be used to immediately prosecute these criminals and force them to return their ill-gotten gains. Enforcing stricter laws for tomorrow does nothing to help today's victims. It's an insult for Congress to tell the 17,000 workers at WorldCom who have lost their jobs, "Don't worry, the next crooked accountant who tries this will be punished." The government owes it to the workers who have lost their jobs and their savings due to fraud to prosecute the perpetrators as soon as possible, not after politicians preen over the latest bill they've written.
Another solution that politicians are overlooking: Restitution. Here are four words that should be on the lips of every "concerned" politician: "Give the money back!" After these criminal executives are convicted, their victims should be encouraged to file civil suits to recover damages. Force the guilty to empty their bank accounts, sell their stock, and put their mansions on the market in order to compensate their victims.
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posted by Hal 1:26 PM

CNN.com - Gnutella developer dies in apparent suicide - July 10, 2002
Gene Kan, a programmer who helped develop the music-swapping Web site Gnutella, died June 29 apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a coroner's spokeswoman said Tuesday. He was 25. . . . Sue Turner of the San Mateo County medical examiner's office said Kan's death likely would be ruled a suicide, but an investigation was continuing. . . . Kan was among the first to develop an open-source version of the Gnutella protocol -- a small bit of computer code used by computers for file-sharing.
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posted by Lorenzo 8:20 PM

President Admits He Saw the FIRST Plane Hit the World Trade Center ... Statement Raises Many Questions
I was in Florida. And my Chief of Staff, Andy Card -- actually, I was in a classroom talking about a reading program that works. I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly, myself, and I said, well, there's one terrible pilot. I said, it must have been a horrible accident. . . . But I was whisked off there, I didn't have much time to think about it. And I was sitting in the classroom, and Andy Card, my Chief of Staff, who is sitting over here, walked in and said, "A second plane has hit the tower, America is under attack."
[Hagerty comment: Since there was no news broadcast of the first plane hitting the Trade Center, what private channel was Bush watching ... and why was he watching a picture of the Twin Towers on television if he didn't know something was about to happen? ... The above link is to the White House website .... better check it before they make this item disappear.
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posted by Lorenzo 8:07 PM

WorldCom considering what would be the largest corporate bankruptcy in US history
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - WorldCom Inc. says it will know within three weeks whether it will pursue what would be the largest corporate bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. The Clinton-based long-distance and data services company is on the verge of bankruptcy after disclosing it disguised $3.9 billion of expenses as capital expenditures in a bid to appear more profitable. WorldCom executives clashed with former auditors Arthur Andersen LLP Monday during Congressional hearings over who's to blame for the improprieties, which prompted President Bush to propose tougher penalties for company officials who lie on financial statements. As the WorldCom case unfolds, the company continues to negotiate with lenders for $5 billion in critical funding � as it was doing before news of the accounting scandal broke June 25. The company said Tuesday it also was awaiting word from banks on interim financing that could avert a bankruptcy filing � at least for now.
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posted by West 9:57 PM

Texas Boy Nearly Beaten to Death by Pastor- Police For Misbehaving In Bible Class
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas police on Tuesday sought a Baptist pastor and his twin brother on charges they used a tree branch to beat an 11-year-old boy nearly to death for misbehaving in a Bible class. Investigators sought Joshua Thompson, 23, and his twin brother Caleb Thompson for the July 3 incident, which left the Louie Guerrero in intensive care for four days after broken blood vessels caused his kidneys to fail, court records say. Both men are charged with a single count of felony injury to a child, according to an affidavit filed on Monday. Court records allege the 90-minute beating was to physically "break" Louie for lying, Joshua Thompson allegedly told the boy's stepfather afterward.
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posted by West 9:53 PM

Shackles loosened on U.S. intelligence Limits on agencies, imposed following the post-Watergate discovery of abuses, have been relaxed in the war on terror
USA TODAY -- One by one, barriers erected in the post-Watergate era to prevent abuses and excesses by U.S. intelligence agencies are yielding to pressure to protect the nation from another terrorist attack. Spying on Americans, toppling adversary regimes, even eliminating certain foreign leaders -- all actions long regarded as forbidden for the CIA and other agencies -- are back as policy options in the wake of Sept. 11. The shift has taken place with little public debate or formal government action. Many of the restrictions being eased today were imposed in the wake of the so-called Church Committee investigations of the 1970s. Named after Idaho Sen. Frank Church, a special Senate committee and a House of Representatives counterpart investigated disclosures in 1975 and 1976 about CIA and National Security Agency activities, including surveillance of anti-war activists, assassination plots against Cuba's Fidel Castro and other foreign leaders and routine surveillance of civilian telegraph cables. The committee also looked into the agencies' failure to keep Congress informed. The limits set after the committee's investigation include an executive order barring assassination as a tool of foreign policy. Now the Bush administration is using classified intelligence findings and other below-the-radar actions to empower the CIA, FBI, NSA and other agencies. (An intelligence finding is essentially a presidential authorization to carry out a secret operation.) To sidestep legal protections that might benefit terror suspects, the Pentagon and Justice Department have developed rules of detention and trial separate from the U.S. court system. One of the few publicly debated changes, the USA-Patriot Act, makes it easier for law enforcement to spy on Americans for counterterrorism purposes. The bill passed, with limited floor debate and overwhelming support, in the weeks after Sept. 11.
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posted by West 5:26 PM

S. 2633 RAVE Act - Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002
Electronic Music Defense & Education Fund
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posted by West 4:19 PM

nypost.com -- With its stock already under siege, AOL Time Warner's bonds have sunk to new lows, suddenly trading as though they were junk. As a result of the slide, the media and Internet giant is forced to pay more for new bank loans and higher-than-average rates for day-to-day financing of that money. At a time when the company is borrowing $10 billion in loans to help buy out Advance/Newhouse's stake in AOL Time Warner cable properties, the uptick in interest and financing rates is driving the stock price down. AOL Time Warner closed at $14 yesterday, down 61 cents, after dropping as low as $13.71. The stock has already fallen 57 percent this year. Spokespeople for AOL Time Warner did not return calls for comment on the drop.
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posted by West 3:39 PM

Senate To Pass Anti-Rave, Club Law
mi2n.com -- The Senate is poised to pass legislation that would give federal prosecutors new powers to shut down raves or other musical events and punish innocent business men and women for hosting or promoting them. The bill, known as the Reducing American's Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act(RAVE Act), was just introduced in the Senate on June 18th and has already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is moving VERY rapidly and could be passed by the Senate as early as next week. Worse still, the Senate leadership considers this draconian drug war bill to be so uncontroversial that they are trying to pass it under "unanimous consent" rules, which will mean no debate and no real vote. It is absolutely vital that your Senators here from you today. They need to know that this bill is a danger to civil liberties and is unacceptable.
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posted by West 2:43 PM

Bush Defends His Texas Oil Dealings
washingtonpost.com -- President Bush heatedly defended his decade-old dealings as an oil company director Monday amid rising concern about the nation's business scandals. "Sometimes things aren't exactly black and white when it comes to accounting procedures," he said of transactions at his old firm. Bush rejected comparisons between the transactions that masked losses at Harken Energy Corp. and those of executives and accountants at such companies as Enron and WorldCom that have resulted in billions of dollars in red ink. His own case, Bush said, "was an honest disagreement about accounting procedures." One day before he was to propose stiff punishments for corporate wrongdoing, the president faced a barrage of questions at a news conference about his own failure in 1990 to disclose stock sales as promptly as required by law. Pressed to explain, Bush said: "I still haven't figured it out completely." Previously, he had said he thought regulators lost the documents. Last week, the White House called it a mix-up by lawyers. In his dealings involving Harken a decade ago, Bush said, the Securities and Exchange Commission "fully looked into the matter, they looked at all aspects of it, and they did so in a very thorough way, and the people that looked into it said there is no case." The SEC forced the company to amend its books to reflect millions of dollars in losses that had been hidden by the sale of a subsidiary to a group of insiders. And Bush, who was on the company's audit committee, was the subject of a separate insider-stock trade investigation. The SEC took no action against Bush in that inquiry. An agency summary on the matter states that "it would be difficult to establish that, even assuming Bush possessed material nonpublic information, he acted with ... intent to defraud." On Monday, the president grew testy at times with questions about his actions as a corporate director on the eve of a speech he will give in New York on corporate responsibility.
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posted by West 5:59 PM

HOW MUCH DID THE US GOV'T KNOW? Moussaoui: FBI Planted Tracking Device
washingtonpost.com -- Zacarias Moussaoui, accused of conspiring in the Sept. 11 attacks, claims the FBI planted a tracking device in an electric fan that mysteriously appeared on his car in Oklahoma four months before his arrest in Minnesota, according to court records unsealed Monday. The motion, one of more than four dozen Moussaoui has filed since becoming his own lawyer last month, adds a new element to the 34-year-old French citizen's contention that U.S. authorities know he is innocent of the attacks on New York and Washington because they had him and the 19 hijackers under surveillance for months. The government has said neither Moussaoui nor any of the hijacker were being watched by U.S. authorities before Sept. 11.
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posted by West 5:54 PM

Bush's Army Secretary and EnronJust look at the mountain of evidence against Secretary of the Army, Thomas White�He was the head of the Enron Department that fronted all those phony and illegal partnerships that drove Enron into bankruptcy�And to make matters even worse, this bozo used a military transport to fly to Aspen in order to close the sale on his 6.5 million dollar estate.
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posted by Lorenzo 10:10 AM

All of Us Are in Danger - the end of freedom in the U.S.A.
(Nat Hentoff, The Village Voice, June 21, 2002)
on February 4 of this year, some 300 citizens of Northampton, Massachusetts, held a town meeting to organize ways to�as they put it�protect the residents of the town from the Bush-Ashcroft USA Patriot Act. On that night, the Northampton Bill of Rights Defense Committee began a new American Revolution. Similar committees are organizing around the country. . . . Speakers at that town meeting were defying John Ashcroft, who threatened dissenters in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year. . . . One result of that meeting was a petition, signed by over 1000 Northamptonites, urging the town government to approve a "resolution to defend the Bill of Rights." Thanks to a persistent organizing drive, that resolution passed the Northampton city council by a unanimous vote on May 2. It targets not only the USA Patriot Act but also all subsequent actions by Ashcroft and others that "threaten key rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens and noncitizens by the Bill of Rights and the Massachusetts Constitution." . . . The city of Northampton officially asks, from now on, that "federal and state law enforcement report to the local Human Rights Commission all local investigations undertaken under aegis of the [USA Patriot] Act and Orders; and that the community's congressional representatives actively monitor the implementation of the Act and Orders, and work to repeal those sections found unconstitutional." . . . You would think this grassroots movement to secure our liberties would be of interest to the national media, but I have seen little of it on television or in the print press. . . . To find out about these campaigns around the country, and about a range of organizing tools, you can visit the Northampton Bill of Rights Defense Committee's Web site and its links: www.gjf.org/NBORDC. . . . A further indication that many Americans are ahead of their representatives in Washington in wanting to be safe from Ashcroft is an April 24 Associated Press report: "Despite the fear of future terrorist attacks, a majority of Americans are unwilling to give up civil liberties in exchange for national security, according to a Michigan State University study. Nearly 55 percent of 1488 people surveyed nationwide said they don't want to give up constitutional rights in the government's fight against terrorism.
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posted by Lorenzo 1:05 PM

Security bill bars blowing whistle
(Audrey Hudson, The Washington Times, June 22, 2002)
A provision in the bill seeking to create a Homeland Security Department will exempt its employees from whistleblower protection, the very law that helped expose intelligence-gathering missteps before September 11. . . . FBI Agent Coleen Rowley blew the whistle on her agency for mishandling a probe of terrorist suspect Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been indicted by a federal grand jury on six counts of conspiracy in the September 11 attacks. Mrs. Rowley testified before a Senate panel earlier this month that a "climate of fear" prevented an aggressive investigation of the man whom authorities believe was to be the 20th hijacker. . . . "Whistleblowers are key to exposing a dysfunctional bureaucracy," Mr. Grassley says. . . . Since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, government agencies have placed a greater emphasis on secrecy and restricted information for security reasons, he says. "With these restrictions come a greater danger of stopping the legitimate disclosure of wrongdoing and mismanagement, especially about public safety and security. Bureaucracies have an instinct to cover up their misdeeds and mistakes, and that temptation is even greater when they can use a potential security issue as an excuse." . . . "It's very scary. The public needs to know what the government is doing," says Tim Edgar, legislative counsel for the ACLU. "Sometimes, it hurts Democrats; sometimes, it hurts Republicans, but it's always informative and even more necessary to protect whistleblowers in homeland security than any other government agency. It's not just tax dollars spent wisely, but doing what we need to do to keep people safe." . . . Other elements of the plan are long on secrecy and short on accountability, Mr. Edgar says. . . . The department would not be required to release information under the Freedom of Information Act. This would eliminate the agency's responsibility to answer questions from the public. Advisory committees that normally include public input would be immune, and the Cabinet secretary would have veto power over inspector general audits and investigations.
]Hagerty comment: It seems to me that the proposed Department of Homeland Security is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to institutionalize the U.S. Secret Police. Stories like this take me back to the days when we heard similar news coming from the Soviet Union. The fascist governments we fought against in World War II are beginning to look benign compared to the Bush leaguers who stole the White House in the American coup of 2000.]
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posted by Lorenzo 12:56 PM

S. 2633 RAVE Act - Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002
Senate Bill 2633 is an attempt by legislators to reduce the illegal use of ecstasy (MDMA) by re-writing Title 21 U.S. Code Section 856 (aka the "crack house law") so that it can be better used to shut down raves. In addition to expanding the scope of 21 U.S.C. 856 this legislation adds a $250,000 minimum civil liability clause to the existing criminal penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and possible $500,000 fine. This legislation could have a devastating effect on the electronic dance music community. . . . This bill was introduced under special rules and could be voted on as soon as July 8th, 2002. EM:DEF urges readers to immediately contact their elected representatives in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
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posted by Lorenzo 12:34 PM

Minority Report (starring Tom Cruise, directed by Steven Spielberg) is based on the wonderful Philip K. Dick short story. And, this movie is a Philip K. Dick movie that his fans can be proud of! A genius visionary of the future, Phil was not an easy man -- erratic, oft-married, half-insane for years, paranoid -- and his publishing career was not an easy one. It took a long time, but finally Phil Dick is famous. Another work of Dick's science fiction, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), was the basis for the famous cult movie classic Blade Runner (1982), directed by Ridley Scott.


Update: "Atlas Shrugged" Movie Project
The Ruddy Morgan Production Company movie, planned as a five-hour TV miniseries for Turner Network Television, has been cancelled. This isn't the first time an Atlas movie has been attempted. Since the 1970s, when Ayn Rand herself took up the challenge, three distinct projects have made it as far as the contract stage. At least six complete screenplays have been drafted. But so far none have even been cast, let alone filmed and released.

By the fall of 2000, the Ruddy Morgan screenplay was completed. And, anticipating an actors' strike the following summer, they were eager to line up the director and cast and complete the filming by June of 2001. But, the economy hit the skids, making the projected $25 million cost of the film seem riskier. And TNT went through a wrenching process of reorganization when its parent company, Time-Warner, merged with America Online. Two executives involved with the project left, and Variety reports that half of the TNT Originals staff has been laid off.

In quick succession last summer, TNT first cut its financial commitment to $10 million, then withdrew from the project altogether. That left the project in Ruddy's hands, with nine months left to get it off the ground. He reconceived it as a feature film rather than a TV miniseries, and condensed the script accordingly, but was not able to line up the talent or the financing by the March deadline.

What happens now? The Ruddy Morgan Production Company hasn't given up -- the script has been rewritten as feature motion picture and is currently being circulated in Hollywood with the hope of attracting leading players. ->MORE->
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posted by Hal 5:08 PM

Hacktivists to release covert communications tool called "Camera/Shy"

An international group of hacktivists says it is about to release a computer program designed to let political dissidents communicate via the internet without fear of government eavesdropping. Hacktivismo, an international group of programmers and activists, says the program, named Camera/Shy, will make it simple to bury encrypted information in innocuous-looking images that can then be shared over the internet. Those with the same program will then be able to automatically detect and extract concealed information.

Anyone monitoring the internet for subversive activity will only see apparently ordinary images. Hacktivismo says Camera/Shy will also use encryption, suggesting keys will be needed to reveal secret information in full....A technology called steganography allows data to be embedded in the digital information comprising an image file. This is accomplished by altering relatively unimportant bits so that the changed image remains identical to the naked eye. The information is concealed using a key. While it may be possible to detect that an image has been modified to contain information, without the key it is impossible to extract that information.

Hacktivismo says Camera/Shy will be released at the computer security convention H2K2 in New York City, on 13 July.
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posted by Hal 4:53 PM

Terrorists stealing airline uniforms and credentials, pilot group says
Detroit Free Press -- Suspected terrorists have been breaking into flight crews' hotel rooms in the United States and elsewhere with increasing frequency during the last year and stealing crew uniforms, credentials and passports, a key security official said Wednesday.
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 2:27 PM

Mourn on the Fourth of July: 2002
by Thomas L. Knapp

Commentary on the state of the union
Tom Knapp is Managing Editor of Free-Market.Net and publisher of Rational Review.

Last year, I sat down on the evening of July 4th and wrote a commentary about the sad state of liberty in the United States of 2001. That article -- "Mourn on the Fourth of July" -- probably elicited as many "you said what I feel" responses from readers as anything I've ever written. I didn't really expect to follow it up on an annual basis, but the events that have transpired since then, specifically the fallout of September 11th, have provided ample reasons for doing so.

Were things bad in the United States a year ago? They certainly were.
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 6:00 AM

[Hagerty comment: While the following article seems to me to be a jumble of muddled thinking, I do have to agree with the author when he says "In the name of the collective entity known as 'national security', they now feel free to arbitrarily cancel the American citizenship -- and the Constitutional rights -- of any individual who offends them, and threaten anyone who criticizes them with unspecified but ominous 'charges'."]

The Wages of Socialism Are Death
by L. Neil Smith

Independence Day is on us again. In the west, instead of fireworks -- which have been forbidden by gubernatorial edict -- we have forest fires.

People have died. Homes and other buildings have been destroyed. All in all, there are wildfires raging out of control in 17 states. And each and every one of these fires -- including the devastating blazes in New Mexico and Florida last year -- have a single, common cause. . . . Socialism.
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posted by An Old Curmudgeon 5:47 AM

HYPOCRITE: Bush failed to follow US shares law
BBC -- The White House has acknowledged that President Bush failed to follow the US law and disclose details of shares he sold when he was a company director. A spokesman blamed it on a clerical mistake by company lawyers. The US President's business dealings have sparked renewed interest since the accounting irregularities at WorldCom were revealed last week. After those problems were announced, Mr Bush said he was angry with company directors who abused their position. Now his own actions have been called into question.
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posted by West 3:50 PM

Bush Corporate Record Examined
washingtonpost.com -- The White House acknowledged Wednesday that when he was a corporate director, President Bush failed to promptly disclose stock sales as required by federal law. A spokesman blamed it on a "clerical mistake" by company lawyers, though Bush has said government regulators lost it. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush had followed the law by informing regulators of his intention to sell stock in Harken Energy Corp., a Texas oil company, in 1990. But he conceded that because of a "mix-up, a clerical mistake" by Harken lawyers, Bush had not promptly reported the sale after it took place. Reacting to a wave of corporate accounting scandals in recent weeks, Bush has proposed that top company leaders be required to promptly disclose their sales or purchases of company stock for personal gain. The law already says company insiders must disclose publicly, by the 10th day of the month following the transaction, a sale or purchase of stock in their companies. The report is known as a Form 4. Fleischer said that on June 22, 1990, Bush filed a form 144 � the notice of intention to sell Harken stock. "The president has called for prompt disclosure of a sale; the president in his own personal action disclosed promptly the intent to sell," Fleischer said. But, he said: "In the case of the second form, the additional form, the Form 4s, there was indeed a mix-up, a clerical mistake, involving the lawyers at Harken, and in that case the Form 4 was not filed." That explanation was at odds with one Bush himself offered during his 1994 campaign for governor of Texas. Bush said at the time that he had filed the required report, and that the SEC must have misplaced it.
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posted by West 3:21 PM

AlterNet -- Pledging Allegiance To Fundamentalism
(David Corn, Alternet.org, June 28, 2002)
When a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the pledge is unconstitutional and cannot be recited in public schools because of the "under God" phrase, no microphone on Capitol Hill was safe. Senators and House members scampered before television cameras to denounce this decision. . . . The response to the court's decision exposed the fundamentalism that weaves through American public life, where many, confuse the worship of God with patriotism.. . . the American fundamentalists -- which includes congressional Democrats -- seem to regard the reference to God as an essential component of the pledge. On Greta van Susteren's Fox News Channel show, the Reverend Jerry Falwell called the ruling "hostile to religion" . . . Before the pledge flap, Falwell was most recently in the news defending unneighborly anti-Islam comments made by the Reverend Jerry Vines at the Southern Baptist Pastors Conference. Vines stated that "Islam is not as good as Christianity" and that Allah, the God of Muslims, "is not" Jehovah, the God of Christians. I assume that in the Falwell-Vines view of the world, the "under God" portion of the pledge refers to a specific God, their God. (Otherwise, would they support substituting "under Allah" for "under God" in public schools with children from Muslim families?) This then would mean that the compulsory recitation of the pledge, per Falwell and Vines, is indeed the endorsement of a particular religion. . . . when President Dwight Eisenhower signed the 1954 act that mixed God with flag, he declared: "From this day forward, millions of our school children will daily proclaim ... the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty." That sure sounds like endorsing -- and enforcing -- a religious view. . . . But after Bush had a night to ponder the court's decision -- you think he read it? -- he took pledge-mania fundamentalism a giant step further. . . . saying, "We need common sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God and those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench." That is a major -- and stunning -- policy declaration. Bush was announcing a new litmus test for judges. It's not just whether you're a conservative or constructionist (or meet the political needs of Karl Rove, Bush's uberstrategist). The question is, do you believe in God and believe that secular law follows the law of God? In other words, there are no atheists -- or agnostics -- in Bush's chambers. . . . Did Bush realize what he was saying? Is he going to ask all potential judicial nominees to tell him their view of God and the derivation of rights? How is this fundamentalism -- only believers need apply -- different from that of America's enemies?
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 8:05 PM

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