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Bugging of the United Nations by the US Called "Illegal"
The United Nations said Thursday that alleged British bugging of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's office is illegal if proved true. . . . It was the world body's first reaction to allegations by a former member of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet that Britain spied on Annan in the run-up to the U.S.-led Iraq war. . . . "We would be disappointed if this were true," U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said. "Such activities would undermine the integrity and confidential nature of diplomatic exchanges. Those who speak to the secretary-general are entitled to assume that their exchanges are confidential." . . . Clare Short, who resigned as Britain's international development secretary shortly after last year's campaign to topple Saddam Hussein, said in a BBC interview that British intelligence agents spied on Annan ahead of the Iraqi invasion in March 2003. . . . Blair refused to say whether the allegation was true but called Short "deeply irresponsible."
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posted by Lorenzo 6:02 PM

Kelly "Taken Out" By Assasination Team Says British National Security Lawyer
(Alex Jones Show, 2-24-04)
Michael Shrimpton, a British National Security Lawyer with numerous contacts in intelligence on both sides of the Atlantic, appeared on the US Alex Jones Radio Show yesterday evening (morning, US time), and asserted that Dr David Kelly, who was found "dead in the woods" last July, did not commit suicide as claimed in the Hutton Report, but was taken out by a team of assassins brought in from abroad. . . . Dr David Kelly became embroiled in a cauldron of government disapproval, after he spoke off the record to Andrew Gilligan, a BBC radio journalist. Kelly allegedly accused the British government of "sexing up" the case for war. Two days after being hauled before a parliamentary committee to account for his actions, his body was found in a copse two miles from his home. . . . The official scenario has always been that this top British microbiolgist walked to the wood, took his own life by slashing his left wrist, swallowing a number of pills and lying down to die. But Shrimpton has now gone on record as saying that contacts in British and US intelligence have informed him that Kelly was, in fact, murdered - most probably by a team of ex-Mukharabat Iraqi assassins brought in from Damascus via Corsica, organised by the French external intelligence agency, the DGSE. . . . The most likely method by which Kelly was murdered, said Shrimpton, was by an intravenous injection of Co-Proxamol together with approximately 30mg of succinyl choline. The last substance is a muscle relaxant which would cause cessation of breathing. No trace would be found by a toxicologist, as succinyl choline breaks down into natural substances which would not arouse suspicion. A slash to the wrist would have disguised any puncture wound. . . . Shrimpton pointed out that it is common to use sister agencies in other countries to carry out operations on home soil. Thus while the orders to assassinate David Kelly came from within Whitehall, the agency used was probably French. Various methods are used to avert blame for murders perpetrated for political reasons said Shrimpton: blame an opponent, blame a terrorist organisation, blame another agency, blame a lone "crazed" assassin, blame an accident, or call it "suicide". Dressing murder up to look like suicide is possibly the most difficult method. . . . The motive for the murder of Dr Kelly was unclear said Shrimpton. It may have been that he had acquired knowledge in the weeks before his death which made it imperative that he was silenced. . . . To date, the possibility that Dr Kelly was murdered has barely been mentioned in the mainstream British media. It is thought that the media conglomerates wish to keep Tony Blair in power for his pro-Europe stance. Michael Shrimpton hopes, by speaking out now, to encourage the British press to investigate the details of Dr Kelly's death for themselves and have the courage to print the story.
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posted by Lorenzo 2:18 PM

In South Africa, the Poor Could Win the Water Battle
(Fabienne Pompey, Le Monde FR, 24 February 2004)
South African anti-privatization movements are poised to win the water battle. Ever since the government adopted the World Bank-imposed "total cost recovery" principle, the cost of water has become inaccessible for the poorest sectors of the population. Private companies, which had rushed into these new markets, begin to become disillusioned. . . . In order to forestall uprisings in the townships– the black ghettos–, the Apartheid government determined to supply water for practically free, charging a modest fixed sum to each home. After 1994, the municipal services applied the "World Bank doctrine" and imposed water payments at their "correct price". . . . In rural areas, the vast majority of blacks had no access to running water. The state undertook to make good on this delay. However, once households were connected, residents found themselves unable to pay. According to the municipal employees' union, very much in the forefront of the anti-privatization battle, prices went up by as much as 400%. The result is that 10 million water supply cuts have been effected since 1994. . . . The townships began to rebel. When the Nelspruit commune, in Mpumalanga, signed a thirty-year contract with the British company Bi-Water, tens of thousands of households organized a boycott. The revolt cost millions of rands in unpaid bills to Bi-Water, which is now demanding state support to continue its operations. . . . Confronted with insurrection, the government has established a free minimum service. Since 2001, poor households enjoy 6,000 free liters of water a month. That's not enough for most township households, where up to twenty people may be piled in together. "Half the people in these neighborhoods are unemployed, how do you expect them to manage?" asks Dale MacKinley, APF spokesperson. . . . "The companies have accepted the principle of the first 6,000 liters free, but make up the cost on the next cubic meters. That's how we get paradoxes: the cubic liter is more expensive in Soweto –Johannesburg's poorest neighborhood– than in the upscale neighborhoods in the north of the city," explains Lance Veotte, who's responsible for water questions at the municipal employees' union. . . . To combat unpaid bills, Suez has experimented with a system of prepaid meters. "Residents have taken it very badly," opines Dale MacKinley. The company, which is trying to extend the system into the huge Soweto Township, is encountering serious resistance. . . . With general elections looming, the government seems ready to moderate its privatization ambitions, at least provisionally. "The government has not abandoned the idea, but it is more cautious," is Lance Veotte's analysis. "Access to potable water is a human right. We'll continue to fight so that water doesn't become a consumer good like any other," he promises.
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posted by Lorenzo 11:10 AM

Bush Rebuffs Aristide, Warns Haitians
(Steve Holland, Reuters, February 25, 2004)
President Bush on Wednesday rebuffed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's appeal for immediate security assistance to head off a rebel advance and warned Haitians not to flee to the United States. . . . His position drew immediate criticism from members of the Congressional Black Caucus. They rushed to the White House to meet Bush and express concern at what they felt was his refusal to do more to preserve the democratically elected government in Haiti. . . . Aristide, trying to fend off a bloody revolt against his presidency by insurgents, had appealed for international help for his outgunned police. But Bush was insistent that peacekeepers only be sent once a political settlement to the crisis was reached. . . . Speaking in the White House Oval Office, Bush also said he had instructed the U.S. Coast Guard to "turn back any refugee" from Haiti who seeks to land on U.S. shores. . . . Members of the Congressional Black Caucus first met U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and insisted on meeting Bush, too. Secretary of State Colin Powell and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card were there as well. . . . The caucus chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said his concern was that "lives are being lost, that substantial loss of life seems to be imminent, and we're concerned very much about the government and humanitarian assistance we want to see go into Haiti." . . . "We made it very clear to the president, many may disagree with the way Mr. Aristide has run the country, but the fact is, we in this country have gone all around the world to protect democracies, and here we have one 650 miles away, a leader who was elected by a democratic process, and that we must stand up," Cummings said after the half-hour meeting. . . . Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said Cubans are allowed to come to U.S. shores and Haitians should be as well. "President Bush is projecting a 'Haitians only' policy. It is inhumane, indifferent to suffering,"

[COMMENT: I hope the Black Republicans will take note of the Bush administration's racist policies.]
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posted by Lorenzo 6:40 PM

The Coming Implosion of the American Empire
(Gary North, LewRockwell.com, February 23, 2004)
The American Empire is scheduled to depart from Iraq in June. The unofficial word is out in Washington: Karl Rove has told President Bush that the body count, however much reduced by strange definitions of what constitutes a battlefield death, is going to cost him the election if it continues through the summer. Dutifully, the Commander-in-Chief has announced a June deadline for the transfer of Iraq's sovereignty to "the Iraqis," meaning whichever remnants of the coalition of the suppressed will still officially deal with him on his terms. . . . The United States government started a pre-emptory war last year. Patriotic couch potatoes marveled at televised shock and awe: flash, boom, smoke. "Wow! Neat! Cool!" President Bush, Sr., said in 1991, "This shall not stand." That is what his son said about the Baghdad skyline. But Americans are now being asked to pick up the pieces, or at least to pay Halliburton to pick up the pieces. Karl Rove has heard the rumblings. The departure date is now set. . . . Of course, all of the troops will not depart. Reserves are being called up to serve as car-bomb fodder. But, officially, the United States will become an invited observer, probably sharing authority with the United Nations. . . . Meanwhile, conservatives will conveniently overlook the fact that (1) the U.S. military is in retreat mode and (2) the Administration had to beg the United Nations Organization to come to Iraq and bail out Mr. Bush politically. . . . Americans thoroughly enjoy seeing American troops bang heads around the world, but only on these assumptions: (1) the victims can't or won't fight back; (2) the military's adventures do not visibly tap into Americans' pocketbooks; (3) our troops can pull out at any time without visibly putting their tails between their legs. When there are helicopter retreats from Saigon, American voters react in a hostile fashion. Americans like war, but they like it cheap. . . . The war in Iraq has been costly in every sense, yet Americans still are paying higher prices at the gasoline pump. The price of oil has risen. The flow of oil out of Iraq today barely trickles. The pipelines cannot be defended by our troops. They are being blown up, although the media rarely report this. The Iraq adventure has now become a vast foreign aid program, and Americans do not like foreign aid programs. . . . George W. Bush invoked weapons of mass destruction, just as Lyndon Johnson invoked the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It was never quite clear exactly what had happened in the Gulf of Tonkin, but it is clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Johnson was never successfully exposed publicly as a liar regarding the Gulf of Tonkin. Bush has been exposed, and will continue to be exposed, as either completely misled or a liar, either a nincompoop or a deceiver. He is never going to get back his image as a reliable leader in a time of war, which is the only positive image he ever enjoyed, brief as it was. He will be on the defensive from now on. . . . It will become extremely difficult from now on for any American President to invoke a looming military threat in order to justify military intervention by the United States. Clearly, President Bush will never be able to do this again, but I think it goes beyond him. His enduring legacy will be the conversion of "weapons of mass destruction" into the equivalent of Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time." The phrase will become a laughingstock. Every President from now on who attempts to justify anything comparable to the Iraq war will be greeted with Congressional hoots of "weapons of mass destruction." . . . The war was a bipartisan effort, but because of the President's rhetoric, he will deservedly get blamed. The Democrats will not push too hard, however, because voters might make the connection between the President's unsubstantiated claims and Congress's willingness to roll over and play dead, or whatever it was playing when it rolled over. . . . Our troops won a minor battle in March, 2003. That battle was called a war, but it was only one battle in a very long war. This war has been going on for about 14 centuries. The war's main theater today is the Middle East. When it becomes apparent to America's enemies, which are also the State of Israel's enemies, that the United States did not win its phase of the ancient war, they will be emboldened. Winning the battle in the Middle East requires permanent military occupation by the victors. . . . Christian Europe, which is in fact secular Europe, is going to be replaced. . . . I can think of only one event that might reverse this process. No one ever mentions it in polite company. It is officially unthinkable. Yet it is being thought in high places. It could take place within 30 minutes from now. It would change everything geopolitically. The Israelis could launch a pre-emptory nuclear strike against Mecca and Medina. The primary symbols of Islam would be reduced to radioactive dust. If the Israelis used a cobalt-tipped bomb, Muslims could not visit Mecca for millennia. Yet Muslims are told to do so at least once in a lifetime. . . . This tactic is Israel's trump card strategically. Everyone in power in the Middle East knows it, but no one ever mentions it publicly. Muslims venerate Mecca and Medina and their monuments. When veneration becomes superstition, monuments become primary military targets for the enemy. If the Jews blast Mecca's rock into radioactive dust, the fallout will be more than radioactive dust. It could be the end of Islam. . . . Do I think this attack will ever happen? Yes. The Israelis know they are in a fight to the death. They know they will never be accepted by Arabs as lawful residents in the region. Over time, they will be overcome demographically. They know it. Their enemies know it. So, when push comes to shove, Mecca and Medina will disappear. . . . President Bush used to talk tough. Rumsfeld talked about a war lasting for decades. But the Bush Administration will not last for decades. It may not last another twelve months. This is why all the tough talk has ended. The war that matters here is politics, and Iraq has become a political liability. We see and hear little from Rumsfeld these days. Rove appears to have put a gag on him. . . . The neo-cons are finished. They said the Iraq war would be a cakewalk. It wasn't. They said we had to establish a presence in the Middle East. We couldn't. The Republican Party, once Bush leaves office, will not listen to them again. They will publish their subsidized magazines and pretend that the public is listening, but the public has had enough. The neo-cons are visibly losers. They got their shot at power, and they squandered it in the streets of Baghdad. Straussians do not need to read between the lines in order to discern this traditional message: "Americans do not listen to losers." . . . The contraction of the American empire will begin in June. It has already lost considerable legitimacy in the eyes of the voters, not because of some great alteration of their principles, but because we are being car-bombed out of the place. The oil is not flowing. Sand isn't worth the price. . . . This will be an historic event. . . . The troops' departure from Iraq will mark the day that Johnny comes marching home. There will be no parades, any more than there were when Israeli troops pulled out of Lebanon. . . . The implosion of the American empire is about to begin – not just the military one but also the commercial one. An empire that can no longer afford to keep its troops on active duty in occupied areas is not a good credit risk. . . . Mark the date on your calendar: June 30, 2004.
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posted by Lorenzo 1:54 PM

Pentagon Preps for War in Space
(Wired News, February 20, 2004)
An Air Force report is giving what analysts call the most detailed picture since the end of the Cold War of the Pentagon's efforts to turn outer space into a battlefield. . . . For years, the American military has spoken in hints and whispers, if at all, about its plans to develop weapons in space. But the U.S. Air Force Transformation Flight Plan (PDF) changes all that. Released in November, the report makes U.S. dominance of the heavens a top Pentagon priority in the new century. And it runs through dozens of research programs designed to ensure that America can never be challenged in orbit -- from anti-satellite lasers to weapons that "would provide the capability to strike ground targets anywhere in the world from space." . . . the Air Force report goes far beyond these defensive capabilities, calling for weapons that can cripple other countries' orbiters. . . . That prospect worries some analysts that the U.S. may spark a worldwide arms race in orbit. . . . "I don't think other countries will be taking this lying down," said Theresa Hitchens, the vice president of the Center for Defense Information. . . . The space weapons programs listed in the Air Force report went largely unnoticed until Hitchens circulated them in an e-mail Thursday. . . . "This will certainly prompt China into actually moving forward" on space weapon plans of its own, she added. "The Russians are likely to respond with something as well." . . . But it's unclear whether putting weapons into space would provide much protection. The arms themselves could become sitting ducks in orbit -- giving the United States a new weakness, not a new strength. . . . "Simply put, we would posture ourselves as a target in a volatile context that we create, and weaken ourselves at the same time," . . . "America is the country with the most satellites, he explained. By developing anti-satellite weapons, "it legitimizes systems that the U.S. has the most to lose from." Other countries could start pursuing long-taboo space weapons efforts. And while countries like China don't have the technical sophistication of the United States, they already have the capabilities to hurt us in space -- medium range missiles, and nuclear warheads. . . . Wright added, "This could trigger a backlash that actually leaves the U.S. worse off."

[COMMENT: What insanity. Even though the Pentagon admits that the Earth is faced with the very real threat of in imminent Ice Age, they continue to spend our tax dollars on war. Their report on radical climate change focuses on war rather than on peaceful solutions to the problems we have created. We are a nation gone mad.]
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posted by Lorenzo 12:26 PM

Secret Pentagon Report: Climate Change Will Destroy Us
(Mark Townsend and Paul Harris, The Observer, February 22, 2004)
Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war ... Britain will be 'Siberian' in less than 20 years ... Threat to the world is greater than terrorism

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world. . . . The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents. . . . 'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.' . . . The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. . . . The report was commissioned by influential Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking over the past three decades. He was the man behind a sweeping recent review aimed at transforming the American military under Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. . . . An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is 'plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately', they conclude. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions. . . . Last week the Bush administration came under heavy fire from a large body of respected scientists who claimed that it cherry-picked science to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like. Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change. . . . Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added that the Pentagon's dire warnings could no longer be ignored. . . . 'Can Bush ignore the Pentagon? It's going be hard to blow off this sort of document. Its hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush's single highest priority is national defence. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group, generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two groups the Bush Administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon,' added Watson. . . . 'You've got a President who says global warming is a hoax, and across the Potomac river you've got a Pentagon preparing for climate wars. It's pretty scary when Bush starts to ignore his own government on this issue,' said Rob Gueterbock of Greenpeace. . . . the planet is carrying a higher population than it can sustain. By 2020 'catastrophic' shortages of water and energy supply will become increasingly harder to overcome, plunging the planet into war. They warn that 8,200 years ago climatic conditions brought widespread crop failure, famine, disease and mass migration of populations that could soon be repeated. . . . Randall told The Observer that the potential ramifications of rapid climate change would create global chaos. 'This is depressing stuff,' he said. 'It is a national security threat that is unique because there is no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat.' . . . Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a disaster happening. 'We don't know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,' he said. . . . 'The consequences for some nations of the climate change are unbelievable. It seems obvious that cutting the use of fossil fuels would be worthwhile.' . . . So dramatic are the report's scenarios, Watson said, that they may prove vital in the US elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to accept climate change as a real problem. Scientists disillusioned with Bush's stance are threatening to make sure Kerry uses the Pentagon report in his campaign. . . . The fact that Marshall is behind its scathing findings will aid Kerry's cause. Marshall, 82, is a Pentagon legend who heads a secretive think-tank dedicated to weighing risks to national security called the Office of Net Assessment. Dubbed 'Yoda' by Pentagon insiders who respect his vast experience, . . . Symons said the Bush administration's close links to high-powered energy and oil companies was vital in understanding why climate change was received sceptically in the Oval Office. 'This administration is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies,' he added.

[Also see: Report Findings]
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posted by Lorenzo 1:22 PM

British & American spy operation wrecked peace move
(Martin Bright, Peter Beaumont and Jo Tuckman, The Observer, February 15, 2004)
A joint British and American spying operation at the United Nations scuppered a last-ditch initiative to avert the invasion of Iraq, The Observer can reveal. . . . Senior UN diplomats from Mexico and Chile provided new evidence last week that their missions were spied on, in direct contravention of international law. . . . The former Mexican ambassador to the UN, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, told The Observer that US officials intervened last March, just days before the war against Saddam was launched, to halt secret negotiations for a compromise resolution to give weapons inspectors more time to complete their work. . . . Aguilar Zinser claimed that the intervention could only have come as a result of surveillance of a closed diplomatic meeting where the compromise was being hammered out. He said it was clear the Americans knew about the confidential discussions in advance. 'When they [the US] found out, they said, "You should know that we don't like the idea and we don't like you to promote it."' . . . The revelations follow claims by Chile's former ambassador to the UN, Juan Valdes, that he found hard evidence of bugging at his mission in New York last March. The new claims emerged as The Observer has discovered that Government officials seriously considered dropping the prosecution against Katharine Gun, the translator at the GCHQ surveillance centre who first disclosed details of the espionage operation last March. . . . According to Whitehall sources, officials feared the prosecution would leave the Government and the intelligence services open to embarrassing disclosures. They were known to be concerned that the 29-year-old Chinese language specialist would be seen as a patriotic young woman acting out of principle to reveal an illegal operation rather than as someone who betrayed her country's secrets. They are also known to be worried that any trial would force the disclosure of Government legal advice on intervention in Iraq, described by one source as 'at best ambiguous'. . . . The operation by the US National Security Agency and GCHQ was revealed by The Observer last March, after a leaked memo showed US spies had begun an intelligence 'surge' on members of the UN security council in which they needed British help. . . . The Mexican government confirmed last week that diplomatic letters were sent to Straw last December asking him to clarify whether GCHQ was involved in spying on its UN allies. They have yet to receive a response. The Foreign Office refused to comment on the new allegations. . . . But the revelations of the former Mexican ambassador will not go away as he is planning a book about his experiences at the United Nations. . . . Aguilar Zinser told The Observer that the meeting of diplomats from six nations took place about a week before the decision not to put the resolution to the vote. They were working on a draft document of a compromise solution when the American intervened. . . . 'We had yet to get our capitals to go along with it, it was at a very early stage. Only the people in the room knew what the document said. The surprising thing was the very rapid flow of information to [US] quarters. . . . 'The meeting was in the evening and they call us in the morning before the meeting of the Security Council and they say, 'We appreciate you trying to find ideas, but this is not a good idea." I say, "Thanks, that's good to know." We were looking for a compromise and they [the US] say, "Do not attempt it."'
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posted by Lorenzo 6:59 PM

CLIMATE COLLAPSE: The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare
[WARNING: The above link is to the fortune.com site, which will flood your screen with a bunch of popup ads.]
(David Stipp, Fortune, January 26, 2004)
Like the terrorists, though, the seemingly remote climate risk may hit home sooner and harder than we ever imagined. In fact, the prospect has become so real that the Pentagon's strategic planners are grappling with it. . . . The threat that has riveted their attention is this: Global warming, rather than causing gradual, centuries-spanning change, may be pushing the climate to a tipping point. Growing evidence suggests the ocean-atmosphere system that controls the world's climate can lurch from one state to another in less than a decade—like a canoe that's gradually tilted until suddenly it flips over. Scientists don't know how close the system is to a critical threshold. But abrupt climate change may well occur in the not-too-distant future. If it does, the need to rapidly adapt may overwhelm many societies—thereby upsetting the geopolitical balance of power. . . . Though triggered by warming, such change would probably cause cooling in the Northern Hemisphere, leading to longer, harsher winters in much of the U.S. and Europe. Worse, it would cause massive droughts, turning farmland to dust bowls and forests to ashes. Picture last fall's California wildfires as a regular thing. Or imagine similar disasters destabilizing nuclear powers such as Pakistan or Russia—it's easy to see why the Pentagon has become interested in abrupt climate change. . . . Scientists aren't sure what caused the warming that triggered such collapses in the remote past. (Clearly it wasn't humans and their factories.) But the data from Arctic ice and other sources suggest the atmospheric changes that preceded earlier collapses were dismayingly similar to today's global warming. . . . In 2002 the National Academy of Sciences issued a report concluding that human activities could trigger abrupt change. Last year the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, included a session at which Robert Gagosian, director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, urged policymakers to consider the implications of possible abrupt climate change within two decades. . . . The result is an unclassified report, completed late last year, that the Pentagon has agreed to share with FORTUNE. It doesn't pretend to be a forecast. Rather, it sketches a dramatic but plausible scenario to help planners think about coping strategies. Here is an abridged version: . . . A total shutdown of the ocean conveyor might lead to a big chill like the Younger Dryas, when icebergs appeared as far south as the coast of Portugal. Or the conveyor might only temporarily slow down, potentially causing an era like the "Little Ice Age," a time of hard winters, violent storms, and droughts between 1300 and 1850. That period's weather extremes caused horrific famines, but it was mild compared with the Younger Dryas. . . . At first the changes are easily mistaken for normal weather variation—allowing skeptics to dismiss them as a "blip" of little importance and leaving policymakers and the public paralyzed with uncertainty. But by 2020 there is little doubt that something drastic is happening. The average temperature has fallen by up to five degrees Fahrenheit in some regions of North America and Asia and up to six degrees in parts of Europe. (By comparison, the average temperature over the North Atlantic during the last ice age was ten to 15 degrees lower than it is today.) Massive droughts have begun in key agricultural regions. The average annual rainfall has dropped by nearly 30% in northern Europe, and its climate has become more like Siberia's. . . . The U.S. is better positioned to cope than most nations, however, thanks to its diverse growing climates, wealth, technology, and abundant resources. That has a downside, though: It magnifies the haves-vs.-have-nots gap and fosters bellicose finger-pointing at America. . . . As the planet's carrying capacity shrinks, an ancient pattern reemerges: the eruption of desperate, all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies. As Harvard archeologist Steven LeBlanc has noted, wars over resources were the norm until about three centuries ago. When such conflicts broke out, 25% of a population's adult males usually died. As abrupt climate change hits home, warfare may again come to define human life. . . . In sum, the risk of abrupt climate change remains uncertain, and it is quite possibly small. But given its dire consequences, it should be elevated beyond a scientific debate. Action now matters, because we may be able to reduce its likelihood of happening, and we can certainly be better prepared if it does. It is time to recognize it as a national security concern. . . . The Pentagon's reaction to this sobering report isn't known—in keeping with his reputation for reticence, Andy Marshall declined to be interviewed. But the fact that he's concerned may signal a sea change in the debate about global warming. At least some federal thought leaders may be starting to perceive climate change less as a political annoyance and more as an issue demanding action. . . . If so, the case for acting now to address climate change, long a hard sell in Washington, may be gaining influential support, if only behind the scenes. Policymakers may even be emboldened to take steps such as tightening fuel-economy standards for new passenger vehicles, a measure that would simultaneously lower emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce America's perilous reliance on OPEC oil, cut its trade deficit, and put money in consumers' pockets.

[ALSO SEE: The Ice Age Commeth.]
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posted by Lorenzo 2:18 PM

"Thought Crimes" Now Punishable in the UK Gulag
UK authorities introduced new laws this week making it a criminal offence to go, or even prepare to go to a rave, within 24 hours of being stopped from visiting another one. . . . The government also amended their infamous 1994 Criminal Justice Act definition of 'rave', keeping the notorious 'repetitive beats' clause while reducing the number of partygoers from 100 to 20 and making indoor squat parties also illegal. Indoor parties become raves only if the building is trespassed, while any outdoor party with more than 20 guests (including on private land) can now be classed as a rave. . . . Liberty spokesperson Barry Hugill condemned the new laws, including another stating that just two people can now constitute a 'public assembly': 'This is totally unacceptable, it should only be a crime to commit a crime… The government is introducing constraints and no-go areas the like of which haven't existed since wartime.
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posted by Lorenzo 11:49 AM

Mobile Bloggers in the Arctic Circle!
Moblog As Live Cultural Documentary
It will be a mobile media event. A journey into culture. An international live forum and gallery for the potentially millions of web loggers (Bloggers) around the world. Umeå University’s HUMlab will undertake a new form of cultural documentary. It is to be centered on the 399th Sámi Winter market at the town of Jokkmokk in Lapland in the far north of Sweden. . . . Between 5 and 8 February 2004 the town of Jokkmokk, situated 40kms north of the polar circle in Sweden, hosts a market that has its origins in the very beginnings of modern Europe. Hundreds of sellers of crafts, makers of art, keepers of tradition, and the curious, the tourists and the locals gather together in a winter festival celebrating the culture of the far north of Sweden, particularly the Sámi people. Public attendance in recent years has been around 30 000 visitors to the town in the vast pine forests. . . . Bloging the 399th Jokkmokk Sámi Winter Market will present the blog format as a live culture documentary. It will be a mobile gorilla style operation where our multinational team of four bloggers (Swedish, American, Australian) from the HUMlab will interact, engage, estimate, depict, interview, film, record, review, entertain, experience, listen, view and search through three days of the 399th Sámi Winter Market (founded 1605). One of the bloggers is performing at the market playing didgeridoo in a multi-cultural band playing world fusion music with members from England, The United States, Sweden, and Sápmi. The blogg will be spontaneous in content but planned in format by the experienced team at HUMlab, a unique computer laboratory at Umea University where interdisciplinary content is considered important. Where the traditional humanity subjects are transformed through contact with digital culture and technology and vice versa. . . . During the festival the blogg will be running 24 hours a day for three days (although there may be quiter times in the early hours of the morning) and comments can be posted from anywhere in the Blogosphere. The festival itself is on Central European Winter Time, one hour forward from Greenwich Mean Time. It promises to be an exiting cyber experience with great potential for development in the future where roving bands of independent media-ists stream their global adventures out along the World Wide Web.

blog blob and meet the blog team

One of things we are trying out with this project is the affordances of new social tools (not usually associated with blogs). We have this little blob (works on PCs with Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher) which tells visitors how many people are looking at the blog page right now (only pc/IE5.5 or higher visitors are counted). It gives you a sense of other people being there with you (something you do not normally get with web pages). Also, the blob has another counter - listing the number of people that are in a chat room that associated with the blog page. A simple click and you will find yourself in the chat room. We have had quite a few meetings/discussions there today. Voice conversation is also possible. The operating principle seems to be flocking behavior - i.e. if there is someone (or several people) in the chat room others will join as well. Having used this tool for some now I am beginning to feel that it adds social depth to the web page - I have my on my own web page as well but I am usually the only one there. Doesn't make for a lot of flock behavior.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 1:36 PM

Intelligence chief's bombshell: 'We WERE overruled on dossier'
(Paul Waugh, Independent, 04 February 2004)
The intelligence official whose revelations stunned the Hutton inquiry has suggested that not a single defence intelligence expert backed Tony Blair's most contentious claims on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. . . . Brian Jones, the former leading expert on WMD in the Ministry of Defence, declared that Downing Street's dossier, a key plank in convincing the public of the case for war, was "misleading" on Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological capability. . . . Dr Jones, who is expected to be a key witness at the new inquiry, says: "In my view, the expert intelligence analysts of the DIS were overruled in the preparation of the dossier in September 2002, resulting in a presentation that was misleading about Iraq's capabilities." . . . Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, said yesterday that he might not have supported military action against Baghdad if he had known that Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction. . . . Dr Jones was the man whose decision to give evidence electrified the Hutton inquiry as he disclosed that he had formally complained about the dossier. The Government attempted to dismiss his complaints as part of the normal process of "debate" within the DIS and claimed that other sections of the intelligence community were better qualified to assess the 45-minute and chemical production claims. . . . But today Dr Jones makes clear that he was not alone and declares that the whole of the Defence Intelligence Staff, Britain's best qualified analysts on WMD, agreed that the claims should have been "carefully caveated". Furthermore, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which allowed the contentious claims to go into the dossier, lacked the expertise to make a competent judgement on them. . . . He says he foresaw at the time of the Government's dossier in September 2002 that no major WMD stockpiles would be found. He made a formal complaint about the dossier to avoid himself and his fellow experts being cast as "scapegoats" for any such failure. . . . it was the "intelligence community leadership" ­ the heads of MI6 and MI5 and Mr Scarlett ­ who were responsible for the dossier.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 7:53 PM

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