Saturday, October 27, 2007
WASHINGTON (Oct. 27) - The homeland security chief on Saturday lashed into his own employees for staging a phony news conference at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government," Michael Chertoff said.
"I have made unambiguously clear, in Anglo-Saxon prose, that it is not to ever happen again and there will be appropriate disciplinary action taken against those people who exhibited what I regard as extraordinarily poor judgment," he added.
Asked specifically if he planned to fire anyone at FEMA, which is part of his department, Chertoff declined to say, citing personnel rules.
"There will be appropriate discipline," he told reporters at a news conference with New York's governor where they announced an agreement on a driver's license plan.
Chertoff said he knew nothing about the matter until after it happened and that he "can't explain why it happened."
The White House on Friday scolded FEMA for the faux press conference about assistance to victims of wildfires in southern California.
The agency - much maligned for its sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina over two years ago - arranged to have FEMA employees play the part of reporters at the event Tuesday and question Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy director.
The questions were soft and gratuitous.
"I'm very happy with FEMA's response," Johnson said in reply to one query from an agency employee.
FEMA gave reporters only 15 minutes notice about Tuesday's news conference. But because of the short notice, the agency made available an 800 number so reporters could call in. Many did, although it was a listen-only arrangement.
Johnson said in a statement Friday that FEMA's goal was "to get information out as soon as possible and in trying to do so we made an error in judgment."
"Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received," he said. "We can and must do better."
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
GAO: U.S. Defense and State Departments Squalor Taxpayers' Dollars 10x Above Authorized Limits; "They felt entitled to the perk"
WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal employees wasted at least $146 million over a one-year period on business- and first-class airline tickets, in some cases simply because they felt entitled to the perk, congressional investigators say.
A draft report by the Government Accountability Office, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, is the first to examine compliance with travel rules across the federal government following reports of extensive abuse of premium-class travel by Pentagon and State Department employees.
The review of travel spending by more than a dozen agencies from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006, found 67 percent of premium-class travel by executives or their employees, worth at least $146 million, was unauthorized or otherwise unjustified.
Among the worst offenders: the State Department, whose employees typically fly abroad on official business.
Many of the cases involved high-ranking senior officials or political appointees who claimed exceptions to federal travel rules by citing old medical records or questionable approval from a subordinate employee.
Investigators found that senior officials often flew business- or first-class because they felt entitled to the perk.
The higher airfare for traveling in one of the premium classes resulted in expenses often five to 10 times more than what was authorized under government travel rules.
"With the serious fiscal challenges facing the federal government, agencies must maximize their ability to manage and safeguard valuable taxpayers' dollars," investigators wrote, suggesting agencies recoup the extra cost from those who abuse travel policies.
Under federal rules, government employees generally must fly coach for both domestic and international travel unless the flight takes 14 hours or longer. A few exceptions apply when the employee receives agency approval based on a medical condition, security concerns, lack of availability of coach seats or when required "because of agency mission."
Government investigators found that employees openly flouted the rules and agencies did little to check their abuses. Among the waste cited:
An Agriculture Department executive took 25 premium-class flights costing $163,000 and said the extra expense had been authorized by a subordinate. In 10 of those trips, the traveler claimed exceptional circumstances to justify the pricier travel to western Europe, even though agency policy forbids premium-class travel unless the flight time is longer than 14 hours.
Thirty-two State Department employees flew from Washington to Liberia in premium class over a six-month period. Five of those travelers did not have authorization for premium class; three had duplicate tickets and no evidence that the duplicates were refunded; and 17 were not properly justified, as their trips did not meet the 14-hour rule. These flights cost $293,000 and comparable coach-class tickets would have cost $124,000 - a difference of $169,000.
At the Pentagon, a political appointee took 15 premium-class flights and cited a medical condition as justification for the $105,000 in expenses. However, the only evidence of a medical condition was a note signed by a fellow Pentagon employee, not a physician, attesting to surgery from several years earlier. The Pentagon did not have a doctor's certification from the employee as required by agency policy.
Nine Justice Department employees charged the agency $35,000 for premium-class air tickets to Frankfurt, Germany, claiming the flight time was over 14 hours. Investigators found the employees added a separate flight to their calculations to reach the 14-hour total, a practice not allowed under government travel rules. Also, two of the flights were not authorized.
The GAO, Congress ' investigative and auditing arm, said it was referring all cases it found of improper and abusive travel to the respective agencies and inspector general's offices for possible administrative action and repayment of the difference between premium-class and coach-class travel.
The report comes as some lawmakers are pressing to strengthen government sunshine laws by requiring agency disclosure of business-class travel to Congress. Currently, business-class travel accounts for 96 percent of the premium travel claimed by federal employees.
"No one disputes the fact that government officials need to travel, as not all work can be done behind a desk. Nor should all premium-class travel be eliminated. But the rules are there for a reason and the federal government should enforce them," said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.
Coleman noted that after a 2003 GAO report uncovered abuses in Pentagon travel, the department tightened policies and has since dramatically reduced its use of premium travel.
"We simply need the necessary oversight mechanisms in place to ensure that taxpayers' dollars are spent properly," he said.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who is seeking to provide greater accountability in the use of government-issued credit cards, agreed.
"The federal employees who like to stretch their legs while they fly need to realize they've already stretched the taxpayer's purse by $146 million," he said. "Agencies need to be more responsible with their travel programs and employees who violate the policy should be held accountable."
The latest GAO report noted that several government entities are not subject to government rules on premium-class travel - among them, the U.S. Postal Service, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. - opening up more opportunities for unnecessary waste.
Those entities often allow members of their board of governors to travel business or first class for shorter flights overseas and sometimes domestically. In one case, a deputy director of FDIC flew business class from Washington to London and back at a cost of $7,200, while a coach- class ticket would have cost $800.
On the Net:
Government Accountability Office: www.gao.gov
OAK PARK, Ill. (Oct. 2) - If you need a hug, you won't get it at Percy Julian Middle School. Principal Victoria Sharts banned hugging among the suburban Chicago school's 860 students anywhere inside the building. She said students were forming "hug lines" that made them late for classes and crowded the hallways.
"Hugging is really more appropriate for airports or for family reunions than passing and seeing each other every few minutes in the halls," Sharts said.
Another reason to institute the no-hugging policy was that some hugs could be too long and too close, she said.
"There is another side to the issue when a hug is either unwanted or becomes inappropriate as judged by one of the students involved," Sharts wrote in a statement to parents. "On occasion, we do deal with those incidents. The goal is always to promote safe and orderly hallways where everybody can get by, be safe, and be on time."
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Iranian MPs have voted to classify the US armed forces and the CIA as terrorist groups.
A statement signed by 215 Iranian MPs cited the bombing of Japan during World War II, and the invasions of Vietnam and Iraq, as "terrorist actions".
The largely symbolic move comes days after the US Senate urged the White House to brand Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation.
The foreign ministry in Tehran said it backed the MPs' motion.
Correspondents say the ministry's support is significant because government bodies are generally not as hardline as the parliament.
While the Iranian motion is seen as largely symbolic, the labelling of a group as a terrorist organisation by the US could have financial implications for the guards.
Any assets within US jurisdiction would be frozen and the US Treasury Department could move against firms subject to US law that do business with the guards.
The Revolutionary Guards force was established after the Islamic revolution toppled the Shah and brought hard-line clerics to power in Iran in 1979.It is estimated to have 125,000 active members and operates separately from Iran's main armed forces.
September 25, 2007
NEW YORK - About a dozen war protesters were arrested Tuesday morning during a peaceful demonstration against President Bush's speech before the U.N. General Assembly.
They were among about 400 protesters opposing the Bush administration's war in Iraq and its incarceration in Guantanamo Bay of more than 300 men on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. Many in the crowd wore orange jumpsuits in solidarity with the Guantanamo detainees.
"I'm sick to my stomach about the war in Iraq," said Anastasia Gomes, 22, of Queens. "We as the youth are standing up and saying this president does not represent us."
Members of the anti-war group Code Pink performed a bit of street theater where a person wearing a Bush mask was arrested.
"What do we say?" shouted Code Pink's Medea Benjamin. "Arrest the criminal!"
The crowd picked up the chant. Once the arrests were made, the rest of the group began marching downtown. The demonstrators, in orderly fashion, walked along the sidewalks because they lacked a permit for a street march.
In his speech, Bush announced sanctions against the military dictatorship in Myanmar, accusing it of imposing "a 19-year reign of fear" that denies basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship.
A White House spokesman, asked to comment on the protest, issued a statement that said: "One of the most basic and precious rights our Constitution guarantees its citizens is the right to peacefully protest and express one's views."
NEW YORK (Sept. 30) - The daughter-in-law of the city's public advocate was found dead in a police holding cell in Arizona, where she had been taken in handcuffs after being arrested at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, authorities and relatives said.
"We are extraordinarily upset," said Betsy Gotbaum, the city's public advocate, in Sunday editions of the Daily News. She added that her daughter-in-law had three young children. "It's a very delicate matter."
Authorities were investigating if Carol Anne Gotbaum choked herself while trying to get free from the handcuffs.
The 45-year-old New Yorker was arrested Friday after a conflict with gate crews who refused to allow her to board a plane, said Sgt. Andy Hill, a Phoenix police spokesman.
The airline said the plane was already preparing to depart. She was rebooked on the next flight, but "she became extremely irate, apparently running up and down the gate area," US Airways spokesman Derek Hanna said Saturday.
Officers handcuffed her and took her to the holding room, where she kept screaming, authorities said. Hill said officers checked on her when she stopped screaming and found her unresponsive.
Hill said it appears Gotbaum may have tried to get out of her handcuffs, became tangled in the process and the cuffs ended up around her neck. A cause of death will be determined by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner.
"She was very agitated and irate and angry," Hill said. "These are the things that led to the disorderly conduct arrest."
Authorities said neither a Taser nor pepper spray was used on the woman.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
MEXICO CITY — U.S. authorities are assisting the Mexican government in the investigation of an American business jet that crashed near Cancun this week with four tons of cocaine on board, officials said Thursday.
One of the men listed as the registered owners of the plane, Joao Luiz Malago, said in a telephone interview from Brazil that his Florida-based company sold the aircraft for $2 million on Sept. 16 to a Lakeland, Fla., man and his partner, who Malago believed was from Miami.
Malago said he feared the man was dead because he hasn't been picking up the phone.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico had no information on any American citizens being killed or arrested in connection with the aircraft, a 1975 model Gulfstream II.
"We're in the process of a judicial investigation that the Mexican government is conducting and we are providing information,'' said an embassy official, who wasn't authorized to speak on the record. "Part of that investigation is to find out more about where this plane came from and who had it before.''
Some news reports have linked the plane to the transport of terrorist suspects to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but those reports cite logs that indicate only that the plane flew twice between Washington, D.C., and Guantanamo and once between Oxford, Conn., and Guantanamo. No terrorist suspects are known to have been transferred to Guantanamo directly from the United States.
The jet, carrying the tail number N987SA, changed hands twice in recent weeks. But how it ended up in the hands of suspected drug traffickers remains a mystery.
The Mexican attorney general's office said the blue and white Gulfstream II crashed on Monday in a remote jungle area on the Yucatan Peninsula. Authorities seized 132 bags of cocaine weighing four tons. Two men were arrested and jailed on drug trafficking charges in Merida, officials said. They declined to identify the men, however.
The aircraft was sold on Aug. 30 to Donna Blue Aircraft, owned by two Brazilians: Malago and his partner Eduardo Dias Guimaraes. In separate telephone interviews from different parts of Brazil, both men said they'd sold the aircraft to two Florida men on Sept. 16.
"We are not the owners of the plane," said Guimaraes, reached in Goiania in central Brazil.
He deferred most questions to his partner, Malago, who said from Sao Paulo that Donna Blue purchased the aircraft in July from a company that had owned it for 10 years, and then flipped it quickly to two Florida businessmen who paid for it in full.
McClatchy is withholding the names of the alleged new owners of the plane because they couldn't be reached for confirmation.
The Gulfstream was awaiting documentation when it departed on Sept. 18 at 5:10 pm from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport to Toluca, outside Mexico City, Malago said. He said he learned of Monday's crash after receiving a call from an insurance company, but had been unable to reach the new owner by phone and feared he was dead.
He said he knew nothing of the plane's history or what use it had been put to previously. He said he'd been a pilot for 25 years and had bought and sold planes throughout Latin America. "Generally you don't know the history of the plane," he said.
At the time of the Guantanamo flights, the plane's operation was managed by Air Rutter International, a California-based air charter service, but was owned by someone else. Air Rutter's owner, Bill Cripe, refused to identify that owner, except to say he was a reputable businessman. Cripe also said he didn't know about any flights to Guantanamo.
(Root, of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, reported from Mexico City. Hall reported from Washington.)
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has issued a tough warning to any country considering an attack on Iran.
He said Iran's forces were just for defence, but that anybody who attacked would experience nothing but regret.
He urged those he called the occupiers in the region - an apparent reference to the US and its allies in Iraq - to admit defeat and withdraw their troops.
Mr Ahmadinejad was speaking at a huge annual military parade marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq War.
On display at the parade was Iran's latest military hardware, including new long-range missiles and Saegheh fighter jets.
According to the Associated Press news agency some of the lorries carrying Iranian missiles bore anti-US and anti-Israeli slogans.
"Those who prevented Iran, at the height of the [1980-88 Iran-Iraq] war from getting even barbed wire must see now that all the equipment on display today has been built by the mighty hands and brains of experts at Iran's armed forces," Mr Ahmadinejad said.
"Learn lessons from your past mistakes. Don't repeat your mistakes," he added.
His comments come ahead of his high-profile visit to the US next week, where he will address the UN General Assembly in New York, amid continuing tension over Iran's nuclear programme.
"Those [countries] who assume that decaying methods such as psychological war, political propaganda and the so-called economic sanctions would work and prevent Iran's fast drive toward progress are mistaken," the president said.
The speech comes at the end of a tense week, with the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, warning of the danger of war with Iran over its nuclear programme.
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says Mr Ahmadinejad believes he is winning the battle for world opinion - a fight he is now taking to the UN General Assembly in New York.
The US has called for a third round of UN economic sanctions to pressure Iran into halting uranium enrichment, which it says is part of a secret plan to acquire nuclear weapons.
Iran has denied the charge, declaring that its nuclear programme is peaceful and solely aimed at producing energy.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
U.S. Army SAMS: Mossad is "Ruthless and cunning. Has capability to target U.S. forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act"
By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times
Page A1, Second Edition
September 10, 2001
An elite U.S. Army study center has devised a plan for enforcing a major Israeli-Palestinian peace accord that would require about 20,000 well-armed troops stationed throughout Israel and a newly created Palestinian state.
There are no plans by the Bush administration to put American soldiers into the Middle East to police an agreement forged by the longtime warring parties. In fact, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is searching for ways to reduce U.S. peacekeeping efforts abroad, rather than increasing such missions.
But a 68-page paper by the Army School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) does provide a look at the daunting task any international peacekeeping force would face if the United Nations authorized it, and Israel and the Palestinians ever reached a peace agreement.
Located at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the School for Advanced Military Studies is both a training ground and a think tank for some of the Army's brightest officers. Officials say the Army chief of staff, and sometimes the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ask SAMS to develop contingency plans for future military operations. During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, SAMS personnel helped plan the coalition ground attack that avoided a strike up the middle of Iraqi positions and instead executed a "left hook" that routed the enemy in 100 hours.
The cover page for the recent SAMS project said it was done for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But Maj. Chris Garver, a Fort Leavenworth spokesman, said the study was not requested by Washington.
"This was just an academic exercise," said Maj. Garver. "They were trying to take a current situation and get some training out of it."
The exercise was done by 60 officers dubbed "Jedi Knights," as all second-year SAMS students are nicknamed.
The SAMS paper attempts to predict events in the first year of a peace-enforcement operation, and sees possible dangers for U.S. troops from both sides.
It calls Israel's armed forces a "500-pound gorilla in Israel. Well armed and trained. Operates in both Gaza [and the West Bank]. Known to disregard international law to accomplish mission. Very unlikely to fire on American forces. Fratricide a concern especially in air space management."
Of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, the SAMS officers say: "Wildcard. Ruthless and cunning. Has capability to target U.S. forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act."
On the Palestinian side, the paper describes their youth as "loose cannons; under no control, sometimes violent." The study lists five Arab terrorist groups that could target American troops for assassination and hostage-taking.
The study recommends "neutrality in word and deed" as one way to protect U.S. soldiers from any attack. It also says Syria, Egypt and Jordan must be warned "we will act decisively in response to external attack."
It is unlikely either of the three would mount an attack. Of Syria's military, the report says: "Syrian army quantitatively larger than Israeli Defense Forces, but largely seen as qualitatively inferior. More likely, however, Syrians would provide financial and political support to the Palestinians, as well as increase covert support to terrorism acts through Lebanon."
Of Egypt's military, the paper says, "Egyptians also maintain a large army but have little to gain by attacking Israel."
The plan does not specify a full order of battle. An Army source who reviewed the SAMS work said each of a possible three brigades would require about 100 Bradley fighting vehicles, 25 tanks, 12 self-propelled howitzers, Apache attack helicopters, Kiowa Warrior reconnaissance helicopters and Predator spy drones.
The report predicts that nonlethal weapons would be used to quell unrest.
U.S. European Command, which is headed by NATO`s supreme allied commander, would oversee the peacekeeping operation. Commanders would maintain areas of operation, or AOs, around Nablus, Jerusalem, Hebron and the Gaza strip.
The study sets out a list of goals for U.S. troops to accomplish in the first 30 days. They include: "create conditions for development of Palestinian State and security of [Israel]"; ensure "equal distribution of contract value or equivalent aid" . . . that would help legitimize the peacekeeping force and stimulate economic growth; "promote U.S. investment in Palestine"; "encourage reconciliation between entities based on acceptance of new national identities"; and "build lasting relationship based on new legal borders and not religious-territorial claims."
Maj. Garver said the officers who completed the exercise will hold major planning jobs once they graduate. "There is an application process" for students, he said. "They screen their records, and there are several tests they go through before they are accepted by the program. The bright planners of the future come out of this program."
James Phillips, a Middle East analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said it would be a mistake to put peacekeepers in Israel, given the "poor record of previous monitors."
"In general, the Bush administration policy is to discourage a large American presence," he said. "But it has been rumored that one of the possibilities might be an expanded CIA role."
"It would be a very different environment than Bosnia," said Mr. Phillips, referring to America's six-year peacekeeping role in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "The Palestinian Authority is pushing for this as part of its strategy to internationalize the conflict. Bring in the Europeans and Russia and China. But such monitors or peacekeeping forces are not going to be able to bring peace. Only a decision by the Palestinians to stop the violence and restart talks could possibly do that."
Oil surged over $83 per barrel on Thursday in the seventh straight record-breaking session as companies shut Gulf of Mexico output on forecasts a tropical depression churning through the region would become a storm.
U.S. light, sweet crude gained $1.44 to $83.37 per barrel in mid-afternoon trade, after hitting an all-time high of $83.60 earlier.
London Brent crude rose 40 cents to $78.87.
Oil has traded above $80 for the past week in part due to concerns about U.S. supplies after government data showed crude stocks in the top consumer fell for the fourth consecutive week.A tropical depression blowing into the Gulf of Mexico exacerbated worries as companies shut offshore oil and natural gas output on expectations it would become a tropical storm.
Energy companies have shut over 360,100 barrels of oil per day, some 27.7 percent, of Gulf crude oil production and 16.7 percent of natural gas production on the storm threat, the U.S. Minerals Management Service said on Thursday.
"Energy companies shutting down Gulf of Mexico production and Fed Chief Bernanke's optimistic words on the economy were supportive for this latest record rise in crude futures," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.
Pressures On Prices
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he expects rising defaults on U.S. mortgages but added the Fed was committed to preventing new lending problems after cutting interest rates sharply Tuesday.
Oil has risen by a third this year, driven by worries of fuel shortages during the Northern Hemisphere winter, supply risks in producer countries, the weaker dollar and rising money flows from investors.
The recent surge to record prices came after producer group OPEC agreed to add 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) to global markets to help calm consumer nation concerns.
While analysts are divided over whether prices can sustain current levels, some OPEC officials said oil will not stay above $80 for long.
"This situation is not stable and cannot be permanent," said Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, Iran's OPEC governor.
Wednesday's rise to record highs came after data showed crude oil stocks in the United States fell by 3.8 million barrels last week, nearly twice the 2-million-barrel draw expected in a Reuters poll of analysts.
September 19, 2007
CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A Clay County woman's family said it's seeking justice after their loved one died shortly after being shocked 10 times with Taser guns during a confrontation with police.
In April 2006, officers with the police department said they were called to a disturbance at a home in the 400 block of Harrison Street just before 5 p.m.
In a 911 call made to the Green Cove Springs, Delafield can be heard telling a dispatcher that she believed she was in danger:
Dispatcher: And what's the problem?
Delafield: My sister is waiting on my property.
Dispatcher: Your what?
Delafield: My sister (inaudible) is on my property trying to harm me.
Officers said they arrived to find Delafield in a wheelchair, armed with two knives and a hammer. Police said the woman was swinging the weapons at family members and police.
Within an hour of her call to 911, Delafield, a wheelchair-bound woman documented to have mental illness, was dead.
Family attorney Rick Alexander said Delafield's death could have been prevented and that there are four things that jump out at him about the case.
"One, she's in a wheelchair. Two, she's schizophrenic. Three, they're using a Taser on a person that's in a wheelchair, and then four is that they tasered her 10 times for a period of like two minutes," Alexander said.
According to a police report, one of the officers used her Taser gun nine times for a total of 160 seconds and the other officer discharged his Taser gun once for a total of no more than five seconds.
A medical examiner found Delafield died from hypertensive heart disease and cited the Taser gun shock as a contributing factor, the report said. On her death certificate, the medical examiner ruled Delafield's death a homicide.
The family said it plans to sue the Green Coves Springs Police Department now that it has all the reports regarding their loved one's death.
"We're going to try to compensate the estate and the family and try to get justice," Alexander said.
He said he believes the evidence weighs heavily in favor of Delafield's family and that justice will be served.
"I think that this evidence is going to show, along with some of the evidence we've collected outside of here, that there is no reason Emily Delafield should have died that day," Alexander said.
He said he plans to file a notice to sue sometime before the end of the year.
September 18, 2007
WASHINGTON - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that a mandate requiring every American to purchase health insurance was the only way to achieve universal health care but she rejected the notion of punitive measures to force individuals into the health care system.
"At this point, we don't have anything punitive that we have proposed," the presidential candidate said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We're providing incentives and tax credits which we think will be very attractive to the vast majority of Americans."
She said she could envision a day when "you have to show proof to your employer that you're insured as a part of the job interview — like when your kid goes to school and has to show proof of vaccination," but said such details would be worked out through negotiations with Congress.
Clinton unveiled her health care plan Monday in Iowa, promising to bring coverage to every American by building on the current employer-based system and using tax credits to make insurance more affordable.
She told the AP she relished a debate over health care with her political opponents, including Republicans "who understood that we had to reform health care before they started running for president."
On Tuesday, Clinton began airing a 30-second ad statewide in Iowa and New Hampshire promoting her new health care plan. The ad reminds viewers of her failed effort to pass universal health care in the early 1990s, trying to portray a thwarted enterprise as one of vision.
"She changed our thinking when she introduced universal health care to America," the ad's announcer says.
The ad also highlights her support as senator for an expanded Children's Health Insurance Program and for more affordable vaccines.
Her health care plan would require every American to buy health insurance, offering tax credits and subsidies to help those who can't afford it. The mandatory aspect of her proposal, however, gets glossed over in the ad.
"Now she has a health care plan that lets you keep your coverage if you like it, provides affordable choices if you don't, and covers every American," the ad says.
The ad also continues her campaign's effort to appropriate the mantle of change away from rivals Barack Obama and John Edwards. The word change or its variations appears four times in the ad, which ends: "So, if you're ready for change, she's ready to lead."
Though her ads are airing in major markets in both states, they are appearing with greater frequency in Iowa. Polls of voters in New Hampshire show her with a double digit lead over Obama and Edwards, but polls in Iowa show the three of them clustered together.
Associated Press Writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The group marched from the White House to the Capitol to demand an end to the Iraq war. Their numbers stretched for blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue, and they held banners and signs and chanted, "What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now."
Army veteran Justin Cliburn, 25, of Lawton, Okla., was among a contingent of Iraq veterans in attendance.
"We're occupying a people who do not want us there," Cliburn said of Iraq. "We're here to show that it isn't just a bunch of old hippies from the 60s who are against this war."
Counterprotesters lined the sidewalks behind metal barricades. There were some heated shouting matches between the two sides.
The arrests came after protesters lay down on the Capitol lawn in what they called a "die in" - with signs on top of their bodies to represent soldiers killed in Iraq. When police took no action, some of the protesters started climbing over a barricade at the foot of the Capitol steps.
Many were arrested without a struggle after they jumped over the waist-high barrier. But some grew angry as police with shields and riot gear attempted to push them back. At least two people were showered with chemical spray. Protesters responded by throwing signs and chanting: "Shame on you."
The number of arrests by Capitol Police on Saturday was much higher than previous anti-war rallies in Washington this year. Five people were arrested at a protest outside the Pentagon in March when they walked onto a bridge that had been closed off to accommodate the demonstration, then refused to leave. And at a rally in January, about 50 demonstrators blocked a street near the Capitol, but they were dispersed without arrests.
The protesters gathered earlier Saturday near the White House in Lafayette Park with signs saying "End the war now" and calling for President Bush's impeachment. The rally was organized by the ANSWER Coalition and other groups.
Organizers estimated that nearly 100,000 people attended the rally and march. That number could not be confirmed; police did not give their own estimate. A permit for the march obtained in advance by the ANSWER Coalition had projected 10,000.
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan told the crowd is was time to be assertive.
"It's time to lay our bodies on the line and say we've had enough," she said. "It's time to shut this city down."
About 13 blocks away, nearly 1,000 counterprotesters gathered near the Washington Monument, frequently erupting in chants of "U-S-A" and waving American flags.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson, speaking from a stage to crowds clad in camouflage, American flag bandanas and Harley Davidson jackets, said he wanted to send three messages.
"Congress, quit playing games with our troops. Terrorists, we will find you and kill you," he said. "And to our troops, we're here for you, and we support you."
Associated Press writer Christine Simmons contributed to this report.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The US dollar has fallen to a record low against the euro as investors bet that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates to help the economy.
At its nadir in European trading, it took $1.3914 to buy a euro, passing the last record of $1.3852 set on 24 July.
Many analysts are predicting that the Fed will cut interest rates next week as it looks to reassure markets and consumers amid a global credit crunch.
The dollar has weakened against the euro for six sessions in a row.
"The market's main focus remains on US economic fundamentals," said Tomohiro Iwata of Goldman Sachs.
He added that investors would be debating whether the Fed would cut rates by a quarter or a half of a percentage point, and what comments they might make following any move.
"Dollar weakness is still the story of the day," said David Jones of CMC Markets in London.
"Markets seem to be expecting a rate cut - I think half a percentage point - and that has been weighing on the dollar," he explained.
At the heart of the dollar's decline have been problems in the US housing market, caused by the Fed increasing interest rates in order to slow accelerating inflation.
As a result of the higher borrowing costs, an increasing number of borrowers have defaulted on loans, especially in the sub-prime mortgage market, which specialises in lending to people with poor or non-existent credit histories.
This, in turn, has spread to global credit markets, as many of the sub-prime mortgages were repackaged and sold on to European and UK banks as investment assets.
Analysts are now speculating that the Fed will cut its main interest rate to ease the pressure on consumers, and help reassure the global markets that it is willing to intervene to ensure financial stability.
The Fed's main interest rate is currently at 5.25% and any cut would be the first in four years.
At the same time, there is speculation that European rates may rise as the region's economy grows by more than 2% this year.
On Tuesday, Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, said once again that the European economy was healthy.
However, he warned that market volatility could continue."We have seen a distinct possibility that the ongoing deterioration of credit worthiness of borrowers in the US sub-prime mortgage market could be a trigger for a more broad-based market correction," he said.
Monday, September 10, 2007
By Tim Shipman
A Californian heavy metal fan, who converted to Islam and became the first American to be charged with treason in half a century, has been fingered as the author of Osama bin Laden's latest video lecture - which left the terror chief sounding like an anti-globalisation protester.
The al-Qaeda leader's first video message for three years featured a bizarre rant against America, with references to global warming, "insane taxes", the US mortgage market meltdown and rising interest rates.
American spy chiefs were quick to name Adam Gadahn, the head of al-Qaeda's English language media operations, as the author of large sections of bin Laden's broadcast.
Last October, the 28-year-old "loner" became the first American charged with treason since 1952, for appearing in a succession of al-Qaeda videos under the guise of "Azzam The American", in which he condemned globalisation and made American cultural references.
He was charged in his absence, as he is thought to be near to bin Laden, almost certainly in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Gadahn, who as a teenager reviewed albums for a metal music magazine, moved to Pakistan in 1998 and became an associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks. In 2004, the FBI named him as one of seven al-Qaeda operatives planning attacks in the US.
The bin Laden video, timed to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, shows the terror chief, his beard dyed black, condemning the "unjust" Iraq war and calling on Americans to "embrace Islam".
What surprised analysts was his use of the language of Left-wing protesters, which showed detailed knowledge of the economic travails of middle America.
Bin Laden referred to "the reeling of many of you under the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes and real estate mortgage" and blamed "global warming and its woes" on "emissions of the factories the major corporations".
A former senior US intelligence official said: "It has Adam Gadahn written all over it." Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer, said the tape left bin Laden with "the title of biggest gas bag in the terrorist world".
CIA officials said voice analysis of the tape proved it was definitely bin Laden.
References to the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as French president, Gordon Brown's appointment as prime minister and the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing on August 6 led them to conclude it was filmed as recently as four weeks ago.
President Bush used the release of the tape to reinforce his view that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.
He said: "I found it interesting that on the tape Iraq was mentioned, which is a reminder that Iraq is a part of this war against extremists.
If al-Qaeda bothers to mention Iraq, it is because they want to achieve their objectives in Iraq, which is to drive us out and to develop a safe haven."
The tape contained no direct threats, but Michael Hayden, the CIA director, gave a speech on Friday, after he was briefed on its contents, in which he said: "Al-Qaeda is focusing on targets that would produce mass casualties, dramatic destruction, and significant economic aftershocks."
American officials said the US government had obtained a copy of the video even though it had not been posted on Islamist websites - sparking speculation that US intelligence has developed an informant or cracked al-Qaeda's cyber security.
Mohamed el-Sayed, of the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said bin Laden's words are proof the West cannot appease al-Qaeda by withdrawing from Iraq. "The message is much more threatening this time," he said. "It uses iconic language that suggests: 'The only way to get peace is to convert to Islam.' He's in a state of constant, unending war until he Islamises the world."
But other analysts said that the lack of specific threats is evidence that bin Laden cannot direct specific operations from his base in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Peter Bergen, a US journalist who has interviewed bin Laden, said producing the video was a risk, as were previous audio tapes. "Every time he releases tapes he lays himself open to detection," he said.
"They are taken out by couriers from the tribal areas in Pakistan. If you can trace the train of custody of these tapes you can find bin Laden. He's keenly aware of that."
Sunday, September 9, 2007
SIX years since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, conspiracy theories about the events of that day continue to abound. One of the better known films is the 2006 "documentary" Loose Change, a "final cut" of which was released recently.
The film claims that a missile, not a plane, crashed into the Pentagon, bombs were used to collapse the World Trade Centre towers and that United 93 landed at Cleveland Airport. If that's not fantastic enough, the filmmakers throw in a subplot about a gold heist from the basement of the World Trade Centre carried out in the fog of the attacks.
The "evidence" presented by the makers of Loose Change is laughable. Almost no credible experts are interviewed, and many of the documentary and news sources are quoted selectively or use inaccurate reports that were later corrected. Many other claims are simply untrue and are easily refuted by both official and unofficial sources.
Nevertheless, the conspiracy theorists are winning converts. A 2006 poll of 1010 Americans conducted by researchers from Ohio University found that just more than a third of respondents suspect that the US Government promoted the attacks or intentionally did nothing to prevent them. Sixteen per cent thought that explosives were used to bring down the World Trade Centre and 12 per cent believed that a cruise missile hit the Pentagon.
The appeal of conspiracy theories isn't limited to a lunatic fringe. An otherwise rational and intelligent liberal-left American academic I met at a conference two years ago, for example, confidently assured me that September 11 was perpetrated by her own government. She didn't really have any evidence, but she was convinced that the whole thing had been a plot. My questions and counter-arguments to her claims were met with the kind of pitying smile reserved for the extremely gullible.
While most of those pushing September 11 conspiracy theories like to style themselves as opposed to President George Bush, their cavalier disregard for evidence and rational explanation places them far closer to the Bush camp than they'd like to think.
The September 11 conspiracy theories are like a left-liberal version of intelligent design. Just as the adherents of intelligent design invoke a great designer whenever they come across some part of the natural world that they personally can't explain, the September 11 conspiracy theorists invoke the White House whenever they can't account for the events of that day.
For example, the makers of Loose Change claim that explosions were used to collapse the twin towers. To support the claim, the filmmakers present footage of windows 20 and 30 floors below the impact site blowing out as the towers begin to collapse. They also play sound footage caught at the scene, in which small explosions can be heard.
More plausible explanations — that the air pressure exerted by the weight of the collapsing towers blew out offices and windows below, causing smaller "explosions", for example — are not considered.
Similarly, the apparently small size of the hole in the Pentagon's wall is used to prop up the claim that a missile hit the building. The filmmakers conveniently ignore the fact that many witnesses reported seeing the plane hit, whereas no one saw a missile.
In the world inhabited by conspiracy theorists, even the absence of evidence is itself turned into evidence of how large and how successful the cover-up has been.
In the same way that supporters of intelligent design lead away from an explanation of the natural world, the September 11 conspiracy theories lead us away from any deeper understanding of the attacks, into a fantasy world in which the US has no enemies — except its own leaders.
In doing so, the conspiracy theorists absolve both the terrorists and those responsible for the misdeeds of US and Western foreign policy. The September 11 conspiracy theorists draw on, and perpetuate, a deeply ingrained view of "orientals" as passive, incapable of acting except as puppets of "our" will. But in denying Middle-Eastern terrorists' agency, the September 11 conspiracy theorists also deny their moral culpability for mass murder.
It also ignores more than 50 years of short-sighted Western foreign policy, replacing it with a few bad apples in the Bush Administration.
In this regard, the conspiracy theorists' logic is close to President Bush who, unable to contemplate that the attacks may have been a response to years of frequently disastrous foreign policy in the Middle East, chooses to believe that "the enemy hates us because of what we love. We love freedom."
There's no doubt that there are things we don't know about the events of September 11, 2001, and that we'll never know.
It's likely that information has been withheld for both good and bad reasons. But an effective response to the events of September 11, 2001, begins with a rejection of the false choice between both the fantasies of conspiracy theorists and the Bush White House.
Israeli Neo-Nazis: "...I was a Nazi and I will stay a Nazi, until we kill them all I will not rest."
JERUSALEM — In a case that would seem unthinkable in the Jewish state, police on Sunday said they've cracked a cell of young Israeli neo-Nazis accused in a string of attacks on foreign workers, religious Jews, drug addicts and gays.
Eight immigrants from the former Soviet Union have been arrested in recent days in connection with at least 15 attacks, and a ninth fled the country, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, in the first such known cell to be discovered in Israel.
All of the suspects are in their late teens or early 20s and have Israeli citizenship, Rosenfeld said. A court decided Sunday to keep them in custody.
News of the arrests came as a shock in Israel, which was founded nearly 60 years ago as a refuge for Jews in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust and remains a most sensitive subject. Any forms of anti-Semitism around the world outrage Israelis, and the discovery of such violence in the country's midst made the front pages of newspapers and dominated talk on morning radio shows.
The gang documented its activities on film and in photographs. Israeli TV stations showed grainy footage of people lying helpless on floors while several people kicked them, and of a man getting hit from behind on the head with an empty bottle.
Police found knives, spiked balls, explosives and other weapons in the suspects' possession, Rosenfeld said. One photo that was seized showed one suspect holding an M16 rifle in one hand and in the other, a sign reading "Heil Hitler," he added.
Police discovered the skinhead ring after investigating the desecration of two synagogues — which were sprayed with swastikas — in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva more than a year ago, Rosenfeld said. Police computer experts have determined they maintained contacts with neo-Nazi groups abroad, and materials seized include a German-language video about neo-Nazis in the U.S.
Group members wore tattoos of Celtic crosses — a symbol adopted by white supremacists — and barbed wire fences, and the number "88," code for "Heil Hitler" because "h" is the eighth letter of the alphabet. Another tattoo proclaimed "White Power," and they were photographed giving the Nazi salute.
The group planned its attacks, and its targets were foreign workers from Asia, drug addicts, homosexuals, punks and Jews who wore skullcaps. In one case they discussed planning a murder, Rosenfeld said, without providing details. Some of the victims filed official complaints with police, and other victims were identified after police viewed the films and photos.
"The level of violence was outrageous," Maj. Revital Almog, who investigated the case, told Israel's Army Radio.
Police identified the group leader as Eli Boanitov, 19, of Petah Tikva — known as "Eli the Nazi." Gang members were arrested in recent days, and a gag order on the case was lifted early Sunday.
"I won't ever give up, I was a Nazi and I will stay a Nazi, until we kill them all I will not rest," Boanitov was quoted as saying by a police statement.
In the past, there have been only isolated cases of neo-Nazi activity in Israel. "This is the first time that we've ... arrested such a large number of individuals who are part of an organized neo-Nazi group," Rosenfeld said.
Under Israeli law, a person can claim citizenship if a parent or grandparent has Jewish roots. Authorities say that formulation allowed many Soviets with questionable ties to Judaism to immigrate here after the Soviet Union disintegrated. About 1 million Soviets moved here in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Rosenfeld said all of the suspects had "parents or grandparents who were Jewish in one way or another."
Israel doesn't specifically have a hate crimes law, and suspects in past cases have been tried as Holocaust deniers, he said.
The Anti-Defamation League, a U.S.-based group that fights anti-Semitism, condemned the neo-Nazi cell, but urged Israelis not to stigmatize the entire Russian immigrant community based on the acts of what appeared to be a marginal group.
"The suspicion that immigrants to Israel could have been acting in praise of Nazis and Hitler is an anathema to the Jewish state and is to be repelled," the statement read. "The tragic irony in this is that they would have been chosen for annihilation by the Nazi they strive to emulate."
Amos Herman, an official with the semiofficial Jewish Agency, which works on behalf of the government to encourage immigration to Israel, said the phenomenon was not representative of the Russian immigration.
He called the gang a group of frustrated, disgruntled youths trying to strike at the nation's most sensitive core.
"We thought that it would never happen here, but it has and we have to deal with it," he said.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Bush administration officials Friday sought to ease fears the U.S. was tipping into recession after a government report showed the economy shed jobs for the first time in four years last month.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he was not totally surprised about August's job decline given housing troubles and less government hiring, but viewed the U.S. economy as still healthy and growing.The moribund housing sector "is going to extract a penalty on growth, and what we're going through in the credit markets is very apt to extract a penalty on growth, but the economy is going to continue to grow in the second half of the year," Paulson told Bloomberg television.
The Labor Department Friday said monthly payrolls fell by 4,000 jobs, sending shock waves through financial markets that were anticipating growth of 110,000 jobs.
Nonetheless, Paulson said the economy was fundamentally healthy, and that would provide a good backdrop for working through problems in the housing and credit markets, a process which would take time.
"There's always a chance of recession. We don't think it is likely," White House economic adviser Ed Lazear told CNBC television.
Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, in an interview with Reuters, said the economy was benefiting from rising exports and that consumer spending was holding up.
"The economic fundamentals are solid and they say that the likelihood of growth and of expansion is a lot greater than recession," he said.
The Treasury's assistant secretary for economic policy, Philip Swagel, joined the chorus, saying private forecasts showed housing and credit woes shaving "somewhere on the order of a couple tenths of a percentage point" off growth in the second half of 2007 to the 2 percent to 2.5 percent range.
"In part this reflects that so far the credit disruption has been important for people most affected by it, but it hasn't affected the entire economy yet. Larger corporations still have pretty good access to capital," Swagel said.
Paulson ate breakfast with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke Friday, a meeting scheduled prior to the payrolls release. The Treasury chief declined to discuss Bernanke's reaction to the jobs data but added that he has "great confidence in what's going on at the Fed."
Talking to Bankers, Brokers
Paulson, a Wall Street investment banker for 32 years, said he is now spending a lot of time talking with market participants to try to find ways to help capital markets function properly after the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis sparked a broad pullback in lending.
"I'm focused on the asset-backed paper market, some of the more complex products, those parts of the credit markets and the capital markets that aren't functioning as normal, and we're vigilant there," Paulson said.
He said he has seen "some modest improvement" in these markets but it would take time to return them to normal. But Paulson cautioned against over-regulation in the subprime mortgage sector and other credit markets that could stifle financial innovation. He said the Treasury was studying these issues very carefully.
"Let's not overreact and do something that is going to make credit much more difficult to come by for a big sector of our population for which home ownership is very very important," he said.
Asked whether U.S. housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be allowed to expand their loan portfolios to buy up distressed subprime debt, Paulson said he was talking with the government-sponsored enterprises to find ways for them to help ease the current crisis.
Currently Fannie and Freddie invest in 30-year fixed mortgages that conform to strict guidelines and have a limit of $417,000. Some key U.S. lawmakers have called for their loan-size limits to be increased as well as for portfolio caps to be lifted.
Paulson repeatedly has opposed allowing Fannie and Freddie to expand their portfolios. He told Bloomberg Television that allowing them to expand into the subprime sector would require creation of a much stronger regulator, a process that has been stalled in Congress.
Gold hit a 16-month high above $700 per ounce on Friday, boosted by a falling dollar after U.S. data showing a surprise contraction in U.S. non-farm payrolls for the first time in four years.
The August report showing a fall of 4,000 jobs dented the U.S. currency against the euro, making dollar-denominated gold cheaper for overseas investors.
The data looked certain to increase pressure on the Federal Reserve to cut U.S. interest rates.
Bullion had earlier tested resistance at $700 with fund buyers encouraged by strong oil prices, healthy physical demand and safe-haven buying against a backdrop of worries over problems on credit markets.
Gold traded as high $704.60 an ounce by 1301 GMT, closing in on a 26-year high of $730 hit in 2006 and up 1 percent from New York's late quote of $695.70/696.30 on Thursday.
"The latest rise is entirely related to the surprise drop in U.S. jobs data. I think the fixed income market has dramatically increased the chances of a 50-basis-point interest rate cut," said James Steel, HSBC metals analyst in New York.
"Consequently, liquidity is surging through the gold market -- there's all round buying," he added.
A cut in U.S. interest rates would put pressure on the dollar, making dollar-priced gold cheaper for other currency holders.
Simon Weeks, head of precious metal trading at Bank Nova Scotia, said gold was also starting to break out technically in other currencies.
Gold priced in euros rose to its highest since early March, which analysts consider to be a bullish sign.
Bullion is also generally seen as a hedge against oil-led inflation and benefited on Friday from crude prices rising towards a record peak.
Oil held above $76, within $3 of its all-time high, as tension in the Middle East compounded supply worries after further declines in U.S. fuel inventories.
Data also showed that gold held in New York-listed StreetTRACKS Gold Shares, the world's largest gold-backed ETF, reached record high of 542.35 tonnes, up 26.91 tonnes or 5 percent from the start of the month.
In other metals, platinum rose to a one-month high of $1,294.50 an ounce and was last quoted at $1,289.00/1,296.00, against $1,284.50/1,291.50 in New York.
Palladium was broadly steady at $333.65/337.65 an ounce, while silver rose to $12.64/12.67 an ounce.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
By Marc Morano
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
August 20, 2007
Washington DC – An abundance of new peer-reviewed studies, analysis, and data error discoveries in the last several months has prompted scientists to declare that fear of catastrophic man-made global warming “bites the dust” and the scientific underpinnings for alarm may be “falling apart.” The latest study to cast doubt on climate fears finds that even a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would not have the previously predicted dire impacts on global temperatures. This new study is not unique, as a host of recent peer-reviewed studies have cast a chill on global warming fears.
“Anthropogenic (man-made) global warming bites the dust,” declared astronomer Dr. Ian Wilson after reviewing the new study which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Another scientist said the peer-reviewed study overturned “in one fell swoop” the climate fears promoted by the UN and former Vice President Al Gore. The study entitled “Heat Capacity, Time Constant, and Sensitivity of Earth’s Climate System,” was authored by Brookhaven National Lab scientist Stephen Schwartz.
“Effectively, this (new study) means that the global economy will spend trillions of dollars trying to avoid a warming of ~ 1.0 K by 2100 A.D.” Dr. Wilson wrote in a note to the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee on August 19, 2007. Wilson, a former operations astronomer at the Hubble Space Telescope Institute in Baltimore MD, was referring to the trillions of dollars that would be spent under such international global warming treaties like the Kyoto Protocol.
“Previously, I have indicated that the widely accepted values for temperature increase associated with a doubling of CO2 were far too high i.e. 2 – 4.5 Kelvin. This new peer-reviewed paper claims a value of 1.1 +/- 0.5 K increase for a doubling of CO2,” he added.
Climate fears reduced to ‘children’s games’
Other scientists are echoing Wilson’s analysis. Former Harvard physicist Dr. Lubos Motl said the new study has reduced proponents of man-made climate fears to “playing the children’s game to scare each other.”
“Recall that most of the 1.1 degree - about 0.7 degrees - has already occurred since the beginning of the industrial era. This fact itself is an indication that the climate sensitivity is unlikely to be much greater than 1 Celsius degree: the effect of most of the doubling has already been made and it led to 0.7 K of warming,” Motl wrote in an August 17, 2007 blog post.
“By the end of the (CO2) doubling i.e. 560 ppm (parts per million) expected slightly before (the year) 2100 -- assuming a business-as-usual continued growth of CO2 that has been linear for some time -- Schwartz and others would expect 0.4 C of extra warming only - a typical fluctuation that occurs within four months and certainly nothing that the politicians should pay attention to,” Motl explained.
“As far as I can say, all the people who end up with 2 or even 3 Celsius degrees for the climate sensitivity are just playing the children's game to scare each other, as [MIT climate scientist] Richard Lindzen says, by making artificial biased assumptions about positive feedbacks. There is no reasonable, balanced, and self-consistent work that would lead to such a relatively high sensitivity,” Motl concluded.
Overturning IPCC consensus ‘in one fell swoop’
The new study was also touted as “overturning the UN IPCC ‘consensus’ in one fell swoop” by the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Joel Schwartz in an August 17, 2007 blog post.
“New research from Stephen Schwartz of Brookhaven National Lab concludes that the Earth’s climate is only about one-third as sensitive to carbon dioxide as the IPCC assumes,” wrote AEI’s Schwartz, who hold a master’s degree in planetary science from the California Institute of Technology.
The study’s “result is 63% lower than the IPCC’s estimate of 3 degrees C for a doubling of CO2 (2.0–4.5 degrees C, 2SD range). Right now we’re about 41% above the estimated pre-industrial CO2 level of 270 ppm. At the current rate of increase of about 0.55% per year, CO2 will double around 2070. Based on Schwartz’s results, we should expect about a 0.6 degrees C additional increase in temperature between now and 2070 due to this additional CO2. That doesn’t seem particularly alarming,” AEI’s Schwartz explained.
“In other words, there’s hardly any additional warming ‘in the pipeline’ from previous greenhouse gas emissions. This is in contrast to the IPCC, which predicts that the Earth’s average temperature will rise an additional 0.6 degrees C during the 21st Century even if greenhouse gas concentrations stopped increasing,” he added.
“Along with dozens of other studies in the scientific literature, [this] new study belies Al Gore’s claim that there is no legitimate scholarly alternative to climate catastrophism. Indeed, if Schwartz’s results are correct, that alone would be enough to overturn in one fell swoop the IPCC’s scientific ‘consensus’, the environmentalists’ climate hysteria, and the political pretext for the energy-restriction policies that have become so popular with the world’s environmental regulators, elected officials, and corporations. The question is, will anyone in the mainstream media notice?” AEI’s Schwartz concluded.
UK officially admits: Global warming has stopped!
Recent scientific studies may make 2007 go down in history as the "tipping point" of man-made global warming fears. A progression of peer-reviewed studies have been published which serve to debunk the United Nations, former Vice President Al Gore, and the media engineered “consensus” on climate change.
Paleoclimate scientist Bob Carter, who has testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, noted in a June 18, 2007 essay that global warming has stopped.
“The accepted global average temperature statistics used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998. Oddly, this eight-year-long temperature stasis has occurred despite an increase over the same period of 15 parts per million (or 4 per cent) in atmospheric CO2. Second, lower atmosphere satellite-based temperature measurements, if corrected for non-greenhouse influences such as El Nino events and large volcanic eruptions, show little if any global warming since 1979, a period over which atmospheric CO2 has increased by 55 ppm (17 %).”
In August 2007, the UK Met Office was finally forced to concede the obvious: global warming has stopped. The UK Met Office acknowledged the flat lining of global temperatures, but in an apparent attempt to keep stoking man-made climate alarm, the Met Office is now promoting more unproven dire computer model projections of the future. They now claim climate computer models predict “global warming will begin in earnest in 2009” because greenhouse emissions will then overtake natural climate variability.
Meteorologist Joseph Conklin, who launched the skeptical website www.ClimatePolice.com in 2007, recently declared the “global warming movement [is] falling apart.”
“A few months ago, a study came out that demonstrated global temperatures have leveled off. But instead of possibly admitting that this whole global warming thing is a farce, a group of British scientists concluded that the real global warming won’t start until 2009,” Conklin wrote in an August 10, 2007 blog post on his website.
Sampling of very recent inconvenient scientific developments for proponents of catastrophic man-made global warming: [continues here: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=84e9e44a-802a-23ad-493a-b35d0842fed8
Saturday, September 1, 2007
By Nic Fleming
August 31, 2007
Just five minutes of exposure to mobile phone emissions can trigger changes that occur during cancer development, according to new research.
Scientists found mobile signals can activate cell division – central to the growth of tumours - even at very low power levels.
Government guidance that mobile phone use is safe is based on the mainstream scientific assumption that electromagnetic radiation from devices such as mobiles could only cause health hazards as a result of heating.
The new research, highlighted in this week’s New Scientist, supports the position of some researchers who argue handsets can trigger potentially harmful changes to cells irrespective of temperature changes.
However other scientists said cell division is a natural process that occurs constantly in the body and does not usually signify health hazards.
Graham Philips, of the campaign group Powerwatch, said: "Current safety guidelines assume health effects from mobiles can only occur when significant heating of body tissue occurs.
"This study shows biological changes in response to low level mobile phone radiation - something that could potentially have implications for health.
"Further research is required, however guidance based purely on thermal effects is clearly out of date."
Prof Rony Seger, a cancer researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and colleagues exposed rat and human cells to electromagnetic radiation at a similar frequency to that emitted by mobiles. The power of the signal was around 1/10th of that from a mobile.
After just five minutes the researchers identified the production of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK1/2) – natural chemicals that stimulate cell division and growth.
Cancers develop when the body is unable to prevent excessive growth and division of cells in the wrong place.
Prof Seger said: "The real significance of our findings is that cells are not inert to non-thermal mobile phone radiation.
"We used radiation power levels that were around 1/10th of those produced by a normal mobile. The changes we observed were clearly not caused by heating."
The UK has adopted international safety standards for electromagnetic radiation set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNRP).
These state the amount of energy absorbed from an electric field or radio wave cannot exceed two watts per kilogram (W/kg) when averaged over 10 grams of tissue.
Almost all mobile phone emit less that than one W/kg.
Other scientists pointed out cell division occurs naturally as tissue grows or rejuvenates within the body, and that the preliminary study did not prove any health effects.
Dr Simon Cook, a biochemist at the Babraham Institute near Cambridge, said: "The reason people are intrigued by this is this pathway is frequently activated in cancer.
"The research is certainly interesting, however they saw a very transient activation of this pathway, which we know is not sufficient to promote cell division.
"In cancer you see a much stronger, persistent and sustained activation and even this is just one of many changes required for cancer development."
Dr Simon Arthur, from the University of Dundee, said: "The ERK1/2 pathway can be turned on by a huge variety of different things such as natural compounds produced by the body that regulate cell growth, and various forms of environmental and chemical stress.
"The research shows the effect on cells in culture in the tightly controlled laboratory conditions, rather than cells in a person or animal.
"In a living person there are lots of different processes occurring at the same time, so we do not know whether the signal from radio waves would produce a similar measureable effect."
The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR), an £8.4 million Government and industry-funded investigation into the potential health dangers of mobiles launched in 2001, is expected to publish its final report next month.