Anti-Colonial Agitator

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Diabetes has reached near epidemic levels among Native American adults, and the number of preventable injury-related deaths remains disproportionately high for youth on reservations, the federal government has reported. Dr. Craig Vanderwagen, chief medical officer for the Indian Health Service, said the erosion of native culture and family support systems might be helping to fuel these worrying health trends in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. A total of 6.6 million people classified themselves in some way as American Indians or Alaska Natives in the 2000 U.S. Census. Although diabetes has risen throughout the United States during the past decade, the new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that natives still suffered the disease at a rate more than double other adults. The CDC, which devoted the bulk of its weekly morbidity and mortality report to health disparities among American natives, also noted that poverty tended to be higher in these communities. An estimated 15.3% of American native adults had been diagnosed with the disease in 2002, according to the CDC. Approximately one-third of natives 55 years and older had the disease in 2002. A separate study revealed that there were 3,314 deaths due to injuries and violence among natives 19 years old and younger who lived in areas governed by the Indian Health Service between 1989 and 1998. That was about twice the rate for the same age group in the U.S. population, according to the CDC. Car accidents, suicide and murder were the leading causes of death among young natives.

The Bank of Ireland has predicted that the Irish economy would grow by 5% in 2004 as the global economy emerges from the current downturn. Bank of Ireland group chief economist Dan McLaughlin has forecast that consumer spending would accelerate to 3.3% boosted by stronger employment creation. This pace of growth should be sufficient to stabilise unemployment, which he said would average 5% for the year as a whole. Inflation would continue to decline near term, to around 2.5% by the end of 2003, and may touch 2% in early 2004 before averaging 2.5% for the year as a whole. Government borrowing will emerge around the E1.9bn target, with a tax shortfall offset by savings on unemployment benefit, debt service, and EU payments. McLaughlin stressed that the soft landing by the Irish economy has been obscured by the confusion surrounding the divergence between GDP and GNP as measures of growth. The Irish economy grew by just 0.5% in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) terms in the first quarter of 2003, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Gross National Product (GNP) increased at a faster pace than GDP, rising by 0.8% on the year during the same period.

Sugar and acne.

The heart-healthy diet of Stone Age man.

The eurozone economy is recovering slowly and uncertainly, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has warned. And governments must take tough action if they expect sustained growth. After a weak 2003, the region could expect modest growth of up to 2% in 2004, the OECD has forecast in a report on the eurozone economy. And even this cautious recovery faced a multitude of challenges - notably a slower-than-expected rebound in key trading partners such as the United States. To help guard against this sort of unpredictable risk, the OECD has recommended that Europe accelerate the deregulation of its labor market. It also called for the dismantling of barriers to trade, reining in of state budgets and a new focus on developing innovative industries.

Israeli and international human rights groups have sharply criticized a proposed new law making it impossible for Palestinians to gain Israeli citizenship through marriage. Supporters say it is necessary for security reasons and to maintain the Jewish character of the state of Israel. Critics say the law - now before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset - is racist. Until now, the Israeli interior minister has had the final say on whether Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens can receive citizenship and make a home in Israel. According to the government, 16,000 applications were approved in the past decade after intense security checks. The vast majority were Palestinians - from the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza - who married Arab-Israelis, who make up about 20% of the population of Israel. The new nationality and entry into Israel law will prevent the approval of any future or pending applications. In practice this means that such couples must either separate or live with their children outside Israel. The legislation applies only to Palestinians. Foreigners from other countries will still be able to settle in Israel. Human rights groups say that the purpose of the law is to maintain the predominantly Jewish character of Israel. Many Israelis feel that this is being eroded by the fact that Arabs usually have more children.

Talks on transferring further control of the West Bank to the Palestinians have broken down. Officials on both sides said disagreement centered on which two towns should next be vacated by Israeli troops. The dispute clouded the first high-level talks since the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers paid separate visits to Washington to discuss the US-backed roadmap peace plan. Meanwhile, Palestinians have reacted angrily after the Israeli Government invited bids to build new homes in a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians say such a move violates the roadmap, which calls for a freeze on settlement activity. In Qalqilya, hundreds of demonstrators have protested against a controversial security fence being built by Israel, and called for its removal. The Israeli Government says the barrier, planned to stretch 600 kilometres (370 miles), is necessary to impede suicide bombers crossing from the West Bank into Israel. Palestinians say it is an attempt to grab land and destroy their dreams of statehood.

British loyalist terrorists have been blamed for an incident in which a device was thrown at a prison officer's home and picked up by a 10-year-old girl. Bomb disposal experts have defused the device which was thrown at the prison officer's house in Bangor, Co Down in the north of Ireland. The device smashed a window, but landed in the garden and failed to explode. It was subsequently picked up by a 10-year-old girl, who brought it into the house. The bomb was inside for several hours before the girl's parents realized what it was and called the police. The incident, which has been blamed on British loyalist terrorists, was the latest in a series of attacks on the homes of prison officers in the Six Counties.

The Celts: The Construction of a Myth

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Weapons of Mass Deception.

Will Iraq be worse than Vietnam?

Dramatic erosion in support among white men has left the Democrats in a highly vulnerable position and unless the party strongly repositions itself, President Bush will be virtually impossible to beat in 2004, according to a new poll commissioned for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The gloomy prognosis came despite evidence in the poll that the economy alone makes Bush vulnerable for reelection. But Mark J. Penn, who conducted the poll, said that the party's image has regressed since former president Bill Clinton left office and that those weaknesses put Democrats in a weakened position. Penn said his polling indicates that since Clinton left office in 2001, more Americans believe that Democrats are the party of big government and higher taxes and he said that Bush's handling of the war on terrorism has opened up a huge gap with Democrats on who is more trusted on issues of national security. The poll showed Bush's vulnerabilities. Fewer than half of those surveyed (48%) think that he deserves to be reelected and 53% said that the economy was heading in the wrong direction. But Penn said that Democrats must make a concerted effort to appeal to white voters, particularly men and married women, to make the 2004 race competitive. He said that just 22% of white men identified with the Democratic Party in his poll, and he said that younger men are even more strongly Republican in their leanings. Penn's poll was used by DLC leaders to press their argument that Democrats must embrace the kind of centrist policies espoused by Clinton to avoid a humiliating defeat in 2004.

The CIA called into question British claims in the September 2002 dossier that Saddam Hussein was buying uranium from Africa even before the document was published. The British Foreign Office said that, despite US concerns, Britain decided to go ahead and publish the claims because they believed their intelligence to be reliable. A decision was therefore taken not to include the doubts expressed by the United States. Despite American skepticism, President George W Bush referred to the uranium claims in his State of the Union speech in January 2003. The British claims were highly significant since Iraq had no civilian nuclear program and an attempt to acquire uranium indicated that it was trying to make a nuclear bomb. The claim was undermined by the International Atomic Energy Agency which said that it was based on forged documents.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The United States has signed an agreement with Poland to pay at least $230 million in airlift and other expenses for the Polish-led multinational division set to serve in Iraq, the Pentagon has said. The agreement calls for the Defense Department to pay about $200 million to cover various support costs for these troops, including food and medical expenses. Under the agreement, the department will pay another $30 million to $40 million in airlift costs to transport the 9,200-strong division to Iraq. Poland will send 2,300 troops to Iraq to work alongside 1,300 Spanish troops and soldiers from Ukraine and other countries in a postwar stabilization force that the Poles will command in central and southern Iraq.

A former DUP Assemblyman is to be questioned by police in the north of Ireland investigating the murder of a nationalist councillor in Co Tyrone almost thirty years ago. Oliver Gibson, 69, is also a former member of the UDR who served in the area where father-of-three Patrick Kelly disappeared in July 1974. His body later floated to the surface of a lake in Co Fermanagh, three weeks after it had been strapped down with two 56lb weights. It has been said that illegal mobile UDR checkpoints were operating in the village of Trillick the night Kelly was murdered.

Tony Blair and other British ministers are accused of crimes against humanity in prosecuting the war against Iraq in a case lodged with the international criminal court by Greek lawyers. The Athens Bar Association accuses the British government of breaching almost every international treaty and the entire spectrum of human rights in the 47-page complaint. The association, which has 20,000 members, said the campaign against Iraq was highlighted by attacks on a non-combative population, non-military targets and defenseless towns, villages, settlements and buildings. In addition to Blair, the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, the defense secretary, Geoff Hoon, and the minister of state for the British armed forces, Adam Ingram, are also accused of war crimes. The international criminal court was established in 2002 with the express purpose of trying cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Israel and Palestinian children.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair intentionally misled the public over Iraqi weapons, according to a majority of people questioned in a survey for CNN. The poll, conducted by TNS in Britain, Germany and France, showed that 51% thought Blair had deliberately misled voters. This view was highest in France (58%), followed by Germany (53%), then Britain (42%). Blair remains under pressure over evidence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), used to justify British troops being sent to Iraq. The poll also showed that only 26% of respondents thought the U.S. and Britain were right to invade Iraq based on uncertain intelligence, with 66% being against the invasion. The percentage of those who felt it was wrong to invade was highest in Germany (75%), followed by France (72%). In Britain, opinion was more evenly divided with 45% opposing the occupation and 42% in favor. The poll was carried out July 18-20 2003 with 1,000 people questioned in each of the three countries.

US shoppers remained more cautious than analysts' expected in July 2003 as concerns over job losses overshadowed hopes of an economic recovery. Consumer confidence figures showed an expected slump for July. The Conference Board's monthly consumer confidence index slipped to 76.6 for July, down from 83.5 in June 2003. Analysts had been expecting a lift in confidence levels to around 85.0. The number of people out of work in the US hit a 20-year high in July, sparking concern among economists and investors. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan dampened optimists' enthusiasm further when he warned the US economy was taking longer to pick up than anticipated. In Greenspan's half-yearly address to Congress in July, he said the central bank was cutting its growth expectations for 2003 and said businesses remained cautious about taking on new staff. Economists said July's poor consumer confidence figures were the latest sign that the weak US economy was recovering more slowly than hoped.

Americans have become significantly less accepting of homosexuality since a Supreme Court decision that was hailed as clearing the way for new gay civil rights, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll has found. After several years of growing tolerance, the survey shows a return to a level of more traditional attitudes last seen in the mid-1990s. Asked whether same-sex relations between consenting adults should be legal, 48% said yes; 46% said no. Support has not been that low since 1996. In early May 2003, support for legal relations reached a high of 60%-35%. The shift in attitudes occurs as gay issues have been in the news. Recently the Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law, a Canadian court decision allowed gay couples to marry in Ontario, and Wal-Mart expanded anti-discrimination protection to gay workers. Those making the biggest shifts included African-Americans. On whether homosexual relations should be legal, their support fell from 58% in May to 36% in July 2003. Among people who attend church almost every week, support fell from 61% to 49%. The survey also found rising opposition to civil unions that would give gay couples some of the rights of married heterosexuals. They were opposed 57%-40%, the most opposition since the question was first asked in 2000. By 49%-46%, those polled said homosexuality should not be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle. It was the first time since 1997 that more people expressed opposition than support.

Perfidious Albion.

The family of a man murdered in the north of Ireland in 1974 has criticized a decision to reopen the investigation into his death. 33-year-old Patrick Kelly's body was found in a lake in Co Fermanagh 29 years ago. Kelly, an independent nationalist councillor in Omagh and member of the north of Ireland's Civil Rights Association, disappeared in the Co Tyrone village of Trillick on July 24 1974. His body was found in Lough Eyes near Lisbellaw, Co Fermanagh, three weeks later, tied to 56lb weights. He had been shot a number of times. Bloodstains, shirt buttons and cartridge cases were found on the roadside near Trillick on the night he disappeared and police believe he was shot at that location. There have long been suspicions that members of a British army unit were involved in Kelly's murder. An anonymous letter was sent to the Civil Rights Association claiming that a unit of the UDR had ambushed Kelly. A member of the unit later made a verbal confession to friends admitting that he had witnessed the killing. Kelly's family have criticized the police decision to reopen the investigation into his murder, saying they had no confidence in the inquiry. The family's lawyer said the new investigation was an attempt to block legal efforts to establish an independent inquiry into the murder.

A man from West Belfast in the north of Ireland has been hit with a rubber bullet fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank. Terry McNeill was hit in the thigh while taking part in a protest against a wall being built by the Israeli authorities in Jenin. He was at the protest as a member of the International Solidarity Movement. Speaking from hospital, McNeill said that he had been shot while trying to help a colleague, who had also been targeted, to safety. McNeill said that if he had been Palestinian, he would have been killed. Recently another man from west Belfast, Sean O Muireagain, was arrested and held by Israeli security forces acting on incorrect information from British "intelligence" services. O Muireagain was later released after Israeli radio reported that the British had been wrong.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Public support for Poland's role in Iraq appeared to be eroding, with a new poll showing that more than half of those surveyed disapproved of sending troops. A growing number of Poles also feared that Polish participation could lead to attacks at home. Against the backdrop of daily attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, 68% said that they feared Poland would become a target if the government sends troops as planned to command a stabilization zone. That was up a full 15% from a survey in June 2003. The July 4-7 survey of 952 Poles was the first time Poles were asked specifically if they approved of their nations' role in helping stabilize Iraq. About 55% of the respondents were against sending Polish troops to command a stabilization zone, some 36% approved and 8% had no opinion. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. Warsaw, a leading European supporter of the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq, will deploy 2,000 troops to lead an international peacekeeping force controlling a zone in southern central Iraq beginning in September 2003. Anna Grudniewicz, an analyst for the independent CBOS polling agency, said the changing attitudes of the Polish population were influenced by continuing attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and the growing fear of terrorist attacks is due to concerns that the presences of a large number of Polish troops in Iraq will make Poland a target of extremists.

The prosecutor of the world's first permanent war crimes court is to review a dossier of allegations of human rights abuses by British troops in Iraq. Members of the Athens Bar Association have called on International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to investigate 22 alleged incidents involving British forces.

Meditation: the scientific way to enlightenment?

The commander of US ground forces in Iraq has said that his soldiers have become a magnet for foreign terrorists who wanted to strike at America. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said that the sophistication of the guerilla attacks, which Washington customarily blames on the former regime's loyalists, had increased recently. Shortly after he spoke, two US soldiers in Baghdad were seriously injured when a man dropped a grenade from a road bridge onto their canvas-top Humvee as it passed below along Palestine Street. Guerrilla-style attacks on US forces have killed 49 soldiers in Iraq since the US president, George Bush, declared major combat over on May 1, 2003. Sanchez did not elaborate on the nationalities of the individuals behind such attacks but said that there was no evidence any country was sponsoring the fighters. Aside from a group linked to al-Qaida claiming responsibility for some attacks, gunmen who describe themselves as members of the Fedayeen militia have said that they will avenge the deaths of Uday and Qusay Saddam Hussein on US forces and on any Iraqis who collaborate with them.

The BBC will produce a tape-recording at the Hutton inquiry in which David Kelly is said to link Alastair Campbell to the Iraq weapons dossier of September 2002. The naming of Campbell on the tape, believed to have been made by journalist Susan Watts, is seen as significant because it is likely to back Andrew Gilligan's story of Downing Street's interference in the dossier. Kelly told Watts that the British Government was obsessed with finding intelligence on an immediate Iraqi threat. The Government's insistence that the threat was imminent was a Downing Street interpretation of intelligence conclusions. Gilligan has stated that Campbell, Tony Blair's communications chief, had intervened to embellish the document by inserting a claim that Saddam Hussein was able to launch chemical and biological attacks within 45 minutes.

Israel's use of administrative detention against the Palestinian people.

More on the genetic links between Siberians and Native Americans.

Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The British Army and the value it places on the lives of indigenous Irish Catholics.

The British government must admit that the murder of indigenous Irish Catholics was endorsed at the highest political level if the north of Ireland peace process is to succeed, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said. Adams says he is sure that Tony Blair knew previous British Prime Ministers had authorized collusion with loyalist death squads, and challenged him to lift the lid off it. The Stevens Inquiry into collusion between the British security forces and loyalist terrorists recently found that elements within the police and British Army had helped loyalists murder indigenous Irish Catholics in the late 1980s. Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens said that informants and agents were allowed to operate without effective control and to participate in terrorist crimes. Adams said he strongly suspected that collusion was also involved in a number of murders in the last couple of years, including those of British Protestant teenager Gavin Brett and indigenous Irish Catholic teenager Gerard Lawlor. And he pointed out that Blair's insistence that he had not sanctioned those murders proved he knew previous British prime ministers had done so in the past. Adams said that collusion had become a daily reality in the north of Ireland over the last 30 years and had resulted in some of the worst incidents of violence during the Troubles. Sinn Fein, with some of the victims of collusion, is organizing a major rally in Belfast on August 10, 2003 to highlight the issue.

One-third of Germans under age 30 believes that the U.S. government may have sponsored the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, according to a new poll. And about 20% of Germans in all age groups hold this view, according to a survey of 1,000 people conducted for the weekly Die Zeit. The poll also said 68% of all Germans felt that the media had not reported the full truth behind the attacks, in which some 3,000 people were killed when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. After the Sept. 11 attacks, there was an outpouring of sympathy from Germans for the United States. Despite misgivings, Germany joined a military campaign against the al Qaeda network that Washington blamed for the attacks. But as the United States geared up for war against Iraq, relations soured as Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expressed vocal opposition to the plans. Although the United States took offense at Berlin's attitude, Schroeder's anti-war stance was popular in Germany and helped him to snatch victory in the 2002 elections. Asked whether they believed the U.S. government could have ordered the Sept. 11 attacks, 31% of those surveyed under the age of 30 answered yes, while 19% overall gave the same answer. Die Zeit said widespread disbelief about the reasons given by the United States for going to war in Iraq and suspicion about media coverage of the conflict had fostered a climate in which conspiracy theories flourished.

Police have arrested an Israeli antiquities dealer suspected of creating two forgeries that shook the religious and archaeological world, including a burial box purported to be that of Jesus's brother James. Odad Golan also is suspected in connection with a shoebox-sized tablet inscribed with forged instructions for caring for the Jewish Temple. Golan appeared in a Jerusalem court after police arrested him at his home in Tel Aviv on suspicion of forging and dealing in fake antiquities. In court, police unveiled forgery equipment they said was found in Golan's home, including stencils, stones and partially completed forgeries. The dealer was being detained by police. In 2002, Golan told a French collector about the two disputed artifacts, which raised questions from the start. After exhaustive studies, the Israel Antiquities Authority declared that they were forgeries. The burial box, or ossuary, bore the inscription, James, the brother of Jesus, leading to speculation that it referred to the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. The inscription was deemed a fake, but the artifact had been valued at $1 million to $2 million based on the claimed link with Jesus. The Joash inscription tablet, because of its wording, was purported to offer rare physical evidence backing up the biblical narrative. Uzi Dahari, a member of the committee that studied the James ossuary, called the inscription a contamination of the archaeological science. Despite the findings, Golan insisted that the artifacts were authentic. He was unavailable for comment because he was in police custody.

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which manages the Irish Government's debts, has said that Ireland continued to have the second lowest debt to GDP ratio of the 15 EU member states in 2002. In its annual report for 2002, the agency said that the general government debt to GDP ratio fell by 3.8% from 36.8% at the end of 2001 to an estimated 33% at the end of 2002. It said the National Debt to GNP ratio fell from 37.4% to an estimated 34.7% in the same period. The cost of servicing the national debt was 15% lower than estimated, coming in at €2,169m for the year.

Ireland's love affair with the European Union is deteriorating, although talk of a split is still premature, according to the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll. The poll, drawn from the responses of around 1,000 Irish interviewees in March and April 2003, shows that approval of the union in Ireland has declined to 67%, compared with 83% in autumn 2001. The number who feel that Ireland has benefited from the EU has fallen from 90% to 77% over the same time, while the gap between Irish and EU average support for membership has halved, from 27% to 13%. Commenting on the results, Eurobarometer officials said the changes were substantial and suggested a significant alteration in the overall orientation of Irish people to European integration. Their report also finds that, in common with citizens of most member-states, Irish people believe they know even less about the EU and its institutions than they did in 2002. And, the 5% rise in this feeling puts Ireland among the four countries with the most widespread sense of lack of knowledge of the European Union and its policies.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The British government must set a firm date for elections to the north of Ireland Assembly despite the internal problems affecting the Ulster Unionist Party, Gerry Adams has said. The Sinn Féin president said the peace process had to be seen to be bigger than the future of any one party. He was speaking after Ulster Unionist Party officers selected a new disciplinary committee to decide the future of its three rebel MPs.

Is France having the last laugh?

The Scottish economy will suffer severe consequences if Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is wrong and the US does not recover by the end of 2003, the Confederation of British Industry has warned. Iain McMillan, the director of CBI Scotland, was speaking as the influential lobby group announced the results of its latest industrial trends survey, which painted another gloomy picture of a long-suffering Scottish manufacturing sector struggling for momentum. The CBI also said the latest data signalled a further cut in interest rates may be necessary. Many are tiring of waiting for the US economic recovery that Greenspan has regarded as imminent for almost two years now. An increasing number of critics are casting doubt over the prospect for recovery of an economy kept moving only by heavily leveraged consumers. According to the survey, Scotland's manufacturers - like their counterparts elsewhere in Britain - remain locked in a downturn and did not benefit from the revival in demand that followed the end of the war in Iraq. Moreover, conditions deteriorated further in July 2003, and were significantly worse than businesses had anticipated as confidence dwindled. Both Scottish manufacturing orders and output plunged in recent months, with the level of orders hitting its lowest point since April 2002 - a stark reflection of domestic weakness and a persistent lack of demand from export markets. CBI Scotland said that manufacturers held down costs during the second quarter of 2003, but that firms continued to cut prices in an attempt to keep their markets, with downward price pressure undiminished.

A majority of Jewish settlers living on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war would be willing to leave their homes for peace with the Palestinians if properly compensated, according to a new poll. The findings could bolster peace moves sought by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon under the U.S.-backed "road map" that sets out reciprocal steps leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state in 2005. According to the poll, taken for the settler monitoring group Peace Now, 66% of all settlers think unauthorized outposts should be removed and 74% would leave their homes in return for compensation. The YESHA Council, representing the 200,000 Israelis living in the settlements scattered among the 3.6 million Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said in a statement that the survey, having been taken by an interested party, had no basis in reality. The road map calls on Israel to dismantle unauthorized West Bank settlement outposts set up since March 2001 and to freeze construction in established settlements as a first step toward implementing the peace plan. Sharon has pledged to continue dismantling outposts and indicated that he would be willing, at a later stage, to remove some of the existing 145 settlements built on the land which Palestinians seek for an independent state. The positions taken by Sharon, a leading architect of the settlement movement, stirred sharp criticism from the settler lobby in his cabinet. But the poll's results appeared to show less opposition on the ground. The poll of settlers showed 29% are ready to leave the Jewish settlements immediately. 54% said they would resist evacuation, but only 9% said that they would break the law and 1% said that they might resort to violence. The survey, conducted by the Hopp research company in June 2003, also found that 71% of settlers agree that a peace agreement should be reached and 44% think Palestinians deserve a state. The pollsters interviewed 1,100 settlers by phone and reported a 3% margin of error.

The BBC has a tape of talks between one of its reporters and weapons expert David Kelly, who was apparently driven to suicide by a row over the British government's case for war in Iraq. The tape records a conversation between reporter Susan Watts and David Kelly, who was found dead after he was named as the BBC's source for stories alleging the British government exaggerated its case for war against Iraq. The BBC, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and many of his top ministers and advisers have come under fierce attack in the row over Kelly's death. David Kelly, a British government scientist and weapons expert, was found dead in the woods near his home. He had bled to death from a slashed wrist. He had been forced into the media spotlight after telling his Defense Ministry superiors that he may have been the source behind a BBC report which claimed Blair's government had exaggerated intelligence about banned Iraqi weapons to make a case for war. The tape is likely to form a key part of evidence presented to Lord Hutton, the man asked by Blair to conduct an inquiry into events leading up to Kelly's death.

The Irish economy could pick up considerably in 2004 provided that the international situation improves, according to the Central Bank of Ireland. The Irish Central Bank forecast GNP growth of only 1.5% for 2003 but that GNP could grow as much as 3.5% in 2004. It said Ireland was at the mercy of the international economy, saying that the most important reason for modest growth prospects was the protracted nature of the current international slowdown.

George Bush's deputy national security adviser has stepped forward to take the blame for the inclusion of faulty intelligence in the president's state of the union address. Bush had wrongly claimed that the Iraqi government had been attempting to purchase uranium from Africa, and had suggested that this indicated a plan to build nuclear weapons. The revelation that the information was false led to widespread speculation as to who would take responsibility for its inclusion in such an important speech. Initially, the CIA was blamed for allowing the information through. Then attention focused on Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, who had overall responsibility for that section of his address. In the end it was Stephen Hadley who was left holding the bag. He said he had been warned by the CIA that intelligence referred to by Bush in his speech was suspect and should not be relied on. Hadley said he should have removed all references to the alleged Iraqi attempts to buy African uranium from the speech before it was delivered by the president in January 2003. He said the CIA had already asked him to remove similar references from a speech delivered by the president as long ago as October 2002. His mea culpa was immediately followed by a statement from the White House declaring that he still enjoyed the president's full confidence.

Iraq and the budget deficit.

Rosy cheeks seem to be crucial in the dating game, for monkeys at least. Females of a common primate, the rhesus macaque, prefer males with red faces, a study has shown. It signals high levels of testosterone which, in many male animals, means a healthy immune system and good genes. A rosy glow might also act as a similar cue in humans, says lead author Corri Waitt of Stirling University in Britain. It could explain why women apply cosmetics to get red cheeks and lips, she speculates. The theory that female primates are attracted by male colouration is, in itself, nothing new - it was first postulated by the naturalist Charles Darwin in 1876. But this is the first experimental evidence in support of the idea in non-human primates, say the researchers. The team used a computer to manipulate images of 24 wild adult male rhesus macaques. They tested pale and red versions of the faces on six female macaques kept in captivity and measured their response. The females spent much longer looking at the red faces and used gestures such as lip-smacking to show their interest. Craig Roberts, a biologist at the University of Newcastle, says it raises the possibility that cues in facial appearance may play a similar role in humans.

A gun attack on a 48-year-old man in east Belfast has been linked to loyalist terrorists.

One year ago, the life of 19-year-old Gerard Lawlor was taken in the most arbitrary and brutal manner.

How is the War on Terror advanced by an occupation of Iraq that inflames the Arab world and leaves 150,000 U.S. troops exposed to daily attacks?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Israel's largest human rights organization has accused Ariel Sharon's government of undermining the foundations of democracy in the country. In its annual report, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel says that human rights have been devastated in the occupied territories. It goes on to detail several cases of abuse of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers, including one at a checkpoint in April 2003 in which a soldier, using a piece of cut glass, carved a Star of David into the throat of a Palestinian civilian who was still alive. The report is all the more damning to Sharon's government because it comes from an independent Israeli human rights organization. The report says that, in the occupied territories, abuses of Palestinians' human rights are commonplace. It accuses Israeli soldiers of being vindictive and says that the soldiers receive implicit approval to denigrate the dignity, life and liberty of innocent Palestinian civilians. The report highlights the deaths of Palestinian civilians during the assassinations of leading militants by Israeli forces. In the past year, the Israeli army has assassinated 80 Palestinian militants, and killed 90 civilian bystanders during those operations. It also points out that the army continues to use Palestinians as human shields.

The British Government's claim that Saddam Hussein had sought to buy uranium from Niger has been dismissed by the French ambassador to the central African state. In another blow to the credibility of the Blair Government over the issue, Denis Vène said it was impossible for uranium to leave the country without French officials knowing. France has a substantial stake in the two companies that mine, process and export uranium, and its movement is controlled. British government sources had claimed that French intelligence supplied London with details of Iraqi uranium purchases. But this has been vehemently denied by Paris. Vène was backed by Rabiou Hassanne Yari, Niger's Minister of Mines, who said that his country had never sold uranium to Iraq. He pointed out that Niger's uranium production was subject to scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The sluggish economy and the continuing daily threat to U.S. forces in Iraq have taken a toll on President Bush's public standing, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll. Bush's approval rating fell to 59%, its lowest level since March 2003, in the poll of 1,003 adults. His lowest marks came on his handling of the economy: 45% approved, 51% disapproved. That weakness extended to the Republican Party, which controls Congress. Democrats had a 17-point advantage, 53%-36%, when poll respondents were asked which party would do a better job handling the economy. In January 2003, the GOP had a 43%-42% edge. The Republicans held their edge on handling the threat of terrorism: Americans preferred Republican policies by 55% to 29%. The divide was narrower on the overall handling of foreign policy: Republicans were preferred 46% to 41%. On the handling of the postwar situation in Iraq, the GOP advantage dropped since January 2003 from 24 percentage points to 15 points. Republicans were favored on that question by 51%-36%. Bush held a 6-percentage-point advantage, 47%-41%, when those polled were asked whether they would support his re-election bid against a Democratic candidate, down from 12 points in June.

Pizza and cancer.

A new genetic study deals a blow to claims that humans reached America at least 30,000 years ago - around the same time that people were colonising Europe. The subject of when humans first arrived in America is hotly contested by academics. On one side of the argument are researchers who claim America was first populated around 13,000 years ago, toward the end of the last Ice Age. On the other are those who propose a much earlier date for colonization of the continent - possibly around 30,000-40,000 years ago. The authors of the latest study reject the latter theory, proposing that humans entered America no earlier than 18,000 years ago. They looked at mutations on the form of the human Y chromosome known as haplotype 10. This is one of only two haplotypes carried by Native American men and is thought to have reached the continent first. Haplotype 10 is also found in Asia, confirming that the earliest Americans came from there. The scientists knew that determining when mutations occurred on haplotype 10 might reveal a date for the first entry of people into America. Native Americans carry a mutation called M3 on haplotype 10 which is not found in Asia. This suggests it appeared after people settled in America, making it useless for assigning a date to the first migrations. But a mutation known as M242 looked more promising. M242 is found in Asia and America, suggesting that it appeared before the first Americans split from their Asian kin. Knowing the rate at which DNA on the Y chromosome mutates - errors occur - and the time taken for a single male generation, the scientists were able to calculate when M242 originated. They arrived at a maximum date of 18,000 years ago for its appearance. This means the first Americans were still living in Asia when M242 appeared and could only have begun their migration eastwards after this date. "I would say that they entered [America] within the last 15,000 years," said Dr Spencer Wells, a geneticist and author who contributed to the latest study. Wells said individuals such as Kennewick Man, a 9,300-year-old skull from Washington State which has been interpreted as looking European due to its long, narrow (dolichocephalic) skull shape, looked this way because Europeans and early Americans had a common origin around 35,000-40,000 years ago in south-central Asia. He said a later migration into America from East Asia 6,000-10,000 years ago associated with the spread of Y chromosome haplotype 5 could have been responsible for the Asiatic appearance of many present-day Native Americans. But Wells acknowledged the possibility that even more ancient American populations carrying unidentified Y chromosome haplotypes could have been swamped by later migrations, resulting in their genetic legacy being erased.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Police have confirmed that the British expert at the center of the Iraq dossier row bled to death from a cut to his wrist, as Tony Blair comes under increasing pressure over the affair. David Kelly, 59, was named as the possible mole behind a BBC report that Downing Street communications director Alastair Campbell embellished a dossier setting out the case for war. A senior officer said a knife and a packet of painkillers had been found close to where his body was discovered in woodland near his home in Oxfordshire. The British government will now hold an independent judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death. Tony Blair has faced tough questions over the government's handling of the affair. Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has called on Blair to recall Parliament and broaden the inquiry to investigate the government's handling of intelligence on Iraq.

The chief executive of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) was one of two men being questioned about suspected serious offences within the Electoral Office for the north of Ireland. Alastair Patterson and another former electoral office employee were being questioned by police concerning allegations of forgery, false accounting and corruption. A police representative has confirmed that the two men were being questioned about alleged offences within the electoral office between 1996 and 2001. A UUP source has confirmed that one of the men was its chief executive, who took up his post earlier in 2003.

Ireland has recorded a trade surplus of €10.1bn, the second highest surplus in the euro zone after Germany.

The Iraq war began in mid-2002 with intensive air strikes under the guise of enforcing the southern no-fly zone over the country, a senior US officer has admitted. Lieutenant General Michael Moseley, the chief allied war commander, said that the previously secret plan, Operation Southern Focus, was launched during the summer of 2002 - before President Bush took his case against Baghdad to the United Nations. The operation involved dropping 606 precision-guided bombs on 391 targets, in an effort to destroy Saddam Hussein's air defense. The air force general said Operation Southern Focus paved the way for the use of special forces early in the war, and the decision to begin the ground war earlier than planned with offensives by marines and regular infantry. The admission raises further questions about US intentions in the build-up to war, at a time when the Bush administration is scrambling to explain its reliance on shaky intelligence in making the case for war. It is also under increasing pressure over the almost daily attacks on US troops in Iraq.

Sean O Muireagain and his experience in Occupied Palestine.

British intelligence: the ultimate oxymoron.

America's costly empire.

The Irish economy remains fundamentally healthy despite the uncertain short-term outlook, according to the Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI). In its Medium Term Review, the think tank said, "Provided that the world economy... finds its way back to its normal growth path by 2005, the factors that gave rise to the very rapid growth in the last decade are not yet exhausted, the Irish economy still has the potential to grow at 5% a year for another five years". Once this unused potential is exhausted, probably around the turn of the decade, the ESRI said the Irish economy would revert to a more sedate European and US pace, growing at about 3% a year.

A study has revealed that eating pizza on a regular basis could help stave off certain forms of cancer. The eating habits of over 3,000 Italians suffering from cancer of the stomach or digestive tract were monitored during the study and compared with a sample of about 5,000 people suffering from other diseases. The results showed that people who ate pizza once or several times a week were less likely to get cancer than those who chose not to eat it at all. According to the study carried out by the Pharmacology Institute in the northern city of Milan, the risks of getting mouth, esophagal or colon cancer plunged by as much as 34%, 59% and 26% respectively. The secret, according to Silvano Gallus who led the research, appeared to be connected to the preventive properties of the humble tomato which is rich in healthy anti-oxidants.

The British economy is growing at a slower rate than the British government had predicted, according to an economic think tank. The Ernst & Young Item Club, which uses the British Treasury's model of the economy to make its forecasts, said the British economy is struggling against a weak global recovery and slower household spending. The Item Club also predicted a further cooling of the consumer spending boom and falling house prices in 2004. The Item Club is an independent economic forecast group formed of different companies sharing the cost of forecasting, and sponsored by Ernst & Young. Its latest forecast is that the British economy will grow by 1.7% in 2003, rising to 2.5% in 2004 - a gloomier projection than that of the British Chancellor Gordon Brown, who has predicted 2%-2.5% growth in 2003 and 3%-3.5% in 2004.

Dirty tricks in Britain and Israel.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego and executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, comments on George Bush, weapons of mass destruction and impeachment.

An Irish journalist held for five days by the Israelis on suspicion of teaching IRA bomb-making secrets to Palestinian militants has accused Israel of trying to scare foreign activists out of the region. John Morgan, 40, told a news conference in his hometown Belfast that he had no guerrilla links and was in the West Bank as part of an Irish-Palestinian school twinning project. He was arrested and questioned by Israel's Shin Bet security service until his release, when he left for home. Israel said he was arrested because he matched the name and description of a man British intelligence alleged was a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb expert who had defected to the dissident Real IRA. Morgan -- known in Belfast by the Gaelic spelling of his name, Sean O Muireagain -- said he was strip-searched, shackled and blind-folded after he was picked up at a military checkpoint in the West Bank as he travelled from Ramallah to Bethlehem. He said he was kept in a concrete dungeon with a light on 24 hours a day and after two days of questioning he agreed to take a polygraph test to establish his innocence. A number of foreigners have been arrested by Israel in the occupied territories in recent months, prompting pro-Palestinian groups to accuse Israel of a concerted campaign to chase them out.

Gerry Adams welcomed the release of Seán Ó Muireagáin but said British intelligence and journalists had questions to answer about reports following his arrest at the weekend in Israel. The Sinn Fein leader said: "His arrest and detention was wrong and unjust and should never have happened in the first place. The wrong perpetrated on Seán Ó Muireagáin was further exacerbated by the petty and vindictive detention last night by British police at London airport. I am greatly concerned at a number of elements in this case. The role of British intelligence in the arrest and the subsequent role of sections of the media in reporting the usual British security source briefings as fact needs to be further investigated. These briefings were the latest in a long line of malicious and false briefings fed to the media by elements of British intelligence in an attempt to undermine further the peace process."

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has warned that continuing large federal budget deficits eventually would cause long-term interest rates to rise and damage U.S. economic growth. Recently, the Bush administration forecast that the deficit would reach $455 billion in fiscal 2003 and rise to $475 billion in 2004 before starting to decline. As economic growth improves and the nation nears full employment, the deficit was projected to fall to $238 billion in fiscal 2006 and would be only slightly lower than that in the next two years. Greenspan expressed reservations about further tax cuts after the budget had swung back into deficit, caused primarily by a sharp decline in revenue resulting from the recession and weak recovery, the large 2001 tax cut and added spending for health care, homeland security and defense. Greenspan proposed renewing congressional rules that required any tax cut to be offset by reductions in spending or increases in other taxes. The Fed chairman said it will be two or three months before it becomes clear how much of a boost the recent cut would provide to consumer spending. More important will be the business reaction to any rise in spending. If cautious executives assume spending increases will continue, they will step up hiring and investment in new plants and equipment. But if they regard the increase as just a blip, then economic growth would remain subdued.

The deadly SARS virus could return later in 2003, according to some experts. However, they have suggested it is unlikely to be on the scale of an epidemic. The World Health Organization declared that the SARS outbreak had come to an end in July. The highly contagious virus had spread across the globe killing over 800 people and infecting over 8,000 since it first emerged late in 2002. However, scientists have always insisted that it could reappear again particularly during the flu season, which starts in autumn. The first known case of SARS was discovered in the Guangdong province of China in November 2002. By February 2003, the Chinese Ministry of Health had reported 300 cases including five deaths in Guangdong province. The virus went on to claim more than 600 lives in China and Hong Kong and a further 200 lives in countries as far apart as Canada, South Africa and Singapore.

Brian Feeney on the decline of the Orange Order.

A new extradition treaty drawn up by the U.S. and British governments is causing alarm among lawyers concerned that it will be directed at Irish-American political activists. The treaty, dated March 31 2003, is yet to be ratified and must be approved by the Senate. But attorneys familiar with the sometimes heated debate over extradition and deportation proceedings involving Irish citizens in the U.S. said they are fearful that an attempt will be made to win such approval just as the Senate is breaking up for the summer vacation. They also claim that the treaty will have a potentially chilling effect on activities linked to the political situation in the north of Ireland on the part of U.S. citizens. Francis Boyle, a professor of law at the University of Illinois, said that both governments were pursuing the same strategy adopted when a supplemental treaty was presented to the Senate back in 1986. The treaty was signed in March by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and British Home Secretary David Blunkett. According to Boyle, the proposed treaty not only does away with the concept of a political exception clause, it also removes the possibility of judicial review in extradition cases while exposing individuals, including U.S. citizens, to the threat of extradition to the United Kingdom based on totally unfounded allegations. Boyle said he is fearful that the British government is using the new treaty to position itself in the event of the Good Friday agreement breaking down. In New York, attorney Frank Durkan said that the language of the treaty was so encompassing and open to such wide interpretation that the Department of Justice would have no problem in getting an indictment just on the language alone. Durkan said that the language used could mean that simply buying a ticket for a dinner could be interpreted as giving support to terrorism.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Centcom commander General John Abizaid , the US chief of military operations in Iraq, has admitted that attacks against US troops in the country bore the hallmarks of a classic guerrilla-type campaign. The Pentagon has tended previously to avoid the word "guerrilla", describing the attacks as uncoordinated violence by remnants of the Baathist regime. The admission came as US soldiers posted in Iraq have spoken out in the media expressing frustration and fear about the growing number of attacks on US targets. US forces in Iraq are becoming increasingly nervous and desperate to return home. There is growing anger in the United States about delays in bringing troops home - particularly from the 3rd Infantry Division which helped conquer Baghdad. Their return has been delayed four times. General Abizaid said they would be returning in September 2003 but added their homecoming was conditional on replacements being ready. More than 30 US troops have been killed as a result of hostile action since US President George W Bush declared major combat over on 1 May, 2003. Since then the US has increased its forces to 148,000 while the British contribution has dropped to 11,000.

The British Army has been urged to set up an independent appeal panel to assess the case of two soldiers who were allowed to stay in the military after being convicted of the murder of a Belfast teenager. Recently, the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled the Army was wrong to retain Scots Guards Mark Wright and James Fisher, who were convicted of the 1992 murder of 18-year-old Peter McBride. In his tenth annual report, independent assessor of military complaints Jim McDonald said that until the matter was settled, it would continue to undermine the British Army's credibility. Peter McBride was shot after being stopped and searched by the soldiers while they were on patrol near his home in the New Lodge area of north Belfast on 4 September, 1992. The pair were sentenced to life for murder in 1995, but three years later were released from prison and allowed to rejoin their regiment. The Court of Appeal stopped short of ordering the Army to dismiss the two soldiers, but made a legal declaration that the reasons adopted by the Army Board were not so exceptional as to permit the retention of the two soldiers. At their trial, Wright and Fisher said they believed Peter McBride was carrying a bomb. But the judge, Lord Justice Kelly, found they were lying as they had already stopped and searched him.

In a new dispute over the interpretation of intelligence data, the CIA and other agencies objected to a Bush administration assessment of the threat of Syria's weapons of mass destruction that was to be presented on Capitol Hill. After the objections, the planned testimony by Undersecretary of State John Bolton, a leading administration hawk, was delayed until September 2003. There were conflicting explanations for the delay. U.S. officials said Bolton was prepared to tell members of a House International Relations subcommittee that Syria's development of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons had progressed to where they posed a threat to the region's stability. The CIA and other intelligence agencies said that assessment was exaggerated. Syria has come under pressure from the United States for allegedly giving refuge to members of Saddam Hussein's regime, allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq to attack U.S. troops and for backing Palestinian militant groups that were conducting guerrilla strikes on Israel. After Saddam's government fell, some Bush aides hinted that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad might be the next target. The objections by the intelligence community come as the Bush administration is defending itself over complaints that it embellished intelligence to justify the war against Iraq. Bolton's planned remarks caused a revolt among intelligence experts who thought they inflated the progress Syria has made in its weapons programs.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is expecting Germany's GDP to stagnate in 2003 and to grow 1% in 2004, according to the Finance Ministry. The IMF made the conclusions after holding talks with the Government, the Bundesbank, finance market supervisory agencies, industry associations, trade unions and economists. The German Government has not changed its forecast of 0.75% GDP growth in 2003 and 2.0% growth in 2004 so far, but lately Finance Minister Hans Eichel has said these figures are questionable.

New research suggests frequent masturbation may protect men against prostate cancer in later life. The Australian study questioned more than 2000 men about their past sexual habits as part of a prostate cancer study. It indicated men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer. Professor Graham Giles, head of cancer epidemiology at the Cancer Council Victoria, said one explanation for the apparent beneficial effects of masturbation was that frequent ejaculation prevented semen from building up in the ducts, where it could potentially become carcinogenic. Giles said previous reports had found an increased risk of prostate cancer among prisoners and Roman Catholic priests. He said the study may have implications for prostate cancer patients who grew up at a time when the practice was frowned upon.

CIA chief George Tenet is to testify in a closed-door hearing amid a continuing dispute over intelligence information about Iraq included in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech. Tenet has taken responsibility for allowing a since-discredited line to remain in the speech that claimed deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein sought to buy uranium from Africa. The information -- which was used to underscore Iraq's interest in developing nuclear weapons -- was attributed to British intelligence. Democrats have used the uranium issue to question whether the Bush administration secured public backing for war in Iraq on the back of false information. Tenet is due to speak before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is privately reviewing the use of U.S. intelligence before the war. Democrats are pressing for an open investigation and even some Republicans say the administration needs to better explain how an assertion about Iraq based on questionable intelligence made its way into a major presidential speech at a time when Bush was trying to rally support for military action against Iraq.

Israeli security services are expected to release Belfast man, John Morgan, who was arrested near Ramallah on suspicion of training Palestinian militants. John Morgan writes for the Irish language newspaper Lá and is a member of the Ireland Palestine solidarity movement. He had travelled to the region to arrange a cultural exchange program and to research articles. Isreali officials said he had been mistaken for someone else with a similar name and had co-operated fully with their investigation.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog says the British government should let U.N. inspectors verify its evidence that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa to make atomic weapons. U.S. President George W. Bush has come under fire for including the allegation in his State of the Union address in January 2003. The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has since dismissed as forgeries documents offered as evidence for the charge. With casualties in Iraq rising and the opposition Democrats questioning Bush's justifications of the U.S.-led war, the White House acknowledged that the uranium claim should not have been in the speech. Under similar pressure in London, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted however that British claims about the African uranium had not been based on the forged documents but on other, as yet unpublicised evidence from a third country which neither the Americans nor the U.N. have seen. On March 7 2003, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told the U.N. Security Council that six letters offered to back up U.S. and British allegations that Iraq had attempted to buy from Niger two 500-ton shipments of natural yellowcake uranium were crude forgeries. It takes 10 tons of yellowcake to make enough weapons-grade material for one nuclear bomb. The IAEA first requested evidence for the claims in September 2002 but did not receive anything until February 2003. An IAEA official said that a few hours using an Internet search engine was all it took to prove the letters presented were fake.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The White House has forecast that the US budget deficit will climb to a record $455 billion in 2003. The administration's Office of Management and Budget said the shortfall would grow again to $475 billion in the next fiscal year, starting October 1, 2003. The figures show that the Iraq war, tax cuts, and a sluggish economy have widened the gap by 50% from the forecast given by US President George W Bush's administration earlier in the year.

British foreign secretary Jack Straw has admitted that the British government did not know who had forged the Niger uranium documents that led to coalition claims that Saddam Hussein was attempting to develop a nuclear program. Making a statement to British MPs on the situation in Iraq, Straw said the government had no knowledge that documents passed on to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iraq's attempts to acquire uranium from Niger were forged until February 2003.

The US Federal Reserve is cutting its forecast for US economic growth for 2003 by 0.75 percentage points, to between 2.5% and 2.75%. The figures came in the Fed's Monetary Policy Report, which was presented to the House of Representatives' financial services committee by Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. Greenspan also signalled that he was ready to keep US interest rates low for a considerable period of time to lift the sagging economy and ward off the threat of deflation. The Fed chief also said there was room for the central bank's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee to reduce rates beyond their current 45-year low of 1% if the US economy failed to rebound strongly enough. Fed officials have recently discussed some unconventional ways they might act to combat deflation, such as intervening in the bond market to push down long-term rates. But Greenspan's comments made clear that the Fed's traditional tool of cuts in short-term interest rates would remain its first line of defense against the deflation risk.

The police in Derry have confirmed that they are investigating reports that two indigenous Irish Catholic postal workers have received threatening letters. The letters, which were posted to the men's homes, are believed to have to come from the loyalist terrorist group known as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). A police spokesman said the letters had been seized for forensic examination. It is also understood that the Post Office has launched an internal investigation. The two recipients have been granted special leave.

American soldiers who had been expecting to be sent home from Iraq soon have been told they will remain in the Gulf indefinitely. The army announced that much of the Third Infantry Division is to stay in place due to ongoing attacks against coalition forces. Soldiers - and their families - reacted with dismay to the news that they would not be home in September 2003 as they had hoped. The announcement that US troops would stay on in Iraq came on the same day that India rejected a request to send about 17,000 peacekeeping troops to the region. India's security cabinet decided it could not support the mission without authorization from the United Nations. The Third Infantry Division was the first US unit to enter Baghdad, after having been deployed to the region in late 2002. It has suffered at least 36 casualties, more than any other American unit in the conflict. Some 16,500 members of the division have served in the Gulf during the fighting - the vast majority of whom are still in Iraq or Kuwait.

The Irish economy grew by 6.9% in GDP terms in 2002, but GNP expanded by just 0.1% during the year, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). GDP growth in 2002 was driven strongly by the output of foreign direct investment enterprises, especially in the chemicals sector. Details of expenditure on GNP show that consumer spending maintained an upward trend during 2002 with an increase of 8.9% over the year. The increase in Government expenditure was 14.4%. When price rises are discounted the real increases in these sectors were 2.7% and 9.4% respectively. Investment in new buildings and capital equipment rose by 6.2% in money terms which is equivalent to 1.7% in real terms. Exports of goods and services exceeded imports by E24.14bn in 2002 as compared with E17.24bn in 2001. This rise of E6.91bn in the export surplus was more than offset by an increase of E7.62bn in net factor income outflows to the rest of the world.

The SDLP's Sean Farren has called on the Israeli authorities to immediately release the Belfast Irish language activist, Seán Ó Muireagáin. Ó Muireagáin was detained at a checkpoint near Ramallah in the West Bank. Farren called on the Irish Government to use its influence to ensure Ó Muireagáin's release. He said that once again, the British security services appeared to have got it wrong.

The arrest of an Irishman in the West Bank was a mistake, Israeli radio has reported. The station quoted officials saying that there were increasing doubts that the man who was arrested near Ramallah was the person Israeli police had intended to detain. Seán O Muireagáin, 40, from west Belfast, was arrested by Israeli security forces reportedly acting on information from British security services.

Monday, July 14, 2003

The United Nations nuclear watchdog believes that Britain's evidence on Iraq trying to import uranium from Africa may all be based on forged documents. A spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that all evidence London had provided to the Vienna-based agency had been based on fakes. But she could not rule out that Britain had other proof which it had chosen not to make available to the U.N. body. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in 2002 that intelligence showed Iraq had banned weapons of mass destruction and was trying to import uranium from Niger to support its nuclear arms program. President Bush included the allegation in his State of the Union address in January 2003, citing the British findings. But the White House has said that the claim was based on forged documents and should have been left out of the speech. After determining it would have been impossible for Iraq to import uranium from the world's number-three uranium producer, the IAEA looked more closely at the six letters submitted as evidence that Iraq tried to buy two 500-ton shipments of uranium and concluded that all were fakes.

It makes financial sense for men to divorce or leave their partners, a study has found. Men who stay married invariably end up poorer than those who leave their live-in partners, according to social researcher Cecile Bourreau-Dubois. Dubois found that the effect of divorce on a man's bank balance even outweighed the financial benefits of either partner getting a better job. However, the reverse was true for women. Females starting a relationship were one and a half times more likely to improve their wealth than those who remained single. Dubois based her findings on interviews with more than 75,000 adults in 11 different European Union countries. Her report is published by the Institute for Economic and Social Research.

The editor of an Irish language newspaper based in Belfast has denied that one of its correspondents arrested on suspicion of training Palestinian militants in bomb-making techniques was a terrorist. Sean O Muireagáin, 40, from west Belfast was arrested by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank at the weekend. He is being questioned by the Shin Bet security agency about the extent of his links with militants who have been mounting a bombing campaign against Israel, according to security sources in Israel. Republican sources said O Muireagáin was among a group of Irish people acting as peace monitors for an international solidarity committee. Ciarán O Pronntaigh, editor of Gaelic newspaper Lá, said O Muireagáin had been out in Israel for three weeks and had submitted his first article about conditions in the Palestinian town of Jenin. He denied that the well known Irish language activist was involved in terrorism. Security sources in the north of Ireland have said they were not aware of the 40-year-old being involved in paramilitary activity. There has been speculation the west Belfast man may have been the victim of mistaken identity, but O Pronntaigh claimed it may have been a deliberate attempt by Israel to stifle any debate about the treatment of Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Palestinian representative to Ireland, Ali Halimeh said he too was suspicious about the timing of the arrest. Halimeh, speaking as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in London for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the arrest could have been aimed at discrediting the road map peace plan.

British Loyalists find new victims in the Six Counties.

As thousands of British colonists commemorate the 313th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, one group of loyalist terrorists will be in exile among the grim streets of Bolton. They were once part of the most feared loyalist terrorist unit in the north of Ireland, responsible for more than 40 murders in the 1990's. The family and friends of Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair were part of the loyalist terrorist elite, feared by those around them on Belfast's Lower Shankill estate. Now they are in seclusion, unable to celebrate one of British colonialism's major holidays - the Twelfth. Recently, detectives in Lancashire arrested six former members of Adair's C company of the Ulster Defense Association. They were taken in for questioning about the murder earlier in 2003 of another notorious loyalist terrorist, John 'Grugg' Gregg. People in Bolton must be wondering why the feuds that have torn apart the largest loyalist terrorist group in the north of Ireland would be visited on this part of north-west England. The answer lies in the links forged between Adair, dissident loyalist terrorists in the Six Counties and English neo-Nazis based round Bolton. While he was in jail serving 15 years for directing terrorism, Adair came to admire another hard-line loyalist terrorist, Billy 'King Rat' Wright. Wright had been leader of the rival Ulster Volunteer Force in Portadown up until 1996. In a dispute over the UVF's ceasefire, Wright was expelled from the UVF under sentence of death. Instead of leaving the north of Ireland, Wright set up a new terrorist group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force, opposed to the peace process. For decades, the British far Right has sought to promote the loyalist cause. Disgusted with the UVF and UDA ceasefires, neo-Nazis in groups such as Combat 18 drifted to Wright's LVF. A number of Wright's followers had neo-fascist and racist sympathies and during the Drumcree disputes from 1997 to 1999 invited delegations from Combat 18 in the Bolton and Oldham area to Portadown. The Lancashire fascists were billeted in homes on loyalist estates in the build-up to the annual Drumcree parade, which was banned from passing along the indigenous Irish Garvaghy Road. With the death of Wright, the Bolton fascists may have lost one icon but after 1999 they gained another: Johnny Adair. Adair courted the English fascists and links were established between C18 and other fascists from Bolton and Adair's C company in the Lower Shankill. On the day the first loyalist feud erupted in August 2000, a small delegation of Bolton C18 was in the Lower Shankill when Adair's C company fired the first shots at a UVF bar, sparking off a feud that claimed 12 lives.

Claims British Prime Minister Tony Blair made about banned Iraqi weapons continue to haunt him as a new poll shows that most Britons think he misled them. In Britain, Blair has faced accusations that he overplayed intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to make the case for war. With no such weapons found months after the conflict ended, he is starting to suffer political damage. A poll by ICM for the Daily Mirror newspaper showed that 66% of those questioned believed Blair had misled them -- either knowingly or unknowingly -- before he sent troops into action in Iraq. The British government has been forced to defend its claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger to support a nuclear weapons program, although Washington has abandoned the charge. The White House has admitted that its claim was based on forged documents, a potentially embarrassing schism as Blair prepares to meet President Bush, who included the allegation in a January speech, citing British findings. Britain had included the accusation in a September 2002 dossier setting out the case for war in Iraq. Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has delivered the latest blow by declaring that Britain committed a fundamental mistake when it said that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction at 45 minutes notice.

Jude Collins on the Orange Order.

On a February day in 1989, a prominent Belfast defense lawyer - whose clients included suspected Catholic guerrillas - was shot dead in front of his wife and three children as the family sat down to dinner. Fourteen years later, the question raised by Pat Finucane's murder still has not been laid to rest: Did members of the British security forces collaborate with British Protestant terrorists in the killing? A recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights said that the British government committed a human rights violation by failing to ensure an independent police inquiry. For those in the north of Ireland who have grown frustrated trying to seek justice at home, the international court's decision was the latest step in the right direction. There have been persistent claims, recently supported by a British police inquiry - 14 years after the murder and deemed to be too late by the European Court - that both the British Army and the north of Ireland police colluded in Finucane's murder. The reasoning is that the lawyer had become an irritation because of his successful claims on behalf of families of slain members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) - a paramilitary group fighting for an independent, united Ireland that called a cease-fire in 1994. The continuing British police inquiry, however, is not sufficient for the Finucane family or human rights campaigners. They want a public examination of all the facts rather than the prosecution of those directly responsible for the murder. The British government has given a guarded response to the ruling on the Finucane case, but has so far refused to say whether it requires a public inquiry. Observers say the concern in Whitehall is that an inquiry could implicate intelligence and British Army figures still in senior positions, as well as expose the lack of political control over intelligence services. Legal experts say that the court ruling has put London in a tight spot. Whatever its reluctance to hold a public inquiry into the Finucane case, it cannot flout the international court. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised a public inquiry if an independent arbiter, retired Canadian Supreme Court Judge Peter Cory, decides that it is merited. Judge Cory is due to give his view in the autumn.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Interesting research on the Y-chromosome differences between men in North Wales and Central England.

Masked loyalist gunmen will emerge from the shadows on run-down housing estates to fire volleys of shots in the air as the north of Ireland's British colonial Protestant community celebrates the peak of their sectarian marching season. Shows of strength by loyalist terrorist groups have become a standard feature of the midnight bonfires which mark the Protestant holiday of July 12, and a symbol of the lawlessness which often engulfs the Six Counties in mid-summer. In 2003, the signs of the sectarian divide are as visible as ever -- union jacks, red, white and blue bunting and pro-British terrorist banners flutter over British colonial Protestant districts where militaristic murals have been freshly repainted. In indigenous Irish Catholic areas Irish flags are displayed and murals celebrate the long campaign by the Provisional IRA to end British colonial rule in occupied Ireland. Hundreds of parades organized by the north of Ireland's main British colonial Protestant brotherhood, the Orange Order, will take across the Six Counties on July 12.

Brian Feeney on the Independent Monitoring Body.

British prime minister, Tony Blair, must find evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq or be forced to resign, according to a Scottish Labor MP. Cunninghame South MP Brian Donohoe said that Tony Blair must unearth evidence or his position will become untenable. The MP said it has yet to be proved that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent chemical or biological threat. Donohoe said the reason given for war in Iraq was the imminent threat posed by WMD. He said that if it turned out that there was no such threat then there was no legitimate reason for Britain to go to war.

All about the SARS virus.

The Orange Order is facing a £1,200 bill for a clean-up operation after a march in West Lothian, Scotland. The local authority plans to make the organization pay for the cost of removing trash after the event. However, the Orange Order blamed local people for leaving the garbage. The march was organized by the County Grand Orange Lodge of Central Scotland. An estimated 15,000 people took part in the event, which followed a route through West Calder to its destination in Limefield Park, Polbeth. A spokeswoman for West Lothian Council said that 16 wheeled bins, black bags and a skip had been provided for the disposal of litter. However, council staff still had to spend a lot of time cleaning up the trash left by the parade. Robert McLean, executive officer of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, said the organization would enter into dialogue with the council when it received the bill.

The number of jobless Americans receiving benefits hit its highest point in over 20 years in June, and new claims for jobless aid unexpectedly rose again in early July, according to the US government. Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 439,000 in early July from a revised 434,000 at the end of June, the Labor Department said. Economists on Wall Street had expected claims to edge down a bit to 425,000 from the 430,000 originally reported for the week ending June 28, 2003. The department also said the number of unemployed workers who remained on the benefit rolls after filing an initial claim jumped by 87,000 to 3.82 million in the June 28 week, the highest level since February 1983. It was the second consecutive weekly gain in initial claims, which reached their highest level in five weeks. It was also the 21st consecutive week that claims have been over the 400,000 level, which economists say separates jobs' growth from loss. The department said it was the longest string of weeks with claims over the 400,000 level since a jobs market downturn that ended in July 1992.

Brilliant scientific geniuses are the psychological bedfellows of car thieves and muggers: they are at their most active before their mid-thirties, and they do so to impress the opposite sex. Breakthroughs such as the structure of DNA and the laws of thermodynamics sprang from the same motivations that drive young men to crime, research in New Zealand has suggested. The careers of great male scientists, like those of male criminals, are most prolific in the first flush of youth, according to the study. Both groups pursue their chosen paths with greatest panache before the age of 35 and both lose their enthusiasm when they marry. In the study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, Dr Satoshi Kanazawa, of the University of Canterbury, examined the biographies of 280 great scientists. He found that 65% of the mostly male researchers had made their biggest discovery before their mid-thirties. Their productivity curve follows almost exactly that of male common criminals, whose illegal activities peak in late adolescence and early adulthood. The explanation, according to Kanazawa, is simple: they are seeking to impress women with their virtuosity. Marriage, he found, dampens men’s drive in science and crime. Within five years of marrying, almost a quarter of the scientists had published their last work of any great importance. Male criminals also tend to stop committing crimes after marrying. Kanazawa, whose work is reported in New Scientist, said that a single psychological mechanism probably explained the similarity between scientists and criminals. In young and single men, testosterone levels are high, leading to risk-taking and creativity. Once a man settles down, testosterone levels fall and so does his creative or criminal output. His first loyalty is to his family and offspring, rather than to his work.

Months after the United States and Britain invaded Iraq, a senior British official has said that it would be extremely difficult to find weapons of mass destruction. The British official, who has closely monitored Iraq's military capability, said it was more likely that Iraqi scientists or army officers would eventually come forward with evidence to support the U.S.-British charges -- instead of leading them to the weapons themselves. But British Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman insisted weapons programs and products would be found in Iraq. The failure to discover such lethal arms in Iraq has raised questions about the case for war. The row has undermined Blair's credibility and dented his popularity. Some observers have detected a tactical retreat in Blair's reference to weapons programs rather than just weapons.

The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has said that the US had not gone to war against Iraq because of fresh evidence of weapons of mass destruction but because Washington saw old evidence in a dramatic new light after September 11. The claim, in testimony to the Senate, reflected a sharp change in tactics by an administration that is under fire for knowingly basing its case against Saddam Hussein on flawed intelligence. In his State of the Union address in January 2003, President George Bush referred to a British intelligence report that Iraq had been trying to buy uranium in Africa, for use in its nuclear weapons program. But the White House has finally admitted that the claim was not based on solid information, and that documents purporting to show an Iraqi attempt to buy raw uranium from Niger had been forged. The administration has played down the importance of the allegations made by Bush in his January speech, and then by the secretary of state, Colin Powell, in a presentation to the UN in February. Instead, Bush and his aides all suggested that the case against Saddam had been built on his cumulative defiance of the international community. Rumsfeld's testimony to the Senate was controversial not only because it implied that fresh evidence of Saddam's activity did not play a role in going to war. The comments also implied that the link between Iraq and al-Qaida was built more on changing perceptions of the danger such an alliance would pose, rather than on evidence that it actually existed, as the administration had claimed.