Thursday, May 31, 2007

Prying books out of the cold hands of the CIA...

From Publishers Lunch:

Plame and S&S Sue CIAAs we begin the convention where Valerie Plame Wilson is scheduled to address atendees, she and Simon & Schuster have filed suit in NY Federal District Court against the CIA, alleging that they are "unconstitutionally interfering with the publication of Ms. Wilson's memoir, Fair Game by classifying public domain information."

Note: TJ Waters had a hard time getting his book, Class 11, away from the CIA too.

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From ugly DeMint to Blackberry bruises....

From American Progress:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) blames U.S. troop deaths on Congress's Iraq debate. "Al-Qaida knows that we've got a lot of wimps in Congress," DeMint said at a luncheon Tuesday. "I believe a lot of the casualties can be laid at the feet of all the talk in Congress about how we've got to get out, we've got to cut and run." He later added that while Iraq has "gone badly and it's a mess, it would have been worse if we hadn't gone in."

"The United States is among the least peaceful nations in the world, ranking 96th between Yemen and Iran, according to an index of 121 countries." Iraq ranks last.

President Bush "is under pressure from European allies to give ground on climate change at next week's meeting of the world's richest countries, but policy experts say prospects for a breakthrough are slim."

"Twenty months after its depleted ranks of soldiers and airmen were pressed into service for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Louisiana National Guard still lacks hundreds of military troop trucks that can handle high water as it faces a new storm season that begins Friday." The culprit, they say, is Iraq.

The Supreme Court ruling this week "in favor of an Alabama employer that had underpaid a female employee for years" is effectively "gutting a key part of the Civil Rights Act," The New York Times writes. "Fortunately, Congress can amend the law to undo this damaging decision." House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller (D-CA) and others have announced plans to do just that.

Global warming is shrinking the Great Lakes, New Scientist reports. "Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world by surface area, is experiencing its lowest water levels since the record set in 1926."

"A NATO helicopter on a night mission crashed late yesterday in southern Afghanistan, killing all seven service members aboard in what officials believe was a coordinated attack in an area known for aggressive Taliban fighting."

"A Sunni police chief praised by U.S. forces for clearing his city of insurgents has been arrested following an investigation into alleged murder, corruption and crimes against the Iraqi people, the U.S. military said Wednesday."

And finally: The World Bank Blackberry bruise. "After his introduction as the U.S. pick to lead the World Bank, Robert Zoellick said he had to turn off his BlackBerry. He wears the device on his belt, and typically keeps it on vibrate. 'I'm getting bruises,' he said, pointing to it. 'I've never had so many emails.'"

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BushCo LOVES TORTURE!!!

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Daily Update > Terrorism & Security
posted May 31, 2007 at 1:10 p.m. EDT

White House nears completion of new torture guidelines
Critics say administration's endorsement of 'enhanced interrogation' is 'immoral,' draw comparisons to Nazi war crimes.
By Arthur Bright csmonitor.com


The White House is close to completing a new set of guidelines on the use of "enhanced interrogative techniques" by US agents, even as critics say such techniques are "immoral," "amateurish," and "indistinguishable" from Nazi war crimes.

The New York Times reports that the administration is preparing "secret new rules governing interrogations."

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual.

The Times writes that President Bush has claimed the broader techniques are needed to fight terrorism, and in the recent Republican presidential debate, candidates made similar suggestions about the necessity of harsh interrogation.

Critics, however, say that the Bush administration's policy regarding torture is "immoral." Philip Zelikow, a former advisor to Condoleezza Rice and the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, said in a lecture last month (PDF) at the Houston Journal of International Law that in 2002, the United States made "careful, deliberate choices to place extreme physical pressure on captives, with accompanying psychological effects," and that the administration's "policy guidelines devolved into legal guidelines, which were to do everything you can, so long as it is not punishable as a crime under American law."

Brilliant lawyers worked hard on how they could then construe the limits of vague, untested laws. They were operating so close to the frontiers of our law that, within only a couple of years, the Department of Justice eventually felt obliged to offer a second legal opinion, rewriting their original views of the subject. The policy results are imaginable and will someday become more fully known.

My point, though, is not to debate the delineation of the legal frontier. That focus obscures the core of the issue. The core of the issue, for legal policy, is this: What is moral – not, what is legal? What is cost-beneficial? ...

My own view is that the cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged, and repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral. I offer no opinion as to whether such conduct is a federal crime; merely that it is immoral.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0531/p99s01-duts.html?s=mesdu

[click above link to continue reading]

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Be situationally aware...or else....

From Strategic Forecasting Inc:

The Challenge of the Lone Wolf
By Fred Burton

Historically, gunmen and bombers who act on their own -- lone wolves -- have posed a significant threat in the United States. Indeed, from the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln to the slaying of music legend John Lennon they have presented a far more deadly threat to prominent people in the United States than have militant groups. Additionally, as demonstrated by cases such as the 1991 Luby's restaurant shooting in Killeen, Texas, or the recent Virginia Tech massacre, they also pose a grave danger to ordinary Americans.

Due to their often solitary, withdrawn nature, lone wolves present unique problems for security and law enforcement, as their very qualities make it hard for law enforcement or protective security details to gather intelligence regarding their intentions. That said, however, they are not impossible to guard against. Lone wolves frequently take actions in advance of an attack that make them vulnerable to detection by a proactive, protective intelligence program that incorporates investigation and countersurveillance. Although they most often are male, there is no single profile of the lone wolf. Some are ideologically motivated, some are religiously inspired, some are mentally disturbed, and still others can have a combination of these other factors.

On the ideological side are some leaders (especially among far-right extremists) who promote the concept of "leaderless resistance." This idea perhaps was most widely promulgated by former Klansman Louis Beam. In a February 1992 essay, Beam outlines a plan to overhaul the white supremacist movement -- calling for the formation of small, autonomous cells that were to be driven by ideology rather than act under the direction of membership groups. Beam's argument was that this leaderless resistance would have superior operational security and be more successful in conducting attacks than the membership groups, which he believed (correctly) were filled with informants.

In his essay, Beam envisioned a two-tiered approach to the revolutionary struggle. One tier would be the above-ground "organs of information," which would "distribute information using newspapers, leaflets, computers, etc." The organs of information were not to conduct any illegal activities. The second tier would be made up of individual operators and small "phantom" cells that would conduct attacks. These people were to remain low-key and anonymous, with no traceable connections to the above-ground activists. Beam wrote, "It becomes the responsibility of the individual to acquire the necessary skills and information as to what is to be done."

Perhaps one of the most prolific, and least known, ideological lone wolf terrorists was neo-Nazi Joseph Paul Franklin, who conducted a string of arsons and shootings from 1977 to 1980 in an effort to spark a race war in the United States. Franklin, who frequently targeted mixed-race couples, killed at least 20 people during his attacks, which by his own account also included failed assassination attempts against Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flint and then-National Urban League President Vernon Jordan.

Included in the religious realm are "Phineas Priests," people who believe they have been chosen by God and set apart to act as his "agents of vengeance" on Earth. Phineas Priests frequently conduct attacks against abortion providers and homosexuals -- targets they believe have violated biblical law. Phineas Priests derive their name from Phinehas, an Old Testament character who killed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman and who was credited with stopping the idolatry brought into the midst of the Israelites by Midianite women. Most Phineas Priests, including Buford Furrow and Eric Rudolph, are adherents to the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion. Christian Identity, however, does not have a monopoly on religiously motivated lone wolves.

Radical Roman Catholics like James Kopp, Protestants such as Paul Hill and Muslims like Mir Amal Kansi and D.C. Sniper John Allen Muhammad also have committed religiously motivated attacks.Though many, if not most, of the ideologically and religiously motivated lone wolves exhibit some degree of mental illness, other mentally ill attackers have no ideological or religious motivation. Some of these individuals "go postal" and commit their attacks at work, while others attack at malls or schools.

Unlike the ideological (and even some of the religious) lone wolves, who purposefully choose the leaderless resistance model to thwart law enforcement, the mentally disturbed are generally self-motivated and self-contained.

Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, both serving life sentences for attempting to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford during separate incidents, are two rare female lone wolves. Fromme, a follower of jailed cult leader Charles Manson, pointed a loaded pistol at Ford in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 5, 1975, but was wrestled to the ground by a Secret Service agent before she could fire a shot. Seventeen days later, Moore, an accountant and political radical, fired one shot at Ford after he left the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, but missed.

The Problem for Police

A prime example of the problem lone wolves pose for police is Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, who began sending improvised explosive devices in 1978 but was not arrested until 1996. During those 18 years, Kaczynski sent 16 devices, several of which either did not explode or did not function as designed. Although this allowed authorities to recover a large quantity of physical evidence, Kaczynski's isolation kept him from being identified. It was only after the publication of Kaczynski's "Unabomber Manifesto" in 1995 that his brother came forward to the FBI and identified him as a possible suspect.

When investigating a militant organization it is possible for law enforcement or intelligence agencies to plant informants within the group. Even small, insular groups are vulnerable because it is not uncommon for one or more members of the group to get cold feet and inform authorities about the group's plans to commit acts of violence. With a lone wolf, however, there is no such possibility of infiltration or betrayal. If the suspect never discusses his or her plans with anyone else, he or she can easily fly under law enforcement radar. In most cases, these kinds of individuals can be highly successful in carrying out an attack, especially against vulnerable soft targets.

Mentally disturbed lone wolves pose particular problems because they often have an extremely narrow focus of interest and cannot be diverted to an easier target by heightened security measures. There are some notable exceptions to this, however. For example, Furrow conducted surveillance on several Jewish targets and bypassed some of them because he considered their security to be too tight, and Franklin diverted from the Rev. Jesse Jackson to Jordan after he found Jackson's security to be too robust for his purposes.

Mentally disturbed lone wolves also frequently have an almost total disregard for the consequences of their actions, and quite often show no concern about escaping after they attack, as exemplified by John Hinckley, who did not attempt to flee after attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Frequently, as in the case of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho and Luby's shooter George Hennard, the attacker will commit suicide.

When lone wolves do choose to escape and conduct a string of attacks, their anonymous nature and isolation frequently complicates the situation for law enforcement, especially if they take efforts to conceal their identities and minimize the amount of physical evidence they leave. For example, Franklin was able to operate for three years before he was identified and arrested because he spaced his attacks apart in terms of geography and time, and frequently changed his vehicles, weapons and appearance. In fact, it was only after his arrest and confession that the full scope of his activities was realized. Rudolph also traveled great distances between targets and took efforts to alter his appearance.

The Threat

Because of this history, and the problems lone wolves pose for them, local, state and federal law enforcement sources say they are particularly concerned about the threat of individual extremists. This is not exclusively a big-city problem, as several lone wolf incidents have occurred outside of major metropolitan areas, in suburbs or smaller cities. Federal counterterrorism sources, citing the relative ease of attacking in a public place -- as demonstrated at Virginia Tech and other locations -- have expressed serious concern about the possibility of similar assaults being perpetrated by an Islamist militant or a white supremacist.

The logic is that if a mentally disturbed individual can execute such an attack, what prevents an ideologically inspired terrorist from doing the same -- or worse? Because lone wolves are widely dispersed throughout the United States and are distributed across the ideological and social spectrum, it is especially challenging for law enforcement to identify them before they act.

The same is true of potential lone wolf extremists. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between those extremists who intend to commit attacks from those who simply preach hate or hold radical beliefs (things that are not in themselves illegal). Therefore, authorities must spend a great deal of time and resources looking for individuals who might be moving from radical beliefs to radical actions in an attempt to single out likely lone wolves before they strike. With such a large universe of potential suspects, that is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.

Rearing their Heads

There are some signals that can be watched for in connection with lone wolves. In fact, in retrospect, the majority of lone wolves came to the attention of authorities at some point before their attack. Frequently in workplace violence and school shooting cases, the perpetrators are found to have had prior brushes with the law and/or the mental health system. Attempting to sort lone wolves out from the heavy stream of people who come to the attention of the police and mental health professionals, however, is another difficult search through a very large haystack. These individuals, though, often frequently exhibit behaviors by which they reveal themselves.

Lone wolves, especially mentally disturbed ones, frequently attempt to make written or telephonic contact with their targets before making physical contact. It is at this time that they can be identified and investigated by security or law enforcement personnel. Monitoring the tenor of the contacts from such individuals can also help to indicate their future intentions and provide indications of a deteriorating mental state. Another sign of a possible lone wolf is when a dedicated and committed extremist suddenly quits a membership group and goes into "radio silence mode."

For example, Bob Matthews and three other members "left" the National Alliance in 1983 to form the domestic terrorist group "The Order." In 1999, World Church of the Creator member Benjamin Smith, who had been named "Creator of the Year" for his zeal and dedication, left the group shortly before going on a three-day shooting spree in Illinois and Indiana that randomly targeted racial and ethnic minorities. Smith killed two people and wounded nine before committing suicide while being chased by police.

Perhaps the most common time that lone wolf assailants self-identify -- and the point at which they are most vulnerable to being identified before an attack -- is when they are conducting pre-operational surveillance of their potential targets; when they are stalking, in other words. Since pre-operational surveillance involves establishing patterns, potential attackers will stalk their targets several times. Thus, each time they improve the chance they will be observed, especially if the target is employing countersurveillance operations in search of such threats.

Countersurveillance -- the process of detecting and mitigating hostile surveillance -- is an important aspect of counterterrorism and security operations. Good countersurveillance is proactive, meaning it provides a means to prevent an attack from happening. This can be a group effort performed by a dedicated countersurveillance team, or it can be done by individuals who simply make the effort to be aware of their surroundings and watch for people or vehicles that seem out of place. Lone wolves are especially vulnerable to detection during the surveillance phase because they do not have others to assist them.

Conducting solo surveillance against a moving target is one of the hardest tasks any professional surveillance operative can be tasked with, and is even more difficult for an amateur. In a solo surveillance, the operative is forced to reveal himself repeatedly over time and distance, and in different environments. Also, a person unskilled in the art of surveillance, especially one who is mentally disturbed, will frequently commit many errors of demeanor. Thus, their odd behavior and crude surveillance technique -- they frequently stalk and lurk -- make them easy to pick out. Because of this, countersurveillance -- whether by law enforcement, intelligence agencies, corporations or individuals -- is a critical means of spotting lone wolves during the target selection and planning stage, the time the operation is most vulnerable to detection and interdiction.

It is important to be able to recognize hostile surveillance by a lone wolf before the next phase of the attack cycle begins -- because once the actual attack is in progress, it cannot be undone.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Iraq Vets lose Freedom of Speech!!!

From Courage to Resist:

Marines to review discharged vets for anti-war activity
Liam Madden and Adam Kokesh
Washington DC 3/19/07.

Courage to Resist
May 28, 2007

Adam Kokesh and Liam Madden are active members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Both are former Marine sergeants who served in Iraq and were later honorably discharged. Due to their outspoken opposition to the war, the Marine Corps is now formally threatening to revoke their discharges and retroactively change them to “other than honorable.”

This is a new, unprecedented step the military feels is necessary in order to suppress a growing anti-war voice from within the military itself. We cannot allow this suppression of free speech to occur! Adam Kokesh’s hearing is scheduled to be held in Kansas City, Missouri on June 4th.

Read more...

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Ethics?!!! BushCo? What ethics?

From American Progress:

ETHICS -- CHENEY'S LAWYER ORDERED SECRET SERVICE TO AVOID KEEPING VISITOR LOGS:

In Sept. 2006, Shannen W. Coffin, counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, wrote a letter to the chief counsel of the United States Secret Service (USSS) ordering that the "USSS shall not retain any copy" of documents and information pertaining to visitors to the Vice President's residence.

The letter was disclosed last Friday as part of "a lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), seeking the identities of conservative religious leaders who visited Cheney at his official residence." The release was "accompanied by an 18-page Secret Service document revealing [that] the agency's long-standing practice has been to destroy printed daily access lists of visitors to the residence."

In the letter, Coffin claims logs for Cheney's residence are subject to the Presidential Records Act (PRA), a designation that prevents the public from learning who visited the Vice President. The agreement between the Office of the Vice President and the Secret Service that visitor logs fall under the PRA, and are thus not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, is similar to an "agreement quietly signed between the White House and the Secret Service a year ago when questions were raised about visits to the executive compound by convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff."

The White House has also previously instructed the Secret Service to destroy visitor logs. "The latest filings make clear that the administration has been destroying documents and entering into secret agreements in violation of the law," said Anne Weisman, CREW's chief counsel.

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Some unusual & original subjects in these books....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:

FICTION/DEBUT:

Erik Raschke's THE BOOK OF SAMUEL, in which a 12-year-old boy attempts to find personal salvation after his father abandons the family to save the world in the name of Jesus, as he is tested by his racist grandmother, his mother's depression, his best friend's devotion to bomb-making, the addition of his juvenile delinquent cousin to the family, and high-speed road trips with his psychiatrist, to Regina Scarpa at St. Martin's, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (NA).sara@harveyklinger.com

GENERAL/OTHER:

Kathleen Kent's debut novel THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER, about one family's courage and defiance during the Salem Witch Trials, based on the author's own family history and the story of her grandmother nine generations back who was hung for being a witch, to Reagan Arthur at Little, Brown, at auction, for publication in spring 2009, by Julie Barer at Barer Literary (NA).UK rights to Imogen Taylor at Macmillan, in a good deal, at auction (UK/Commonwealth, excl. Canada), by Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein.

Gary Greenberg's MANUFACTURING DEPRESSION, a philosophical, witty look at the invention of depression, to David Rosenthal at Simon & Schuster, with Dedi Felman editing, in a pre-empt, by Jim Rutman at Sterling Lord Literistic (NA).UK: jgill@pfd.co.uk.Foreign: marcy@sll.com

FILM:

Film rights to James Sallis's six Lew Griffin novels (LONG-LEGGED FLY, MOTH, BLACK HORNET, EYE OF THE CRICKET, BLUEBOTTLE, GHOST OF A FLEA) featuring an African American private eye in New Orleans, to producer J.P. Williams, in a six-figure buyout of the entire franchise, for a series of modestly budgeted features, by Steven Fisher at APA, on behalf of Vicky Bijur of the Vicky Bijur Literary Agency.

BIOGRAPHY:

Lily Tuck's WOMAN OF ROME: A Life of Elsa Morante, a portrait of a literary icon in Europe, whose artistic circle in Rome included writers such as her husband, Alberto Moravia, and Carlo Levi, and cinema giants Pier Paolo Pasolini, Luchino Visconti, and Bernardo Bertolucci, to Terry Karten at Harper, in a nice deal, by Georges Borchardt (World).

BUSINESS/INVESTING/FINANCE:

Blogger and greeting card designer Karen Burns's WORKING GIRL: 59 Ways to Love Your Job, a young woman's guide to jobs -- how to find them, keep them, and adore them -- by a writer who has held 59 jobs herself, to Jennifer Kasius at Running Press, by Betsy Amster at Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises (World).

HEALTH:

Author Simon Singh and professor of complementary medicine Dr. Edzard Ernst's MIRACLE CURES OR QUACK REMEDIES?, an examination of the alternative and complementary medicine businesses worldwide, to Angela von der Lippe at Norton, for publication in June 2008, by Patrick Walsh at Conville & Walsh (NA).Recent rights sales to Carl Hanser in Germany; Books in the Attic in Israel; Leopard in Sweden; Schinchosa in Japan; Abeiderspers in Holland; and Rizzoli in Italy.avonderlippe@WWNORTON.comTranslation: patrick@convilleandwalsh.com

HISTORY/POLITICS/CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Mike Dash's THE FIRST FAMILY, the untold story of how the mafia immigrated to America from the 1870s onwards, and of the first dynasty of American organized crime - the Italian family who wrote the rules and who then paid in their own blood for doing so, to Tim Bartlett at Random House and Maya Mavjee at Doubleday Canada, at auction, for two books, by Patrick Walsh at Conville & Walsh (NA).tbartlett@randomhouse.compatrick@convilleandwalsh.com

HUMOR:

Borat Sagdiyev's BORAT: Touristic Guidings To Minor Nation of U.S. and A./BORAT: Touristic Guidings To Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, two books in one -- half a guide to America for Kazakhs and the other half a guide to Kazakhstan for Westerners, including illustrations and color photographs, to Suzanne Herz and Peter Gethers at Flying Dolphin, with Gethers editing, for publication in November 2007, by Dan Strone at Trident Media Group (NA).UK rights to Jon Butler at Boxtree, by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown UK.

LIFESTYLE:

NYT bestselling author of IT'S ALL TOO MUCH Peter Walsh's next two books on how to take control of clutter and live the life you dream, to Suzanne Donahue at the Free Press, by Lydia Wills at Paradigm (World).
MEMOIR:

The only Iraq War veteran to be elected to the Congress Patrick Murphy's TAKING THE HILL, a memoir about family, country, and service, from his blue-collar Philadelphia childhood to his times as the youngest professor at West Point, a Captain in the 82nd Airborne on the front lines in Iraq, and now in Congress, to John Sterling at Holt, for publication in early 2008, with David Patterson editing, by Esther Newberg at ICM (NA).
SCIENCE:

Harvard astronomer Dimitar Sasselov's SUPER-EARTH: A New Hypothesis on the Origins of Life, on the search for Earth-like planets in the universe and what they mean for the evolution of life, to T.J. Kelleher at Smithsonian Books, in a very nice deal, by Max Brockman at Brockman (US).

SPORTS:

ESPN: The Magazine contributor and FOUR DAYS TO GLORY author Mark Kreidler's FACTORY TOWN, a year-long look at the curious ability of one small town to consistently produce Little League champions and what it says about youth sports in America, to David Hirshey at Harper, in a pre-empt, by Bob Mecoy of Creative Book Services (NA).

UK:

80-year-old Clara Kramer's CLARA'S WAR, about her experience as a girl hiding from the Nazis in a makeshift bunker in a small Polish town, though under the protection of a womanizer, drunkard and professed anti-Semite, citing everything she learned about life and love, courage and family back to that time and her unusual protectors, to Charlotte Cole at Ebury, and to Jeanne Ryckmans at Random House Australia, in a pre-empt, by Susanna Lea Associates.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Iraq negotions...a bumpy road ahead....

From Strategic Forecasting Inc:

Iran, the United States and Potential Iraq Deal-Spoilers
By Reva Bhalla

After 27 years of frozen relations, the United States and Iran held their first high-level direct talks in Baghdad on May 28 to negotiate a plan on how to stabilize Iraq. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, traded accusations about who was the bigger destabilizing force in Iraq. But by the end of the four-hour meeting, both described the negotiations as a positive first step in bringing the two sides together to stabilize Iraq. Kazemi-Qomi even said there probably would be a follow-up meeting within a month if he gets the OK from Tehran.

Iran and the United States evidently have come a long way since the spring of 2003, when Washington double-crossed Tehran on the two countries' original understanding that a pro-Iranian, Shiite-dominated Iraq would be allowed to emerge in exchange for Iran's help in effecting regime change in Baghdad. When the United States removed two hostile Sunni regimes from Iran's border -- the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq -- the Iranians knew they had to check the United States on the regional chessboard so Washington understood any U.S. exit strategy from Iraq would have to come through Tehran. Only then, Tehran reasoned, could Iran use Iraq as a launchpad to extend Iranian influence in the Arab world.

Feeling a deep sense of betrayal, the Iranian government carried out a variety of deadly maneuvers that ultimately convinced Washington that neither the Iranians nor the Americans were going to succeed in gluing Iraq back together on their own. The negotiations are still marred by mutual distrust, but after four years of explosive negotiating tactics, Iran and the United States have reached a point at which both sides have acknowledged they cannot afford to avoid each other if they want to avoid their worst-case scenarios in Iraq.

As the negotiations grow in intensity, so does the noise. The lead-up to the May 28 talks was punctuated by a series of interesting jabs as each side sought leverage against the other. While the United States sent nine warships with 17,000 troops into the Persian Gulf (which the U.S. military deliberately referred to as the Arabian Gulf in the official press release on the naval exercises) and stepped up threats of broadening sanctions against Tehran due to the latter's nuclear activities, Iran continued broadcasting its atomic advances and announced it had uncovered Western-run spy rings inside the Islamic republic.

The United States is still holding onto five Iranian officials arrested in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil in January as bargaining chips in talks with Iran. Iran has responded with a series of arrests of Iranian-Americans affiliated with think tanks on allegations they are dissidents working to topple the clerical regime. These belligerent tactics are all part of the game, and will flare up even further as the negotiations grow more serious.

The Meat of the Matter

It now becomes all the more critical to cut to the meat of these talks: the negotiating terms put forth by Washington and Tehran over how each plans to fix Iraq. Iran handed over a proposal to Crocker during a brief encounter at the May 5-6 Sharm el-Sheikh summit in Egypt, but also chose to unofficially publicize its terms for Iraq through the Saudi-owned, British-based daily Al Hayat. The Iranian Foreign Ministry likely chose Al Hayat, a major Arab news outlet, to make a back-channel broadcast of what concessions it is prepared to make to allay Sunni concerns in the region.

In sum, this Iranian proposal called for a non-rushed withdrawal and relocation of U.S. troops to bases inside Iraq, a rejection of all attempts to partition Iraq, a commitment by the Sunni bloc to root out the jihadists and acknowledgement by Washington that the Iranian nuclear file cannot be uncoupled from the Iraq negotiations. In return, Iran would rein in the armed Shiite militias, revise the de-Baathification law and Iraqi Constitution to double Sunni political representation, create a policy to allow for the fair distribution of oil revenues (particularly to the Sunnis) and use its regional influence to quell crises in areas such as Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

The terms put forth by the Iranians are so close to the U.S. position on Iraq that, with little exception, they could have been printed on State Department stationary and no one would have noticed the difference. If these are the terms Washington and Tehran are in fact discussing, then we are witnessing an extraordinary turn in the Iraq war in which the U.S. and Iranian blueprints for Iraq are finally aligning.

It does not surprise us, then, that Crocker said after his meeting in Baghdad that the Iranian position "was very close to our own" at the level of policy and principle.

The Spoilers

The prospect of Washington and Tehran warming up to each other, and of the United States potentially regaining its military bandwidth in the not-too-distant future, is enough to put a number of serious actors into a frenzy. With the exception of the jihadists, most of the actors in question see an Iranian-U.S. accommodation over Iraq as inevitable, and have little choice but to strive to shape what would otherwise be an imposed reality in the coming months -- leaving substantial room for error in these negotiations.

The Iraqi Sunnis and Arab states, in particular, will not necessarily sabotage the talks, but they will be working to secure Sunni interests and contain the extent to which Iran emerges as the primary beneficiary of any deal it works out with the United States over Iraq.

JihadistsWithin Iraq

The transnational jihadists have the most immediate concerns. A political settlement in Baghdad inevitably would involve a concerted effort by Iraq's Shia and mainstream Sunnis to uproot the jihadists and deprive them of the chaotic security conditions needed for their operations. The apex leadership of al Qaeda hiding out along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is also betting on continued bedlam in Iraq to keep the transnational jihadist movement alive, and will not be happy to see U.S. forces beefed up in the South Asia theater once a deal is sealed in Iraq.

Violence aimed at heightening sectarian tensions to derail the negotiations -- particularly attacks aimed at inflaming the Shia -- will escalate substantially over the next few weeks and months in Iraq. High-value political targets also likely will be targeted for assassination in an effort to disrupt the leadership structure of the respective factions.

Iraqi Shia

The Iranians face a daunting task in whipping Iraq's Shiite bloc into shape to follow through with Tehran's commitment to quell sectarian attacks and consolidate Shiite political power in Iraq for the first time in the country's history. Factionalism is already hardwired into the structure of the Iraqi Shiite community, whose loyalties are spread among the three largest political groups -- the (newly named) Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council, Hizb al-Dawah and the al-Sadrite bloc, as well as a number of smaller Shiite groups in southern Iraq, such as the Fadhila party.

The intra-Shiite rivalries within and between these groups are enough to give anyone a headache, but Iran is well aware that violence and a good deal of oil money will be needed to bring the Iraqi Shia in line and make these negotiations work. Though the main political groups are more comfortable with the idea of working with Iran, Tehran has to play its cards carefully to ensure it does not trigger nationalist Arab sentiment among the Shiite actors, who already are deeply suspicious of Iran's intentions and have the arms and access to Iraq's southern oil fields to use as tools for stirring up trouble.

Iraqi Sunnis

Though not nearly as fractured as the Iraqi Shia, the Sunni landscape in Iraq has plenty of cracks of its own to make these negotiations troublesome. The Sunni factions in play include:
The existing political blocs, divided between the Islamist Iraqi Accord Front and the secular-leaning Iraqi National Dialogue Front;

The tribal groups, such as Anbar Salvation Council, that are actively fighting transnational jihadists to get a seat at the negotiating table;

The Sunni religious establishment, led by the hard-line Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq that has close links with the insurgent groups and has become increasingly anti-Iranian in recent weeks;

The Sunni nationalist insurgents, who are looking for an acceptable opening into the political process, but remain distrustful of Shiite intentions.

The Iraqi Sunnis know they have to drive a hard bargain in these talks to ensure that Iraq's Sunnis are well-integrated in the state political and security apparatus to counter the Shiite majority. And they will continue to rely on explosives during the talks to make sure their demands are heard.

Competing factions within the Sunni bloc and resistance from their former jihadist allies will only further complicate these negotiations, but unlike the jihadists, these Sunni groups are not opposed in principle to a deal that includes the Iranians -- they actually want negotiations.

Iraqi Kurds

By the looks of the Iranian proposal, the Kurds have plenty to worry about. Expanding Sunni political representation and changing the constitution to allow for a more "fair" distribution of oil resources leaves the Kurdish bloc in an all-too-familiar scenario in which Kurdish interests will be sacrificed by the United States to protect the interests of Iraq's neighbors. Thus far, the Kurds have used the distraction of Sunni-Shiite bloodletting farther south to consolidate power between the two main rival Kurdish blocs (an extremely rare occurrence) and push forward with Kurdish autonomous demands to open Iraq's northern oil fields to foreign business.

Once Iraq's Shiite and Sunni blocs reach some level of a political understanding in Baghdad, their attention will soon turn to their common adversary in the north, leaving the Kurds to face familiar moves by the Iraqi government to suppress Kurdish autonomy. The Kurds will need to drive a hard bargain by pushing through a Kirkuk referendum by year's end and resisting radical changes to the constitution and pending hydrocarbons legislation that threaten to put Iraq's undeveloped fields in the north under state control.

The biggest threats the Kurds could make to a U.S.-Iranian deal over Iraq would involve withdrawing Kurdish support for U.S. forces or threatening to pull out of the government. But in the end, a compromise looks inevitable simply because the Kurds have nowhere else to turn.

Ultraconservatives in Washington and Tehran

There are ultraconservative factions in both Tehran and Washington that are not nearly as enthused about a U.S.-Iran rapprochement, and could use their influence to complicate the negotiations. Rumor has it that in Iran there are major disagreements brewing between the president and other senior Iranian officials, particularly on foreign policy matters. There are also growing indications that the apex of the clerical establishment is making moves to sideline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and weaken the influence of his ultraconservative faction as a preventative measure to ensure progress in these talks.

Though Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has thus far managed the deep divisions within the Iranian establishment between the ultraconservative and pragmatic conservative factions, his ability to contain these divisions is held hostage by his failing health.

Meanwhile, hard-line elements in Washington are actively spreading information in an allegedly covert campaign signed off on by U.S. President George W. Bush to topple the clerical regime.

These actors are more interested in effecting a policy of regime change rather than in a rapprochement with Iran, and they view the negotiations as little more than a smoke screen for a covert campaign to rid the Islamic republic of its ruling ayatollahs. These rumors threaten to fuel even more distrust between the two sides while the negotiations are in full swing, especially as Iran's greatest fear is that it will end up being backstabbed all over again once Washington recovers from Iraq and has enough bandwidth to entertain military options.

Sunni Regional Powers

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states are extraordinarily nervous about the idea of having the United States and Iran conduct exclusive meetings over a matter that directly concerns their national security interests. As the leader of the Sunni Arabs, the Saudis believe they have every right to be part of the formal negotiating process, but they also see the inevitability of the United States and Iran working toward an Iraq settlement. With the most at stake, the Saudi government normally would be screeching in protest during these U.S.-Iranian bilateral meetings, but instead it is keeping quiet. For now, the Saudis have to rely on the United States to ensure their demands for Sunni representation and Iranian containment are heard.

Meanwhile, the Iranians evidently are working to allay Sunni Arab fears by publicizing Tehran's Iraq proposal (with considerable concessions to Iraq's Sunnis) in the mainstream Arab press and stepping up diplomatic engagements with Iran's Sunni neighbors in the Gulf. But the more the Iranians speak of arming and training the Iraqi army, the more the Saudis have to worry about.

The House of Saud does not want to be looking at a scenario down the road in which U.S. troops have withdrawn from Iraq while Iran uses its militant proxies there to create an excuse to intervene militarily, putting Iranian troops within sight of Saudi Arabia's oil- and Shiite-rich Eastern province. The Saudis are also not looking forward to the day when war-hardened Saudi jihadist veterans in Iraq return home to wage attacks in the kingdom. Though the Saudis might see an Iran-U.S. deal as inevitable, they will keep their ties to the full spectrum of Sunni militants to use as their main deal-breaker should an Iraq settlement fail to address their interests.

Syria

Syrian President Bashar al Assad also probably is lying awake at night over these U.S.-Iran talks. The Alawite-Baathist regime in Syria loved the idea of its allies in Tehran expanding Shiite influence while the United States remained far too militarily occupied in Iraq to bother with Syria. The insurgency in Iraq also provided Syria with a vital pressure release valve for Sunni militants in the country. Like Riyadh, the regime in Damascus does not want to see jihadists returning home from Iraq to carry out attacks on native soil.

Despite these concerns, the Syrians are hoping their alliance with Tehran will pay off and result in serious recognition and security assurances from the United States. For this to happen, Syria has to prove it is an integral piece of this Iraq deal by showing it possesses the ability to clamp down on insurgent traffic (by funneling jihadists into Lebanon for now). While Syria offers limited cooperation over Iraq to show its powers, the al Assad regime will become further emboldened to secure its interests in Lebanon, where Syria's priorities are rooted.

Russia

But the player with perhaps the most to lose is not even located in the Middle East. That player is Russia. At first glance, Russia is an odd party to even be involved in the Iraqi imbroglio. It has no troops in country and, no matter what happens to Iraq in the long run, Baghdad has no impact on anything Russian. Certainly Moscow was friendly with the previous government, but not to the degree that Saddam Hussein's fall appreciably impacted Russian political or economic interests. Russia does, however, have two horses in this race.

The first relates to the Iranian nuclear program, which lists the Russian-built Bushehr power plant as its crown jewel. Despite Iranian protestations to the contrary, Tehran's nuclear program is largely a result of Russian technology sharing. And, should the Russians walk away, the Iranian program will have suffered a monumental setback. Similarly, so long as Russia has not finished the reactor at Bushehr, the West cannot ignore Moscow's ability to function as an interlocutor in Tehran. So long as the facility is "under construction," Russia has leverage over both parties. As soon as Russia's technicians finish, however, that leverage evaporates.

Second, and far more important: So long as the bulk of the United States' and Iran's political and military attention is absorbed in Iraq, neither has any bandwidth to deal with other issues. Iran has deep and lasting interests in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan -- states of critical interest to Moscow -- yet Iran's preoccupation with Iraq has prevented Tehran from capitalizing on recent opportunities.

Similarly, the United States has faced no foe more challenging than the Soviet Union and its Russian successor. In that vein, there is no country more desirous of challenging Russia's ongoing efforts to rewire European security arrangements in its own favor than the United States. But that requires a Washington not consumed by the black hole Iraq has become.

A Rough Road Ahead

It took four years of heavy-handed negotiating tactics to bring U.S.-Iranian dealings over Iraq out of the back channels and into the public view. That was half the battle.The aligning of the U.S. and Iranian proposals for Iraq marks a significant inflection point in the war, but we still question whether the three big players negotiating this deal -- Washington, Tehran and Riyadh -- can trust each other enough and carry enough sway among Iraq's state actors to get them to cooperate and actually produce results on the ground.

Once you throw the spoilers into this equation, along with a centuries-old Arab-Persian rivalry centered on containing the very rise that Iran is anticipating this deal will yield, the prospect of a U.S.-Iranian accommodation over Iraq coming to fruition does not look so good. Our hopes are not completely dashed, but we do see a bumpy road ahead.

Wrap...

US has more oil than in all the Middle East....

From The Arizona Republic:

Oil companies salivating over U.S. reserves
Joe Carroll
Bloomberg News
May. 29, 2007 12:00 AM

Colorado and Utah have as much oil as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Nigeria, Kuwait, Libya, Angola, Algeria, Indonesia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates combined. Trapped in limestone up to 200 feet thick in the two Rocky Mountain states is enough so-called shale oil to rival OPEC and supply the United States for a century.

Exxon Mobil and Chevron, the two biggest U.S. energy companies, and Royal Dutch Shell Plc are spending $100 million a year testing methods to separate the oil from the stone for as little as $30 a barrel. A growing number of industry executives and analysts say new technology and persistently high prices make the idea feasible.

"The breakthrough is that now the oil companies have a way of getting this oil out of the ground without the massive energy and manpower costs that killed these projects in the 1970s," said Pete Stark, analyst at IHS Inc., an Englewood, Colo., research firm. "All the shale rocks in the world are going to be revisited now to see how much oil they contain."

The U.S. imports two-thirds of its oil, spending $300 billion a year, or 40 percent of the record trade deficit. Every $10 increase in a barrel of crude costs an American household $700 a year, according to Rand Corp., founded in 1946 to provide research for the U.S. military. Oil prices have risen 63 percent since 2004 and higher fuel costs have slowed growth in the world's largest economy to the lowest in four years.

The last effort to exploit the Colorado and Utah shale fields foundered in the 1980s after crude prices tumbled 72 percent, resulting in a multibillion-dollar loss for Exxon. Techniques developed to coax crude from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, 1,600 miles to the north, may help.

"The potential for shale is large, assuming the technology proves out, the size and scale of the reserves are significant," said Joseph Stanislaw, senior energy adviser for Deloitte & Touche LLP. He is co-author of The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy."

Energy providers are investing in shale oil production because the reserves are large enough to generate higher returns than smaller fields in Oklahoma and Texas, where output is declining after eight decades.

Shale also is a more attractive investment than new U.S. refineries, which Shell and Chevron say may lose money as rising use of crop-based fuels such as ethanol lowers domestic gasoline demand. Exxon says it isn't interested in building new fuel plants in the United States because the company expects North American fuel consumption to peak by 2025.

"These are quite remarkable technological approaches," said Jeremy Boak, a geologist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, who spent 11 years cleaning up radioactive waste and disposing of weapons-grade plutonium at U.S. government sites.

"The oil companies don't have the exploration problem of finding resources to drill. We know the oil is here. It's just a matter of getting it out."

Wrap...

Put troops in...Take troops out...chessboard effect..

From Secrecy News:

DEPLOYMENT AND REDEPLOYMENT OF US FORCES

A new Joint Chiefs of Staff publication describes operational principles for executing deployment and redeployment -- meaning transfer or withdrawal -- of U.S. military forces.

"Redeployment operations, particularly for combat units, ... should be identified and planned as early as possible," the document instructs."The operation or campaign is concluded when the national strategy endstate is achieved and redeployment operations are complete."

"Although the emphasis of this publication is on overseas deployments and redeployments, deployments within the homeland are possible in support of homeland defense and civil support."

See "Deployment and Redeployment Operations," Joint Publication 3-35, 7May 2007:

http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp3_35.pdf

Wrap...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Studies: With or without the patient's consent....

First there came this article about trying new treatments on patients without their consent:

http://chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/nation/4839234.html

Not being in the medical or scientific fields, I didn't know what to think. Good, or bad? So I asked a friend who is an RN and who has worked in a VA hospital for her evaluation. And she wrote:

"What's not said through this whole article is that doctors are sworn, above all else, to 'first, do no harm.' You have to trust them on that. For the 'experiments' they're outlining, none is outlandish and none--save for the possible use of the PolyHeme--involves a foreign substance.
They're right that: We won't know until the results are in. The test have to start sometime. People are arriving at ERs every minute with no way to give consent.

If I were a patient, I'd far rather have a doc do what he thought would or could work than to stick by some older 'more proven' method just because it was protocol. Remember, people in medicine and hospitals are among the slowest to change of any profession. Think turning the Titanic in churning seas.

Though we have enough vets in Iraq to 'experiment' on and I'm sure some studies are being done on war victims, they're most often victims of concussive type injuries and not always the straight head-knocks of MVAs. As for the cardiac cases, most vets are young and in good shape. We need to look at the 50 year old farmer or the 65 year old jogger who presents in the ER with clammy skin, bad color and chest pain. Vets won't help us there. Neither will prisoners, our next most steady group of guinea pigs.

Bottom line, we won't know until we try. And I'd trust any team of medics or any ER involved in these studies to monitor and evaluate -- and to switch treatment if it looks like the patient's going south. I'd rather be part of these experiments than to die for lack of trying."

Now I'm satisfied.

Wrap...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Blackwater USA in firefight in Iraq...

From truthout.org:

Blackwater Contractors Involved in Shooting Death in Baghdad

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/052707B.shtml

Employees of Blackwater USA, a private security firm under contract to the State Department, opened fire on the streets of Baghdad twice in two days last week, and one of the incidents provoked a standoff between the security contractors and Iraqi forces, US and Iraqi officials said.

[click link above to continue reading]

Wrap...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bush wants SEAL Command moved...Oh yeah?!!!

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Feinstein objects to plan to move command east
She says it should stay with SEALs
By Paul M. Krawzak
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
May 26, 2007

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has taken aim at the Bush administration's proposal to move the headquarters of the Naval Special Warfare Command from Coronado to Virginia.

Feinstein, D-Calif., stated her objections in a Wednesday letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The note was made public yesterday.

“I question whether this move . . . will significantly improve the (command's) ability to train and deploy Navy SEALs,” Feinstein wrote.

A Navy official first disclosed the relocation plan during a congressional hearing earlier this year. More than 2,500 people work for the command at Coronado Naval Amphibious Base, which is situated on the Silver Strand south of Coronado.

The shift to Little Creek would take place in 2010 or 2011. The command oversees the Navy's underwater-demolition and SEAL teams, which would remain in Coronado.

Feinstein said she was especially “troubled” because the intended relocation was not recommended during the Pentagon's most recent round of military base closings and realignments. She also expressed skepticism about moving the headquarters away from the main training area for Navy SEALs.

“It makes sense that the Naval Special Warfare Command headquarters should be co-located with their primary training activities like all other special warfare commands,” Feinstein wrote.
A spokesman for Feinstein said she hasn't heard back from Gates.

Ken McGraw, a spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., said the Navy unit's headquarters is growing and needs more space. He also said the shift would place the unit closer to the inter-service Special Operations Command and other commands on the East Coast.

Two sites in Virginia are being considered for the move – Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk and Fort Story in Virginia Beach, McGraw said.

Bush has asked for $51 million in the 2008 budget to pay for the relocation.

Wrap...

Do any of these...BAM! You may be a terrorist....

From Secrecy News:

CRS ON TERRORIST PRECURSOR CRIMES

The role of domestic criminal activity in generating financial and operational support for terrorism is considered in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

So-called "terrorist precursor crimes "may include various types of fraud, counterfeiting, narcotics trade, and illegal weapons procurement."

This report provides an overview of the types of terrorist precursor crimes known, and/or alleged, to have been employed by individuals and/or groups in the United States. The report highlights issues related to the breadth of this activity in the United States, as well as the opportunities for intelligence collection and law enforcement-related countermeasures."

But it is not immediately clear that "terrorist precursor crime" is a useful analytical construct since only "a very small percentage of individuals engaged in such activity" are likely to have any "nexus to terrorism."

A copy of the new CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News. See "Terrorist Precursor Crimes: Issues and Options for Congress," May24, 2007:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL34014.pdf

Wrap....

Spineless Dem bullshitters...

From David Sirota:

www.workingassetsblog.com/2007/05/democrats_hire_george_orwell_t.html

Dems Hire George Orwell to Run Their Iraq PR Shop
By David Sirota

Apparently, House and Senate Democrats have resurrected George Orwell from the dead and put him on staff as the head of their PR department. Why do I say that? Because House and Senate Democrats are now insisting that this week's votes to give President Bush a blank check to continue the war were, in fact, heroic efforts to stand up against George Bush and stop the war. I kid you not.

Here's a line from the Democratic Party's official radio address this weekend, delivered by Elliot Anderson, a veteran of theAfghanistan War: "The best way to honor the troops is to responsibly end our involvement in Iraq's civil war. As long as President Bush stays committed to the same policies that aren't working, it won't be easy. But I am proud to see Democrats and now some brave Republicans standing up to him." (emphasis added)

Now look, I have all the respect in the world for those like Anderson who have served or are serving our country in the military. And I think Anderson is absolutely right that "the best way to honor the troops is to responsibly end our involvement in Iraq's civil war." But the claim that "Democrats and now some brave Republicans standing up to" President Bush just a few days after 90 percent of congressional Democrats voted to give Bush a blank check is right out of a George Orwell novel (by the way, I don't blame Anderson for any of this - I'm guessing Harry Reid's people wrote him the speech or at least shaped it accordingly as a condition of him getting to deliver it).

Same thing, I might add, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Hours after the blank check vote, the organization sent out a fundraising letter saying: "The House just passed legislation that will go to the White House that includes critical issues Democrats have been fighting for including canceling the President's blank check in Iraq." And, big shocker, there was Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) telling reporters that giving Bush a blank check somehow represents "the beginning ofthe end of the president's policy in Iraq."

Again, it's an utterly Orwellian attempt to make the public believe something happened when clearly the opposite happened. We are expected to believe Democrats did everything they possibly could to end the war, just like George Bush would have us believe the war is going swimmingly - because politicians in Washington, to paraphrase Orwell, believe that while all Americans are created equal, some - in particular, the creatures of the Beltway who think they are smarter than everyone and can trick the public - believe they are more equal than others.

The only difference between the Democratic Party's behavior right now and an Orwell novel is that the state-run propaganda in the latter is just a wee bit more convincing.

Memo to Democratic politicians and their new political consultant, George Orwell: You aren't fooling anyone. We all know what happened. The more you pretend that you heroically did everything you could to stop the war the more pathetic you look, and the more you insult the 82 percent of the country that polls show wanted you to condition Iraq funding with binding conditions to end the war.

Wrap...

Congress: double-dealing...

From truthout.org :

What Congress Really Approved: Benchmark No. 1: Privatizing Iraq's Oil for US Companies

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/052607Z.shtml

Retired Army Colonel Ann Wright says the supplemental bill Congress passed to continue funding the Iraq war is really about "stealing Iraq's oil - the second largest reserves in the world.

The "benchmark," or goal, the Bush administration has been working on furiously since the US invaded Iraq is privatization of Iraq's oil. Now they have Congress blackmailing the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people: no privatization of Iraqi oil, no reconstruction funds."

Wrap...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Birds & dogs..crapping on the politicians...

From American Progress:

Think Fast

19: Number of times President Bush referenced al Qaeda during his hour-long press conference yesterday. "There was no evidence that Osama bin Laden was responsible" for the bird droppings that landed on Bush, but "just about everything else that came up during the hour-long news conference was traced to bin Laden's terrorist network."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "voted at least three times Thursday in the Senate after missing more than a month of votes to campaign for a presidential bid." The only Senator to miss more votes than McCain "is Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who's recovering from a brain hemorrhage."

"The system for delivering badly needed gear to Marines in Iraq" has failed to meet over 90 percent of the "urgent requests for equipment from troops in the field." Among the items held up "were a mine resistant vehicle and a hand-held laser system."

Under pressure from watchdog groups, the Air Force and Army "partially distanced themselves yesterday from a three-day evangelical Christian event this weekend at a Georgia theme park." The group sponsoring the event bills its purpose as "sharing the fullness of life in Jesus Christ with all US military, military veterans, and families."

"Farmers in southern Iraq have started to grow opium poppies in their fields for the first time, sparking fears that Iraq might become a serious drugs producer along the lines of Afghanistan."
A NYT/CBS poll finds "broad support among Americans -- Democrats, Republicans and independents alike -- for the major provisions" in the new immigration legislation, including giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship and the creation of a guest worker program.

"Sallie Mae executives met with Bush administration budget officials in December, less than two months before the company chairman sold $18.3 million of Sallie Mae stock. Three days after the sale, President Bush unveiled a budget that included unexpectedly large cuts to lending subsidies, after which the companyĆ¢€™s shares plummeted."

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has put forth a new proposal focused on reigning in health care costs, putting the emphasis on prevention -- "keeping people well rather than spending more later on treatment when they are sick." In Oct. 2006, the Center for American Progress released a detailed plan to create a "Wellness Trust" that would "prioritize prevention in the U.S. health system."

Iraqi cleric Moktada al-Sadr "has quietly returned to southern Iraq after a four-month sojourn in Iran," possibly to "strengthen his position in anticipation that provincial elections may be held next year."

Lower-income consumers are hit the hardest by rising fuel prices, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress. "They cut vacations, gifts, dinners out, and savings -- or, more likely, run up bigger credit card balances, say the authors."

And finally: Colorado jury agrees that "doggie doo can be free speech." A political activist faced a "misdemeanor charge of criminal use of a noxious substance" after leaving "a campaign flyer filled with dog poop" at the office of a politician. But the jury agreed that her statement -- the politician's positions "stink" -- was covered by free speech.

Wrap...

Wingnuts never know when to quit...

From truthout.org:

Group Threatens to Sue Pentagon Over Military Role in Evangelical Festival

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/052507R.shtml

A scheduled three-day celebration of the US Air Force's 60th anniversary, sponsored in part by evangelical Christian organizations, has prompted a military watchdog group to threaten legal action against the Department of Defense.

Wrap...

Feinstein & Davis: Get outta my life...

From truthout.org :

Roll Call: Who Voted to Continue Funding the Occupation

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/052507L.shtml

A state-by-state list of who in the US Senate and House of Representatives voted to continue funding Bush's occupation of Iraq.

Note: I have written my congresswoman, Susan Davis, informing her she has lost my vote forever. Am letting Sen Feinstein know the same thing.

Wrap...

Lying sacks of crap...

www.workingassetsblog.com/2007/05/the_final_insult_dems_brag_to.html

The Final Insult: Dems Brag to Press About Deceiving the Public on Iraq
By David Sirota

In case you believe the malarkey being spewed by the House Rules Committee about the rule vote yesterday not really being the key vote to give President Bush a blank check, take a look at the Washington Post and the Associated Press today. I reported this at the beginning of the day yesterday and was then publicly criticized by House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Now, though, it seems at least some major news organizations have caught on that I was exactly right.

In the process, they are reporting what will be recorded in history as the final insult of it all: Democrats running to reporters bragging about their own "brilliance" in deceiving the public.

Here's the Associated Press on how the vote to approve the parliamentary procedures - not the sham, predetermined vote on the GOP amendment - was the real vote to give Bush a blank check: "In a highly unusual maneuver, House Democratic leaders crafted a procedure that allowed their rank and file to oppose money for the war, then step aside so Republicans could advance it."

Here's the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/24/AR2007052402069.html :

"Yesterday's vote to fund the war through September was a historical rarity: the passage of a bill opposed by the speaker of the House and a majority of the speaker's party. Two years ago to the day, then-Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) violated the 'Hastert rule'-- that only bills supported by a majority of the majority can come up -- by bringing up legislation to allow federal funding for stem cell research. The majority of the Republican majority opposed the law.

He voted against it, but he knew it would never become law over President Bush's signature...The North American Free Trade Agreement passed in 1993, over the objections of most Democrats, who were then in the majority. But NAFTA did have the support of then-Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), as well as the Democratic president, Bill Clinton.

In contrast, the Iraq funding bill was not only opposed by the majority of House Democrats, it was also ardently opposed by the speaker and even the lawmaker who drafted it, Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.). And it is destined to become law. '

To have the chairman and the speaker vote against a bill like this, I've never heard of it,' Hastert said." And here's the worst part of it all - Democrats are now bragging about it. Not only have they sent out a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising email attempting to confuse voters by claiming with a straight face that they really stood up to President Bush. But most insulting of all, they are actually running to reporters to pat themselves on the back for engineering a procedural pirouette designed to confuse the public.

Here's the Post again: "But while protesters outside the Capitol condemned what they saw as a capitulation, Democrats inside were remarkably understanding of their speaker's contortions. Party leaders jury-rigged the votes yesterday to give all Democrats something to brag about...Democrats saw brilliance in the legerdemain. And with such contortions came more appreciation for the efforts Pelosi was making to fund the war in a fashion most palatable to angry Democrats. 'It was the responsible thing to do, and she's a responsible speaker,' said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.)."

This is what we're dealing with folks. A party that runs to the press to brag about the brilliance of using their majority not to end the war, but to create a situation that makes it seem as if they oppose the war, while actually helping Republicans continue it.

Wrap...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Home grown...Are they terrorists like bin Laden's?

From Strategic Forecasting, Inc:

'Direct Action' Attacks: Terrorism by Another Name?
By Fred Burton

A U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., heard defense arguments May 23 before sentencing Stanislas Meyerhoff for his role in a number of attacks against U.S. government and commercial targets in Oregon and Colorado from 1995 to 2001. Meyerhoff, a member of a group called "the Family," pleaded guilty in July 2006 to 62 counts, including arson, attempted arson, conspiracy and destruction of a federal energy facility. The Family conducted many of its attacks in the name of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

Eight other Family members have pleaded guilty to various charges and are expected to be sentenced by June 5. One member of the group, William Rodgers, committed suicide after his arrest, and two other indicted members, Josephine Overaker and Rebecca Rubin, are fugitives. The U.S. government has labeled Family members "domestic terrorists," and because of this is seeking stiffer federal sentences for Meyerhoff and other convicted members of the group.

Though some civil liberties, animal rights and environmental organizations say the government's label is unfounded, an examination of the Family's operations suggests it meets the legal definition of domestic terrorism -- and that is without the broader definition found in the 2001 Patriot Act, which is not being applied in this case. Members of environmental and animal rights movements use the term "direct action" to describe a wide range of protest activities. These actions can range from passive activities, such as vigils and letter-writing campaigns, to aggressive acts such as arson, physical assault, toppling electrical lines and more.

Most direct action involves some sort of civil disobedience, but some, like the acts committed by Meyerhoff, involve outright criminal acts. Many activists believe they are morally justified in breaking "minor" laws in order to serve the greater good of saving the Earth or saving animals, and the extremist fringe of the movement, as represented by ALF and ELF, takes this justification much further than other activists.

Meyerhoff and his co-conspirators admitted to belonging to the group they called the Family, which committed actions under the mantle of both the ALF and ELF. Meyerhoff and other captured members of the group have pleaded guilty to a string of 20 direct actions committed between Dec. 25, 1995, and Oct. 15, 2001. Their actions spanned five western states and caused property damage in excess of $40 million, though no deaths or injuries resulted. Among the crimes committed by the group is the Oct. 15, 2001, arson at the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse Corrals in Litchfield, Calif., which caused nearly $207,500 in damages. Also, on June 21, 1998, a fire started at the Forest Land Management Center in Olympia, Wash., caused an estimated $1.2 million in damage to the building and its contents. Earlier, the Oct. 30, 1996, arson at Oregon's Oakridge Ranger Station reduced the building to cinders, causing an estimated $5 million in property damages.

ELF and ALF

The people involved with ALF/ELF can be roughly divided into four groups. The first group, one of the smallest, is made up of those who surreptitiously engage in illegal direct action activities, such as arson, assault, etc. The groups' wealthy, anonymous donors also make up a small second group. The third, larger group is made up of activists who publicly engage in legal actions, attend rallies and collect and disseminate the personal information of potential targets. In the fourth and largest group are the mainly passive sympathizers who identify with environmental or animal rights issues.

Because neither ELF nor ALF has a formal membership list, the numbers are in no way fixed -- meaning anyone can read about them, identify with their cause and then engage in an illegal activity that propels them directly into the first group.

The structures of ALF and ELF are amorphous and nonhierarchical, and the individual activists who act on behalf of the organizations control their own activities. Small groups of activists, however, have been known to band together to form autonomous cells -- sometimes referred to as affinity groups -- that have a little more structure and leadership. Overall, however, there is no centralized leadership to tie the anonymous activists or cells together. Individuals who choose to perform actions under the banner of these groups are driven only by their consciences or by decisions made by their cells while adhering to the stated guidelines, which are circulated in meetings and conferences or via the Internet and by various magazines, newsletters and other publications.

Targets are often identified in the same manner, and activists who conduct illegal activities will frequently anonymously claim credit for them on the Internet. The group that came to be known as the Family practiced excellent tradecraft and operational security. Two of its members, Rodgers and Meyerhoff, collaborated to author the ELF arson manual "Setting Fires with Electrical Timers - An Earth Liberation Front Guide." In addition to containing instructions on creating and placing incendiary devices, the manual contains rather extensive advice on how to create a "clean room" to ensure no DNA or other forensic evidence is left behind. Members of the group also used dark clothing and masks to disguise their appearance during their actions and used codes and encryption programs when communicating among themselves.

Due to this high level of tradecraft and operational security, the crimes committed by the Family remained unsolved for many years despite extensive multiagency investigative efforts. The government's big break came when investigators snared active cell member Jacob Ferguson, who agreed to serve as an informant -- even going so far as to wear a wire while meeting with various cell members -- rather than face the possibility of a lengthy jail term. In the end, the weight of the evidence Ferguson provided to the government caused other members to plead guilty rather than risk trial.

The Controversy

The government's labeling of Meyerhoff and other environmental and animal rights activists as "terrorists" has created some controversy -- especially among civil rights groups, environmental and animal rights movements and their supporters. Organizations such as the Eugene-based Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) say that, by defining activists as "ecoterrorists," the government is widening the war on terrorism too far and diverting attention and government resources from the real terrorist threat from groups like al Qaeda. According to the CLDC's Lauren Regan, "When everyone is a terrorist, no one is."

Attorneys for the various defendants in the Family case say, too, that Congress and the U.S. Sentencing Commission did not intend the terrorism enhancement to apply to acts designed to damage property, such as arson, but not to kill or maim people. They also say that only crimes that create a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury constitute crimes of domestic terrorism. As part of plea agreements in cases against Family members, federal prosecutors have agreed to abide by the version of the U.S. Criminal Code applicable on Nov. 1, 2000, which defined the "federal crime of terrorism" as "an offense that is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct; and is a violation of several different offense categories, among which is arson."

The admissions of the 10 defendants in the Family case would appear to substantiate the government's claims that they were part of an overarching conspiracy to commit acts (such as arson and toppling electrical towers) dangerous to human life in violation of U.S. laws.

Furthermore, attacks against U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management sites were clearly intended to influence and affect the conduct of the government. Furthermore, several similar cases have been found to involve domestic terrorism. For example, in its 2005 decision in the case United States v. Harris, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court ruled that the only requirement for an "upward sentencing adjustment" -- meaning stiffer penalty -- for terrorism-related crimes is that an offense be "calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct." There was no requirement to demonstrate intent to kill or maim.

In the Harris case, the court upheld consecutive sentences of 240 and 120 months for the arson of a municipal building involving a Molotov cocktail as a domestic terrorism crime. The 10th Circuit Court also upheld in 2005 a 360-month sentence in the arson of an Internal Revenue Service office in United States v. Dowell, finding that the arson was considered an act of domestic terrorism. While the defense is arguing that the members of the Family are not terrorists because they did not intend to kill or maim, crimes categorized as terrorism in the broader context of international terrorism often involve no such intent.

For example, the Irish Republican Army conducted many bombings in London in which a warning was called in so the area could be evacuated. Likewise, the ETA frequently has warned Spanish authorities of bombs in order to spare the lives of innocent civilians. Rocket and bomb attacks conducted late at night against U.S.-owned banks by Greek leftist groups also have been considered terrorism. And a large number of aircraft hijackings have been carried out with no intent to kill or maim, yet they are categorized as terrorism because of their political motive.

The same holds true for politically motivated kidnappings, which are always categorized as terrorism rather than ordinary crime.

ooking Forward

Though most of the attacks committed by Family members did not seek to harm people, the case materials indicate the tenor of the group's activities could have been changing. In spite of the many successful attacks committed by the Family, many of its members reportedly were disappointed by the lack of results they generated. Ferguson testified that Meyerhoff, William Rodgers, Joseph Dibee, Daniel McGowan and others discussed escalating their level of violence to include targeting specific individuals. According to the sentencing memo submitted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the spring of 2001, Meyerhoff had conversations with Rodgers about assassinations. Rodgers and Meyerhoff discussed the tactic of two riders on a motorcycle being able to weave in and out of traffic, shooting someone and then fleeing the scene and dumping the gun.

Meyerhoff told authorities that this talk is one of the factors that caused him to drop out of the movement and enroll in school in Virginia. It does appear, however, as if members of the Family were beginning to arm themselves to begin more traditional attacks. If the actions of the Family are found to be terrorism and the sentencing in the cases is enhanced, it will likely put a damper on the future activities of some activists and create an even greater divide between the mainstream activists and the radical tier. It also might force those who are dedicated to violent action to be even more careful in planning and carrying out their attacks -- making them harder to catch.

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From Monica Goodling to John Kerry & Harvard....

From American Progress:

Think Fast

Former Justice Dept. spokesman Mark Corallo defended the partisan and potentially illegal hiring practices of Monica Goodling, claiming she "was trying to bring balance to the department." The civil rights division, he argued, "has long been populated by 'some of the most radical Democrats in the law.'"

U.S. soldiers in a Sunni neighborhood in west Baghdad "now openly declare pessimism for the mission's chances, unofficially referring to their splinter of heavily fortified land as 'the Alamo.'" One U.S. Army captain says Bush's escalation plan has mobilized the terrorist movement. "I sometimes worry that this period will end up going down here as their surge, not ours."

According to a new Fox News poll, "more voters say the situation in Iraq will be extremely important in deciding their 2008 vote for president than any other issue, including terrorism, health care and the economy." President Bush's approval rating stands at 34 percent in the poll.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has "effectively blocked a resolution to honor environmental author Rachel Carson on the 100th anniversary of her birth," saying that her warnings about environmental damage have "put a stigma on potentially lifesaving pesticides" such as DDT.

"Unlike Muslim minorities in many European countries, U.S. Muslims are highly assimilated, close to parity with other Americans in income and overwhelmingly opposed to Islamic extremism, according to the first major, nationwide random survey of Muslims."

"The jump in U.S. gasoline prices this year has so far drained consumers of an extra $20 billion, or about $146 for each passenger car in the country." The average price for regular unleaded gasoline is currently a record $3.22 per gallon.

"A comprehensive immigration bill survived a significant test on Tuesday as the Senate voted to keep a provision that would let hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers enter the country each year."

Fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias writes, "What has become clear [through the attorney purge] is that the 'loyalty uber alles' mentality has infected a wide swath of the Bush administration. Simple notions like right and wrong are, in their eyes, matters of allegiance, not conscience. ... [The Justice Department] is in desperate need of leaders who place loyalty to the Constitution on a higher level than politics."

And finally: Harvard is putting out a list of famous people it once rejected. Included in that list are investor Warren Buffett, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, CNN founder Ted Turner, and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). "Rejected is such a strong word," Kerry told ABC News. "I prefer to think of it as crimson-challenged...besides I never would have fit in at a total jock school."

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More than one film and picks of interesting books...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:

FICTION/DEBUT:

Kathleen McCleary's HOUSE AND HOME, about a woman who loves her house so much that when she's forced to sell it during a divorce, she decides to burn it down so no one else can live in it, to Ellen Archer and Pam Dorman at Voice, by Ann Rittenberg at Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency (world English).
German rights to Anne Tente at Heyne, by Christian Dittus at Paul & Peter Fritz.

WOMEN'S/ROMANCE:

Phyllis Schieber's THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION, about three women, best friends who all have their secrets from one another -- and everyone else, and as their stories unfold, dreams will be shattered, truths revealed, and lives unalterably changed, to Leslie Gelbman and Jackie Cantor at Berkley, for publication in summer 2008, plus the first paperback publication of Schieber's first novel, Willing Spirits (1998), by Harvey Klinger at Harvey Klinger (NA).

GENERAL/OTHER:

Recent winner of the inaugural Planeta-Casa de America prize, novelist and comic book historian and editor Pablo de Santis' THE PARIS ENIGMA, a who-done-it set in Paris during the construction of the Eiffel Tower and just prior to the World Expo of 1889, where the world's 12 best detectives converge to solve a series of grisly murders -- part homage to Agatha Christie and part old-world, to Rene Alegria at Harper, at auction, along with VOLTAIRE'S CALIGRAPHER, for publication beginning in Fall 2008, by Markus Hoffmann at Regal Literary, on behalf of Barbara Graham at the Guillermo Schavelzon Agency (world English).

The blogger known as Fake Steve Jobs' OPTIONS, billed as a pitch-perfect riff on Silicon Valley culture that follows the daily struggles, triumphs, and awesome celebrity encounters of the Fake Steve Jobs, to John Radziewicz at Da Capo, for publication in fall 2007, by Emma Parry at Fletcher & Parry (world, excl. UK/Commonwealth).

Author of The Milagro Beanfield War, John Nichols' THE EMPANADA BROTHERHOOD, a coming-of-age story set in 1960s Greenwich Village about a shy, aspiring writer who falls in with a crowd of colorful outcasts from Argentina, to Jay Schaefer at Chronicle, by Katherine Fausset at Curtis Brown.

An original graphic novel featuring Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas character, the charismatic young fry cook from Pico Mundo, California, drawn by Queenie Chan, about Odd's race to solve the murder of a young boy whose killer appears to be stalking a second child, to Betsy Mitchell for Del Rey Manga, for publication in summer 2008,

FILM:

Sharon Creech's RUBY HOLLER, optioned to Abigail Breslin; her BLOOMABILITY, optioned Teri Hatcher for her production company; and the Newbery-winning WALK TWO MOONS, previously under option to Jonathan Demme, optioned to Rocket Dreams, by Kassie Evashevski at UTA, on behalf of Amy Berkower at Writers House.

UK:

Lola Jaye's debut THE MANUAL, about a young girl who, on her twelfth birthday, receives the gift of a book written by her long dead father which is intended to guide her through every year of her life until she reaches thirty, to Claire Bord at Harper UK, by Judith Murdoch at Judith Murdoch Literary Agency.US: rebecca.winfield@btopenworld.com

HISTORY/POLITICS/CURRENT AFFAIRS:

New Yorker articles editor Susan Morrison's anthology THIRTY WAYS OF LOOKING AT HILLARY, original essays about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton by thirty leading women journalists, essayists, and novelists, including Daphne Merkin, Anna Deavere Smith, Tina Brown, Francine du Plessix Gray, Susanna Moore, Patricia Marx, Susan Orlean, Susan Cheever, Candace Bushnell, Mimi Sheraton, Roz Chast, Lorrie Moore, Rebecca Mead, Judith Thurman, and Kathryn Harrison, to Jonathan Burnham and Gail Winston at Harper, for publication in January 2008, by David Kuhn at Kuhn Projects (world).

Christina Asquith's THE SPINSTER'S WAR, an intimate account of the tremendous impact of the Iraq war on the intertwining lives of five very different women, including two Iraqi sisters and two Americans aid workers in Baghdad, all struggling to build a new Iraq despite a looming civil war, to Tim Bartlett at Random House, by Mel Berger at the William Morris Agency.

Wesleyan professor of Italian History and Literature Dr. Marcello Simonetta's MONTEFELTRO: A Coded Conspiracy, The Medici, and The Sistine Chapel which, based on his discovery and decoding of an encrypted five hundred-year old letter buried in Italian archives, helps solve one of the scandalous crimes of the Renaissance: the attempted assassination of the Medici brothers known as the Pazzi Conspiracy, to Kris Puopolo at Doubleday, in a very nice deal, at auction, by Elizabeth Sheinkman at Curtis Brown UK.Elizabeth@curtisbrown.co.ukItalian rights have already sold to Rizzoli.Translation rights: Betsy@curtisbrown.co.uk

MEMOIR:

Ellen Greene's REMEMBER THE SWEET THINGS: Lessons from a Marriage, a memoir of a great marriage and a wonderful man, which uses the conceit of a "sweet things" list compiled by the author of the thoughtful gestures, both big and small, that her husband performed throughout their 20-year marriage and until his death, to Sarah Durand at William Morrow, at auction, by Andrew Stuart at The Stuart Agency (world English).

POP CULTURE:

Screenwriter Justin Zackham's THE BUCKET LIST, tied to the film release of the same title starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, featuring the Things to Do Before I Kick the Bucket lists of a variety of cultural icons, to Carrie Thornton at Three Rivers Press, with Adam Korn editing, by Jay Mandel at William Morris Agency (NA).

SCIENCE:

Dr. Sean Carroll's IN UNTAMED LANDS: Epic Adventures and Great Moments in Natural History, the romantic, adventurous history of field biology, from the voyage of the Beagle to today's scientific explorers, to Andrea Schulz at Harcourt, in a very nice deal, by Russell Galen at Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency (NA).Danny Baror handles foreign.barorint@aol.com

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