Friday, March 31, 2006

ABC News: Does Loophole Give Rich Kids More Time on SAT?

ABC News: Does Loophole Give Rich Kids More Time on SAT?: "March 30, 2006 — When Ali Hellberg, 19, was in prep school, she said several of her classmates obtained notes from psychologists diagnosing them with learning disabilities, even though they didn't have any learning problems.

They faked learning disabilities to get extra time to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, in the hopes of getting a higher score, she said.

'I had a friend who is a good math student but is no math brain, and she got extended time and got a perfect score on her math SAT,' Hellberg said.

That friend now attends an Ivy League school.

Some call this scheme the rich-kids loophole. With intense competition to get into Ivy League and other elite colleges, students say they need nearly perfect SAT scores, as well as great grades and impressive extra-curricular activities. A rising chorus of critics say high school students from wealthy ZIP codes and elite schools obtain questionable diagnoses of learning disabilities to secure extra time to take the SATs and beef up their scores.
[...]

The natural proportion of learning disabilities should be somewhere around 2 percent, the College Board said, but at some elite schools, up to 46 percent of students receive special accommodations to take the tests, including extra time.

Harvard graduate student and researcher Sam Abrams conducted a study on students in Washington, D.C, where the number of students receiving accommodations is more than three times the national average.

"We see outright overperformance … scores that, on average, in the disability population, would qualify you without question to the elite universities," Abrams said. "This strikes me as very compelling evidence that people are taking advantage of the system in Washington, D.C."

Abrams believes the abuse has become more frequent since fall 2003, when the College Board stopped "flagging" the scores of students who took the SAT with extra time. Since the "flag" was dropped, colleges have no way of knowing that the test was taken under nonstandard conditions. Abrams and his co-author, Miriam Freedman, believe this has made it more appealing for students who don't need the extra time to seek it out. "

Mexican flag burned at Apache Junction HS | www.azstarnet.com �

Mexican flag burned at Apache Junction HS :

By Blake Herzog
East Valley Tribune
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 03.31.2006


Tensions over immigration reform heightened in the Phoenix area's East Valley Thursday when students raised a Mexican flag over Apache Junction High School — and then other students yanked it down and burned it.
'I know (they) shouldn't have burned the Mexican flag,' said Jacob Stewart, a 16-year-old sophomore. 'I heard it was raised above the American flag and that just irked me.'
He said the turbulence was tied to debates going on in the state Legislature and Congress, where ideas ranging from offering illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship to making them felons are being floated.
Freshman Chelsea Garcia, 15, and junior Brittany Ramage, 16, said the unrest had more to do with long-running racial tensions at the school.
The week's events might have sparked some anger, Ramage said, 'but kids aren't too deep about that stuff.'"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Retired fireman's identity mired in 40-year-old fudge

Retired fireman's identity mired in 40-year-old fudge:

"Cattorini has managed to run afoul of one of our new federal anti-terrorism laws, the Real ID Act, which has him real frustrated -- so frustrated that he called me.

In one respect, as you will see, Cattorini is a victim of a bureaucratic snafu that he correctly surmises must be affecting many other people these days. In another respect, though, the problem is of his own making.

Either way, it's a cautionary tale worth telling.

For Cattorini, the problem started Jan. 3 when he went to an Illinois Secretary of State facility to renew his driver's license, which was due to expire on his birthday, Jan. 17.

When he finally got to the head of the line and submitted his paperwork, Cattorini learned there was a problem: He could not renew his driver's license because there was a discrepancy between the year of birth listed on his license, 1944, and the year of birth on file with the Social Security Administration, 1943.

Now on an expired license

Since the beginning of this year, he would learn, the Secretary of State's office has been crosschecking driver's license data with Social Security records to verify their accuracy. It's part of this federal Real ID Act, which is supposed to improve national security by requiring states to verify the information submitted by driver's license applicants.

Cattorini says his actual birth date was in 1944, which meant he would have to go to the Social Security Administration to clear up the error. He headed there the next day with a copy of his official birth certificate, which he'd picked up from the Cook County Clerk's office.

At Social Security, he was told his birth records would have to be verified before the agency's records could be changed. As I say, that was the beginning of January, and Cattorini is still awaiting a resolution.

What seemed almost amusing at first has become a constant aggravation. He now has been driving on an expired license for two months, which has him jumpy.

'I'm paranoid now, every time I'm driving. If I get stopped by a cop, I'm going to jail,' he told me. 'My whole life is in limbo.'"

Fed to SpyChip every animal in the US || RedState

|| RedStateWhat is NAIS? NAIS is the USDA's National Animal Identification System Draft Strategic Plan to let the government track the births, deaths, co-mingling and all movements of all livestock in the United States.

http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/about/pdf/NAIS_Draft_Strategic_Plan_425 05.pdf

Which animals are covered? Currently horses, cattle, goats, poultry, sheep, swine, alpacas, llamas, bison, deer and elk. NAIS is not limited to these animals and may also be extended to include dogs, rabbits & other animals. See documents at: http://nonais.org/index.php/2006/02/18/

Who must participate? Anyone with one or more of the covered animals will be required to register their home or business for a 7-digit Premises Identification Number and pay an annual fee. If you have a single horse, goat, chicken, piglet or other species from the above list, then you must register your home for a Premise ID and tag each animal once NAIS becomes mandatory or you may face fines of up to $1,000 per day for noncompliance. USDA and states are applying NAIS right down to the backyard level - No exceptions.

How will the beasts be numbered? Each animal will be assigned a unique 15-digit Animal Identification Number. Different species will be tagged in different ways. For example: injected Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) micro-chips, RFID button tags, RFID SwifTacs tags and RFID ear tags at a cost of about $3 to $20 per animal. Large producers will be able to use one ID number for tens of thousands of animals and will not be required to tag each individual animal if they are treated as a group. Most small farmers, homesteaders & pet owners must tag each individual animal and report individual events.

What 'events' must we report? Change of ownership, even if animals remain at the same premise; co-mingling of animals owned by different entities; movement of animals off of a premise; movement of animals onto a premise are some of the events. This includes buying, selling, trips to the vet, 4-H meetings, trail rides, road trips, shows & crossing or walking on a public road.

How must we report? Events must be reported within 24 hours by telephone or by computer via the Internet. There is no mail or paper option.

Why are they doing this? NAIS began as way to open up foreign meat markets, like Japan, for the large beef exporters. Later the USDA changed the stated justification for NAIS to be one of preventing disease. BSE (Mad Cow Disease) is the primary excuse given by the USDA for NAIS. Other excuses are Avian Bird Flu (H5N1), Exotic New Castles Disease and Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD). Most recently they have been giving the justification that consumers want to know where their food is coming from to trace it back to the farm in case of potential liability issues for food born illness.

Will NAIS prevent disease? No. In fact the government states quite clearly in this document http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/bsefaq.html that NAIS is not necessary to prevent BSE. Bird flu is spread by wild birds and NAIS will have no effect - we're not going to track every single wild bird nor can the government realistically expect to kill them all. Vaccination and biodiversity are the solution. Exotic New Castles was caused by illegally imported illegal fighting cocks - NAIS will not stop it. Foot & Mouth is not an issue in this country, there is already a program to handle it and FMD is transmitted by dust in the air, so NAIS will not help. Virtually all food contamination happens after the farm, when the animals are killed at the processing plant or later. NAIS does nothing for that. The best protections would be for the USDA to do its job of properly inspecting processing plants rather than making up complex and costly new regulations that will be impossible to enforce. The USDA should enforce its ban on feeding cows to cows which is the cause of Mad Cow Disease and enforce a strict quarantine of imported animals - all under existing laws and regulations.

Can't I just hide my animals? Veterinarians, police, butchers, service providers (gas, electric, telephone, etc) and possibly your neighbors will be required by law to report unregistered animal sightings to the government. Failure to register your premise and animals or to report movements will result in non-compliance fines of up to $1,000 per incident per day. Under NAIS the government may enter your property without a warrant and confiscate, redistribute or kill your animals without any form of legal appeal by you.

What is the cost of NAIS? The federal government is already spending $50 million per year on NAIS, prior to implementation. States and animal owners are expected to foot the bill for the vast majority of the cost. These costs will be passed on to consumers. Studies show the real cost at over $15 billion per year - a new tax on food. http://nonais.org/index.php/2006/02/19/

Is NAIS legal? It should not be. NAIS is clearly unconstitutional by violating Amendments 1, 4, 5 and 14 of the United States Constitution. In 2001, after 9/11, Congress gave the government enormous new powers in the form of the Patriot Act which is up for renewal in 2006. Supporters of NAIS used this to draft a plan for invasive micro-management of all animals in the United States. The Patriot Act, PAWS, REAL ID and NAIS strip Americans of fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It gives the government the power to invade our homes and take our property without warrants or any legal appeal.

How will NAIS affect small farmers? Annual Premise ID registration fees, livestock registration fees and tag costs, tag applicator and other equipment costs, potential enormous fines for incorrect report in, failure to track, increased liability, potential loss of all livestock due to faulty trace backs, loss of biodiversity as heritage breeds become extinct. Small farmers, homesteaders and hobbyists are the keepers of heritage breeds and the genetic diversity that makes domestic livestock strong. In other countries that have implemented systems like NAIS most small farmers were forced out of business.

Horse owners? Must report all movement of horses including trail rides, shows, equiestrian events, riding on public roads and every entry and exit from a property, within 24 hours. Reports include the 15 digit animal ID of each horse plus the 7 digit premise ID of each property crossed on the ride.

Homesteaders? The same as small farmers but unable to pass the costs on to customers effectively taxing us on the food we raise for ourselves at a cost of about $500/year per family. You are no longer free - You are a serf of the state.

4-H, FFA & pet owners? Parents of children in 4-H, FFA and owners of pet livestock will be treated as farmers, required to register their home for a Premise ID with the associated annual fees, tag costs, filing fees, tracking of all animal events and fines. Failure by a child to comply will result in fines.

Consumers? Consumers will see a loss of choice, smaller selection and higher prices as farmers pass on the costs of NAIS and many farms go out of business. They already operate on thin margins and can not handle the added costs. This will concentrate control of our food supply into the hands of fewer and fewer larger corporations who'll raise prices as they gain monopoly power

Technology News: RFID : Give RFID a Chance

Technology News: RFID : Give RFID a Chance:

By Jim Flyzik
Federal Computer Week

"Security Questions

RFID is analogous to reading bar codes from a distance. Instead of moving a scanner across an item, RFID wirelessly transmits data from a tagged item to a reader. The technology is already delivering benefits in a variety of areas, from speeding traffic through toll plazas to running cargo through security checks at the country's busiest ports.

It could play an even more useful role. But a coalition of more than 20 interest groups, including gun owners, tax reformers, physicians, privacy advocates and others, have decided that RFID has no place in an emerging federal standard that would make state driver's licenses more secure.

The Real ID Act of 2005 mandates that machine-readable cards include specific data and apply antifraud technology. The Homeland Security Department is defining the standard now. In a recent letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, interest groups claim that RFID technology is changing too quickly, costs too much and is prone to security breaches Latest News about security breaches.

Regardless of whether RFID belongs in the DHS standard, the group's arguments against the technology are unconvincing. To rebut the charge that RFID is still evolving, the group should recognize that change is the only constant in the high-tech realm. That is why any federal standard should focus on performance and outcomes, not the technology used to deliver those outcomes.
Higher Demand, Lower Prices

As for cost, the prices of everything from computers to long-distance phone calls have plummeted in the past several years. Costs come down when innovation undermines a company's competitive advantage, drives consumer demand for new products and services, and gives new market participants greater economies of scale. Costs remain high when consumers have fewer choices.

Finally, there is the issue of privacy and security, which is probably the group's real problem with RFID. If deployed without the necessary security protections, RFID would pose risks in driver's licenses and other applications. But technology safeguards make RFID worthy of additional DHS consideration.

RFID technology can be productive and beneficial. If misused, it can have harmful side effects, but society advances by creating, understanding and harnessing technology to perform useful work. Trying to impose bans on RFID misdiagnoses the problem and the cure."

How Animal ID Will Hurt Us All || RedState

|| RedState

What is NAIS? NAIS is the USDA's National Animal Identification System Draft Strategic Plan to let the government track the births, deaths, co-mingling and all movements of all livestock in the United States.

http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/about/pdf/NAIS_Draft_Strategic_Plan_425 05.pdf

Which animals are covered? Currently horses, cattle, goats, poultry, sheep, swine, alpacas, llamas, bison, deer and elk. NAIS is not limited to these animals and may also be extended to include dogs, rabbits & other animals. See documents at: http://nonais.org/index.php/2006/02/18/

Who must participate? Anyone with one or more of the covered animals will be required to register their home or business for a 7-digit Premises Identification Number and pay an annual fee. If you have a single horse, goat, chicken, piglet or other species from the above list, then you must register your home for a Premise ID and tag each animal once NAIS becomes mandatory or you may face fines of up to $1,000 per day for noncompliance. USDA and states are applying NAIS right down to the backyard level - No exceptions.

How will the beasts be numbered? Each animal will be assigned a unique 15-digit Animal Identification Number. Different species will be tagged in different ways. For example: injected Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) micro-chips, RFID button tags, RFID SwifTacs tags and RFID ear tags at a cost of about $3 to $20 per animal. Large producers will be able to use one ID number for tens of thousands of animals and will not be required to tag each individual animal if they are treated as a group. Most small farmers, homesteaders & pet owners must tag each individual animal and report individual events.

What 'events' must we report? Change of ownership, even if animals remain at the same premise; co-mingling of animals owned by different entities; movement of animals off of a premise; movement of animals onto a premise are some of the events. This includes buying, selling, trips to the vet, 4-H meetings, trail rides, road trips, shows & crossing or walking on a public road.

How must we report? Events must be reported within 24 hours by telephone or by computer via the Internet. There is no mail or paper option.

Why are they doing this? NAIS began as way to open up foreign meat markets, like Japan, for the large beef exporters. Later the USDA changed the stated justification for NAIS to be one of preventing disease. BSE (Mad Cow Disease) is the primary excuse given by the USDA for NAIS. Other excuses are Avian Bird Flu (H5N1), Exotic New Castles Disease and Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD). Most recently they have been giving the justification that consumers want to know where their food is coming from to trace it back to the farm in case of potential liability issues for food born illness.

Will NAIS prevent disease? No. In fact the government states quite clearly in this document http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/bsefaq.html that NAIS is not necessary to prevent BSE. Bird flu is spread by wild birds and NAIS will have no effect - we're not going to track every single wild bird nor can the government realistically expect to kill them all. Vaccination and biodiversity are the solution. Exotic New Castles was caused by illegally imported illegal fighting cocks - NAIS will not stop it. Foot & Mouth is not an issue in this country, there is already a program to handle it and FMD is transmitted by dust in the air, so NAIS will not help. Virtually all food contamination happens after the farm, when the animals are killed at the processing plant or later. NAIS does nothing for that. The best protections would be for the USDA to do its job of properly inspecting processing plants rather than making up complex and costly new regulations that will be impossible to enforce. The USDA should enforce its ban on feeding cows to cows which is the cause of Mad Cow Disease and enforce a strict quarantine of imported animals - all under existing laws and regulations.

Can't I just hide my animals? Veterinarians, police, butchers, service providers (gas, electric, telephone, etc) and possibly your neighbors will be required by law to report unregistered animal sightings to the government. Failure to register your premise and animals or to report movements will result in non-compliance fines of up to $1,000 per incident per day. Under NAIS the government may enter your property without a warrant and confiscate, redistribute or kill your animals without any form of legal appeal by you.

What is the cost of NAIS? The federal government is already spending $50 million per year on NAIS, prior to implementation. States and animal owners are expected to foot the bill for the vast majority of the cost. These costs will be passed on to consumers. Studies show the real cost at over $15 billion per year - a new tax on food. http://nonais.org/index.php/2006/02/19/

Is NAIS legal? It should not be. NAIS is clearly unconstitutional by violating Amendments 1, 4, 5 and 14 of the United States Constitution. In 2001, after 9/11, Congress gave the government enormous new powers in the form of the Patriot Act which is up for renewal in 2006. Supporters of NAIS used this to draft a plan for invasive micro-management of all animals in the United States. The Patriot Act, PAWS, REAL ID and NAIS strip Americans of fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It gives the government the power to invade our homes and take our property without warrants or any legal appeal.

How will NAIS affect small farmers? Annual Premise ID registration fees, livestock registration fees and tag costs, tag applicator and other equipment costs, potential enormous fines for incorrect report in, failure to track, increased liability, potential loss of all livestock due to faulty trace backs, loss of biodiversity as heritage breeds become extinct. Small farmers, homesteaders and hobbyists are the keepers of heritage breeds and the genetic diversity that makes domestic livestock strong. In other countries that have implemented systems like NAIS most small farmers were forced out of business.

Horse owners? Must report all movement of horses including trail rides, shows, equiestrian events, riding on public roads and every entry and exit from a property, within 24 hours. Reports include the 15 digit animal ID of each horse plus the 7 digit premise ID of each property crossed on the ride.

Homesteaders? The same as small farmers but unable to pass the costs on to customers effectively taxing us on the food we raise for ourselves at a cost of about $500/year per family. You are no longer free - You are a serf of the state.

4-H, FFA & pet owners? Parents of children in 4-H, FFA and owners of pet livestock will be treated as farmers, required to register their home for a Premise ID with the associated annual fees, tag costs, filing fees, tracking of all animal events and fines. Failure by a child to comply will result in fines.

Don't worry, we'll chip all the animals too! This website is full of it. They complain about animals being chipped, but then are in FAVOR of the REAL ID because they are against illegal immigration. I'm against unrestricted and illegal immigration, but the REAL ID is about controlling ALL OF US! Remember, government wants to control us. They may find other reasons to justify this, whether it's Islamic terrorism, or Avian Flu, or Militia terrorism at Oklahoma, or David Koresh type cults, or Y2K. Their solution to every problem is more government control. This must stop! Both Republicans and Democrats need to take a hard look at what our government is up to. We need top stop fighting each other and start reading our Constitutions again!

Do we need internal passports?

Do we need internal passports?:

"DO WE NEED INTERNAL PASSPORTS?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

We were promised the government would never use Social Security numbers as ID numbers. The government broke that promise. We were promised the income tax would always be small, but now it is large. We were promised the FBI and IRS would never be used by politicians to punish political enemies. Another broken promise. We were promised campaign finance laws would end political corruption. Instead, they have strangled political competition, and the corruption in Congress is worse than ever.

Whatever the politicians promise you, the results are likely to be the opposite.

We were promised that the groundwork laid for a national identification system by the REAL ID Act would protect us from terrorism. Believe that promise at your own risk. National identification systems -- internal passports -- are one of the hallmarks of police states. Ignore this at your own risk.

Are the politicians planning a police state in America? Almost certainly not. Could a national identification system be exploited by future politicians for such a purpose? Yes. Will a national identification system protect us from terrorism? To believe so is to believe that government becomes more competent when it has more information and more programs to manage. Such a belief flies in the face of the evidence.

The more information government has, the more confused it gets. The more programs government has to manage, the more incompetent it is. The federal government had all the information and resources it needed to prevent 9-11, but it couldn't get out of its own way. It couldn't see the forest for the trees. Things have only gotten worse since then. Just think of the Homeland Security Department, and what a mess it is.

Government needs to do a better job with the information and resources it already has. Indeed, it needs to cut back on many things so it can focus on a few things. We do not need a national identification system. Americans do not need internal passports. But the politicians have given us one anyway. They consider the matter settled. But Downsize DC disagrees. A bill that has been passed can be repealed. The REAL ID Act should be repealed.

Please help Downsize DC repeal the REAL ID Act. Please use our quick-and-easy online lobbying system to ask Congress to repeal the REAL ID Act. We have already sent 15,108 messages to Congress asking for this. You can add to that number. Please, add your voice. You can do so by clicking here:"

Feds must drop ID plan - North County Times / The Californian - Editorials

Feds must drop ID plan - North County Times / The Californian - Editorials

The law is called the Real ID Act. As soon as 2008, states will have to issue tamper-proof drivers licenses that contain loads of personal information about the carrier ---- Social Security numbers, date and place of birth, home address ---- a silver platter for criminals who specialize in stealing credit card numbers and raiding bank accounts.

Worse, the federal government is leaning toward a technical standard based on Radio Frequency Identification. Called RFID, it has been around for years, but you'll be hearing a lot more about it in the future.

RFID powers the clicker that opens your car doors, it lets businesses instantaneously track FedEx shipments, and it collects tolls at 65 miles per hour in the Fastrak system. Using chips a little larger than a grain of rice implanted under the skin of a pet, RFID allows animal shelters to find worried owners.

However, the technology's use in drivers licenses carries vast potential for harm.

Federal officials love RFID because it will let them track and identify people from a distance. In an airport security line, for example, agents would be able to read people's drivers licenses while they are nestled inside wallets and purses. Consumers may very well prefer the cards if speed and efficiency can be improved.

We worry that officials will be able to track the movements of Americans and store their whereabouts in vast computer networks. Indeed, the Real ID Act forces states to collect and keep vast amounts of new data on private individuals. There is nothing voluntary about needing a drivers license, so this invasion of privacy is compulsory.

All by itself, such monitoring is a violation of the basic right of people to be left alone by their government. And, given the terrible history of the federal bureaucracy's deployment of new technology, this data will almost certainly be hacked by criminals.

Yet criminals won't even need to penetrate federal computers. The tiny radio chips being contemplated by officials will let a skilled thief collect vast amounts of personal information by simply strolling through a crowded mall.

One other thing: This law, which forces state officials to check original birth certificates and other documents, will cripple California's already overwhelmed Department of Motor Vehicles. State computers date from the 1960s, so they can't begin to hold all that additional data. And foreign-born citizens may be hard-pressed to come up with birth records.

Perhaps pondering the voter outrage from even greater gridlock at the DMV, state Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, called the federal law a "man-made disaster."

Just wait until people find their bank accounts emptied, call the cops, and find their names improperly placed on some government watch-list.

Devvy Kidd -- New Hampshire rejects national ID

Devvy Kidd -- New Hampshire rejects national ID: "NEW HAMPSHIRE REJECTS NATIONAL ID
By: Devvy

March 20, 2006

'Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution.' --James Madison, Federalist No. 39, January 1788

If it's one thing architects of totalitarian government out in Washington, DC, despise, it's when the states of the Union stand up and say no! We are seeing more and more state legislatures rebuff the unconstitutional laws coming out of Washington, DC, than we have in decades. One MAJOR victory came last week, although there hasn't been a peep out of any media that I've seen or read:

The New Hampshire House voted overwhelmingly to reject the Transportation Committee's recommendation of ITL and in a subsequent motion to pass HB 1582, forbidding any state agency from participating in any national ID requirement. The bill is succinct and to the point:"

AN ACT prohibiting New Hampshire from participating in a national identification card system.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

Prohibition Against Participation in National Identification System. The general court finds that the public policy established by Congress in the Real ID Act of 2005, Public Law 109-13, is contrary and repugnant to Articles 1 through 10 of the New Hampshire constitution as well as Amendments 4 though 10 of the Constitution for the United States of America. Therefore, the state of New Hampshire shall not participate in a national identification card system; nor shall the department of safety amend the procedures for applying for a driver's license under RSA 263 or an identification card under RSA 260:21. (text of bill)

[...]

may the federal government use other actors in the governmental system and the private sector as its agents and give them orders as though they were parts of a prefectorial system? The short answer is "no." State governments are independent, although subordinated, sovereignties, not subdivisions of the federal government.

"Although the federal government may regulate many of their functions directly [as well, for example, it subjects state water districts to the Clean Water Act], it may not require them to exercise their own governmental powers in a manner dictated by federal law. The states may be encouraged, bribed or threatened into entering into joint federal state programs of various sorts, from unemployment insurance to Medicaid; but they may not be commanded directly to use their own governmental apparatus in the service of federal policy. There is a modest jurisprudence of the Tenth Amendment that seems to have settled on this proposition. See the DOJ [Dept. of Justice] memorandum for a fuller elaboration."

What does this mean from a constitutional position? It means that the government can bribe the states, they can threaten them, but in fact, the states cannot be forced to get down on their knees to the federal machine.

In my letter to my state rep, senator and Mr. Arnie, I provided a copy of that memorandum as well as these three cases for their legal staff to use in drafting legislation just like New Hampshire:

Marbury v Madison, U.S. v Lopez and Printz/Mack vs US.

Contrast the statement from Doyle's office with the language in the bill out of New Hampshire. This is what the people of Wisconsin need to do immediately: Call your state legislator and state senator.

The Badger Herald - University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Badger Herald - University of Wisconsin-Madison: "Real ID bill

Assembly Bill 69 — which mandates Wisconsin’s Division of Motor Vehicles to validate legal residency before issuing drivers’ licenses — is part of the federal Real ID Act, a nationwide effort to combat terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“By tightening our requirements, Wisconsin will no longer be one of the weak points where terrorists can obtain an ID,” AB 69 author Rep. Mark Pettis, R-Hertel, said in a release. “An ID is power. It gives you many privileges in our country, from opening a bank account and renting a car to boarding a plane.”

Under the federal law, an identification card or driver’s license approved by Real ID Act standards is required to enter a federal building or board an airplane.

The Real ID Act orders states to reform their licensing laws to comply with the federal standard by May 2008 under penalty of state residents being barred from boarding airplanes and entering federal buildings.

As Democrats charge the measure will promote racial profiling and discrimination, Doyle maintains the federal mandate left him with no other choice.

“The state Department of Transportation advised the governor that if he didn’t sign this bill, our citizens wouldn’t be able to use their drivers’ licenses to get on commercial airlines,” Doyle’s spokesperson, Dan Leistikow, said. “But he does have concerns about the bill.”

Such concerns include the danger of unlicensed drivers and their effects on roadway safety, as well as the tremendous cost the new law poses to the state to initiate the necessary licensing reforms.

But, according to Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, the measure’s most frightening concern is its effect on the state’s undocumented workers who do not threaten homeland security.

“I think it’s a shame that the excuse of homeland security is being used in this regard when the real impact is going to be on the poorest in society who do the hardest work,” Black said."

Opening a bank account, renting a car, driving a car, taking a train, boarding a plane, opening a bank account, - these are PRIVILEGES? And we have to kiss the government's ass to get them. Fuck that! These are basic rights! Where are the people who say education and health care are rights? (they aren't). And no, don't point me to the bill of rights. From the beginning they were designed to restrain the government. These rights are basic human rights and were in existance long before the the goverment. The government does NOT GIVE US RIGHTS! They belong to us already, and there are many more than just the ones listed in the Bill of Rights. Rights are things the government cannot do to us. Rights are not things the government must do for us. Hence there is no right to education, or health care. Rights are restraints on governments, not powers of government! Read the Federalist Papers. This is a travesty!

Conspiracy Planet - Criminal Government - New Hampshire House Rejects Real ID Act of 2005

Conspiracy Planet - Criminal Government - New Hampshire House Rejects Real ID Act of 2005:
by INDYBAY.ORG

New Hampshire House Rejects Real ID Act of 2005 PATRIOT Act is unconstitutional. 'Marbury V. Madison (1893): Any law that is repugnant to the constitution of the US is NULL AND VOID

The New Hampshire House yesterday voted overwhelmingly to reject the Transportation Committee's recommendation of ITL and in a subsequent motion to pass HB 1582, forbidding any state agency from participating in any national ID requirement.

The bill is succinct and to the point:

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Six

AN ACT prohibiting New Hampshire from participating in a national identification card system.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 Prohibition Against Participation in National Identification System. The general court finds that the public policy established by Congress in the Real ID Act of 2005, Public Law 109-13, is contrary and repugnant to Articles 1 through 10 of the New Hampshire constitution as well as Amendments 4 though 10 of the Constitution for the United States of America."

Drone aircraft may prowl U.S. skies | CNET News.com

Drone aircraft may prowl U.S. skies | CNET News.com: "Drone aircraft may prowl U.S. skies

By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: March 29, 2006, 1:41 PM PST


Unmanned aerial vehicles have soared the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq for years, spotting enemy encampments, protecting military bases, and even launching missile attacks against suspected terrorists.

Now UAVs may be landing in the United States.

A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday heard testimony from police agencies that envision using UAVs for everything from border security to domestic surveillance high above American cities. Private companies also hope to use UAVs for tasks such as aerial photography and pipeline monitoring.

'We need additional technology to supplement manned aircraft surveillance and current ground assets to ensure more effective monitoring of United States territory,' Michael Kostelnik, assistant commissioner at Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection Bureau, told the House Transportation subcommittee.

Kostelnik was talking about patrolling U.S. borders and ports from altitudes around 12,000 feet, an automated operation that's currently underway in Arizona. But that's only the beginning of the potential of surveillance from the sky.

In a scene that could have been inspired by the movie 'Minority Report,' one North Carolina county is using a UAV equipped with low-light and infrared cameras to keep watch on its citizens. The aircraft has been dispatched to monitor gatherings of motorcycle riders at the Gaston County fairgrounds from just a few hundred feet in the air--close enough to identify faces--and many more uses, such as the aerial detection of marijuana fields, are planned.

That raises not just privacy concerns, but also safety concerns because of the possibility of collisions with commercial and general aviation aircraft."

UAV's to monitor American citizens. Is it 1984 yet?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Florida Libertarians Act Against Internet ID Bill

Florida Libertarians Act Against Internet ID Bill:

January 17th 2006

Florida Libertarians Act Against Internet ID Bill

Don't forget your ID
St Petersburg, FL--Did you recently post a message to a friend's blog denouncing government policies--and that could conceivably annoy the President or the Governor--using an alias or username?

An estimated 400,000 Americans do something like this every day, often because websites recommend an alias or username. But under a new measure, they've not only possibly committed a Federal Crime, but may have to register as felony sex offenders because it would be a crime under a Violence Against Women clause, say opponents of the measure.

'This is another example of extremists of the right and left joining forces to shut the rest of us up through bizarre stealth legislation,' said Libertarian Party leader Michael Gilson-De Lemos at a meeting of activists in St Petersburg, Florida. The meeting and follow-up web brainstorm, chaired by the Libertarians and which included Libertarian, Independent, Republican and Democratic activists, convened recently to discuss community issues. 'If Benjamin Franklin, who signed many of his political opinions anonymously, had used the internet today, he would be a sex offender under this strange proposal,' he said."

STEALTH LEGISLATION COULD HAMPER LOCAL DEBATE

The measure passed with little opposition, apparently because it was inserted into "must have" budget legislation at the behest of Arlen Specter, who is also chairing the hearings on Judge Alito. It has only recently begun to attract attention in the media.

The measure is "another example of feel-good, backfiring legislation, " said Mr. Gilson. Intended to trap stalkers who wish to harass women, it could just as well be used by stalkers to claim they were being harassed, and will most likely end up as a tool to further silence dissent, say critics. In addition, criticism of even foreign leaders may be a crime, so "denouncing bad government in Iran" could conceivably be reason for arrest and registration, say activists.

Create an e-annoyance, go to jail | Perspectives | CNET News.com

Create an e-annoyance, go to jail | Perspectives | CNET News.com

ll Perspectives

Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.

It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."
It's illegal to annoy

A new federal law states that when you annoy someone on the Internet, you must disclose your identity. Here's the relevant language.

"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called "Preventing Cyberstalking." It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy."

To grease the rails for this idea, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and the section's other sponsors slipped it into an unrelated, must-pass bill to fund the Department of Justice. The plan: to make it politically infeasible for politicians to oppose the measure.

The tactic worked. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16.

There's an interesting side note. An earlier version that the House approved in September had radically different wording. It was reasonable by comparison, and criminalized only using an "interactive computer service" to cause someone "substantial emotional harm."

That kind of prohibition might make sense. But why should merely annoying someone be illegal?

There are perfectly legitimate reasons to set up a Web site or write something incendiary without telling everyone exactly who you are.
A law meant to annoy?
FAQ: The new 'annoy' law explained
A practical guide to the new federal law that aims to outlaw certain types of annoying Web sites and e-mail.

Think about it: A woman fired by a manager who demanded sexual favors wants to blog about it without divulging her full name. An aspiring pundit hopes to set up the next Suck.com. A frustrated citizen wants to send e-mail describing corruption in local government without worrying about reprisals.

In each of those three cases, someone's probably going to be annoyed. That's enough to make the action a crime. (The Justice Department won't file charges in every case, of course, but trusting prosecutorial discretion is hardly reassuring.)

Clinton Fein, a San Francisco resident who runs the Annoy.com site, says a feature permitting visitors to send obnoxious and profane postcards through e-mail could be imperiled.

"Who decides what's annoying? That's the ultimate question," Fein said. He added: "If you send an annoying message via the United States Post Office, do you have to reveal your identity?"

Fein once sued to overturn part of the Communications Decency Act that outlawed transmitting indecent material "with intent to annoy." But the courts ruled the law applied only to obscene material, so Annoy.com didn't have to worry.

"I'm certainly not going to close the site down," Fein said on Friday. "I would fight it on First Amendment grounds."

He's right. Our esteemed politicians can't seem to grasp this simple point, but the First Amendment protects our right to write something that annoys someone else.

It even shields our right to do it anonymously. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas defended this principle magnificently in a 1995 case involving an Ohio woman who was punished for distributing anonymous political pamphlets.

If President Bush truly believed in the principle of limited government (it is in his official bio), he'd realize that the law he signed cannot be squared with the Constitution he swore to uphold.

TalkBack: House approves electronic ID cards article | reader response on| CNET News.com

TalkBack: House approves electronic ID cards article | reader response on| CNET News.com

House approves electronic ID cards article
Reader post by: Edward-keith Pallas (N/A - What's this?)
Posted on: February 11, 2005, 6:49 AM PST
Story: House approves electronic ID cards

House approves electronic ID cards
Published: February 10, 2005, 5:46 PM PST
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
The U.S. House of Representatives approved on Thursday a sweeping set of rules aimed at forcing states to issue all adults federally approved electronic ID cards, including driver's licenses.
Under the rules, federal employees (Now there’s a quality dilemma, now private business will need a federal employee to check you out for hiring?) would reject licenses or identity cards that don't comply, which could curb Americans' access to airplanes, trains, national parks, federal courthouses and other areas controlled by the federal government. (So, like what happens to South West Airlines ad: your free to move about the country) The bill was approved by a 261-161 vote.
The measure, called the Real ID Act, says that driver's licenses and other ID cards must include a digital photograph, anti-counterfeiting features and undefined "machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements" that could include a magnetic strip or RFID tag. The Department of Homeland Security would be charged with drafting the details of the regulation.
Republican politicians argued that the new rules were necessary to thwart terrorists, saying that four of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers possessed valid state-issued driver's licenses. (They had valid drivers licenses—Hummm, just like you and me, so can’t they get a valid new ID to comply. Its not the ID, its not the Gun, Its not the Car that does the damage, it’s the people. How is an ID going to stop the mind of the person from changing?) "When I get on an airplane and someone shows ID, I'd like to be sure they are who they say they are," said Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican,(Hey Virginia are you listening, time for him to be replaced, The ID is an assured deal, I don’t think so.) during a floor debate that started Wednesday.
States would be required to demand proof of the person's Social Security number (Since social security is voluntary program and one can’t be required to get a number, and with the present proposals in congress and by the president regarding social security—I wouldn’t even consider the program if I were 18 now. Learning the saving ways on ones own can far out reach the hand out by the politicians) and confirm that number with the Social Security Administration. They would also have to scan in documents showing the person's date of birth and immigration status, (Maybe that’s why Bush Budget Dumps 9,790 Border Patrol Agents) and create a massive store "so that the (scanned) images can be retained in electronic storage in a transferable format" permanently. (Isn’t this to protect the Banks, and the people in power? It has nothing to do with the good people out there who go about there daily lives making ends meet day to day.)
Another portion of the bill says that states would be required to link their DMV databases if they wished to receive federal funds. (Its all about the money) Among the information that must be shared: All data fields printed on drivers' licenses and identification cards, and complete drivers' histories, including motor vehicle violations, suspensions and points on licenses. (We’ll be carrying small computers, hope you carry a spare battery)
The Bush administration threw its weight behind the Real ID Act, which has been derided by some conservative and civil liberties groups as tantamount to a national ID card. The White House said in a statement this week that it "strongly supports House passage" of the bill. (So Bush has to be checked each time he gets on airforce one, those guard are federal employees, what good for the goose is good for the gander. All congressman and women will do the sme before enter any of the federal buildings.)
Thursday's vote mostly fell along party lines. About 95 percent of the House Republicans voted for the bill, which had been prepared by the judiciary committee chairman, F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican. More than three-fourths of the House Democrats opposed it.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from Washington, D.C., charged that Republicans were becoming hypocrites by trampling on states' rights. "I thought the other side of the aisle extols federalism at all times," Norton said. "Yes, even in hard times, even when you're dealing with terrorism. So what's happening now? Why are those who speak up for states whenever it strikes their fancy doing this now?"
Civil libertarians and firearm rights groups condemned the bill before the vote. The American Civil Liberties Union likened the new rules to a "de facto national ID card," saying that the measure would force "states to deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants" and make DMV employees act as agents of the federal immigration service.
Because an ID is required to purchase a firearm from a dealer, Gun Owners of America said the bill amounts to a "bureaucratic back door to implementation of a national ID card." The group warned that it would "empower the federal government to determine who can get a driver's license--and under what conditions." (Do they mean other than be qualified to drive a car?)

From Freedom To Fasicsm- movie coming out this summer!

http://freedomtofascism.com/

I was able to view a free preview of this important movie by Aaron Russo. In it he details the treachery of the Federal government in creating a Federal Reserve bank to pump out funny money, leading us to the brink of the worst currency crash in history. He also rips apart the Federal Income Tax as unconstitutional, and illegal. He goes further to warn about how RFID spychips and a biometric national ID card will further limit our freedoms. Wake up America! The federal goverment was meant to be very small. They would coin GOLD AND SILVER (real) money, protect us from foreign threats, bar tariffs between states, and otherwise let the states do as they want. There was no federal income tax until 1913, and all money was gold and silver. Now we pay more than half our income to the Feds, and the Feds control every aspect of our lives. Republicans and Democrats argue over how the Fed should run things, but the bottom line is the THE FEDERAL GOVERMENT SHOULDN'T RUN OUR LIVES AT ALL! I hope you can spread the word about this important movie, which will be released this summer. Follow the link and view the trailer. Email your friends.

House backs major shift to electronic IDs | CNET News.com

House backs major shift to electronic IDs | CNET News.com

House backs major shift to electronic IDs
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: February 10, 2005, 5:46 PM PST

The U.S. House of Representatives approved on Thursday a sweeping set of rules aimed at forcing states to issue all adults federally approved electronic ID cards, including driver's licenses.

Under the rules, federal employees would reject licenses or identity cards that don't comply, which could curb Americans' access to airplanes, trains, national parks, federal courthouses and other areas controlled by the federal government. The bill was approved by a 261-161 vote.

The measure, called the Real ID Act, says that driver's licenses and other ID cards must include a digital photograph, anticounterfeiting features and undefined "machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements" that could include a magnetic strip or RFID tag. The Department of Homeland Security would be charged with drafting the details of the regulation.

Republican politicians argued that the new rules were necessary to thwart terrorists, saying that four of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers possessed valid state-issued driver's licenses. "When I get on an airplane and someone shows ID, I'd like to be sure they are who they say they are," said Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, during a floor debate that started Wednesday.

So what? How does that stop them from hijacking the plane? After the plane crashes, it takes you less time to put their picture in the newspaper. Big deal.

States would be required to demand proof of the person's Social Security number and confirm that number with the Social Security Administration. They would also have to scan in documents showing the person's date of birth and immigration status, and create a massive store "so that the (scanned) images can be retained in electronic storage in a transferable format" permanently.

Another portion of the bill says that states would be required to link their DMV databases if they wished to receive federal funds. Among the information that must be shared: All data fields printed on drivers' licenses and identification cards, and complete drivers' histories, including motor vehicle violations, suspensions and points on licenses.

The Bush administration threw its weight behind the Real ID Act, which has been derided by some conservative and civil liberties groups as tantamount to a national ID card. The White House said in a statement this week that it "strongly supports House passage" of the bill.

Fuck George Bush

Thursday's vote mostly fell along party lines. About 95 percent of the House Republicans voted for the bill, which had been prepared by the judiciary committee chairman, F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican. More than three-fourths of the House Democrats opposed it.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from Washington, D.C., charged that Republicans were becoming hypocrites by trampling on states' rights. "I thought the other side of the aisle extols federalism at all times," Norton said. "Yes, even in hard times, even when you're dealing with terrorism. So what's happening now? Why are those who speak up for states whenever it strikes their fancy doing this now?"

Civil libertarians and firearm rights groups condemned the bill before the vote. The American Civil Liberties Union likened the new rules to a "de facto national ID card," saying that the measure would force "states to deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants" and make DMV employees act as agents of the federal immigration service.

Because an ID is required to purchase a firearm from a dealer, Gun Owners of America said the bill amounts to a "bureaucratic back door to implementation of a national ID card." The group warned that it would "empower the federal government to determine who can get a driver's license--and under what conditions."

Gun Owners and Lefties up in arms together. We must all realize that the Federal government has overstepped its bounds, both Republicans and Democrats. All politicians are the enemy now.

National ID cards on the way? | CNET News.com

National ID cards on the way? | CNET News.com

A recent vote in Congress endorsing standardized, electronically readable driver's licenses has raised fears about whether the proposal would usher in what amounts to a national ID card.

In a vote that largely divided along party lines, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Republican-backed measure that would compel states to design their driver's licenses by 2008 to comply with federal antiterrorist standards. Federal employees would reject licenses or identity cards that don't comply, which could curb Americans' access to everything from airplanes to national parks and some courthouses.

The congressional maneuvering takes place as governments are growing more interested in implanting technology in ID cards to make them smarter and more secure. The U.S. State Department soon will begin issuing passports with radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips embedded in them, and Virginia may become the first state to glue RFID tags into all its driver's licenses.
News.context

What's new:
A recent vote in Congress endorsing standardized, electronically readable driver's licenses has raised fears about whether the proposal would usher in what amounts to a national ID card.

Bottom line:
Proponents of the Real ID Act say it's needed to frustrate both terrorists and illegal immigrants. Critics say it imposes more requirements for identity documents on states, and gives the Department of Homeland Security carte blanche to do nearly anything else "to protect the national security interests of the United States."

More stories on privacy and national security

"Supporters claim it is not a national ID because it is voluntary," Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, one of the eight Republicans to object to the measure, said during the floor debate this week. "However, any state that opts out will automatically make nonpersons out of its citizens. They will not be able to fly or to take a train."

Paul warned that the legislation, called the Real ID Act, gives unfettered authority to the Department of Homeland Security to design state ID cards and driver's licenses. Among the possibilities: biometric information such as retinal scans, fingerprints, DNA data and RFID tracking technology.

Proponents of the Real ID Act say it adheres to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and is needed to frustrate both terrorists and illegal immigrants. Only a portion of the legislation regulates ID cards; the rest deals with immigration law and asylum requests. "American citizens have the right to know who is in their country, that people are who they say they are, and that the name on the driver's license is the real holder's name, not some alias," F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., said last week.

Is this ever going to stop? We just can't get rid of our freedom fast enough, can we?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Al Qaeda witnesses saw Moussaoui as a bumbler

Managed to annoy everyone'

During a 2000 visit to Malaysia, "Moussaoui managed to annoy everyone he came into contact with," Hambali said. "Moussaoui was constantly suggesting operations the rest of them thought were ridiculous."

Tawfiq Bin Atash, a senior al Qaeda operative considered the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in 2000, also assisted the 9/11 plot. He said Moussaoui called him every day on a phone al Qaeda reserved for emergencies. As a result, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told him to break contact with Moussaoui.

Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a United Arab Emirates-based paymaster who helped several of the 9/11 hijackers come to the United States, said "none of the other brothers spoke of" Moussaoui.

Tuesday's testimony backs a statement jurors heard Monday from the architect of the plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who called Moussaoui "a problem from the start."

Moussaoui told the jury that before his arrest in August 2001 he was aware that the World Trade Center was on al Qaeda's target list and he was training to fly a Boeing 747 into the White House.

Moussaoui said his mission was not for a potential second wave of hijackings but for a fifth targeted flight on September 11. He denied that he was supposed to be a fifth hijacker on United Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
'Never slated' for 9/11 role

But according to Mohammed's interrogation summary, Moussaoui "was never slated to be a 9/11 operative."

"Moussaoui was a problem from the start," Mohammed told interrogators.

Mohammed, who led al Qaeda's operations until his capture in Pakistan three years ago, also said a plan for a second wave of hijackings, using passport holders from non-Arab states, was "only in its most preliminary stages." The potential targets included the White House and Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois.

Prosecutors assert that Moussaoui gave false statements following his arrest, covered up his associates and financial sources and refused access to his belongings, furthering the conspiracy to hijack and crash planes into prominent buildings. As a result, prosecutors argue, he directly contributed to some of the 2,793 deaths on 9/11.

Before resting its case, the defense showed the jury how at least a dozen U.S. intelligence reports between 1994 and 2001 cited the threat of airplanes being used as weapons and Osama bin Laden's interest in using commerical pilots as terrorists.

Between May and July 2001, the National Security Agency intercepted 33 communications referring to "imminent" and "spectacular" attacks, yet with no specific targets.

The Federal Aviation Administration was aware of the threat, but its own security directives described the prospect of a hijacked plane being flown into a building a "last resort" and the "most probable" locations for hijackings as overseas. The concept of suicide hijackings "appears to be unlikely," the FAA found.

The CIA and FBI deemed the prospects of a domestic hijacking "relatively low," documents showed.

The jury was told the CIA did not know before September 11 about the "Phoenix Memo," a warning by an FBI field agent in Arizona there was a "the possibility of coordinated effort" by al Qaeda to insert a "cadre" of terrorist operatives in U.S. flight schools.

Belleville News-Democrat | 03/27/2006 | Blagojevich starts spinning

Belleville News-Democrat | 03/27/2006 | Blagojevich starts spinning


Gov. Rod Blagojevich's strategy for getting re-elected is pretty simple: Support emotional, feel-good programs and laws, then dare Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka to oppose them.

It's a strategy that could prove costly to the people of Illinois, in dollars and in damaging policies.

One Tuesday, even before Topinka won the GOP primary, Blagojevich began his attacks. He touted All Kids, a universal health insurance program for children that lawmakers rushed to approve in the fall with virtually no discussion. "I don't know what she's thinking when she says no to health care for kids," Blagojevich said.

Maybe that Illinois can't afford its existing Medicaid and other health care programs, much less $45 million a year -- for starters -- for a new entitlement.

Then Blagojevich proposed raising the minimum wage $1 an hour, from $6.50 to $7.50 an hour. He challenged Topinka to support the increase.

Why not a $2 an hour increase, governor? How about $10 more an hour?

Businesses, not the state, should decide what to pay their workers. Raising the minimum wage -- already higher than the federal minimum -- would increase the costs of doing business in Illinois, which already has a reputation as unfriendly to business.

Wages are an important part of a company's business equation. Businesses likely would either have to raise their prices to cover the costs or cut the number of employees. Neither would help the people of Illinois.

Next Blagojevich renewed his call for a ban on assault rifles, and said Topinka's opposition was a "shocking and shameful capitulation" to the National Rifle Association and the Illinois State Rifle Association. Never mind that his proposal doesn't stand a chance of passage -- nor is there any evidence it would decrease the crime rate if approved. The federal assault weapon ban expired in 2004, and that hasn't resulted in any increase in crime.

The Albuquerque Tribune: The anti-smoking Taliban

The Albuquerque Tribune: Commentaries

Commentary: The anti-smoking Taliban

By Betsy Hart
March 27, 2006

Recently a place called a "tobacco bar," Marshall McGearty Tobacco Artisans, was all over Chicago and national news.

Like other major cities, Chicago has recently gone "smoke-free" in most public places of any kind. Ah, but there is a place that's exempt. The tobacco bar is set up as a tobacco manufacturer - the place is owned by R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant - and it's free from the anti-smoking law. Customers actually choose from loose tobacco blends, and an expensive pack of cigarettes is then made to the customer's order.

And then patrons can puff away - right there, inside a closed space, and legally.

Scandalous.

Is it possible that the anti-smoking do-gooders will leave such folks alone? After all they are adults, there freely of their own accord, choosing to partake in a legal substance, and not bothering anyone else in the process.

No way. No sooner did news stories of the new establishment surface than do-gooders from the City Council and elsewhere were vowing to stamp out the loophole, so to speak, that allows such "treachery."

Somehow, I think if it were discovered the place was a gay men's bathhouse many of these same folks vowing to shut it down would be strangely quiet instead.

I'm not a smoker. Oh I sneaked my requisite few in high school, but that was about it. It actually wasn't the health concerns that turned me off of the stuff. It was when I found out that smokers show signs of aging faster than non-smokers that I decided it was not for me.

These days I don't really mind being around smokers and getting the occasional waft. I will avoid heavy, smoke-filled spaces. So I won't be going to the tobacco bar.

But where does this Taliban-like anti-smoking campaign come from? It can't really be this stuff about second-hand smoke. The famous 1992 Environmental Protection Agency study showing a causal relationship between second-hand smoke and cancer was so roundly debunked as junk science - even by other federal agencies - it was finally declared "null and void" by a federal judge.

Sure, second-hand smoke can be annoying, and it can't be healthful, but if you relegate smokers to their own enclosed space - say a bar or a separate part of a restaurant where people, including staff, only go of their own free will - who can object?

The anti-smoking Taliban, of course.

We are a culture that has been conditioned that we must make no value-judgments about anything that really matters. Adultery, divorce, fornication - isn't that an old-fashioned word - addictions of all sorts, rampant obesity, things that hurt or even kill, that are profoundly destructive, directly or indirectly, to our young people, behaviors that involve moral components and choices - these things are all off the table and rarely are value judgments offered. Most telling, with few exceptions we don't legally try to limit such things.

And if the fellow next door leaves his family for a series of girlfriends, or the mom leaves to "find herself"? We are not to offer a value judgment, and the kids will be fine, don't you know. After all, we don't know what goes on "behind closed doors."

But, if after the no-fault divorce the departed parent comes to pick-up the children and is smoking a cigarette as he or she pulls into the driveway? Watch out - the "Taliban" will swoop down and smugly denounce that mom or dad as a "bad parent."

We are, at our core, moral beings. We want to make appropriate moral value judgments - which is, and should be, different than "condemnation" of others.

But in our culture we no longer dare do so. Worse, we've become a people who don't want to call ourselves to moral standards, to deny our passions, or make choices or sacrifices based on the premise that it's "not all about me." I mean, that's not fun!

So, enter the self-righteous anti-smoking Taliban. Smoking is the stand-in, the scapegoat. It's the one thing, an easy thing, we can dump on. It requires no personal sacrifice, no thoughtful and legitimate value judgments, no change of moral behavior or denial of passions on the part of non-smokers.

We can carelessly condemn smokers, quite literally run them out of town, and feel just delicious about ourselves.

We shouldn't be surprised, then, that there is an inverse relationship between our increasingly "tolerant" culture - and our anti-smoking zealotry.

Hart is the author of "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids - and What to Do About It."

The Albuquerque Tribune: The anti-smoking Taliban

The Albuquerque Tribune: Commentaries

Commentary: The anti-smoking Taliban

By Betsy Hart
March 27, 2006

Recently a place called a "tobacco bar," Marshall McGearty Tobacco Artisans, was all over Chicago and national news.

Like other major cities, Chicago has recently gone "smoke-free" in most public places of any kind. Ah, but there is a place that's exempt. The tobacco bar is set up as a tobacco manufacturer - the place is owned by R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant - and it's free from the anti-smoking law. Customers actually choose from loose tobacco blends, and an expensive pack of cigarettes is then made to the customer's order.

And then patrons can puff away - right there, inside a closed space, and legally.

Scandalous.

Is it possible that the anti-smoking do-gooders will leave such folks alone? After all they are adults, there freely of their own accord, choosing to partake in a legal substance, and not bothering anyone else in the process.

No way. No sooner did news stories of the new establishment surface than do-gooders from the City Council and elsewhere were vowing to stamp out the loophole, so to speak, that allows such "treachery."

Somehow, I think if it were discovered the place was a gay men's bathhouse many of these same folks vowing to shut it down would be strangely quiet instead.

I'm not a smoker. Oh I sneaked my requisite few in high school, but that was about it. It actually wasn't the health concerns that turned me off of the stuff. It was when I found out that smokers show signs of aging faster than non-smokers that I decided it was not for me.

These days I don't really mind being around smokers and getting the occasional waft. I will avoid heavy, smoke-filled spaces. So I won't be going to the tobacco bar.

But where does this Taliban-like anti-smoking campaign come from? It can't really be this stuff about second-hand smoke. The famous 1992 Environmental Protection Agency study showing a causal relationship between second-hand smoke and cancer was so roundly debunked as junk science - even by other federal agencies - it was finally declared "null and void" by a federal judge.

Sure, second-hand smoke can be annoying, and it can't be healthful, but if you relegate smokers to their own enclosed space - say a bar or a separate part of a restaurant where people, including staff, only go of their own free will - who can object?

The anti-smoking Taliban, of course.

We are a culture that has been conditioned that we must make no value-judgments about anything that really matters. Adultery, divorce, fornication - isn't that an old-fashioned word - addictions of all sorts, rampant obesity, things that hurt or even kill, that are profoundly destructive, directly or indirectly, to our young people, behaviors that involve moral components and choices - these things are all off the table and rarely are value judgments offered. Most telling, with few exceptions we don't legally try to limit such things.

And if the fellow next door leaves his family for a series of girlfriends, or the mom leaves to "find herself"? We are not to offer a value judgment, and the kids will be fine, don't you know. After all, we don't know what goes on "behind closed doors."

But, if after the no-fault divorce the departed parent comes to pick-up the children and is smoking a cigarette as he or she pulls into the driveway? Watch out - the "Taliban" will swoop down and smugly denounce that mom or dad as a "bad parent."

We are, at our core, moral beings. We want to make appropriate moral value judgments - which is, and should be, different than "condemnation" of others.

But in our culture we no longer dare do so. Worse, we've become a people who don't want to call ourselves to moral standards, to deny our passions, or make choices or sacrifices based on the premise that it's "not all about me." I mean, that's not fun!

So, enter the self-righteous anti-smoking Taliban. Smoking is the stand-in, the scapegoat. It's the one thing, an easy thing, we can dump on. It requires no personal sacrifice, no thoughtful and legitimate value judgments, no change of moral behavior or denial of passions on the part of non-smokers.

We can carelessly condemn smokers, quite literally run them out of town, and feel just delicious about ourselves.

We shouldn't be surprised, then, that there is an inverse relationship between our increasingly "tolerant" culture - and our anti-smoking zealotry.

Hart is the author of "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids - and What to Do About It."

Anti-Smoking Zealots want no smoking in private homes- the final battle begins

BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Scheme puts smoking ban in homes

Breathe easy aims to tackle passive smoking in homes
Smokers in Glasgow are being urged to extend the nationwide smoking ban in public places to their own homes.

A project in the city's east end has seen 50 people sign up to make their homes smoke free since December.

Residents can achieve a gold award by making their home entirely smoke free or silver by having a dedicated ventilated smoking room.

The project aims to protect families and young children from the effects of passive smoking.

It is currently targeting families with children aged under five.

Agnes McGowan, principle health promotion officer (tobacco) with NHS Greater Glasgow, said: "It has been very well received.

"Smoking is normalised in communities and a way to deal with stress.

'Courageous step'

"We say, you can protect your family."

She added: "The smoking ban is significant, I'm absolutely delighted it has been introduced.

"It is a courageous step that will affect all aspects of the community equally."

Glasgow City Council has visited 143 premises since the introduction of the ban.

The local authority didn't issue any penalties but said it was "a little disappointed" at a lack of no smoking notices.

A spokeswoman said: "That's part of the legislation and we'd expect to see a bit more attention by owners to that area over the next few days."

This is the final battle they will fight. At least for smoking. Then they'll move on to something else, like overeating or alcohol.

Anti-Smoking Zealots want no smoking in private homes- the final battle begins

BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Scheme puts smoking ban in homes

Breathe easy aims to tackle passive smoking in homes
Smokers in Glasgow are being urged to extend the nationwide smoking ban in public places to their own homes.

A project in the city's east end has seen 50 people sign up to make their homes smoke free since December.

Residents can achieve a gold award by making their home entirely smoke free or silver by having a dedicated ventilated smoking room.

The project aims to protect families and young children from the effects of passive smoking.

It is currently targeting families with children aged under five.

Agnes McGowan, principle health promotion officer (tobacco) with NHS Greater Glasgow, said: "It has been very well received.

"Smoking is normalised in communities and a way to deal with stress.

'Courageous step'

"We say, you can protect your family."

She added: "The smoking ban is significant, I'm absolutely delighted it has been introduced.

"It is a courageous step that will affect all aspects of the community equally."

Glasgow City Council has visited 143 premises since the introduction of the ban.

The local authority didn't issue any penalties but said it was "a little disappointed" at a lack of no smoking notices.

A spokeswoman said: "That's part of the legislation and we'd expect to see a bit more attention by owners to that area over the next few days."

This is the final battle they will fight. At least for smoking. Then they'll move on to something else, like overeating or alcohol.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Moussaoui Says He Was Part of Plot to Attack White House - New York Times

Moussaoui Says He Was Part of Plot to Attack White House - New York Times

Moussaoui Says He Was Part of Plot to Attack White House

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By DAVID STOUT
Published: March 27, 2006

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 27 — Zacarias Moussaoui testified in Federal District Court here today that he knew of Al Qaeda's plans to fly jetliners into the World Trade Center and that he was to have piloted an airliner into the White House on Sept. 11, 2001.
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Related Text: Case History (U.S. v. Moussaoui)

Taking the stand before the jury that will determine whether he is put to death or spends the rest of his life in prison, Mr. Moussaoui related in calm, measured language that he was to have been accompanied on his death-dive into the White House by Richard C. Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, among others.

But when asked by his lawyer, Gerald T. Zerkin, about what role he had in planning the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, Mr. Moussaoui said, "It's difficult to say for sure what exactly my input was."

And Mr. Moussaoui disputed the suggestion by the chief federal prosecutor, Robert G. Spencer, that he was "a big shot in Al Qaeda," as Mr. Spencer put it in his cross-examination.

"Intermediate," Mr. Moussaoui described himself.

Intelligence officials have long thought that Mr. Moussaoui was in some way going to be involved in an aerial attack, but have never had a clear sense of exactly what his role was to be.

Captured Al Qaeda detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Omar, also known as Ramsi Binalshibh, have portrayed Mr. Moussaoui as a relatively minor figure and said that while there were early discussions of a broader attack, the final plan for Sept. 11 was scaled back to involve only the four planes.

Mr. Moussaoui, whose previous courtroom behavior has sometimes consisted of belligerent ravings, was calm in the early going today. But though he was unemotional, the question of "what might have been" arose almost inevitably from his appearance.

He readily admitted that he lied to investigators after his arrest in Minnesota on immigration charges a few weeks before the attacks because he did not want to plot to be uncovered. And asked by Mr. Spencer whether he eagerly awaited the attacks, he replied, "Yes, you can say that."

Mr. Moussaoui matter-of-factly admitted knowing 17 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, having become acquainted with most of them in Afghanistan, where he said traveled often to confer with Al Qaeda's leaders.

He said, too, that after his arrest he hoped to get out of jail because, as Mr. Spencer put it, he was "in a rush" to get back to his flight-simulator training so that he could eventually fly a big airplane into a target.

"To kill Americans?" Mr. Spencer prodded.

"That's correct," Mr. Moussaoui said, an answer he uttered repeatedly in court as he was asked about keeping secret that he received money from terrorists in Germany and that he deliberately misled F.B.I. agents.

Lawyers for Mr. Moussaoui are trying to show that bungling by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, not their client's deception and secrecy, allowed the Sept. 11 plot to go undetected.

And federal prosecutors are trying to show that, his denials notwithstanding, Mr. Moussaoui knew enough that the plot might very well have been thwarted if only he had come clean in the weeks between his arrest and the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

While there was no way to gauge the effect of his testimony on the jurors, Mr. Moussaoui did in fact seem to confirm much of what the government has been saying about him. He concluded his testimony this afternoon.

Under questioning from his own lawyer, he said he knew roughly when the attacks were to be carried out. "I knew it would happen after August," he said. On the morning of Sept. 11, he recalled watching television to see "the blue sky and the World Trade Center in flames."

His testimony today appeared to provide the first suggestion of a link between Mr. Moussaoui and Mr. Reid in the Sept. 11 plot. Mr. Reid was arrested on Dec. 22, 2001, after he attempted to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes while on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami, and is now serving life in prison.

Mr. Moussaoui said he had declined an early invitation from Al Qaeda to become a suicide pilot but changed his mind and eventually told Osama bin Laden that he was willing.

Asked whether he was to have been the fifth hijacker on the jet that crashed in southwestern Pennsylvania, Mr. Moussaoui told his lawyer, "No, I was not."

The three other jets hijacked on Sept. 11 were each seized by crews of five hijackers, while the one that went down in Pennsylvania was taken over by only four hijackers, who faced a rebellion by the doomed passengers.

"I was supposed to pilot a plane to hit the White House," Mr. Moussaoui said. He added that "one definite member" of his hijacking crew was to have been Mr. Reid.

Investigators have long speculated that the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania had been headed for the White House.

The defendant, who is 37 and spoke in a soft, French-accented voice, said that while he knew that the World Trade Center towers would be a target, he did not know more specifics about the Sept. 11 plot. Asked by his lawyer whether he knew Mohammed Atta, the pilot of the first plane to strike the Twin Towers, Mr. Moussaoui replied, "Yes, indeed."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

ABC News: U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba

ABC News: U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba

N E W Y O R K, May 1, 2001 In the early 1960s, America's top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.

Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.

The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba's then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.

America's top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and, "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."

Details of the plans are described in Body of Secrets (Doubleday), a new book by investigative reporter James Bamford about the history of America's largest spy agency, the National Security Agency. However, the plans were not connected to the agency, he notes.

The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy's defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

"These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing," Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.

[...]

The plans were motivated by an intense desire among senior military leaders to depose Castro, who seized power in 1959 to become the first communist leader in the Western Hemisphere — only 90 miles from U.S. shores.

The earlier CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles had been a disastrous failure, in which the military was not allowed to provide firepower.The military leaders now wanted a shot at it.

"The whole thing was so bizarre," says Bamford, noting public and international support would be needed for an invasion, but apparently neither the American public, nor the Cuban public, wanted to see U.S. troops deployed to drive out Castro.

Reflecting this, the U.S. plan called for establishing prolonged military — not democratic — control over the island nation after the invasion.

"That's what we're supposed to be freeing them from," Bamford says. "The only way we would have succeeded is by doing exactly what the Russians were doing all over the world, by imposing a government by tyranny, basically what we were accusing Castro himself of doing."

'Over the Edge'

The Joint Chiefs at the time were headed by Eisenhower appointee Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, who, with the signed plans in hand made a pitch to McNamara on March 13, 1962, recommending Operation Northwoods be run by the military.

Whether the Joint Chiefs' plans were rejected by McNamara in the meeting is not clear. But three days later, President Kennedy told Lemnitzer directly there was virtually no possibility of ever using overt force to take Cuba, Bamford reports. Within months, Lemnitzer would be denied another term as chairman and transferred to another job.

The secret plans came at a time when there was distrust in the military leadership about their civilian leadership, with leaders in the Kennedy administration viewed as too liberal, insufficiently experienced and soft on communism. At the same time, however, there real were concerns in American society about their military overstepping its bounds.

There were reports U.S. military leaders had encouraged their subordinates to vote conservative during the election.

And at least two popular books were published focusing on a right-wing military leadership pushing the limits against government policy of the day.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee published its own report on right-wing extremism in the military, warning a "considerable danger" in the "education and propaganda activities of military personnel" had been uncovered. The committee even called for an examination of any ties between Lemnitzer and right-wing groups. But Congress didn't get wind of Northwoods, says Bamford.

"Although no one in Congress could have known at the time," he writes, "Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge."

Even after Lemnitzer was gone, he writes, the Joint Chiefs continued to plan "pretext" operations at least through 1963.

One idea was to create a war between Cuba and another Latin American country so that the United States could intervene. Another was to pay someone in the Castro government to attack U.S. forces at the Guantanamo naval base — an act, which Bamford notes, would have amounted to treason. And another was to fly low level U-2 flights over Cuba, with the intention of having one shot down as a pretext for a war.

"There really was a worry at the time about the military going off crazy and they did, but they never succeeded, but it wasn't for lack of trying," he says.

After 40 Years

Ironically, the documents came to light, says Bamford, in part because of the 1992 Oliver Stone film JFK, which examined the possibility of a conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy.

As public interest in the assassination swelled after JFK's release, Congress passed a law designed to increase the public's access to government records related to the assassination.

Ban the smoking bans! :: Scripps Howard News Service

Scripps Howard News Service

Ban the bans

By JAY AMBROSE
Scripps Howard News Service
21-MAR-06

Colorado is joining 12 other states in banning smoking in restaurants and bars, as if customers and workers couldn't decide for themselves if they wanted to spend time where tobacco fumes reside, and as if the owners of these establishments were something less than American citizens whose freedoms should be respected.

The legislators cannot be bothered by such trivialities _ self-accountability, ha! _ because they are too busy pretending they are on a noble life-saving mission. It doesn't dampen their enthusiasm to find they are widely applauded by a majority of their constituents who are non-smokers with easily offended nostrils and who are probably mostly ignorant of the most exhaustive research project ever completed on secondhand smoke.

The study involved 118,000 Californians. It followed their health history for four decades, and was conducted by highly respected scientists and published in the highly respected British Medical Journal. Here is what it said: There is no evidence of a "causal relationship" between "exposure" to tobacco smoke in the air around you and death. A "small effect" cannot be ruled out, the scientists reported, but that's it. Period.

On the other side is a once-ballyhooed 1993 "meta-analysis" _ a study of a number of studies _ by the Environmental Protection Agency. It didn't bother to protect the truth.

Careful commentators and even a court of law concurred that the study violated widely accepted statistical methods to arrive at conclusions the EPA had decided beforehand were in the public's best interests. It did not finally demonstrate that passive smoke causes cancer anymore than some more recent studies have shown that smoking bans in Helena, Mont., and Pueblo, Colo., dramatically decreased heart attacks.

The Helena study has been pretty thoroughly debunked by now. Its sample was tiny, the research effort was anorexic and the study didn't account for a similar decrease in a year prior to the ban. On the face of it, quick and substantial declines in heart attacks after a ban such as the one in Pueblo are much less likely to have a connection with the ban than to be a reflection of normal statistical ups and downs. This probability is brought home by a study of the heart-attack drops after smoking bans in states with a combined population of tens of millions, not in one community of tens of thousands. The finding? There was no overall drop.

Secondhand smoke almost certainly can have deleterious health consequences, but what both common sense and science tell us is that the extent of the threat depends on how concentrated the smoke is and whether you are sucking it in day after day, year after year. On the basis of testing, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it is rare to find a nook or cranny in any workplace with concentrations thick enough to be deemed dangerous.

None of the above is difficult to discover for anyone with access to the Internet and an inclination to get at the facts, raising the question of what might be going on with all these state and community bans, some of which even deny people the chance to light up outside.

It's politics in part _ as legislators know, non-smoking voters love smoke-free zones _ but it is also zealotry and a new Puritanism. Many anti-tobacco crusaders want so badly to waste this weed that they close their eyes to any argument that might get in the way, and great bunches of morally indignant modernists are intent on imposing their sophisticated values on everyone else, one of them being thou shalt not smoke.

People shouldn't, of course, not if they care for their physical well-being and longevity. But while it is fine and good to scorn smoking and to remind people of its cruelties, it is not so good for governments to engage in sledgehammer coerciveness with little or no regard for individual self-determination, and certainly none for what science tells us.

Telling the truth about smoking has caused millions to quit the habit and any number of private concerns to enforce their own restrictions. We don't need political pretense or blind fervor to keep us marching in the direction of a healthier, happier America. Truth will do fine.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Iran's Nuclear Steps Quicken, Diplomats Say - Los Angeles Times

Iran's Nuclear Steps Quicken, Diplomats Say - Los Angeles Times
Iran's Nuclear Steps Quicken, Diplomats Say
Tehran reportedly is gearing up for uranium enrichment. A split in the Security Council may impede efforts to halt the program.
By Alissa J. Rubin and Maggie Farley, Times Staff Writers
March 25, 2006

VIENNA — With efforts to halt its nuclear program at an impasse, Iran is moving faster than expected and is just days from making the first steps toward enriching uranium, said diplomats who have been briefed on the program.

If engineers encounter no major technical problems, Iran could manufacture enough highly enriched uranium to build a bomb within three years, much more quickly than the common estimate of five to 10 years, the diplomats said.

Iran insists that it is interested only in producing electricity, which requires low-grade enrichment of uranium.

New information about Iran's program came from diplomats representing countries on the United Nations Security Council. They were briefed by senior staff of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which maintains monitors in Iran. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the briefing was private.

Even as Iran apparently moves forward, diplomatic efforts to persuade it to halt its nuclear work appeared to be faltering in the face of distrust among powerful Security Council members and disagreements over the best strategy.

"We're getting conflicting signals from the United States; it now appears they want to escalate the situation," said a senior diplomat in Vienna. "The Russians see that as a slippery slope."

Officials said Iran was on the verge of feeding uranium gas into centrifuges, the first step toward enrichment. That move is in keeping with Iran's experience level and its previous statements, experts said.

According to one non-Western official who closely follows Iran's progress, engineers at a pilot plant in Natanz are likely to start crucial testing in the next couple of days to ensure that the centrifuges and the pipes connecting them are properly vacuum sealed. They are likely to begin feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into a series of 164 connected centrifuges within about two weeks, the official said.

Diplomats and experts say Iran has forgone usual testing periods for individual centrifuges and small series of linked centrifuges, instead apparently trying to put together as many as possible, as quickly as possible.

They said Iran also was likely to begin assembling more centrifuges in mid-April to put together additional cascades of linked centrifuges. The pilot plant can hold up to six cascades of 164 centrifuges each. It could take many months to complete that work, the diplomats said.

The U.S. and its British, French and German allies believe Iran intends to build nuclear weapons, and must be stopped before learning how to enrich uranium. They view the ability to operate a series of centrifuges as a technological tipping point.

"If you can do one centrifuge, you can do 164," said Emyr Jones Parry, British envoy to the U.N. "If you can do 164, you probably can do many more. That means you have the potential to do full-scale enrichment. If you can do enrichment up to 7%, you can do 80%. If you can do 80%, you can produce a bomb."

Policymakers watching Iran's program are making two separate assessments: a technical one based on Iran's ability to enrich uranium and a political judgment on whether Iran is attempting to make a bomb or merely trying to enrich uranium to a low level for civilian purposes, as Iranian officials insist.

The three-year time frame for Iran to produce a bomb cited by diplomats is the same as an estimate by former nuclear weapons inspector David Albright.

In a paper that will be released Monday by the Institute for Science and International Security, which Albright founded, he and a colleague give a detailed description of how, under a best-case scenario, Iran would be able to manufacture enough highly enriched uranium for a crude nuclear device in three years. Albright cautioned, however, that Iran faces many technical hurdles it might find difficult to overcome.

Gary S. Samore, a former nonproliferation expert at the National Security Council, now at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, also said it was far more likely that the Iranians would encounter problems and that it could take them four to five years.

If Iran decides to make highly enriched uranium, it would need either to do so clandestinely, or leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which prohibits signatories from producing highly enriched uranium.

The IAEA board of governors reported Iran to the Security Council for failing to respond to requests from inspectors for information about its program, which it kept hidden for 18 years.

All the members of the Security Council agree that Iran should not be permitted to produce a bomb. Under an agreement with Russia and China, the council only began to discuss Tehran's case in mid-March. The next steps are hotly disputed.