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U.S. Weighing Readiness for Military Action Against Iran

     Joint Chiefs Chairman Says US Preparing Military Options Against Iran
     www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/25/AR2008042501480.html

    By Ann Scott Tyson
    The Washington Post

    Saturday 26 April 2008

    The nation’s top military officer said today that the Pentagon is planning for "potential military courses of action" against Iran, criticizing what he called the Tehran government’s "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq.

    Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a conflict with Iran would be "extremely stressing" but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.

    "It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," he said at a Pentagon news conference.

    Still, Mullen made clear that he prefers a diplomatic solution to the tensions with Iran and does not foresee any imminent military action. "I have no expectations that we’re going to get into a conflict with Iran in the immediate future," he said.

    Mullen’s statements and others by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently signal a new rhetorical onslaught by the Bush administration against Iran, amid what officials say is increased Iranian provision of weapons, training and financing to Iraqi groups that are attacking and killing Americans.

    In a speech Monday at West Point, Gates said Iran "is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons." He said a war with Iran would be "disastrous on a number of levels. But the military option must be kept on the table given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat."

    Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, who was nominated this week to head all U.S. forces in the Middle East, is preparing a briefing soon to lay out detailed evidence of increased Iranian involvement in Iraq, Mullen said. The briefing will detail, for example, the discovery in Iraq of weapons that were very recently manufactured in Iran, he said.

    "The Iranian government pledged to halt such activities some months ago. It’s plainly obvious they have not. Indeed, they seem to have gone the other way," Mullen said.

    He said recent unrest in the southern Iraqi city of Basra had highlighted a "level of involvement" by Iran that had not been understood by the U.S. military previously. "It became very, very visible in ways that we hadn’t seen before," he said.

    But while Mullen and Gates have recently stated that Tehran must know of Iranian actions in Iraq, which they say are led by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Mullen said he has "no smoking gun which could prove that the highest leadership [of Iran] is involved in this."

    In an incident early local time yesterday, a cargo ship contracted by the U.S. military fired "several bursts" of warning shots at two fast boats that approached in international waters off the Iranian coast, defense officials said today.

    The unidentified small boats approached the Westward Venture, a ship carrying U.S. military hardware, as it headed north through the central Persian Gulf at about 8 a.m. local time, said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, spokeswoman for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain.

    The U.S. ship initiated bridge-to-bridge communications, and, after receiving no response, it fired a flare. The speed boats continued to approach, so the ship fired warning shots with a .50-caliber machine gun and M16 rifle. The boats then left the area, she said.

    "They fired several bursts, it went pretty quickly," Robertson said.

    Soon afterwards, an Iranian coast guard boat queried the Western Venture, Robertson said. It was unclear whether that was one of the small boats.

    "There have been some Iranian boats that have operated this way, and some unidentified boats," said Robertson, adding that the crew had no voice communication with the small boats.

    In January, five Iranian patrol boats sped toward a U.S. warship and dropped small, boxlike objects in the water, an incident that alarmed military officials and that President Bush called "a provocative act." The objects turned out to pose no threat to the USS Port Royal or two other U.S. vessels accompanying it.

Acquittals in groom’s shooting spark outrage

NEW YORK (CNN) — Nicole Paultre Bell bolted from the courtroom as a judge acquitted three New York City detectives of all charges Friday in the shooting death of her fiance.

art.protesters.ap.jpg

Protesters react Friday to the verdict in the Sean Bell case outside of the Queens County Criminal Courts Building.

"I’ve got to get out of here," Paultre Bell said.

Justice Arthur Cooperman was announcing the verdict clearing Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment in the death of Sean Bell.

Detective Marc Cooper was cleared of reckless endangerment.

Bell, 23, died in November 2006 in a 50-bullet barrage hours before he was to be married. Two of his companions were wounded in the gunfire outside a Queens nightclub.

"This case was not about justice," declared Leroy Gadsden, chair of the police/community relations committee of the Jamaica Branch NAACP. "This case was about the police having a right to be above the law. If the law was in effect here, if the judge had followed the law truly, these officers would have been found guilty. …

"This court, unfortunately, is bankrupt when it comes to justice for people of color." Video Watch Gadsden denounce the verdict »

Patrick Lynch, president of the New York Police Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said "there’s no winners, there’s no losers" in the case.

"We still have a death that occurred. We still have police officers that have to live with the fact that there was a death involved in their case," Lynch said.

But, he added, the verdict assured police officers that they will be treated fairly in New York’s courts.

Many people outside the courthouse saw it differently.

"You can’t be proud of wearing that hat. You can’t be proud of wearing that badge," a black woman shouted at a black police officer. "You must stop working for the masters! Stand down! Stop working for the masters!"

"Fifty shots is murder. I don’t care what you say. That’s what it is," another woman said. Video Watch the commotion outside the courthouse »

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been advising Bell’s fiancee and family, left the courthouse about an hour after the verdict without making a public statement. He had called for calm Wednesday.

Despite the evident anger and a brief fistfight, the crowd remained generally orderly.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement saying, "An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father, and a mother and a father lost their son. No verdict could ever end the grief that those who knew and loved Sean Bell suffer."

However, he said, the legal system must be respected.

"America is a nation of laws, and though not everyone will agree with the verdicts and opinions issued by the courts, we accept their authority."

Bloomberg also said he had spoken briefly with Paultre Bell on Wednesday and agreed with her on the need to ensure similar incidents would not occur in the future.

Queens County District Attorney echoed the mayor’s sentiments.

"I accept his verdict and I urge certainly that all fair-minded people in this city to the same," Brown said.

"The public debate as to what occurred raised very important issues with regard to current law enforcement practices and police community relations that require careful examination. …

"The bottom line is that all of us working together — the law enforcement community, our elected public officials, our individuals who are involved — have got to make certain that that which occurred … is never again repeated."

In announcing the verdict, Cooperman said he found problems with the prosecution’s case. He said some prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves, and he cited prior convictions and incarcerations of witnesses.

"At times, the testimony just didn’t make sense," Cooperman said, according to a transcript released by his office.

He also cited the demeanor of some witnesses on the stand.

Bell was killed just before dawn on his wedding day, November 25, 2006. He and several friends were winding up an all-night bachelor party at the Kalua Club in Queens, a strip club that was under investigation by a NYPD undercover unit looking into complaints of guns, drugs and prostitution.

Undercover detectives were inside the club, and plainclothes officers were stationed outside.

Witnesses said that about 4 a.m., closing time, as Bell and his friends left the club, an argument broke out. Believing that one of Bell’s friends, Joseph Guzman, was going to get a gun from Bell’s car, one of the undercover detectives followed the men and called for backup.

What happened next was at the heart of the trial, prosecuted by the assistant district attorney in Queens.

Bell, Guzman and Trent Benefield got into the car, with Bell at the wheel. The detectives drew their weapons, said Guzman and Benefield, who testified that they never heard the plainclothes detectives identify themselves as police.

Bell was in a panic to get away from the armed men, his friends testified.

But the detectives thought Bell was trying to run down one of them, believed that their lives were in danger and started shooting, according to their lawyers.

A total of 50 bullets were fired by five NYPD officers. Only three were charged with crimes.

No gun was found near Bell or his friends.

Soon after his death, Bell’s fiancee, Nicole Paultre, legally changed her name to Nicole Paultre Bell. She is raising the couple’s two daughters, ages 5 and 1.

"I tell [them] that Daddy’s in heaven now," she said. "He’s watching over us. He’s our guardian angel. He’s going to be here to protect us and make sure nothing happens to us."

Paultre Bell, Guzman and Benefield have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court that has been stayed pending the outcome of the criminal trial.

Federal prosecutors will conduct a review to determine whether there were any civil rights violations, Brown said

Pro-Israel group’s plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia

Pro-Israel group’s plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia

Global Research, April 24, 2008
The Electronic Intifada

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A pro-Israel pressure group is orchestrating a secret, long-term campaign to infiltrate the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia to rewrite Palestinian history, pass off crude propaganda as fact, and take over Wikipedia administrative structures to ensure these changes go either undetected or unchallenged.

A series of emails by members and associates of the pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), provided to The Electronic Intifada (EI), indicate the group is engaged in what one activist termed a "war" on Wikipedia.

A 13 March action alert signed by Gilead Ini, a "Senior Research Analyst" at CAMERA, calls for "volunteers who can work as ‘editors’ to ensure" that Israel-related articles on Wikipedia are "free of bias and error, and include necessary facts and context." However, subsequent communications indicate that the group not only wanted to keep the effort secret from the media, the public, and Wikipedia administrators, but that the material they intended to introduce included discredited claims that could smear Palestinians and Muslims and conceal Israel’s true history.

With over two million articles in English on every topic imaginable, Wikipedia has become a primary reference source for Internet users around the world and a model for collaboratively produced projects. Openness and good faith are among Wikipedia’s core principles. Any person in the world can write or edit articles, but Wikipedia has strict guidelines and procedures for accountability intended to ensure quality control and prevent vandalism, plagiarism or distortion. It is because of these safeguards that articles on key elements of the Palestine-Israel conflict have generally remained well-referenced, useful and objective. The CAMERA plan detailed in the e-mails obtained by EI appears intended to circumvent these controls.

In the past, CAMERA has gained notoriety for its tactic of accusing virtually anyone who does not toe a right-wing pro-Israel line of bias. The group has even accused editors and reporters of the Israeli daily Haaretz of being "extreme" and participating in "radical anti-Israel activity." Jeffrey Dvorkin, the former ombudsman of National Public Radio (NPR), frequently criticized by CAMERA for an alleged pro-Palestinian bias, wrote on the web publication Salon in February 2008 that "as a consequence of its campaign against NPR, CAMERA acted as the enabler for some seriously disturbed people," citing persistent telephone threats he received in the wake of CAMERA campaigns.

Need for stealth and secrecy

Throughout the documents EI obtained, CAMERA operatives stress the need for stealth and secrecy. In his initial action alert, Ini requests that recipients "not forward it to members of the news media." In a 17 March follow-up email sent to volunteers, Ini explains that he wants to make the orchestrated effort appear to be the work of unaffiliated individuals. Thus he advises that "There is no need to advertise the fact that we have these group discussions."

Anticipating possible objections to CAMERA’s scheme, Ini conjectures that "Anti-Israel editors will seize on anything to try to discredit people who attempt to challenge their problematic assertions, and will be all too happy to pretend, and announce, that a ‘Zionist’ cabal (the same one that controls the banks and Hollywood?) is trying to hijack Wikipedia."

But stealth and misrepresentation are presented as the keys to success. Ini suggests that after volunteers sign up as editors for Wikipedia they should "avoid editing Israel-related articles for a short period of time." This strategy is intended to "avoid the appearance of being one-topic editors," thus attracting unwanted attention.

Ini counsels that volunteers "might also want to avoid, for obvious reasons, picking a user name that marks you as pro-Israel, or that lets people know your real name." To further conceal the identity of CAMERA-organized editors, Ini warns, "don’t forget to always log in before making [edits]. If you make changes while not logged in, Wikipedia will record your computer’s IP address" — a number that allows identification of the location of a computer connected to the Internet.

A veteran Wikipedia editor, known as "Zeq," who according to the emails is colluding with CAMERA, also provided advice to CAMERA volunteers on how they could disguise their agenda. In a 20 March email often in misspelled English, Zeq writes, "You don’t want to be precived [sic] as a ‘CAMERA’ defender’ on wikipedia [sic] that is for sure." One strategy to avoid that is to "edit articles at random, make friends not enemies — we will need them later on. This is a marathon not a sprint."

Zeq also identifies, in a 25 March email, another Wikipedia editor, "Jayjg," whom he views as an effective and independent pro-Israel advocate. Zeq instructs CAMERA operatives to work with and learn from Jayjg, but not to reveal the existence of their group even to him fearing "it would place him in a bind" since "[h]e is very loyal to the wikipedia [sic] system" and might object to CAMERA’s underhanded tactics.

"Uninvolved administrators"

The emphasis on secrecy is apparently not only to aid the undetected editing of articles, but also to facilitate CAMERA’s takeover of key administrator positions in Wikipedia.

For Zeq a key goal is to have CAMERA operatives elected as administrators — senior editors who can override the decisions of others when controversies arise. When disputes arise about hotly contested topics, such as Israel and Palestine, often only an "uninvolved administrator" — one who is considered neutral because he or she has not edited or written articles on the topic — can arbitrate.

Hence, Zeq advises in a 21 March email that "One or more of you who want to take this route should stay away from any Israel realted [sic] articles for one month until they [sic] interact in a positive way with 100 wikipedia [sic] editors who would be used later to vote you as an administrator."

Once these CAMERA operatives have successfully infiltrated as "neutral" editors, they could then exercise their privileges to assert their own political agenda.

In addition, Zeq suggests making deliberately provocative edits to Palestine-related articles. He hopes that editors he assumes are Palestinian will delete these changes, and then CAMERA operatives could report them to administrators so they could be sanctioned and have their editing privileges suspended.

Passing propaganda as fact

Gilead Ini’s 17 March email provides specific advice on how to pass off pro-Israel propaganda or opinion as fact meeting Wikipedia’s strict guidelines:

"So, for example, imagine that you get rid of or modify a problematic sentence in an article alleging that ‘Palestinian [sic] become suicide bombers to respond to Israel’s oppressive policies.’ You should, in parallel leave a comment on that article’s discussion page (either after or before making the change). Avoid defending the edit by arguing that ‘Israel’s policies aren’t ‘oppression,’ they are defensive. And anyway Palestinians obviously become suicide bombers for other reasons for example hate education!’ Instead, describe how this sentence violates Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines. One of the core principles is that assertions should adhere to a Neutral Point of View, usually abbreviated NPOV. (The opposite of NPOV is POV, or Point of View, which is basically another way of saying subjective statement, or opinion.) So it would be best to note on the discussion page that ‘This sentence violates Wikipedia’s NPOV policy, since the description of Israel’s policies as ‘oppressive’ is an opinion. In addition, it is often noted by Middle East experts that one of the reasons Palestinians decide to become suicide bombers is hate education and glorification of martyrdom in Palestinian society …’"

In fact, there have been numerous studies debunking claims about Palestinian "hate education," or "glorification of martyrdom" causing suicide bombings (such as Dying to Win by University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape) though this claim remains a favorite canard of pro-Israel activists seeking to distract attention from the effects of Israel’s occupation and other well-documented and systematic human rights abuses in fueling violence.

Zeq specifically names articles targeted for this kind of treatment including those on the 1948 Palestinian Exodus, Causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, Hamas, Hizballah, Arab citizens of Israel, anti-Zionism, al-Nakba, the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian right of return.

Interestingly the CAMERA editors also target the article on the early Islamic period concept of Dhimmi, a protected status for non-Muslims which historically allowed Jews to thrive in Muslim-ruled lands while other Jews were being persecuted in Christian Europe. Pro-Israel activists have often tried to portray the concept of Dhimmi as akin to the Nuremberg laws in order to denigrate Muslim culture and justify ahistorical Zionist claims that Jews could never live safely in majority Muslim countries.

Also among the emails is a discussion about how to alter the article on the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the village of Deir Yassin by Zionist militiamen on 9 April 1948. Unable to debunk the facts of the massacre outright, the CAMERA activists hunt for quotes from "reputable historians" who can cast doubt on it. Their strategy is not dissimilar from those who attempt to present evolution, or global climate change as "controversial" regardless of the weight of the scientific evidence, simply because the facts do not accord with their belief system.

Zeq has already made extensive edits to the Wikipedia article on Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist murdered by an Israeli soldier in the occupied Gaza Strip on 16 March 2003. As a result of these and other edits Zeq has himself been a controversial figure among Wikipedia editors, suggesting his own stealth tactics may not be working.

"We will go to war"

Zeq, however, counsels CAMERA operatives to be patient and lie low until they build up their strength. "We will go to war after we have build our army, equiped it trained [sic]," he wrote on 9 April. "So please if you want to win this war help us build ou[r] army. let’s not just rush in and achieve nothing, or abit more than nothing [sic]."

Update 22 April 2008

A plan by the pro-Israel pressure group CAMERA to skew the online encyclopedia Wikipedia in a pro-Israel direction appears to have collapsed after it was exposed by EI.

On 21 April, EI published emails and action alerts posted by CAMERA staff and collaborators on a closed listserv instructing would-be editors how to game the Wikipedia system so they could impose their hard-line pro-Israel agenda undetected.

Following EI’s report, Gilead Ini a CAMERA staffer and Wikipedia editor informed members of the group that, "Because member of this group [sic] affiliated with the anti-Israel propaganda cite [sic] Electronic Intifada decided to share the content of our discussions, I will be temporarily or permanently closing access to the group, in hopes that members’ personal contact information will not be made public."

Meanwhile, Wikipedia administrators issued a ban on Zeq, the editor who was helping CAMERA to groom new editors to subvert Wikipedia’s quality control process. Zeq has been prohibited from editing Israel-Palestine related articles and administrators were debating further action. Based on the evidence in the emails released by EI, Wikipedia administrators accused Zeq of violating fundamental Wikipedia principles and guidelines. In response, Zeq alleged that the accusations were merely the result of a "conspiracy" which he termed "The (e-mail) protocols of the elder of CAMERA [sic]." Zeq even alleged that The EI itself "may have created the story or created the group or spoofed e-mails."

Today EI publishes additional emails that further expose the CAMERA plan. These emails also reveal that while Zeq is willing to accuse others of prejudice he may hold some himself. In one email he commends an editor whom he considers to be "anti-Islamic." And, in an echo of the kind of anti-Semitic thinking that CAMERA sees everywhere, Zeq alleges that "the other side" — an apparent reference to Palestinians and Muslims — "is orgenized well, they control wkipedia [sic]."

Information obtained by EI indicates that while Gilead Ini claimed that more than 50 volunteers had come forward to participate in CAMERA’s plan, and the group had set its sights on creating dozens of new editors and administrators over a long period of time, fewer than a dozen were active at the time EI exposed the scheme. Because the effort was apparently in its early stages, only a handful had become active as Wikipedia editors.

Pro-Israel group’s plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia

Pro-Israel group’s plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia

Global Research, April 24, 2008
The Electronic Intifada

Email this article to a friend
Print this article

A pro-Israel pressure group is orchestrating a secret, long-term campaign to infiltrate the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia to rewrite Palestinian history, pass off crude propaganda as fact, and take over Wikipedia administrative structures to ensure these changes go either undetected or unchallenged.

A series of emails by members and associates of the pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), provided to The Electronic Intifada (EI), indicate the group is engaged in what one activist termed a "war" on Wikipedia.

A 13 March action alert signed by Gilead Ini, a "Senior Research Analyst" at CAMERA, calls for "volunteers who can work as ‘editors’ to ensure" that Israel-related articles on Wikipedia are "free of bias and error, and include necessary facts and context." However, subsequent communications indicate that the group not only wanted to keep the effort secret from the media, the public, and Wikipedia administrators, but that the material they intended to introduce included discredited claims that could smear Palestinians and Muslims and conceal Israel’s true history.

With over two million articles in English on every topic imaginable, Wikipedia has become a primary reference source for Internet users around the world and a model for collaboratively produced projects. Openness and good faith are among Wikipedia’s core principles. Any person in the world can write or edit articles, but Wikipedia has strict guidelines and procedures for accountability intended to ensure quality control and prevent vandalism, plagiarism or distortion. It is because of these safeguards that articles on key elements of the Palestine-Israel conflict have generally remained well-referenced, useful and objective. The CAMERA plan detailed in the e-mails obtained by EI appears intended to circumvent these controls.

In the past, CAMERA has gained notoriety for its tactic of accusing virtually anyone who does not toe a right-wing pro-Israel line of bias. The group has even accused editors and reporters of the Israeli daily Haaretz of being "extreme" and participating in "radical anti-Israel activity." Jeffrey Dvorkin, the former ombudsman of National Public Radio (NPR), frequently criticized by CAMERA for an alleged pro-Palestinian bias, wrote on the web publication Salon in February 2008 that "as a consequence of its campaign against NPR, CAMERA acted as the enabler for some seriously disturbed people," citing persistent telephone threats he received in the wake of CAMERA campaigns.

Need for stealth and secrecy

Throughout the documents EI obtained, CAMERA operatives stress the need for stealth and secrecy. In his initial action alert, Ini requests that recipients "not forward it to members of the news media." In a 17 March follow-up email sent to volunteers, Ini explains that he wants to make the orchestrated effort appear to be the work of unaffiliated individuals. Thus he advises that "There is no need to advertise the fact that we have these group discussions."

Anticipating possible objections to CAMERA’s scheme, Ini conjectures that "Anti-Israel editors will seize on anything to try to discredit people who attempt to challenge their problematic assertions, and will be all too happy to pretend, and announce, that a ‘Zionist’ cabal (the same one that controls the banks and Hollywood?) is trying to hijack Wikipedia."

But stealth and misrepresentation are presented as the keys to success. Ini suggests that after volunteers sign up as editors for Wikipedia they should "avoid editing Israel-related articles for a short period of time." This strategy is intended to "avoid the appearance of being one-topic editors," thus attracting unwanted attention.

Ini counsels that volunteers "might also want to avoid, for obvious reasons, picking a user name that marks you as pro-Israel, or that lets people know your real name." To further conceal the identity of CAMERA-organized editors, Ini warns, "don’t forget to always log in before making [edits]. If you make changes while not logged in, Wikipedia will record your computer’s IP address" — a number that allows identification of the location of a computer connected to the Internet.

A veteran Wikipedia editor, known as "Zeq," who according to the emails is colluding with CAMERA, also provided advice to CAMERA volunteers on how they could disguise their agenda. In a 20 March email often in misspelled English, Zeq writes, "You don’t want to be precived [sic] as a ‘CAMERA’ defender’ on wikipedia [sic] that is for sure." One strategy to avoid that is to "edit articles at random, make friends not enemies — we will need them later on. This is a marathon not a sprint."

Zeq also identifies, in a 25 March email, another Wikipedia editor, "Jayjg," whom he views as an effective and independent pro-Israel advocate. Zeq instructs CAMERA operatives to work with and learn from Jayjg, but not to reveal the existence of their group even to him fearing "it would place him in a bind" since "[h]e is very loyal to the wikipedia [sic] system" and might object to CAMERA’s underhanded tactics.

"Uninvolved administrators"

The emphasis on secrecy is apparently not only to aid the undetected editing of articles, but also to facilitate CAMERA’s takeover of key administrator positions in Wikipedia.

For Zeq a key goal is to have CAMERA operatives elected as administrators — senior editors who can override the decisions of others when controversies arise. When disputes arise about hotly contested topics, such as Israel and Palestine, often only an "uninvolved administrator" — one who is considered neutral because he or she has not edited or written articles on the topic — can arbitrate.

Hence, Zeq advises in a 21 March email that "One or more of you who want to take this route should stay away from any Israel realted [sic] articles for one month until they [sic] interact in a positive way with 100 wikipedia [sic] editors who would be used later to vote you as an administrator."

Once these CAMERA operatives have successfully infiltrated as "neutral" editors, they could then exercise their privileges to assert their own political agenda.

In addition, Zeq suggests making deliberately provocative edits to Palestine-related articles. He hopes that editors he assumes are Palestinian will delete these changes, and then CAMERA operatives could report them to administrators so they could be sanctioned and have their editing privileges suspended.

Passing propaganda as fact

Gilead Ini’s 17 March email provides specific advice on how to pass off pro-Israel propaganda or opinion as fact meeting Wikipedia’s strict guidelines:

"So, for example, imagine that you get rid of or modify a problematic sentence in an article alleging that ‘Palestinian [sic] become suicide bombers to respond to Israel’s oppressive policies.’ You should, in parallel leave a comment on that article’s discussion page (either after or before making the change). Avoid defending the edit by arguing that ‘Israel’s policies aren’t ‘oppression,’ they are defensive. And anyway Palestinians obviously become suicide bombers for other reasons for example hate education!’ Instead, describe how this sentence violates Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines. One of the core principles is that assertions should adhere to a Neutral Point of View, usually abbreviated NPOV. (The opposite of NPOV is POV, or Point of View, which is basically another way of saying subjective statement, or opinion.) So it would be best to note on the discussion page that ‘This sentence violates Wikipedia’s NPOV policy, since the description of Israel’s policies as ‘oppressive’ is an opinion. In addition, it is often noted by Middle East experts that one of the reasons Palestinians decide to become suicide bombers is hate education and glorification of martyrdom in Palestinian society …’"

In fact, there have been numerous studies debunking claims about Palestinian "hate education," or "glorification of martyrdom" causing suicide bombings (such as Dying to Win by University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape) though this claim remains a favorite canard of pro-Israel activists seeking to distract attention from the effects of Israel’s occupation and other well-documented and systematic human rights abuses in fueling violence.

Zeq specifically names articles targeted for this kind of treatment including those on the 1948 Palestinian Exodus, Causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, Hamas, Hizballah, Arab citizens of Israel, anti-Zionism, al-Nakba, the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian right of return.

Interestingly the CAMERA editors also target the article on the early Islamic period concept of Dhimmi, a protected status for non-Muslims which historically allowed Jews to thrive in Muslim-ruled lands while other Jews were being persecuted in Christian Europe. Pro-Israel activists have often tried to portray the concept of Dhimmi as akin to the Nuremberg laws in order to denigrate Muslim culture and justify ahistorical Zionist claims that Jews could never live safely in majority Muslim countries.

Also among the emails is a discussion about how to alter the article on the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the village of Deir Yassin by Zionist militiamen on 9 April 1948. Unable to debunk the facts of the massacre outright, the CAMERA activists hunt for quotes from "reputable historians" who can cast doubt on it. Their strategy is not dissimilar from those who attempt to present evolution, or global climate change as "controversial" regardless of the weight of the scientific evidence, simply because the facts do not accord with their belief system.

Zeq has already made extensive edits to the Wikipedia article on Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist murdered by an Israeli soldier in the occupied Gaza Strip on 16 March 2003. As a result of these and other edits Zeq has himself been a controversial figure among Wikipedia editors, suggesting his own stealth tactics may not be working.

"We will go to war"

Zeq, however, counsels CAMERA operatives to be patient and lie low until they build up their strength. "We will go to war after we have build our army, equiped it trained [sic]," he wrote on 9 April. "So please if you want to win this war help us build ou[r] army. let’s not just rush in and achieve nothing, or abit more than nothing [sic]."

Update 22 April 2008

A plan by the pro-Israel pressure group CAMERA to skew the online encyclopedia Wikipedia in a pro-Israel direction appears to have collapsed after it was exposed by EI.

On 21 April, EI published emails and action alerts posted by CAMERA staff and collaborators on a closed listserv instructing would-be editors how to game the Wikipedia system so they could impose their hard-line pro-Israel agenda undetected.

Following EI’s report, Gilead Ini a CAMERA staffer and Wikipedia editor informed members of the group that, "Because member of this group [sic] affiliated with the anti-Israel propaganda cite [sic] Electronic Intifada decided to share the content of our discussions, I will be temporarily or permanently closing access to the group, in hopes that members’ personal contact information will not be made public."

Meanwhile, Wikipedia administrators issued a ban on Zeq, the editor who was helping CAMERA to groom new editors to subvert Wikipedia’s quality control process. Zeq has been prohibited from editing Israel-Palestine related articles and administrators were debating further action. Based on the evidence in the emails released by EI, Wikipedia administrators accused Zeq of violating fundamental Wikipedia principles and guidelines. In response, Zeq alleged that the accusations were merely the result of a "conspiracy" which he termed "The (e-mail) protocols of the elder of CAMERA [sic]." Zeq even alleged that The EI itself "may have created the story or created the group or spoofed e-mails."

Today EI publishes additional emails that further expose the CAMERA plan. These emails also reveal that while Zeq is willing to accuse others of prejudice he may hold some himself. In one email he commends an editor whom he considers to be "anti-Islamic." And, in an echo of the kind of anti-Semitic thinking that CAMERA sees everywhere, Zeq alleges that "the other side" — an apparent reference to Palestinians and Muslims — "is orgenized well, they control wkipedia [sic]."

Information obtained by EI indicates that while Gilead Ini claimed that more than 50 volunteers had come forward to participate in CAMERA’s plan, and the group had set its sights on creating dozens of new editors and administrators over a long period of time, fewer than a dozen were active at the time EI exposed the scheme. Because the effort was apparently in its early stages, only a handful had become active as Wikipedia editors.

Science fiction inspires DARPA weapon

 

The late Arthur C Clarke is famous for having popularised the geostationary communications satellite in 1945. Now the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working to turn one of his more dangerous ideas into reality.

Clarke’s 1955 novel Earthlight climaxes in battle between a lunar fortress and three attacking spacecraft. At the height of the battle the defending commander unleashes "The Stiletto", which resembles "a solid bar of light" and pierces one spacecraft "as an entomologist pierces a butterfly with a pin."

Clarke’s Stiletto is actually: "a jet of molten metal, hurled through space at several hundred kilometres per second by the most powerful electro-magnets ever built."

Now DARPA are working on a weapon called MAHEM – Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition – that uses the same principle as Clarke’s fictional device.

Using magnetic fields it will propel either a narrow jet of molten metal or a chunk of molten metal that morphs into an aerodynamic slug during flight. Unlike Clarke’s Stiletto, they will come from a device that generates a powerful electromagnetic field from an explosion, not giant capacitors.

The concept resembles existing weapons which use an explosive charge to squirt out a jet of high-velocity molten metal on impact. Known as High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT), this type of round has been widely used since the WWII bazooka.

Like HEAT devices, MAHEM is currently envisaged as something delivered by a warhead rather than a cannon: "MAHEM could be packaged into a missile, projectile or other platform and delivered close to target for final engagement and kill," says DARPA.

MAHEM would apparently be useful against tanks and other missiles. And who knows, it might even work against spaceships. Notch up another one to Clarke – but here’s hoping his next idea to see reality is less hazardous to health.

David Hambling, New Scientist contributor

 

Local U.S. citizens stopped at airports repeatedly and don’t know why

Men score victory in legal fight over terror list
‘STATE SECRETS’ | Local U.S. citizens stopped at airports repeatedly — and don’t know why
www.suntimes.com/news/metro/912776,CST-NWS-secret24.article

April 24, 2008
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BY ANDREW HERRMANN Staff Reporter/aherrmann@suntimes.com

For software exec Akif Rahman of Wheaton and Bridgeview filmmaker Oussama Jammal, international travel carries more than just the usual hassles.

Rahman, who was born in Springfield, and Jammal, a U.S. citizen since 2001, have been stopped separately by U.S. authorities more than a dozen times. In one instance, Rahman says, he was shackled to a chair for three hours at the Detroit-Windsor crossing while his wife and two children were kept in another room.

They’re not terrorists, they say. But something is causing them to be flagged as such.

The two — and six other U.S. citizens with Middle Eastern or south Asian ancestry who have been repeatedly stopped — are hoping their ordeal may be coming to an end following a recent federal court ruling here.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to say whether Rahman, Jammal and the other plaintiffs are on the Terrorist Screening Database watchlist — a disclosure authorities have argued could compromise national security. The judge will also look at FBI files and decide whether Rahman, Jammal and the others may see them.

Federal authorities have asked for an extension and the case may, through appeals, continue to wind its way through the courts for some time. But the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the plaintiffs, is declaring the judge’s ruling a blow against what the group sees as the Bush administration’s abuse of its "state secrets" privilege.

ACLU attorney Harvey Grossman said he believes the eight either share the same name and birthdate with someone on the watchlist or are improperly classified as serious threats. In his ruling, Schenkier noted that, by and large, the government has a right to protect the secrecy of the terrorist watch list but that in this case, authorities, in letters to congressmen about the plaintiff’s cases, undercut their argument.

Rahman said even with the lawsuit, he keeps getting detained. He was pulled aside and questioned for about 15 minutes three weeks ago at O’Hare and in March he was detained at Los Angeles International Airport for an hour and a half. That incident, which occurred on a return from Hong Kong, caused him to miss his flight home to Chicago.

After a family vacation in Mexico, he, his wife and two young children were escorted from the plane at O’Hare. "It’s troubling to have my little kids see that and have that as memory,” said Rahman.

Both businessmen feel abused.

"If there’s anything there, they should tell us or otherwise it’s simply discrimination against an American citizen," said Jammal, whose Fine Media Group film company makes educational cartoons for Muslim children.

The government has said revealing who is on the watchlist could cause would-be terrorists to change their names or alter their approach.

Jammal, who is from Lebanon, said all Americans "have a great stake in this."

"We’ve discriminated against the Japanese and the Germans and the Irish and the Jews and the blacks. Now it’s the Arabs and Muslims. Tomorrow, we don’t know who will be next,” said Jammal.

Six Suspects Will Be Tried a Third Time in Sears Plot

Six Suspects Will Be Tried a Third Time in Sears Plot

Article Tools Sponsored By
By CARMEN GENTILE
Published: April 24, 2008
www.nytimes.com/2008/04/24/us/24miami.html

MIAMI — Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that they would try for a third time to convict six men accused of conspiring to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago and join the ranks of Al Qaeda.

Judge Joan A. Lenard said the next trial would proceed in “the late fall or early winter.”

In the previous trials, government lawyers contended that the men — Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Burson Augustine, Rotschild Augustine, Naudimar Herrera and Stanley G. Phanor — wanted to wage a “ground war” against American citizens and had pledged their loyalty for Islamic extremism to F.B.I. informants posing as members of Al Qaeda.

Defense lawyers asserted that their clients had been goaded into making radical remarks and vows of allegiance by the informants. Testimony in the trials revealed that an F.B.I. search of the group’s headquarters in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami yielded no weapons or evidence of preparation for a large-scale attack.

In his appeal for a third trial, the prosecutor Richard Gregorie recalled how Mr. Batiste had been heard in taped conversations saying he “wanted to kill all the devils,” a reference to Americans, prosecutors say. “The United States has decided it is necessary to proceed one more time,” Mr. Gregorie said.

At the first trial, which ended in December 2007, a seventh defendant, Lyglenson Lemorin, was acquitted, and the jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision about the remaining six. A second trial ended last week with jurors again unable to decide.

On Tuesday, Mr. Herrera was released on $50,000 bond. Rotschild Augustine, an illegal immigrant, was denied bond. The other four had not filed applications for bond.

Prof. Jonathan Turley of George Washington Law School, a critic of the Bush administration’s handling of terrorism-related cases, said that by seeking a new trial the government was hoping to justify “previous headlines” about evidence — including wiretaps and informant reports — presented by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales after the suspects’ arrest in June 2006.

“These are the types of prosecutors Las Vegas is built on,” Mr. Turley said. “They keep returning to the table with the same losing hand.”

Six Suspects Will Be Tried a Third Time in Sears Plot

Six Suspects Will Be Tried a Third Time in Sears Plot

Article Tools Sponsored By
By CARMEN GENTILE
Published: April 24, 2008
www.nytimes.com/2008/04/24/us/24miami.html

MIAMI — Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that they would try for a third time to convict six men accused of conspiring to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago and join the ranks of Al Qaeda.

Judge Joan A. Lenard said the next trial would proceed in “the late fall or early winter.”

In the previous trials, government lawyers contended that the men — Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Burson Augustine, Rotschild Augustine, Naudimar Herrera and Stanley G. Phanor — wanted to wage a “ground war” against American citizens and had pledged their loyalty for Islamic extremism to F.B.I. informants posing as members of Al Qaeda.

Defense lawyers asserted that their clients had been goaded into making radical remarks and vows of allegiance by the informants. Testimony in the trials revealed that an F.B.I. search of the group’s headquarters in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami yielded no weapons or evidence of preparation for a large-scale attack.

In his appeal for a third trial, the prosecutor Richard Gregorie recalled how Mr. Batiste had been heard in taped conversations saying he “wanted to kill all the devils,” a reference to Americans, prosecutors say. “The United States has decided it is necessary to proceed one more time,” Mr. Gregorie said.

At the first trial, which ended in December 2007, a seventh defendant, Lyglenson Lemorin, was acquitted, and the jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision about the remaining six. A second trial ended last week with jurors again unable to decide.

On Tuesday, Mr. Herrera was released on $50,000 bond. Rotschild Augustine, an illegal immigrant, was denied bond. The other four had not filed applications for bond.

Prof. Jonathan Turley of George Washington Law School, a critic of the Bush administration’s handling of terrorism-related cases, said that by seeking a new trial the government was hoping to justify “previous headlines” about evidence — including wiretaps and informant reports — presented by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales after the suspects’ arrest in June 2006.

“These are the types of prosecutors Las Vegas is built on,” Mr. Turley said. “They keep returning to the table with the same losing hand.”

Global fluoride and arsenic contamination of water mapped

Global fluoride and arsenic contamination of water mapped

23 April 2008
www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2008/April/23040801.asp#

Swiss researchers have mapped the levels of arsenic and fluoride in groundwater throughout the world. They hope this new global picture will provide a starting point for planning future drinking water projects, and help to avoid water contamination in developing countries. 

The team, led by Annette Johnson from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, combined geochemistry with statistics to create the maps. With existing measurements of fluoride and arsenic concentrations, along with data on ground conditions and climate, they were able to develop a model to estimate the concentrations of both elements.

Manouchehr Amini, one of the authors of the study explains that the maps are not definitive guides to global groundwater contamination, but provide an initial reference point, highlighting areas that should be tested before new wells are sunk.

Global probability of geogenic arsenic contamination in groundwater for (a) reducing conditions, and (b) high-pH/oxidizing conditions

Modelled global probability of geogenic arsenic contamination in groundwater for (a) reducing groundwater conditions, and (b) high-pH/oxidizing conditions where arsenic is soluble in its oxidized state


© ACS

Arsenic poisoning, which causes skin lesions and is linked to a number of cancers, is already an international health concern. In many countries in South Asia, including Bangladesh, India and Nepal, thousands of wells have been sunk in areas where arsenic concentrations are high, causing people to be poisoned by their own water supply.

Fluoride can prevent tooth decay, and is often added to drinking water in developed countries. But too much fluoride can lead to serious health problems including malformed bones and neurological disease.

The researchers created their mapping model using the known geochemical factors involved in arsenic and fluoride groundwater contamination. For fluoride, rock type, soil pH and humidity all influence groundwater levels. Arsenic concentrations are elevated when it is available in its more soluble oxidised or reduced forms.

Global probability of geogenic flouride contamination in groundwater

Global probability of geogenic flouride contamination in groundwater


© ACS

Using existing data, the team divided the globe into ‘process regions’ with similar geochemical conditions, and set parameters for models of each of these regions that estimated arsenic and fluoride concentrations. 

According to Andrew Meharg, an expert in arsenic contamination from the University of Aberdeen in the UK, the new maps could help to estimate the number of people at risk of arsenic poisoning and help in the planning of future drinking water projects. 

‘This is an excellent advance and gives new insights into predicting arsenic in groundwaters,’ he says. ‘It’s crucially important to identify where these hotspots are worldwide and measurements must be carried out in the field out before any wells are sunk in areas that might be at risk.’

Researchers Detail Chemotherapy’s Damage to the Brain

Researchers Detail Chemotherapy’s Damage to the Brain

www.urmc.rochester.edu/pr/news/story.cfm

 

A commonly used chemotherapy drug causes healthy brain cells to die off long after treatment has ended and may be one of the underlying biological causes of the cognitive side effects – or “chemo brain” – that many cancer patients experience. That is the conclusion of a study published today in the Journal of Biology.

A team of researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and Harvard Medical School have linked the widely used chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) to a progressing collapse of populations of stem cells and their progeny in the central nervous system.

“This study is the first model of a delayed degeneration syndrome that involves a global disruption of the myelin-forming cells that are essential for normal neuronal function,” said Mark Noble, Ph.D., director of the University of Rochester Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute and senior author of the study. “Because of our growing knowledge of stem cells and their biology, we can now begin to understand and define the molecular mechanisms behind the cognitive difficulties that linger and worsen in a significant number of cancer patients.”

Cancer patients have long complained of neurological side effects such as short-term memory loss and, in extreme cases, seizures, vision loss, and even dementia. Until very recently, these cognitive side effects were often dismissed as the byproduct of fatigue, depression, and anxiety related to cancer diagnosis and treatment. Now a growing body of evidence has documented the scope of these conditions, collectively referred to as chemo brain. And while it is increasingly acknowledged by the scientific community that many chemotherapy agents may have a negative impact on brain function in a subset of cancer patients, the precise mechanisms that underlie this dysfunction have not been identified.

Virtually all cancer survivors experience short-term memory loss and difficulty concentrating during and shortly after treatment. A study two years ago by researchers with the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester showed that upwards of 82 percent of breast cancer patients reported that they suffer from some form of cognitive impairment.

While these effects tend to wear off over time, a subset of patients, particularly those who have been administered high doses of chemotherapy, begin to experience these cognitive side effects months or longer after treatment has ceased and the drugs have long since departed their systems. For example, a recent study estimates that somewhere between 15 percent and 20 percent of the nation’s 2.4 million female breast cancer survivors have lingering cognitive problems years after treatment. Another study showed that 50 percent of women had not recovered their previous level of cognitive function one year after treatment.

Two years ago, Noble and his team showed that three common chemotherapy drugs used to treat a wide range of cancers were more toxic to healthy brain cells than the cancer cells they were intended to treat. While these experiments were among the first to establish a biological basis for the acute onset of chemo brain, they did not explain the lingering impact that many patients experience.

The scientists conducted a similar series of experiments in which they exposed both individual cell populations and mice to doses of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in amounts comparable to those used in cancer patients. 5-FU is among a class of drugs called antimetabolites that block cell division and has been used in cancer treatment for more than 40 years. The drug, which is often administered in a “cocktail” with other chemotherapy drugs, is currently used to treat breast, ovarian, stomach, colon, pancreatic and other forms of cancer.

The researchers discovered that months after exposure, specific populations of cells in the central nervous – oligodendrocytes and dividing precursor cells from which they are generated – underwent such extensive damage that, after six months, these cells had all but disappeared in the mice.

Oligodendrocytes play an important role in the central nervous system and are responsible for producing myelin, the fatty substance that, like insulation on electrical wires, coats nerve cells and enables signals between cells to be transmitted rapidly and efficiently. The myelin membranes are constantly being turned over, and without a healthy population of oligodendrocytes, the membranes cannot be renewed and eventually break down, resulting in a disruption of normal impulse transmission between nerve cells.

These findings parallel observations in studies of cancer survivors with cognitive difficulties. MRI scans of these patients’ brains revealed a condition similar to leukoencephalopathy. This demyelination – or the loss of white matter – can be associated with multiple neurological problems.

“It is clear that, in some patients, chemotherapy appears to trigger a degenerative condition in the central nervous system,” said Noble. “Because these treatments will clearly remain the standard of care for many years to come, it is critical that we understand their precise impact on the central nervous system, and then use this knowledge as the basis for discovering means of preventing such side effects.”

Noble points out that not all cancer patients experience these cognitive difficulties and determining why some patients are more vulnerable may be an important step in developing new ways to prevent these side effects. Because of this study, researchers now have a model which, for the first time, allows scientists to begin to examine this condition in a systematic manner.

Other investigators participating in the study include Ruolan Han, Ph.D., Yin M. Yang, M.D., Anne Luebke, Ph.D., Margot Mayer-Proschel, Ph.D., all with URMC, and Joerg Dietrich, M.D., Ph.D., formerly with URMC and now with Harvard Medical School. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the Komen Foundation for the Cure, and the Wilmot Cancer Center.

For more media inquiries, contact:
Mark Michaud
(585) 273-4790
mark_michaud@urmc.rochester.edu

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