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Lawyer fears 9/11 mastermind trial will be ‘insanity’

By Kelli Arena and Carol Cratty

CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Prescott Prince is a small-town lawyer who has never taken a death penalty case to trial. Yet he finds himself involved in one of the biggest capital punishment cases this century: He’s defending the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

art.mohammed.jpg

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed appears shortly after his capture in Pakistan in a 2003 photo.

 
He readily acknowledges how his client is perceived as "one of the most reviled people" in the world. But he says it’s imperative America give Mohammed a fair trial, just like anyone else accused of a crime.

No civilian court, he says, would accept confessions obtained after a defendant was mistreated. But the CIA admits Mohammed was waterboarded, a controversial interrogation technique that involves simulated drowning.

"I take the position that this is mock execution. … Colloquially speaking, at least it’s torture," Prince says.

The fact whatever Mohammed said during such duress could be used at trial is alarming to Prince.

"That’s not the rule of law. That’s just insanity." Video Watch waterboarding is "mock execution" »

A Navy reservist who has been called to active duty, Prince, 53, rejects the suggestion that he is less than patriotic for representing an accused terrorist. "I had friends who were at the Pentagon the day it was attacked so I don’t accept the concept of ‘gee I don’t know what it’s like.’"

Prince is currently visiting the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to meet his client. He was denied a meeting with Mohammed on Wednesday due to procedural problems; he will try again today.

Before Prince headed to Guantanamo, he told CNN he had no idea whether Mohammed will accept him as his lawyer. He says he’s gone over what he’s going to say "about a hundred times a day."

He’s been reading the Koran and has met with psychologists and other lawyers who have represented accused terrorists. "This would not be the first time I’ve met with a client who initially did not want, if you will, court-appointed counsel," he said. "I’ve had clients call me almost any name in the book. I’ve had them refuse to come see me." Video Meet the attorney defending suspected 9/11 mastermind »

Still Prince realizes this is different. Very different.

Mohammed has been in custody since he was caught in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in 2003. He was transferred from a secret location to Gitmo in 2006. The government says he confessed to his involvement in the September 11, 2001, attacks and many other terrorist plots.

The government in February said six terror suspects, including Mohammed, would go before military commissions and could face the death penalty if it is judged they were involved in the September 11 attacks. The proceedings are governed by the Military Commissions Act, which Congress passed to handle arrestees in the war on terror. See the terror suspects who could face the death penalty »

The act requires detainees have access to lawyers as well as to any evidence presented against them. They also will have the right to appeal a guilty verdict, potentially through a civilian appeals court and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the act. Video Watch general describe charges against al Qaeda suspects »

In the case of Mohammed, the government acknowledged he was subjected to waterboarding, a harsh interrogation technique that many experts believe violates the Geneva Conventions’ ban on torture. Waterboarding involves strapping a person to a surface, covering the face with cloth and pouring water over the cloth to imitate the sensation of drowning.

Prince finds that extremely troubling because he says a civilian court would never admit evidence gained through a coerced statement. The government says Mohammed has confessed to 9/11 and other terror plots.

"Even the greenest deputy sheriff or rookie police officer in Skunk Hollow County knows that if you rough up a defendant, anything he says after that is not going to be admitted into court," Prince says. "The officer might not like those rules, but he understands them and will abide by them."

But a judge in a military commission could have it entered into evidence. "We have created a system under the military commissions that says in essence, ‘if he was roughed up, but what he says still seems reliable, we’ll accept it any way.’ And that’s just wrong."

Prince says there are other complications. He may not have the chance to cross-examine Mohammed’s accusers and may not see all the evidence to be put forward in court.

Prince doesn’t believe Mohammed can get a fair trial and says the country risks trashing "our constitutional values when it becomes convenient to do so."

"I don’t want to impugn anyone’s character, but this is where Ronald Reagan’s term ‘trust but verify’ will come into play," he says.

The military has assigned him a three-person team consisting of another lawyer, an intelligence analyst and a paralegal. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have also teamed up to find volunteers to help Prince and the other lawyers defending accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.

Norman Reimer, the executive director of the NACDL, explained the daunting task this way:"It’s going to require all of the ingenuity and resources — not just to defend the accused — but to defend the American system of justice and what we stand for in the world. That’s what this is about."

Two lawyers from Boise, Idaho, have agreed to help Prince. No strangers to terrorism cases, David Nevin and Scott McKay won an acquittal for a Saudi man who faced terror charges.

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Prince for years ran a small practice in Richmond, Virginia. But last year, the reservist was called to active duty and spent six months in Iraq. He never thought this would be his next assignment.

"I could have said, ‘No,’" he says, before adding, "I don’t think I would have been doing honor to myself or honor to my calling."

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

www.iht.com/articles/2008/04/23/america/23prison.php

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.

Criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized nations say they are mystified and appalled by the number and length of American prison sentences.

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London.

China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China’s extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes).

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63.

The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate.

There is little question that the high incarceration rate here has helped drive down crime, though there is debate about how much.

Criminologists and legal experts here and abroad point to a tangle of factors to explain America's extraordinary incarceration rate: higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges — many of whom are elected, another American anomaly — yield to populist demands for tough justice.

Whatever the reason, the gap between American justice and that of the rest of the world is enormous and growing.

It used to be that Europeans came to the United States to study its prison systems. They came away impressed.

"In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the United States," Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured American penitentiaries in 1831, wrote in "Democracy in America."

No more.

"Far from serving as a model for the world, contemporary America is viewed with horror," James Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale, wrote last year in Social Research. "Certainly there are no European governments sending delegations to learn from us about how to manage prisons."

Prison sentences here have become "vastly harsher than in any other country to which the United States would ordinarily be compared," Michael Tonry, a leading authority on crime policy, wrote in "The Handbook of Crime and Punishment."

Indeed, said Vivien Stern, a research fellow at the prison studies center in London, the American incarceration rate has made the United States "a rogue state, a country that has made a decision not to follow what is a normal Western approach."

The spike in American incarceration rates is quite recent. From 1925 to 1975, the rate remained stable, around 110 people in prison per 100,000 people. It shot up with the movement to get tough on crime in the late 1970s. (These numbers exclude people held in jails, as comprehensive information on prisoners held in state and local jails was not collected until relatively recently.)

The nation's relatively high violent crime rate, partly driven by the much easier availability of guns here, helps explain the number of people in American prisons.

"The assault rate in New York and London is not that much different," said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group. "But if you look at the murder rate, particularly with firearms, it's much higher."

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

www.iht.com/articles/2008/04/23/america/23prison.php

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.

Criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized nations say they are mystified and appalled by the number and length of American prison sentences.

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London.

China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China’s extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes).

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63.

The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate.

There is little question that the high incarceration rate here has helped drive down crime, though there is debate about how much.

Criminologists and legal experts here and abroad point to a tangle of factors to explain America's extraordinary incarceration rate: higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges — many of whom are elected, another American anomaly — yield to populist demands for tough justice.

Whatever the reason, the gap between American justice and that of the rest of the world is enormous and growing.

It used to be that Europeans came to the United States to study its prison systems. They came away impressed.

"In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the United States," Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured American penitentiaries in 1831, wrote in "Democracy in America."

No more.

"Far from serving as a model for the world, contemporary America is viewed with horror," James Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale, wrote last year in Social Research. "Certainly there are no European governments sending delegations to learn from us about how to manage prisons."

Prison sentences here have become "vastly harsher than in any other country to which the United States would ordinarily be compared," Michael Tonry, a leading authority on crime policy, wrote in "The Handbook of Crime and Punishment."

Indeed, said Vivien Stern, a research fellow at the prison studies center in London, the American incarceration rate has made the United States "a rogue state, a country that has made a decision not to follow what is a normal Western approach."

The spike in American incarceration rates is quite recent. From 1925 to 1975, the rate remained stable, around 110 people in prison per 100,000 people. It shot up with the movement to get tough on crime in the late 1970s. (These numbers exclude people held in jails, as comprehensive information on prisoners held in state and local jails was not collected until relatively recently.)

The nation's relatively high violent crime rate, partly driven by the much easier availability of guns here, helps explain the number of people in American prisons.

"The assault rate in New York and London is not that much different," said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group. "But if you look at the murder rate, particularly with firearms, it's much higher."

Court Again Clears EPA in 9/11 Toxic Dust Ruling

Court Again Clears EPA in 9/11 Toxic Dust Ruling
"Legal remedies are not always available"

http://infowars.net/articles/april2008/220408Dust.htm

Steve Watson
Infowars.net
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A federal appeals court in New York has ruled that the EPA and former head Christine Todd Whitman cannot be held accountable for illnesses resulting from hazardous dust and debris from the three buildings destroyed on 9/11, despite the fact that the agency knowingly gave misleading information to residents and workers in the aftermath.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Whitman’s comments reassuring people about the safety around the site apparently were based on conflicting information and reassurances by the White House, reports the AP.

The appeals court said legal remedies are not always available for every instance of arguably deficient governmental performance.

The ruling mirrors that the court made exactly one year ago when it determined that Whitman and other officials cannot be held constitutionally liable.

At the time the court’s chief judge, Dennis Jacobs, justified the decision by warning that any other ruling might set the wrong precedent. Jacobs wrote that "Officials might default to silence in the face of the public’s urgent need for information".

The law generally doesn’t allow citizens to sue the government for mere incompetence, or failing to prevent someone from being injured; To win, plaintiffs must often prove that government employees actually created a danger themselves, through actions "so egregious, so outrageous," that they "shock the contemporary conscience."

Jacobs said Whitman and other EPA officials fell short of violating that standard, even if they had acted with deliberate indifference.

However, the plaintiffs’ lawyer Sherrie Savett argued that Whitman’s actions had gone beyind indifference and constitued outright lies.

Savett said Whitman "made false statements to the public, inducing them, seducing them to go back to their homes and to send their kids back to school."

Five days after the attacks, Whitman told reporters, "The good news continues to be that air samples we have taken have all been at levels that cause no concern."

This, The EPA’s own Office of the Inspector General later revealed, was an outright lie.

The New York Daily News Reported:

In their class-action suit, residents, workers and students living around Ground Zero say they relied on Whitman’s comments in deciding whether to return to an area coated with dust from the twin towers’ collapse.

"If she had not said this, they probably would have made their own decision," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) said after the hearing. "She was telling people it was safe when she knew damn well it wasn’t."

Whitman had originally refused to testify for the hearing, so it was left to District judges to subpoena Whitman at the request of New York Congressman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat whose district includes the World Trade Center site. In doing so one judge referred to Whitman’s actions as "conscience-shocking."

In August 2003 it was revealed that the Government ordered the EPA to give the public misleading information, telling New Yorkers on September 12 it was safe to breathe when reliable information on air quality was not available and Asbestos levels were known to be three times higher than national standards.

Further documents were obtained by CBS news last September, revealing that Lower Manhattan was reopened a few weeks following the attack even though the air was not safe.

The two devastating memos, written by the U.S. and local governments, show they knew. They knew the toxic soup created at Ground Zero was a deadly health hazard. Yet they sent workers into the pit and people back into their homes.

"Not only did they know it was unsafe, they didn’t heed the words of more experienced people that worked for the city and E.P.A.," said Joel Kupferman, with the group Environmental Justice Project.

An EPA whistleblower, Dr. Cate Jenkins then wrote a letter to Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and other members of the New York congressional delegation blasting the EPA for hiding dangerous toxins from Ground Zero workers in the aftermath of 9/11.

The Letter claimed that EPA-funded research on the toxicity of breathable alkaline dust at the site “falsified pH results” to make the substance appear benign, when it was, in reality, corrosive enough to cause first responders and other workers in lower Manhattan to later lose pulmonary functions and, in some cases, to die.

In an even more shocking development it was revealed that Whitman apparently had financial interests in reassuring the public that all was well and that lower Manhattan could safely be reoccupied.

In a New York Post piece which has since been memory holed, but that was reported by Infowars.net, these facts became clearly evident:

Meanwhile, Whitman’s newly released financial-disclosure forms show that she said seven months before 9/11 that she would not get involved in any issue related to the finances of the Port Authority – which owns the WTC site – because she or her family owned PA bonds. Its finances could be impacted by lawsuits growing of the cleanup.

"I understand the following interests that belong to me, my spouse or my children present a conflict of interest," Whitman wrote at the time. She then listed various investments, including the bistate agency.

But Whitman was involved at Ground Zero despite that refusal, although she or her family also owned shares of Citigroup, whose insurance-company subsidiary, The Travelers, paid out hundred of millions of dollars in claims to downtown residents displaced by the attacks.

Not surprising then that Whitman did not want to testify. She is totally compromised and clearly in very deep trouble. Congressman Nadler himself blasted Whitman when this was revealed stating:

"She conspired [with the White House] to convince people to go into an unsafe environment . . . For that, she ought to be prosecuted," Nadler said. "People are dead because of her."

However, it must be remembered that Whitman and the EPA are accountable to the White House and act under the direct authority of the Bush Administration.

It was the 2003 EPA Inspector General’s investigation that revealed that it was the White House that had pressured EPA into changing its press releases to add more "reassuring" language.

The further memos revealed that Whitman conspired with the White House to falsely reassure New Yorkers that the air was safe.

The New York Post also reported on the fact that the internal documents show it was Condoleezza Rice’s office that gave final approval to the infamous Environmental Protection Agency press releases days after 9/11 claiming the air around Ground Zero was "safe to breathe,".

Now Secretary of State, Rice was then head of the National Security Council – "the final decision maker" on EPA statements about lower Manhattan air quality, the documents say.

And it cannot be forgotten that Rudolph Guiliani, who was mayor at the time, also said repeatedly that the air was safe. Giuliani has gone on to make millions from speaking on 9/11 and has made it the cornerstone of his presidential campaign, much to the disgust of many first responders and firefighters who continue to campaign to expose Giuliani’s culpability on 9/11.

Furthermore it has been the Bush Administration that has PURPOSEFULLY blocked millions in health compensation programs for ground zero workers and continuously attempted to stonewall the issue because to do otherwise would be an admission of responsibility for exposure to harmful substances after the government had already given the all clear. It has been the Bush administration that has allowed 9/11 heroes to die while at the same time disgracefully using the event as a cart blanche excuse for their own criminal actions at home and abroad.

It seems Whitman knew immediately that she was being fingered as the ultimate scapegoat. When the new information broke in September 2006, she was quick to blame the city for not forcing Ground Zero workers to wear respirators.

In a "60 Minutes" interview, Whitman maintained that the nation’s leading environmental agency did not have authority to enforce rules at the site, though the agency did warn the city about dangers in the air at Ground Zero.

"We didn’t have the authority to do that enforcement, but we communicated to the people who did," Whitman stressed. Whitman stuck to this story during her testimony last June.

However, a 2004 report by the Sierra Club detailed gross malfeasance by EPA, FEMA, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and then suggested a cover-up of the public health hazards of Ground Zero ensued.

The report found that the EPA and FEMA, in concert with New York City’s own health department, told families that they could clean up the contaminated dust themselves with wet rags. In fact, they actually discouraged area residents from wearing safety masks.

Some preliminary scientific studies have indicated that as many as 400,000 people were exposed to toxic ground zero dust. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of people have fallen ill, and several have died from lung ailments blamed on inhaled Trade Center ash.

Thousands of people have sued various government entities over their exposure to the toxins.

The latest ruling threatens to set a precedent for all future lawsuits concerning the air quality in Manhatten after 9/11.

Any probe into this issue that cannot establish these basic conclusions and pinpoint those at fault AT ALL LEVELS WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT is highly suspicious. It is blatantly clear that not only Whitman and her EPA counterparts were complicit in a conspiracy and cover up the environmental hazards at ground zero, but also that high ranking officials with the Bush administration are also complicit.

It is also apparent from reports that Whitman had significant financial interests in the ground zero site, which should also be investigated in addition to the financial interests other officials complicit in this diabolical case also had before and after 9/11.

Exposed: the great GM crops myth

Exposed: the great GM crops myth
www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/exposed-the-great-gm-crops-myth-812179.html

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Sunday, 20 April 2008

Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.

The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields.

Professor Barney Gordon, of the university’s department of agronomy, said he started the research – reported in the journal Better Crops – because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had "noticed that yields are not as high as expected even under optimal conditions". He added: "People were asking the question ‘how come I don’t get as high a yield as I used to?’"

He grew a Monsanto GM soybean and an almost identical conventional variety in the same field. The modified crop produced only 70 bushels of grain per acre, compared with 77 bushels from the non-GM one.

The GM crop – engineered to resist Monsanto’s own weedkiller, Roundup – recovered only when he added extra manganese, leading to suggestions that the modification hindered the crop’s take-up of the essential element from the soil. Even with the addition it brought the GM soya’s yield to equal that of the conventional one, rather than surpassing it.

The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska, which found that another Monsanto GM soya produced 6 per cent less than its closest conventional relative, and 11 per cent less than the best non-GM soya available.

The Nebraska study suggested that two factors are at work. First, it takes time to modify a plant and, while this is being done, better conventional ones are being developed. This is acknowledged even by the fervently pro-GM US Department of Agriculture, which has admitted that the time lag could lead to a "decrease" in yields.

But the fact that GM crops did worse than their near-identical non-GM counterparts suggest that a second factor is also at work, and that the very process of modification depresses productivity. The new Kansas study both confirms this and suggests how it is happening.

A similar situation seems to have happened with GM cotton in the US, where the total US crop declined even as GM technology took over. (See graphic above.)

Monsanto said yesterday that it was surprised by the extent of the decline found by the Kansas study, but not by the fact that the yields had dropped. It said that the soya had not been engineered to increase yields, and that it was now developing one that would.

Critics doubt whether the company will achieve this, saying that it requires more complex modification. And Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington – and who was one of the first to predict the current food crisis – said that the physiology of plants was now reaching the limits of the productivity that could be achieved.

A former champion crop grower himself, he drew the comparison with human runners. Since Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile more than 50 years ago, the best time has improved only modestly . "Despite all the advances in training, no one contemplates a three-minute mile."

Last week the biggest study of its kind ever conducted – the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development – concluded that GM was not the answer to world hunger.

Professor Bob Watson, the director of the study and chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when asked if GM could solve world hunger, said: "The simple answer is no."

The Genetic Food GambleHeads Monsanto Wins, Tails We Lose

The Genetic Food Gamble

www.counterpunch.org/weissman03192008.html                                                         

Heads Monsanto Wins, Tails We Lose

By ROBERT WEISSMAN

There have been few experiments as reckless, overhyped and with as little potential upside as the rapid rollout of genetically modified crops.

Last month, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a pro-biotech nonprofit, released a report highlighting the proliferation of genetically modified crops. According to ISAAA, biotech crop area grew 12 percent, or 12.3 million hectares, to reach 114.3 million hectares in 2007, the second highest area increase in the past five years.

For the biotech backers, this is cause to celebrate. They claim that biotech helps farmers. They say it promises to reduce hunger and poverty in developing countries. "If we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of cutting hunger and poverty in half by 2015," says Clive James, ISAAA founder and the author the just-released report, "biotech crops must play an even bigger role in the next decade."

In fact, existing genetically modified crops are hurting small farmers and failing to deliver increased food supply — and posing enormous, largely unknown risks to people and the planet.

For all of the industry hype around biotech products, virtually all planted genetically modified seed is for only four products — soy, corn, cotton and canola — with just two engineered traits. Most of the crops are engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide sold by Monsanto under the brand-name Round-up (these biotech seeds are known as RoundUp-Ready). Others are engineered to include a naturally occurring pesticide, Bt.

Most of the genetically modified crops in developing countries are soy, says Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety and co-author of "Who Benefits from GM Crops," a report issued at the same time as ISAAA’s release. These crops are exported to rich countries, primarily as animal feed. They do absolutely nothing to supply food to the hungry.

As used in developing countries, biotech crops are shifting power away from small, poor farmers desperately trying to eke out livelihoods and maintain their land tenure.

Glyphosate-resistance is supposed to enable earlier and less frequent spraying, but, concludes "Who Benefits from GM Crops," these biotech seeds "allow farmers to spray a particular herbicide more frequently and indiscriminately without fear of damaging the crop." This requires expenditures beyond the means of small farmers — but reduces labor costs, a major benefit for industrial farms.

ISAAA contends that Bt planting in India and China has substantially reduced insecticide spraying, which it advances as the primary benefit of biotech crops.

Bt crops may offer initial reductions in required spraying, says Freese, but Bt is only effective against some pests, meaning farmers may have to use pesticides to prevent other insects from eating their crops. Focusing on a district in Punjab, "Who Benefits from GM Crops" shows how secondary pest problems have offset whatever gains Bt crops might offer.

Freese also notes that evidence is starting to come in to support longstanding fears that genetically engineering the Bt trait into crops would give rise to Bt-resistant pests.

The biotech seeds are themselves expensive, and must be purchased anew every year. Industry leader Monsanto is infamous for suing farmers for the age-old practice of saving seeds, and holds that it is illegal for farmers even to save genetically engineered seeds that have blown onto their fields from neighboring farms. "That has nothing to do with feeding the hungry," or helping the poorest of the poor, says Hope Shand, research director for the ETC Group, an ardent biotech opponent. It is, to say the least, not exactly a farmer-friendly approach.

Although the industry and its allies tout the benefits that biotech may yield someday for the poor, "we have yet to see genetically modified food that is cheaper, more nutritious or tastes better," says Shand. "Biotech seeds have not been shown to be scientifically or socially useful," although they have been useful for the profit-driven interests of Monsanto, she says.

Freese notes that the industry has been promising gains for the poor for a decade and a half — but hasn’t delivered. Products in the pipeline won’t change that, he says, with the industry focused on introducing new herbicide resistant seeds.

The evidence on yields for the biotech crops is ambiguous, but there is good reason to believe yields have actually dropped. ISAAA’s Clive James says that Bt crops in India and China have improved yields somewhat. "Who Benefits from GM Crops" carefully reviews this claim, and offers a convincing rebuttal. The report emphasizes the multiple factors that affect yield, and notes that Bt and Roundup-Ready seeds alike are not engineered to improve yield per se, just to protect against certain predators or for resistance to herbicide spraying.

Beyond the social disaster of contributing to land concentration and displacement of small farmers, a range of serious ecological and sustainability problems with biotech crops is already emerging — even though the biotech crop experiment remains quite new.

Strong evidence of pesticide resistance is rapidly accumulating, details "Who Benefits from GM Crops," meaning that farmers will have to spray more and more chemicals to less and less effect. Pesticide use is rising rapidly in biotech-heavy countries. In the heaviest user of biotech seeds — the United States, which has half of all biotech seed planting — glyphosate-resistant weeds are proliferating. Glyphosate use in the United States rose by 15 times from 1994 to 2005, according to "Who Benefits from GM Crops," and use of other and more toxic herbicides is rapidly rising. The U.S. experience likely foreshadows what is to come for other countries more recently adopting biotech crops.

Seed diversity is dropping, as Monsanto and its allies aim to eliminate seed saving, and development of new crop varieties is slowing. Contamination from neighboring fields using genetically modified seeds can destroy farmers’ ability to maintain biotech-free crops. Reliance on a narrow range of seed varieties makes the food system very vulnerable, especially because of the visible problems with the biotech seeds now in such widespread use.

For all the uncertainties about the long-term effects of biotech crops and food, one might imagine that there were huge, identifiable short-term benefits. But one would be wrong.

Instead, a narrowly based industry has managed to impose a risky technology with short-term negatives and potentially dramatic downsides.

But while it is true, as ISAAA happily reports, that biotech planting is rapidly growing, it remains heavily concentrated in just a few countries: the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India and China.

Europe and most of the developing world continue to resist Monsanto’s seed imperialism. The industry and its allies decry this stand as a senseless response to fear-mongering. It actually reflects a rational assessment of demonstrated costs and benefits — and an appreciation for real but incalculable risks of toying with the very nature of nature.

Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor and director of Essential Action.

Al Qaeda No. 2: Attacks on Western nations in works

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Al Qaeda still has plans to target Western countries involved in the Iraq war, Osama bin Laden’s chief deputy warns in an audiotape released Tuesday to answer questions posed by followers.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, seen in 2006, said in a recent tape that Iran and Hezbollah sought to discredit al Qaeda.

The voice in the lengthy file posted on an Islamic Web site could not be immediately confirmed as al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri’s. But it sounded like past audiotapes from the terror leader, and the posting bore the logo of As-Sahab, al Qaeda’s official media arm

The two-hour message is billed as the second installment of al-Zawahiri’s answers to more than 900 questions submitted on extremist Internet sites by al Qaeda supporters, critics and journalists in December.

Responding to a question of whether the terror group had plans to attack Western countries that participated in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent war, al-Zawahiri said, "My answer is, yes. We think that any country that joined aggression on Muslims must be deterred."

In a question signed by the Japanese news agency Kyodo asking if Japan remains a target because it once had troops in Iraq, al-Zawahiri said Japan provided help "under the banner of the crusader coalition" and "therefore it participated in the crusader campaign against the lands of Islam."

"Our Islamic faith urged us to resist the injustice and aggression even if they were the most powerful on Earth. Should Japan take a lesson from this?" he said.

Japan deployed non-combat troops to southern Iraq in 2003 to carry out reconstruction work. It withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2006 and now conducts airlifts to help supply U.S.-led forces.

Al-Zawahiri also denied a conspiracy theory that Israel carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., and he blamed Iran and Shiite Hezbollah for spreading the idea to discredit the Sunni al Qaeda’s achievement.

Al-Zawahiri accused Hezbollah’s al-Manar television of starting the rumor.

"The purpose of this lie is clear — (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.

"Iran’s aim here is also clear — to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," he added.

Iran cooperated with the United States in the 2001 U.S. assault on Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban, an al Qaeda ally.

The comments reflected al-Zawahiri’s increasing criticism of Iran, which al-Zawahiri has accused in recent messages of seeking to extend its power in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and through its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon. Until recent months, he had not often mentioned the Islamic republic.

Al Qaeda has previously claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

The anti-Iranian rhetoric could reflect an attempt to exploit majority Sunnis’ fears of Shiite Iran’s influence in the region and depict al Qaeda as the main force opposing it.

Answering questions about Iraq in Tuesday’s tape, al-Zawahiri said the Iraqi insurgent umbrella group led by al Qaeda, called the Islamic Nation of Iraq, is "the primary force opposing the crusaders and challenging Iranian ambitions" there.

As he often does in his messages, al-Zawahiri denounced the "crusader invasion" of Iraq, but in Tuesday’s tape he paired it with a mention of "Iranian complicity" or "Iranian agents."

Al-Zawahiri addressed several issues, including global warming — which he said reflected "how criminal, brutal and greedy the Western crusader world is, with America at the top."

He predicted that global warming would "would make the world more sympathetic to and understanding of the Muslims’ jihad against the aggressor America."

Asked if there are any women in al Qaeda, the terror leader answered simply: "No." In a follow-up, he said, "There are no women in al Qaeda jihadi group, but the women of the mujahedeen are playing a heroic role in taking care of their houses and sons."

In several parts of Tuesday’s audio message, al-Zawahiri claimed that the Taliban took over 95 percent of Afghanistan and is sweeping Pakistan as well.

"Residents of the provinces and various regions welcome the Taliban and urge them to come to purify their regions of corruption; this is the secret of Taliban quick deployment and gripping control of 95 percent of Afghanistan," he said.

"The crusaders and their agents in Pakistan and Afghanistan are starting to fall," al-Zawahiri said.

In another answer Tuesday, al-Zawahiri said it was against Islamic religious law for any Muslim to live permanently in a Western country because in doing so they would "have permanent stay there under the laws of the infidels."

As-Sahab announced in December that al-Zawahiri would take questions from the public posted on militant Web sites and would respond "as soon as possible." Queries were submitted on the main Islamist Web site until the cutoff date of January 16

While bush runs around naked at the Bohemian Grove, U.S. sex laws are oppressive

FOXSexpert: U.S. Sex Laws, Amusing to Just Plain Silly
Friday , April 18, 2008
By Yvonne K. Fulbright
FC1
Are you breaking the law? When it comes to sexual expression, exploration and pleasure, you may be a criminal and not even know it. Both historically and currently, some of our most intimate moments have been made punishable by law.
And — wouldn’t you know it? — the United States takes the cake. While countries around the world are all guilty of trying to control our sex lives, the U.S. has more laws regulating sexual behavior than all the European countries combined.
Outdated, unthinkable, erotophobic and downright ridiculous, we should thank our lucky stars that enforcing them is another matter.
Sex toys are banned in some states, such as Alabama . Sexual intercourse between unmarried couples is illegal in Georgia . Flirting is banned in San Antonio , Texas . Oral sex is banned in Indiana . Anal intercourse is banned in Cincinnati , Ohio .
Sexual positions beyond missionary are illegal in Washington , D.C. Sleeping naked is illegal in Minnesota .
Laws protecting minors aside, most people will agree that the government should not be telling you what to do in your bedroom. As President Bush has said: "In our free society, people have the right to choose how they live their lives."
The way I see it, what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms is their own business.
But rather than go into a diatribe on the need for the government to stay out of our private sexual affairs, I think a good laugh is in order. Who knew that you could land yourself in jail for any of the following? ….
Don’t Get Caught Kissing
When it comes to puckering up, you may need to keep a time check.
— If you’re in Idaho , you’re not allowed to engage in any type of public display of affection for more than 18 minutes.
— In Iowa , you’ve got a five-minute time limit to make out. But that’s an eternity when you consider that it’s illegal to smooch for more than one second if you’re in Halethorpe , Md.
Talk About a Challenge!
Many laws simply invite the question of "how are they going to pull that one off?" Seems that H.L. Mencken’s definition of Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy" was well and alive when these were passed:
— An ancient law in Alabama bans men from attempting to seduce "a chaste woman by means of temptation, arts, deception, flattery or a promise of marriage."
Connecticut has a law forbidding any "private sexual behavior between consenting adults." We have to give them credit, though, for at least making this law pretty clear. An old Florida statute states that two people cannot commit "unusual acts" together, but there’s no specification as to what that means!
— An old law in California made it illegal for either partner to reach climax before the other during foreplay.
In Case You Were Tempted
You know, some things you just never think about doing. But for any of these laws to have been passed, one has to assume that someone somewhere actually tried to do one of the following; otherwise, some politicians had way too much time on their hands:
Florida once made it illegal to have sexual relations with a porcupine.
— You can’t marry the same man three times in some Kentucky townships.
— It is illegal for men in Minnesota to have intimate sexual relationships with a live fish.
— If you’re a member of the Nevada legislature, you cannot conduct business, while in session, wearing a penis costume.
— In North Carolina , it’s an offense to have sex in a graveyard.
Wooing Made Wrong
As if finding a date weren’t hard enough! Pick-up artists, beware …
— Women in Dyersburg , Tenn. , cannot call a man for a date.
— If their car is in motion, male drivers in Detroit are banned from "ogling" women.
— It is illegal to serenade your girlfriend in Kalamazoo , Mich.
Even Married Couples Can’t Misbehave
One would think that tying the knot is your ticket to paradise. Apparently not …
— In Oblong, Ill. , it’s illegal to have sex on your wedding day if you’re fishing or hunting.
— A man in Ames , Iowa , cannot take more than three swallows of beer while holding his wife in his arms in bed.
Alexandria , Ariz. , once banned husbands from having sex with their wives if their breath smelled of sardines, garlic or onion. (Funny enough, all of those have been considered aphrodisiacs at one time or another!)
— Husbands in Willowdale , Ore. , can be fined for talking dirty during intercourse, but their wives can say whatever they please.
— An old statute in Florida banned a man from kissing his wife’s breasts.
Laws Lacking True Logic
These laws simply speak for themselves:
— A man cannot seduce a woman by promising to marry her in Mississippi .
— While up to 120 men can live together in Pennsylvania , it is illegal for more than 16 women to do so, since this could constitute a brothel.
— It is illegal in Utah to marry your first cousin before the age of 65.
— In Nebraska , couples sleeping at a hotel must wear the clean, cotton nightshirt provided by the hotel, even when they have sex.
Florida has a statute making it an offense to shower in the nude.
Obviously Un-Enforced
As with most of these laws, ignorance is bliss …
— Women in New York cannot be seen wearing "body hugging clothing."
— An old Mississippi edict holds that men cannot become sexually aroused in public.
Just So You Know
In case you were thinking about it, any of the following can get you into trouble …
— If you’re unmarried in North Carolina and you and your lover register yourselves as a "Mr. and Mrs." when checking into a motel, then you’re legally considered husband and wife.
— In Oklahoma , if you’re arrested for soliciting a prostitute, your name and picture will be shown on TV.
— Sex with an animal is perfectly legal for men in Washington state, as long as the animal weighs less than 40 pounds.
— It is illegal for a man to fire his gun in Connersville , Wis. , when his lover reaches climax.
— Having sex in a walk-in meat freezer is banned in Newcastle , Wyo.
More Liberal Than We Realized
Believe it or not, there are a few laws on the book that actually allow for sexual expression instead of stifling it.
— The Arizona State Supreme Court considered it perfectly all right for women to go topless in public, since breasts weren’t deemed private parts.
— You can streak in Louisiana as long as you can prove to a court beyond a doubt that you had no "lascivious intent."
— Couples in Carlsbad , N.M. , can have sex in their parked car during their lunch break, as long as the curtains are drawn.
— Women in New York can go topless in public, unless it is for "business" reasons.

Click here for FOX News RSS Feeds

While bush runs around naked at the Bohemian Grove, U.S. sex laws are oppressive

FOXSexpert: U.S. Sex Laws, Amusing to Just Plain Silly
Friday , April 18, 2008
By Yvonne K. Fulbright
FC1
Are you breaking the law? When it comes to sexual expression, exploration and pleasure, you may be a criminal and not even know it. Both historically and currently, some of our most intimate moments have been made punishable by law.
And — wouldn’t you know it? — the United States takes the cake. While countries around the world are all guilty of trying to control our sex lives, the U.S. has more laws regulating sexual behavior than all the European countries combined.
Outdated, unthinkable, erotophobic and downright ridiculous, we should thank our lucky stars that enforcing them is another matter.
Sex toys are banned in some states, such as Alabama . Sexual intercourse between unmarried couples is illegal in Georgia . Flirting is banned in San Antonio , Texas . Oral sex is banned in Indiana . Anal intercourse is banned in Cincinnati , Ohio .
Sexual positions beyond missionary are illegal in Washington , D.C. Sleeping naked is illegal in Minnesota .
Laws protecting minors aside, most people will agree that the government should not be telling you what to do in your bedroom. As President Bush has said: "In our free society, people have the right to choose how they live their lives."
The way I see it, what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms is their own business.
But rather than go into a diatribe on the need for the government to stay out of our private sexual affairs, I think a good laugh is in order. Who knew that you could land yourself in jail for any of the following? ….
Don’t Get Caught Kissing
When it comes to puckering up, you may need to keep a time check.
— If you’re in Idaho , you’re not allowed to engage in any type of public display of affection for more than 18 minutes.
— In Iowa , you’ve got a five-minute time limit to make out. But that’s an eternity when you consider that it’s illegal to smooch for more than one second if you’re in Halethorpe , Md.
Talk About a Challenge!
Many laws simply invite the question of "how are they going to pull that one off?" Seems that H.L. Mencken’s definition of Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy" was well and alive when these were passed:
— An ancient law in Alabama bans men from attempting to seduce "a chaste woman by means of temptation, arts, deception, flattery or a promise of marriage."
Connecticut has a law forbidding any "private sexual behavior between consenting adults." We have to give them credit, though, for at least making this law pretty clear. An old Florida statute states that two people cannot commit "unusual acts" together, but there’s no specification as to what that means!
— An old law in California made it illegal for either partner to reach climax before the other during foreplay.
In Case You Were Tempted
You know, some things you just never think about doing. But for any of these laws to have been passed, one has to assume that someone somewhere actually tried to do one of the following; otherwise, some politicians had way too much time on their hands:
Florida once made it illegal to have sexual relations with a porcupine.
— You can’t marry the same man three times in some Kentucky townships.
— It is illegal for men in Minnesota to have intimate sexual relationships with a live fish.
— If you’re a member of the Nevada legislature, you cannot conduct business, while in session, wearing a penis costume.
— In North Carolina , it’s an offense to have sex in a graveyard.
Wooing Made Wrong
As if finding a date weren’t hard enough! Pick-up artists, beware …
— Women in Dyersburg , Tenn. , cannot call a man for a date.
— If their car is in motion, male drivers in Detroit are banned from "ogling" women.
— It is illegal to serenade your girlfriend in Kalamazoo , Mich.
Even Married Couples Can’t Misbehave
One would think that tying the knot is your ticket to paradise. Apparently not …
— In Oblong, Ill. , it’s illegal to have sex on your wedding day if you’re fishing or hunting.
— A man in Ames , Iowa , cannot take more than three swallows of beer while holding his wife in his arms in bed.
Alexandria , Ariz. , once banned husbands from having sex with their wives if their breath smelled of sardines, garlic or onion. (Funny enough, all of those have been considered aphrodisiacs at one time or another!)
— Husbands in Willowdale , Ore. , can be fined for talking dirty during intercourse, but their wives can say whatever they please.
— An old statute in Florida banned a man from kissing his wife’s breasts.
Laws Lacking True Logic
These laws simply speak for themselves:
— A man cannot seduce a woman by promising to marry her in Mississippi .
— While up to 120 men can live together in Pennsylvania , it is illegal for more than 16 women to do so, since this could constitute a brothel.
— It is illegal in Utah to marry your first cousin before the age of 65.
— In Nebraska , couples sleeping at a hotel must wear the clean, cotton nightshirt provided by the hotel, even when they have sex.
Florida has a statute making it an offense to shower in the nude.
Obviously Un-Enforced
As with most of these laws, ignorance is bliss …
— Women in New York cannot be seen wearing "body hugging clothing."
— An old Mississippi edict holds that men cannot become sexually aroused in public.
Just So You Know
In case you were thinking about it, any of the following can get you into trouble …
— If you’re unmarried in North Carolina and you and your lover register yourselves as a "Mr. and Mrs." when checking into a motel, then you’re legally considered husband and wife.
— In Oklahoma , if you’re arrested for soliciting a prostitute, your name and picture will be shown on TV.
— Sex with an animal is perfectly legal for men in Washington state, as long as the animal weighs less than 40 pounds.
— It is illegal for a man to fire his gun in Connersville , Wis. , when his lover reaches climax.
— Having sex in a walk-in meat freezer is banned in Newcastle , Wyo.
More Liberal Than We Realized
Believe it or not, there are a few laws on the book that actually allow for sexual expression instead of stifling it.
— The Arizona State Supreme Court considered it perfectly all right for women to go topless in public, since breasts weren’t deemed private parts.
— You can streak in Louisiana as long as you can prove to a court beyond a doubt that you had no "lascivious intent."
— Couples in Carlsbad , N.M. , can have sex in their parked car during their lunch break, as long as the curtains are drawn.
— Women in New York can go topless in public, unless it is for "business" reasons.

Click here for FOX News RSS Feeds

US military recruits more ex-cons

US military recruits more ex-cons

US marines on patrol in Iraq in a file photo from 2005

The armed forces face a challenge in meeting recruitment targets

The US Army and Marine Corps recruited significantly more people with criminal records last year than in 2006, amid pressure to meet combat needs.

Statistics released by a congressional committee show 861 people were granted waivers to enlist, up from 457 in 2007.

The crimes included assault, sex crimes, manslaughter and burglary.

The Army says waivers are only granted after careful review and are in response to the challenges of recruiting in a changing society.

The number of people granted waivers are just a small fraction of the more than 180,000 people who entered active duty in the armed forces during the fiscal year that ended in September 2007.

But the perceived lowering of standards is causing concern in some quarters.

We’re growing the army fast, and there are some waivers… It hasn’t alarmed us yet

Lt Gen James Thurman
Deputy chief of staff for operations

"The significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war," said Democratic Representative Henry Waxman.

Mr Waxman chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that released the figures drawn up by the US Department of Defense.

These show that:

  • The Army granted 511 felony waivers in 2007, up from 249 the year before
  • Some 350 people with convictions joined the Marine Corps, up from 208 in 2006
  • The Navy actually recruited fewer people with convictions, down from 48 to 42
  • The Air Force did not recruit anyone with a felony conviction

Among the convictions, many were for stealing, including burglary and car thefts, and drug offences.

Waivers were also granted to three people convicted of manslaughter, nine guilty of sex crimes, and nine convicted of making terror threats, including bomb threats.

In addition, the Army and Marine Corps granted 27,671 "conduct waivers" covering what are regarded as serious misdemeanours , up from 25,098 in 2006.

Pentagon officials say that the need to recruit troops for continuing operations abroad, low unemployment at home, and declining interest in serving pose a challenge.

"We’re digging deeper into the barrel than we were before," an official told the Washington Post.

The Army also argues that its ranks reflect the society they are drawn from.

Only three in 10 Americans of military age meet the army’s medical, moral, aptitude, or administrative requirements, army officials point out.

"We’re growing the army fast, and there are some waivers – we know that," said Army Lt Gen James Thurman, deputy chief of staff for operations.

"It hasn’t alarmed us yet."

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