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Candide’s Latest: Monday, September 11, 2006
9/11 Now, 9/11 Tomorrow, 9/11 Forever

The one sign no one was interested in.

For its 9/11 piece de resistance, the Times devotes an entire special section—18,000 words—to one article by Deborah Sontag on the gaping hole at Ground Zero, where nothing more than a symbolic cornerstone has been laid in five years. From the tone of it, the Times is trying to make a pathetic situation seem less shameful with slings of positive spin here and there. But the hole remains: Five years after Sept. 11, 2001, ground zero remains a 16-acre, 70-foot-deep hole in the heart of Lower Manhattan. High above it, a scaffolded bank building, contaminated during the attack, hulks like a metal skeleton, waiting endlessly to be razed. The wreck that still stands tall and the pit that still sinks deep sum up the troubled history of ground zero. A site of horrific tragedy whose rescue and cleanup operation was a model of valiant efficiency, ground zero turned into a sinkhole of good intentions where it was as difficult to demolish a building as to construct one. For all that has not yet risen from the ashes, there has been considerable sturm und drang, “like a novel, a cheap novel,” said Daniel Libeskind, the master planner for the site. The combination of big money, prime real estate, bottomless grief, artistic ego and dreams of legacy transformed ground zero into a mosh pit of stakeholders banging heads over billions in federal aid, tax breaks and insurance proceeds. Only now, after a whirlwind of negotiations to resolve crises in advance of the fifth anniversary, is subterranean work substantially under way, raising the hope that reconstruction may proceed. Even so, many family members of victims are quick to point out that they still have nowhere to go to mourn their loved ones and only shaken faith that they will see a fitting memorial in the near future.” See the entire piece here…

In a sense, the Ground Zero story is more symbol than substance. The L.A. Times hits harder where it counts with a report on the “Hidden Depths of U.S. Monitoring.” “As Americans consider whether they are more safe or less five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, one thing is certain: They are being monitored by their own government in ways unforeseen before terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Within minutes of the strikes, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence-gathering authorities mobilized to find the culprits and prevent another attack. They increased the tapping of Americans' phone calls and voice mails. They watched Internet traffic and e-mails as never before. They tailed greater numbers of people and into places previously deemed off-limits, such as mosques. They clandestinely accessed bank and credit card transactions and school records. They monitored travel. And they entered homes without notice, looking for signs of terrorist activity and copying the contents of entire file cabinets and computer hard drives. Authorities even tried to get inside people's heads, using supercomputers and "predictive" software to analyze enormous amounts of personal data about them and their associates in an effort to foretell who might become a terrorist, and when.” See the full report…

Bush of course was up to his old photo-op tricks: he wouldn’t just put up his wreath and fly on home. He had to make a “surprise” visit to firefighters. His surprises have become his convention. It’s the chief characteristic of an addict. Can’t abide norms. Must have jacked up sensations. The Bush presidency has become just such a basket case, in need of one fix after another just to keep going. The Times had to acknowledge the obvious: “The White House is hoping that yesterday’s visit, to be followed today by breakfast with New York City firefighters and wreath-laying ceremonies in Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, and then a prime-time Oval Office address, helps the president recapture that less divisive time.” But it isn’t enough to acknowledge it. It should be made obvious, too, that the President is using “September The Eleventh,” as he so ostentatiously puts it, the way a Catholic priests abuses little boys—criminally, for his own pitiful gain, and to great harm for us and the office he represents (see more about those priests below). “There's still an enemy out there that would like to inflict the same kind of damage again,” Bush said on Sunday. Yes. If only we knew who the true enemy was.

To wit, let’s not pass over the story in the Sunday Times regarding Bush’s absolute lies about Abu Zubaydah, the first of Osama’s lieutenants captured in the early days of the “war on terror,” and tortured by the CIA. It’s that “interrogation” that used “alternative” methods, as Bush put it, to get Zubaydah to confess to various things—that interrogation, in Bush’s way of thinking, that shows whay the law needs to be changed to allow American agents to terrorize their prisoners. The Times does a great job showing up the president’s lies on every level: “The events that unfolded at the safe house over the next few weeks proved to be fateful for the Bush administration. Within days, Mr. Zubaydah was being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques — he was stripped, held in an icy room and jarred by earsplittingly loud music — the genesis of practices later adopted by some within the military, and widely used by the Central Intelligence Agency in handling prominent terrorism suspects at secret overseas prisons. President Bush pointedly cited the capture and interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah in his speech last Wednesday announcing the transfer of Mr. Zubaydah and 13 others to the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. And he used it to call for ratification of the tough techniques employed in the questioning.But rather than the smooth process depicted by Mr. Bush, interviews with nearly a dozen current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials briefed on the process show, the interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah was fraught with sharp disputes, debates about the legality and utility of harsh interrogation methods, and a rupture between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the C.I.A. that has yet to heal.”

Meanwhile in Iraq, that other useless war: There’s been reports that Anbar province has fallen to the insurgents’ hands entire, including Ramadi (which was never in American hands) and Fallujah (which the Marines fought a much-publicized war over, and allegedly won back). The Washington Post, ever the administration’s apologist, calls the situation in Anbar merely “dire.” And what does Dick Cheney say to all this? War critics help the terrorists.

Losing Afghanistan: “It is the war that was meant to have ended for good. Just under five years ago the Taliban fled Kabul without firing a shot. But yesterday the Islamic militants showed they were back with a vengeance when a massive suicide bomb blew up beside an American convoy in the city killing 18 Afghans and two US soldiers. Fighting between the Taliban and Nato forces is raging across the south of the country,” the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn writes. “The victory won by President George Bush in 2001 after the 11 September al-Qa'ida attacks on America has evaporated. "The fighting is extraordinarily intense. The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq on a daily basis," the commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Brig Ed Butler said this week. Taliban units have taken over swaths of country around Kandahar and are increasingly active in and around the capital.” Canada is sending 15 more tanks and 120 more troops to that quagmire. And to mark their own 9/11 anniversaries, terrorists took out a governor. And al-Qaeda broadcasts its own little 9/11 anniversary warning.

The Bitter Legacy of 9/11

2,973 Total number of people killed (excluding the 19 hijackers) in the September 11, 2001 attacks

72,000 Estimated number of civilians killed worldwide since September 11, 2001 as a result of the war on terror

2 Number of years since US intelligence had any credible lead to Osama bin Laden's whereabouts

2,932 Total number of US servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 2001

1,248 Number of published books relating to the September 11 attacks

$119m Ticket sales for anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11

$40bn Airline industry losses since September 2001

2009 Date when the official memorial will open at the World Trade Centre site

0 Hours of intelligence training provided to new FBI agents before 9/11. Now they get 24.

91 per cent Terror cases from FBI and others that US Justice Dept declined to prosecute in first eight months of 2006

11 Weeks the 9/11 commission's final report was top of New York Times' non-fiction best-seller list

117 Number of UK service personnel killed in Iraq since invasion

40 Number of UK personnel killed in Afghanistan since invasion

7 per cent People in UK who think US-led war on terror is being won, according to YouGov

1 Those charged in US with a crime in connection with 9/11

455 Number of detainees at Guantanamo Bay

77 per cent Percentage of people in the UK who believe Tony Blair's Middle East policy has made Britain a terrorist target (YouGov)

4,000 Number of UK troops left in Iraq after British-controlled provinceshanded back to Baghdad

18 The number of times that undercover investigators with fake IDs have breezed through US border checkpoints in a test by the Government Accountability Office

$8bn The amount the US will spend this year on hunting Bin Laden and other terrorists

From the UK Independent

Tony Blair in Beirut, and Beirut’s response: Who gives a damn? Asia Times Online has a piece about “how Hezbollah called the shots” in the latest Lebanon war.

The Bush administration pays journalists to spread propaganda in Iraq. Why not in the United States? And so it has: “Ten South Florida journalists, including three with The Miami Herald's Spanish-language sister paper, received thousands of dollars from the federal government for their work on radio and TV programming aimed at undermining Fidel Castro's communist regime, the Herald reported. Pablo Alfonso, who reports on Cuba and wrote an opinion column for El Nuevo Herald, had been paid almost $175,000 since 2001 to host shows on Radio and TV Marti, U.S. government programs that promote democracy in Cuba, according to govern ment documents obtained by the Herald. Olga Connor, a free-lance reporter who wrote about Cuban culture for El Nuevo Herald, received about $71,000 from the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and staff reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla, who covered the Cuban exile community and politics, was paid almost $15,000 in the last five years, the Herald said Friday.” The Herald published the journalists responses and non-responses.

Iran’s Khatami in (and to) Washington: “"Before we can talk and engage in dialogue we have to eliminate the language of threat for this dialogue to be successful," Khatami, who was president from 1997-2005, said through an interpreter. ‘Relations between our respective governments should be resolved through dialogue,’ said Khatami, who arrived in the United States last week.  ‘Using violent language by every side is not conducive to dialogue and would exacerbate the problem.’”

China’s Censorship goes global:Had this not been 9/11’s anniversary, this story would have been all over the front pages. The Chinese know how to pick their days to announce their regressive policies: “ China tightened its grip on the media yesterday and banned all reports distributed within the country by foreign agencies until they had been cleared by the State,” The UK Times reports. “The new rules give the state-owned Xinhua News Agency the power to censor the agencies’ reports in China. The measures, which take immediate effect, ban foreign agencies from distributing their content except through Xinhua or its authorised entities.”

In Other Worlds

From the economic nonsense department: “New research finds that many youths who had been classified as "religious" because of their church attendance succumbed to temptation after blue laws were repealed. They drank more alcohol and used other drugs,” writes the Christian Science Monitor’s David Francis. “Apparently, "religion truly affects behavior," says Daniel Hungerman, an economist at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., and an author of the study. "It really matters."” The article suggests that so-called “Blue Laws” may have been useful after all in keeping businesses closed on Sundays. Following that line of reasoning, why not keep businesses closed six days a week, and open them only for a day’s worth of supervised and counseled shopping?

USA Today’s Andrew Kantor on bloggers as journalists: “In their rush to get the Big Scoop — something pros know come few and far between — bloggers and other citizen journalists love, for example, to blow small things out of proportion. After all, they don't have editors to say, “You need more” or “That's not a story.”

When Jesuits screw little boys, is it news, or just Jesuits being Jesuits? “For 40 years, the Jesuit leadership in the Northwest buried allegations that John Leary, former president of Gonzaga University, sexually abused boys and young men in the 1960s,” the Seattle Times reports. “On Friday, church officials announced that the abuse occurred during Leary's tenure at the university. It is the latest disclosure of a number of sexual-abuse allegations against Jesuits that have emerged in recent years.” Then again let’s not be exclusively critical of Jesuits considering the innate perversion built into celibacy demanding priesthoods of any sort.

“LonelyGirl” a fake: “A series of videos showing a 16-year-old girl opining about life, relationships, planets, cookies and religion from the orderly confines of her bedroom somewhere in smalltown America has become the pop culture hit of the summer. The short video blog postings by lonelygirl15 on the YouTube website have attracted millions of viewers since they started appearing in May. But the postings' polished nature and the intriguing inconsistencies in the stories led many to suspect that lonelygirl15 was fake.”

Headline of the day, from Australia’s The Age: “Playboy Hef wants ball scratched.

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