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Impeach Bush

Recession II?
CNN/Money
March 31, 2003: 5:30 PM EST By Justin Lahart, CNN/Money Staff Writer

Recent economic numbers show contraction has already begun.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Investors may not have to worry about whether the economy might plunge back into recession for much longer. Increasingly, it looks as though the plunge has already begun.

Economic reports for February were downright abysmal, suggesting that the economy had rapidly lost the momentum that it had begun the year with. March's opening shot, the Chicago-area Purchasing Managers' Index, came in far below economists' already-dour predictions. If anything, indications are that the economy was even worse in March than it was in February.

In a morning note Monday, Merrill Lynch chief North American Economist David Rosenberg said that, as far as he could tell, the economy contracted both months. If there is going to be a recession, according to Rosenberg, we're probably already in it.

According to the official nonofficial arbiter of U.S. business cycles, the National Bureau of Economic Research, a recession is "a significant decline in activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, visible in industrial production, employment, real income, and wholesale-retail sales."

February made me shiver...
A ream of economic reports surprised to the downside. Economists doubt March   was any better.
Report Forcast* Results
Consumer
Confidence Index
77 64 from a revised 78.8 in January--one of the five worst plunges in history.
Purchasing Managers' Index 52 50.5.  Under 50 signals contraction in manufacturing
Nonfarm payrolls +20,000 -308,000. It was the worst round of job-cutting in 15 months
Retail Sales -0.5% -1.6%. War worries, and bad weather, crimped spending.
Durable goods 
Orders
-1% -1.2 %. Janurary order were revised up to 1.9% from 3.3%
*All estimate Reuters
Source: CNN/Money

Recent data suggest the decline is there. Over the past month, just about any major economic report you would care to think of painted a weak picture, with the national Purchasing Managers' Index, retail sales and nonfarm payrolls showing surprising weakness.

"When things slow as much as they have," said Natexis Bleichroeder economist James Padinha, "are we heading back into recession, or can we get out of it."

But the decline hasn't lasted long enough to slap the recession label on it. At least not yet.

"A recession is in the eye of the beholder, and the eye of the NBER, but clearly we're struggling here," said Northern Trust chief U.S. economist Paul Kasriel. "We're at stall speed and it's not clear what, in the short term, is going to get the economy's nose up."

  
Still, most economists -- Kasriel included -- continue to believe that the economy will work its way out of the current rough patch back into middling growth. But forecasts have been coming down and the odds given to the economy going into recession have been going up.

"We've been saying the chance of recession is a one-in-three, and those risks are increasing," said Goldman Sachs director of U.S. economic research Bill Dudley.

For most economists, the idea the economy will skirt recession depends on events in the political and geopolitical sphere. Congress, they think, will push through some sort of tax cut and stimulus plan, in due course, and that will help get things moving again. More importantly, war with Iraq will be over shortly.

"Are the economic indicators looking like a recession? Absolutely," said Lehman Brothers chief U.S. economist Ethan Harris. "But you can still hold out hope that the war is resolved in a month or so and the economy can stage some kind of recovery."

Even if Harris' hopes for a quick war are met, the economy may still have a difficult time pulling out of its decline, some worry. Yes, the end of the war might fuel a bout of optimism, particularly among consumers, but it may not be enough to get business spending, the thorn in the economy's side, back on track.

"There's nothing out there that's going to lead the recovery," said Brown Brothers Harriman fixed-income portfolio manager Richard Koss. "Businesses don't want to spend -- they're more focused on paying down debt than on buying things."

Koss isn't even all that sure that the economy ever came out of recession. Nor is the NBER, which still hasn't got around to declaring when the recession that began in March 2001 ended. Earlier this month it said that, because employment continues to suffer, it still needs time to determine whether the last downturn, in fact, ended.

With the economy sliding anew, the answer might be little more than semantics. Whether it comes in two dips or one dollop, economic pain is economic pain.   
 

© 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. An AOL Time Warner Company ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Commentary:


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Non-Manufacturing Drops to Recession Levels
BBC News (UK)
Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK

Worries about whether the US economy is faltering in the teeth of war with Iraq were sharpened on Thursday, as new economic data suggested the US services sector is shrinking.

The indicators, from the closely-watched Institute of Supply Management and showing the first contraction in US non-manufacturing businesses since January 2002, came as a shock to observers.

The March data showed that the economy was in trouble even before the US launched the current war in Iraq, some observers said.

Thursday also brought jobs data, showing the biggest one-week spike in the number of Americans claiming on unemployment insurance in a year.

Gloomy prognosis

Despite the numbers, the Federal Reserve remains confident that the uncertainty dogging both the economy and the markets will fade once the hostilities are over.

But many economists believe that since the problems of over-supply, under-investment, slumping consumer confidence and the persistent after-effects of the 1990s bubble predate the war, any post-war boost will prove strictly temporary.

"There's underlying weakness in this data," said Drew Matus, economist at Lehman Brothers in New York.

"Things just aren't getting better."

The ISM survey's index of non-manufacturing activity fell to 47.9 in March from 53.9 the month before, making March the worst reading since October 2001, just after the 11 September attacks on the US.

It was also the first time since January last year that it strayed below 50, the cut-off point between expansion and contraction.

Jobless claims, meanwhile, showed a leap of 38,000 people to 445,000 in the week to 29 March, the highest figure since April 2002.

© BBC 2003

Commentary:
The next president is going to have his hands filled. Not only does he have to fix our relations with the world community, including the UN Security Council, but he'll have to figure out a way out of this economic malaise we've been in since Bush became president. But, if that's not enough, he'll be dealing with the largest deficits in US history, caused mostly by Bush's tax give-away to the rich.

For some reason, the lack of morality doesn't seem to hit these conservatives. Their party borrows trillions of dollars, they give it to the rich, create massive deficits (like Reagan) and they think everything great. How do we deal with a party so purely evil?


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Why Americans Must Stop Bush--a British perspective
The Guardian(UK)
Arundhati Roy
Wednesday April 2, 2003

Mesopotamia. Babylon. The Tigris and Euphrates

How many children, in how many classrooms, over how many centuries, have hang-glided through the past, transported on the wings of these words? And now the bombs are falling, incinerating and humiliating that ancient civilisation.

On the steel torsos of their missiles, adolescent American soldiers scrawl colourful messages in childish handwriting: For Saddam, from the Fat Boy Posse. A building goes down. A marketplace. A home. A girl who loves a boy. A child who only ever wanted to play with his older brother's marbles.
On March 21, the day after American and British troops began their illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, an "embedded" CNN correspondent interviewed an American soldier. "I wanna get in there and get my nose dirty," Private AJ said. "I wanna take revenge for 9/11."

To be fair to the correspondent, even though he was "embedded" he did sort of weakly suggest that so far there was no real evidence that linked the Iraqi government to the September 11 attacks. Private AJ stuck his teenage tongue out all the way down to the end of his chin. "Yeah, well that stuff's way over my head," he said.

According to a New York Times/CBS News survey, 42 per cent of the American public believes that Saddam Hussein is directly responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. And an ABC news poll says that 55 per cent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein directly supports al-Qaida. What percentage of America's armed forces believe these fabrications is anybody's guess.

It is unlikely that British and American troops fighting in Iraq are aware that their governments supported Saddam Hussein both politically and financially through his worst excesses.

But why should poor AJ and his fellow soldiers be burdened with these details? It does not matter any more, does it? Hundreds of thousands of men, tanks, ships, choppers, bombs, ammunition, gas masks, high-protein food, whole aircrafts ferrying toilet paper, insect repellent, vitamins and bottled mineral water, are on the move. The phenomenal logistics of Operation Iraqi Freedom make it a universe unto itself. It doesn't need to justify its existence any more. It exists. It is.

President George W Bush, commander in chief of the US army, navy, airforce and marines has issued clear instructions: "Iraq. Will. Be. Liberated." (Perhaps he means that even if Iraqi people's bodies are killed, their souls will be liberated.) American and British citizens owe it to the supreme commander to forsake thought and rally behind their troops. Their countries are at war. And what a war it is.

After using the "good offices" of UN diplomacy (economic sanctions and weapons inspections) to ensure that Iraq was brought to its knees, its people starved, half a million of its children killed, its infrastructure severely damaged, after making sure that most of its weapons have been destroyed, in an act of cowardice that must surely be unrivalled in history, the "Allies"/"Coalition of the Willing"(better known as the Coalition of the Bullied and Bought) - sent in an invading army!

Operation Iraqi Freedom? I don't think so. It's more like Operation Let's Run a Race, but First Let Me Break Your Knees.

So far the Iraqi army, with its hungry, ill-equipped soldiers, its old guns and ageing tanks, has somehow managed to temporarily confound and occasionally even outmanoeuvre the "Allies". Faced with the richest, best-equipped, most powerful armed forces the world has ever seen, Iraq has shown spectacular courage and has even managed to put up what actually amounts to a defence. A defence which the Bush/Blair Pair have immediately denounced as deceitful and cowardly. (But then deceit is an old tradition with us natives. When we are invaded/ colonised/occupied and stripped of all dignity, we turn to guile and opportunism.)

Even allowing for the fact that Iraq and the "Allies" are at war, the extent to which the "Allies" and their media cohorts are prepared to go is astounding to the point of being counterproductive to their own objectives.

When Saddam Hussein appeared on national TV to address the Iraqi people after the failure of the most elaborate assassination attempt in history - "Operation Decapitation" - we had Geoff Hoon, the British defence secretary, deriding him for not having the courage to stand up and be killed, calling him a coward who hides in trenches. We then had a flurry of Coalition speculation - Was it really Saddam, was it his double? Or was it Osama with a shave? Was it pre-recorded? Was it a speech? Was it black magic? Will it turn into a pumpkin if we really, really want it to?

After dropping not hundreds, but thousands of bombs on Baghdad, when a marketplace was mistakenly blown up and civilians killed - a US army spokesman implied that the Iraqis were blowing themselves up! "They're using very old stock. Their missiles go up and come down."

If so, may we ask how this squares with the accusation that the Iraqi regime is a paid-up member of the Axis of Evil and a threat to world peace?

When the Arab TV station al-Jazeera shows civilian casualties it's denounced as "emotive" Arab propaganda aimed at orchestrating hostility towards the "Allies", as though Iraqis are dying only in order to make the "Allies" look bad. Even French television has come in for some stick for similar reasons. But the awed, breathless footage of aircraft carriers, stealth bombers and cruise missiles arcing across the desert sky on American and British TV is described as the "terrible beauty" of war.

When invading American soldiers (from the army "that's only here to help") are taken prisoner and shown on Iraqi TV, George Bush says it violates the Geneva convention and "exposes the evil at the heart of the regime". But it is entirely acceptable for US television stations to show the hundreds of prisoners being held by the US government in Guantanamo Bay, kneeling on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs, blinded with opaque goggles and with earphones clamped on their ears, to ensure complete visual and aural deprivation. When questioned about the treatment of these prisoners, US Government officials don't deny that they're being being ill-treated. They deny that they're "prisoners of war"! They call them "unlawful combatants", implying that their ill-treatment is legitimate! (So what's the party line on the massacre of prisoners in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan? Forgive and forget? And what of the prisoner tortured to death by the special forces at the Bagram airforce base? Doctors have formally called it homicide.)

When the "Allies" bombed the Iraqi television station (also, incidentally, a contravention of the Geneva convention), there was vulgar jubilation in the American media. In fact Fox TV had been lobbying for the attack for a while. It was seen as a righteous blow against Arab propaganda. But mainstream American and British TV continue to advertise themselves as "balanced" when their propaganda has achieved hallucinatory levels.

Why should propaganda be the exclusive preserve of the western media? Just because they do it better? Western journalists "embedded" with troops are given the status of heroes reporting from the frontlines of war. Non-"embedded" journalists (such as the BBC's Rageh Omaar, reporting from besieged and bombed Baghdad, witnessing, and clearly affected by the sight of bodies of burned children and wounded people) are undermined even before they begin their reportage: "We have to tell you that he is being monitored by the Iraqi authorities."

Increasingly, on British and American TV, Iraqi soldiers are being referred to as "militia" (ie: rabble). One BBC correspondent portentously referred to them as "quasi-terrorists". Iraqi defence is "resistance" or worse still, "pockets of resistance", Iraqi military strategy is deceit. (The US government bugging the phone lines of UN security council delegates, reported by the Observer, is hard-headed pragmatism.) Clearly for the "Allies", the only morally acceptable strategy the Iraqi army can pursue is to march out into the desert and be bombed by B-52s or be mowed down by machine-gun fire. Anything short of that is cheating.

And now we have the siege of Basra. About a million and a half people, 40 per cent of them children. Without clean water, and with very little food. We're still waiting for the legendary Shia "uprising", for the happy hordes to stream out of the city and rain roses and hosannahs on the "liberating" army. Where are the hordes? Don't they know that television productions work to tight schedules? (It may well be that if Saddam's regime falls there will be dancing on the streets of Basra. But then, if the Bush regime were to fall, there would be dancing on the streets the world over.)

After days of enforcing hunger and thirst on the citizens of Basra, the "Allies" have brought in a few trucks of food and water and positioned them tantalisingly on the outskirts of the city. Desperate people flock to the trucks and fight each other for food. (The water we hear, is being sold. To revitalise the dying economy, you understand.) On top of the trucks, desperate photographers fought each other to get pictures of desperate people fighting each other for food. Those pictures will go out through photo agencies to newspapers and glossy magazines that pay extremely well. Their message: The messiahs are at hand, distributing fishes and loaves.

As of July last year the delivery of $5.4bn worth of supplies to Iraq was blocked by the Bush/Blair Pair. It didn't really make the news. But now under the loving caress of live TV, 450 tonnes of humanitarian aid - a minuscule fraction of what's actually needed (call it a script prop) - arrived on a British ship, the "Sir Galahad". Its arrival in the port of Umm Qasr merited a whole day of live TV broadcasts. Barf bag, anyone?

Nick Guttmann, head of emergencies for Christian Aid, writing for the Independent on Sunday said that it would take 32 Sir Galahad's a day to match the amount of food Iraq was receiving before the bombing began.

We oughtn't to be surprised though. It's old tactics. They've been at it for years. Consider this moderate proposal by John McNaughton from the Pentagon Papers, published during the Vietnam war: "Strikes at population targets (per se) are likely not only to create a counterproductive wave of revulsion abroad and at home, but greatly to increase the risk of enlarging the war with China or the Soviet Union. Destruction of locks and dams, however - if handled right - might ... offer promise. It should be studied. Such destruction does not kill or drown people. By shallow-flooding the rice, it leads after time to widespread starvation (more than a million?) unless food is provided - which we could offer to do 'at the conference table'."

Times haven't changed very much. The technique has evolved into a doctrine. It's called "Winning Hearts and Minds".

So, here's the moral maths as it stands: 200,000 Iraqis estimated to have been killed in the first Gulf war. Hundreds of thousands dead because of the economic sanctions. (At least that lot has been saved from Saddam Hussein.) More being killed every day. Tens of thousands of US soldiers who fought the 1991 war officially declared "disabled" by a disease called the Gulf war syndrome, believed in part to be caused by exposure to depleted uranium. It hasn't stopped the "Allies" from continuing to use depleted uranium.

And now this talk of bringing the UN back into the picture. But that old UN girl - it turns out that she just ain't what she was cracked up to be. She's been demoted (although she retains her high salary). Now she's the world's janitor. She's the Philippino cleaning lady, the Indian jamadarni, the postal bride from Thailand, the Mexican household help, the Jamaican au pair. She's employed to clean other peoples' shit. She's used and abused at will.

Despite Blair's earnest submissions, and all his fawning, Bush has made it clear that the UN will play no independent part in the administration of postwar Iraq. The US will decide who gets those juicy "reconstruction" contracts. But Bush has appealed to the international community not to "politicise" the issue of humanitarian aid. On the March 28, after Bush called for the immediate resumption of the UN's oil for food programme, the UN security council voted unanimously for the resolution. This means that everybody agrees that Iraqi money (from the sale of Iraqi oil) should be used to feed Iraqi people who are starving because of US led sanctions and the illegal US-led war.

Contracts for the "reconstruction" of Iraq we're told, in discussions on the business news, could jump-start the world economy. It's funny how the interests of American corporations are so often, so successfully and so deliberately confused with the interests of the world economy. While the American people will end up paying for the war, oil companies, weapons manufacturers, arms dealers, and corporations involved in "reconstruction" work will make direct gains from the war. Many of them are old friends and former employers of the Bush/ Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice cabal. Bush has already asked Congress for $75bn. Contracts for "re-construction" are already being negotiated. The news doesn't hit the stands because much of the US corporate media is owned and managed by the same interests.

Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tony Blair assures us is about returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people. That is, returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people via corporate multinationals. Like Shell, like Chevron, like Halliburton. Or are we missing the plot here? Perhaps Halliburton is actually an Iraqi company? Perhaps US vice-president Dick Cheney (who is a former director of Halliburton) is a closet Iraqi?

As the rift between Europe and America deepens, there are signs that the world could be entering a new era of economic boycotts. CNN reported that Americans are emptying French wine into gutters, chanting, "We don't want your stinking wine." We've heard about the re-baptism of French fries. Freedom fries they're called now. There's news trickling in about Americans boycotting German goods. The thing is that if the fallout of the war takes this turn, it is the US who will suffer the most. Its homeland may be defended by border patrols and nuclear weapons, but its economy is strung out across the globe. Its economic outposts are exposed and vulnerable to attack in every direction. Already the internet is buzzing with elaborate lists of American and British government products and companies that should be boycotted. Apart from the usual targets, Coke, Pepsi and McDonald's - government agencies such as USAID, the British department for international development, British and American banks, Arthur Anderson, Merrill Lynch, American Express, corporations such as Bechtel, General Electric, and companies such as Reebok, Nike and Gap - could find themselves under siege. These lists are being honed and re fined by activists across the world. They could become a practical guide that directs and channels the amorphous, but growing fury in the world. Suddenly, the "inevitability" of the project of corporate globalisation is beginning to seem more than a little evitable.

It's become clear that the war against terror is not really about terror, and the war on Iraq not only about oil. It's about a superpower's self-destructive impulse towards supremacy, stranglehold, global hegemony. The argument is being made that the people of Argentina and Iraq have both been decimated by the same process. Only the weapons used against them differ: In one case it's an IMF chequebook. In the other, cruise missiles.

Finally, there's the matter of Saddam's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. (Oops, nearly forgot about those!)

In the fog of war - one thing's for sure - if Saddam 's regime indeed has weapons of mass destruction, it is showing an astonishing degree of responsibility and restraint in the teeth of extreme provocation. Under similar circumstances, (say if Iraqi troops were bombing New York and laying siege to Washington DC) could we expect the same of the Bush regime? Would it keep its thousands of nuclear warheads in their wrapping paper? What about its chemical and biological weapons? Its stocks of anthrax, smallpox and nerve gas? Would it?

Excuse me while I laugh.

In the fog of war we're forced to speculate: Either Saddam is an extremely responsible tyrant. Or - he simply does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Either way, regardless of what happens next, Iraq comes out of the argument smelling sweeter than the US government.

So here's Iraq - rogue state, grave threat to world peace, paid-up member of the Axis of Evil. Here's Iraq, invaded, bombed, besieged, bullied, its sovereignty shat upon, its children killed by cancers, its people blown up on the streets. And here's all of us watching. CNN-BBC, BBC-CNN late into the night. Here's all of us, enduring the horror of the war, enduring the horror of the propaganda and enduring the slaughter of language as we know and understand it. Freedom now means mass murder (or, in the US, fried potatoes). When someone says "humanitarian aid" we automatically go looking for induced starvation. "Embedded" I have to admit, is a great find. It's what it sounds like. And what about "arsenal of tactics?" Nice!

In most parts of the world, the invasion of Iraq is being seen as a racist war. The real danger of a racist war unleashed by racist regimes is that it engenders racism in everybody - perpetrators, victims, spectators. It sets the parameters for the debate, it lays out a grid for a particular way of thinking. There is a tidal wave of hatred for the US rising from the ancient heart of the world. In Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia. I encounter it every day. Sometimes it comes from the most unlikely sources. Bankers, businessmen, yuppie students, and they bring to it all the crassness of their conservative, illiberal politics. That absurd inability to separate governments from people: America is a nation of morons, a nation of murderers, they say, (with the same carelessness with which they say, "All Muslims are terrorists"). Even in the grotesque universe of racist insult, the British make their entry as add-ons. Arse-lickers, they're called.

Suddenly, I, who have been vilified for being "anti-American" and "anti-west", find myself in the extraordinary position of defending the people of America. And Britain.

Those who descend so easily into the pit of racist abuse would do well to remember the hundreds of thousands of American and British citizens who protested against their country's stockpile of nuclear weapons. And the thousands of American war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam. They should know that the most scholarly, scathing, hilarious critiques of the US government and the "American way of life" comes from American citizens. And that the funniest, most bitter condemnation of their prime minister comes from the British media. Finally they should remember that right now, hundreds of thousands of British and American citizens are on the streets protesting the war. The Coalition of the Bullied and Bought consists of governments, not people. More than one third of America's citizens have survived the relentless propaganda they've been subjected to, and many thousands are actively fighting their own government. In the ultra-patriotic climate that prevails in the US, that's as brave as any Iraqi fighting for his or her homeland.

While the "Allies" wait in the desert for an uprising of Shia Muslims on the streets of Basra, the real uprising is taking place in hundreds of cities across the world. It has been the most spectacular display of public morality ever seen.

Most courageous of all, are the hundreds of thousands of American people on the streets of America's great cities - Washington, New York, Chicago, San Francisco. The fact is that the only institution in the world today that is more powerful than the American government, is American civil society. American citizens have a huge responsibility riding on their shoulders. How can we not salute and support those who not only acknowledge but act upon that responsibility? They are our allies, our friends.

At the end of it all, it remains to be said that dictators like Saddam Hussein, and all the other despots in the Middle East, in the central Asian republics, in Africa and Latin America, many of them installed, supported and financed by the US government, are a menace to their own people. Other than strengthening the hand of civil society (instead of weakening it as has been done in the case of Iraq), there is no easy, pristine way of dealing with them. (It's odd how those who dismiss the peace movement as utopian, don't hesitate to proffer the most absurdly dreamy reasons for going to war: to stamp out terrorism, install democracy, eliminate fascism, and most entertainingly, to "rid the world of evil-doers".)

Regardless of what the propaganda machine tells us, these tin-pot dictators are not the greatest threat to the world. The real and pressing danger, the greatest threat of all is the locomotive force that drives the political and economic engine of the US government, currently piloted by George Bush. Bush-bashing is fun, because he makes such an easy, sumptuous target. It's true that he is a dangerous, almost suicidal pilot, but the machine he handles is far more dangerous than the man himself.

Despite the pall of gloom that hangs over us today, I'd like to file a cautious plea for hope: in times of war, one wants one's weakest enemy at the helm of his forces. And President George W Bush is certainly that. Any other even averagely intelligent US president would have probably done the very same things, but would have managed to smoke-up the glass and confuse the opposition. Perhaps even carry the UN with him. Bush's tactless imprudence and his brazen belief that he can run the world with his riot squad, has done the opposite. He has achieved what writers, activists and scholars have striven to achieve for decades. He has exposed the ducts. He has placed on full public view the working parts, the nuts and bolts of the apocalyptic apparatus of the American empire.

Now that the blueprint (The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire) has been put into mass circulation, it could be disabled quicker than the pundits predicted.

Bring on the spanners.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Commentary:
This is what our friends are writing about us. Image what our enemies are saying.


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Bush, Blair Excommunicated: Church Of The Nativity
Palestine Chronicle
By Yasser El-Banna
Monday, March 31 2003 @ 07:39 PM GMT

BETHLEHEM - Spokesman of the Orthodox Church in the Holy Lands, archimandrite Attallah Hanna declared that U.S. President George Bush, his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, British Premier Tony Blair, his Foreign Minister Jack Straw have all been deprived from visiting the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.

This decision was taken to express the refusal of the Palestinian Christians of the U.S.-led invasion on Iraq.

In a special interview with IslamOnline.net, Monday, March 31, Hanna described both Bush and Blair as excommunicates, as they have turned a deaf ear to several calls by the Orthodox Church and other churches before war erupted.

"This indicates that leaders of the invading states did not listen to the church, and hence, we deem them excommunicates and perverted.'
"Bush and Blair behave in an antagonistically to the Semitic Church that calls for stopping the aggression and hostilities against Iraq,' he added.

The Church of Nativity decided on Sunday, March 30, 2003, to excommunicate Bush, Rumsfeld, Blair and Straw due to their military attacks on Iraq.
The decision was declared Sunday by Father Banar Teyous, representative of the Orthodox Nativity Church during a march, organized by Orthodox institutions in front of the Church, to criticize the U.S. British invasion of Iraq.

Father Banar Teyous said that U.S.-British invaders are war criminals and children assassins and hence, the Church decided to excommunicate them.

The War Has No Religious Cover

The attacks undertaken by the alliance in Iraq is contrary to the instructions and message of Christianity, Father Attalah said.

"Such a war targets both Muslims and Christians and is in favor of the world Zionism that seeks to promote the notion of religious and civilizational struggle,' he added.

"We condemn the aggression and call for an immediate stop thereof, as what is happening in Baghdad, capital of civilization, is extremely painful.'

He expressed the sympathy of the Christian church with the Iraqi people, underlining that there is no moral or religious cover for the deeds of invaders in Iraq.

Hanna said that the excommunication decision is only a means to express disapproval and strong condemnation of what is currently going on in Iraq. It is also an expression of the Church's sympathy with the Iraqi people.

The Church also declared its desire to put an immediate end to the war on Iraq, he said.

Global Christian Campaign

Hanna unveiled the efforts and contacts made by the Oriental Orthodox Church with several Christian churches the world over to organize a global Christian campaign in coordination with the Islamic institutions in order to stop the aggression that targets the Arab nation, the civilization and human values stipulated under the heavenly scriptures.

Archimandrite Hanna called upon the whole world, Christians and Muslims, to cooperate in order to defuse the Zionist and imperialist plans.

He said that there must be an Arab, Islamic and Christian cooperation with the objective of boosting historical links among followers of both doctrines in order to strengthen the values of dialogue and unity in the Arab world.

It is worth noting that the Church of Nativity is the first church on earth and has a special importance for different Christian sects, as it was established where Jesus Christ was born.

The Church consists of a huge religious compound that includes the church building as well as a number of monasteries and other churches that represent different Christian sects.

The Church is managed by three sects, namely, Orthodox, Earth and Franciscans.

[IslamOnline & News Agencies [islamonline.net).] Published at the Palestine Chronicle. IslamOnline

Copyright © 2002 Palestine Chronicle. All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners.

Commentary:
What will the religious do now? I know! They'll find a way around it, like they find a way around everything else he does. "Excommunication doesn't scare tyrants and warriors" like it used to. I still haven't figured out what Saddam has ever done to the US besides scare this silly president.

Bush assumes Saddam might use what we gave him against us some day. Using that logic we NOW have the right to go to war with every country on earth. America's Hitler has been consecrated with blood. Now we wait to see what he does with his other new title "Butcher of Bagdad."


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Building Iraqi public support requires rewriting history
Yahoo News/USA Today
Wed Apr 2, 5:56 AM ET

If overcoming stiff resistance from Iraqi fighters weren't challenging enough, the U.S. military now is struggling to cope with the fallout from the killing of at least eight unarmed Iraqi civilians, seven of them women and children.

The incidents occurred two days in a row this week, when U.S. forces fired on vehicles that failed to slow for military checkpoints. Coming after suicide attacks on coalition forces, the shootings are the tragic yet defensible result of wary troops who have been forced to treat Iraqi civilians with increased suspicion.

But the incidents also mark another setback in the critical effort to persuade the Iraqi population that the U.S. is committed not only to Iraq's liberation but also to rewriting its long history of foreign domination.

The war began with the assumption that the Iraqi public would eagerly support U.S. liberators arriving to topple Saddam Hussein's brutal regime.

Still, not until Tuesday did U.S. and British military officials report the first significant relaxation of tensions and cooperation from Iraqi civilians in U.S.- and British-controlled areas in southern Iraq.

Building on that fledgling support is crucial to bringing down Saddam's regime and replacing it with a democracy. Yet it will require overcoming Iraqi suspicion that President Bush's pledges of Iraqi freedom, renewed on Monday, could be forgotten as quickly as similar promises in the past.

Iraq's history -- coupled with Saddam's brutal stranglehold on its citizens -- helps explain the reluctance of the Iraqi public to welcome U.S. troops who arrive proclaiming that they are liberators not occupiers.

Iraqis have heard that claim for decades -- and been scarred by the experience. In fact, Lt. Gen. Stanley Maude, the British commander who entered Baghdad in 1917 to end rule by the Ottoman Turks, used almost the same words: "We came as liberators, not as conquerors." The British went on to rule for decades, at times brutally.

Nationalist uprisings were put down with aerial bombing and mustard gas. With British help, the Sunni Muslim minority gained privileges at the expense of the Shiite majority and ethnic Kurds, who failed to gain promised independence. And the British developed the country's oil resources on terms favorable to Western oil companies.

In 1963, the CIA intervened in Iraqi politics to help Saddam's branch of the Baath Party seize power. A violent purge followed.

A generation later, Iraqis were given a new reason to resent U.S. forces. The U.S. encouraged Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south to revolt against Saddam after his defeat in the 1991 Gulf War -- only to abandon them when Saddam moved to brutally crush the rebellions.

On Monday, Bush spoke directly to Iraqi citizens, telling them that the U.S. will "end the reign of your oppressor." Comforting as those words sound, Iraqi citizens deserve firm indications that they won't be abandoned again -- and they aren't merely swapping one oppressor for another.

Copyright © 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Copyright © 2003 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
 

Commentary:
In 1963 the CIA put Saddam's party in power. They also trained bin Laden to fight against the Soviet Union during the Afghanistani war in the 1980's. Under Reagan the CIA created the terrorists we fear today and the Gulf War under Bush gave them reason to use what they learned against us.

In the long term it seems obvious the CIA has no valid purpose in a democracy as great as ours. They overthrow governments, train terrorists, violate International Law with impunity and we allow them to do it. Shame on us.

I suppose some could argue this war and the Gulf War in 1991 were attempts by the US to fix a problem we created in the first place. Not only did we put Saddam's party in power, but according to the New York Times the US and France supplied Iraq with "anthrax and other germ samples." We made this monster and now we're pretending to liberate the people of Iraq from our creation. How nobel we look (to fools).

Still not convinced? How about this one?
From the Sunday Herald (UK) :"THE US and Britain sold Saddam Hussein the technology and materials Iraq needed to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Reports by the US Senate's committee on banking, housing and urban affairs -- which oversees American exports policy -- reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene."

So when you hear the words "gasing his own people," know two things. First, we gave him the knowledge and tools to do it and second, we looked the other way.


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White House Spin Exposed
Yahoo News/Offbeat (FR) (France)
on Mar 31, 9:20 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - War in Iraq has proved a tough challenge for the White House's usually tightly scripted press operation, which is struggling to maintain its much-vaunted image of a president above the daily fray.

The latest misstep was over presidential TV-viewing habits, which it turns out are not exactly what spokesman Ari Fleischer made them out to be.

The White House communications team had carefully cultivated a profile of President George W. Bush as an executive who leaves the daily war planning to his generals, while avoiding the saturation television coverage of the war.

But friends say Bush is glued to his television, discussing breaking developments with his aides.

Roland Betts, a New York real estate developer and long-time Bush friend, told The New York Times how the president spent the first weekend of the war in front of the television at his Camp David retreat.

During the first major bombings of Baghdad, Fleischer had depicted a president with little interests in the TV coverage.

"I don't think he needs to watch TV to know what was about to unfold," Fleischer said.

Betts had a different take.

"He is just totally immersed," Betts said of the president, adding that Bush immediately discussed each new development with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Bush started laughing when a television correspondent accurately reported the White House's official message, that president was not watching TV while at Camp David.

That story forced Fleischer into a convoluted attempt at explaining away the discrepancy on Monday morning, when the spokesman said he called Betts "because I wanted to know if everything that he said was quoted accurately. He said it was."

The White House has refused to comment on military operations, referring all questions to the Defense Department and to military spokesmen in the Gulf.

But president regularly emerges to denounce the litany of atrocities committed against the Iraqi people by members of Iraq's ruling party or by Saddam Hussein's secret police.

During these statements, Bush always tosses out some fresh detail on the torture inflicted on those who want to help the US-British troops.

The aim is to convince the US public that their troops are fighting a war of liberation, despite the daily pictures of bombings and graphic stories of the horrors of combat.

The White House message has had trouble being heard above stories in the general press questioning the war plan, given tough Iraqi resistance and the population's subdued welcome to the troops.

The White House also must overcome the expectation, fostered by its own top officials before the war, that the conflict would be short.

Sources close to the president spoke of his "frustration" at critical news stories, and his spokesman insisted that Bush was always prepared for a difficult war.

Nonetheless, Bush had to make a last-minute deletion in one of his statements, which said military operations were running ahead of the expected schedule.

But he didn't tell his spokesman of the deletion soon enough. The statement had already been given to the press corps, with the deleted line still intact, before he could take it back.

Copyright © 2003 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.
Copyright © 2003 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
 

Commentary:
It appears Bush does little or nothing except watching TV during a time of war. He then lets his spin team do all the talking, (or should I say lying?). Bush has degraded Commander in Chief down to a ceremonial position.

This shouldn't surprise users of this website. During his first war in Afghanistan Bush spent almost every waking minute campaign against democrats and raising money for his party. He didn't have any time left to command the military in a "time of war."

Some of us found it even more unseemly that a president would spend so much time and energy playing politics during a so-called war. I concluded there could be a couple reasons for Bush's abhorrent actions during that campaign (oops, war). First, he's a man lacking in common decency, character and integrity, or second, war is and always will be a campaign prop for him and is party.

Men and woman die for this man so he can call himself a "war time president." We're supposed to forget he doesn't do anything except watch TV and play politics.


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Fact and fiction at the Wall Street Journal
Salon.com
By Eric Boehlert
April 1, 2003

April 1, 2003  |  Given the high stakes and the emotions involved, it was probably only a matter of time before the war in Iraq sparked a stateside press feud along partisan lines. One of the first features a Wall Street Journal media critic who accused a well-known liberal pundit of fearing that news accounts from embedded journalists would personalize soldiers, and indirectly, boost support for the war. But the evidence shows that the Journal writer badly misquoted the pundit, and the paper is weighing an apology and a published correction.

In Friday's column, "Embedded and Otherwise," the Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz detailed a panel discussion about war coverage that had taken place on PBS's "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" on March 22. Specifically, she focused on a part of the discussion that dealt with the effects of having reporters live and travel with military units. "The most interesting concern thus far," Rabinowitz wrote, "came from commentator Roger Wilkins, who mused on the Lehrer show that the journalists would get too close and feel for the military men who would seem to them, after all, to be 'fellow human beings.'"

The attention-getting quote was paraphrased and blown up inside a graphic box accompanying the story: "One critic worried that reporters might come to view the military as fellow human beings."

Indeed, the quote is inflammatory, suggesting U.S. troops should not be seen as human beings. That's certainly a radical notion for any mainstream pundit to take. But Rabinowitz, a member of the Journal's far-right editorial board, drove the point home by mocking Wilkins' "fellow human beings" quote.

"Now there's a serious worry," she wrote, "and for a certain quarter of the political culture, it probably is. Working and living with soldiers in combat could, after all, give young journalists a picture of the armed forces very different from the ones they gleaned from their universities and other centers of culture inveterately hostile to the military. The nation is likely to survive the threat."

Wilkins, a regular guest on "NewsHour," served in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson and now sits on the board of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and teaches history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Contacted by Salon, Wilkins insisted he never uttered the words that Rabinowitz attributed to him. "That quote came out of her head, not my mouth," he said. "She got it dead wrong."

The archived "NewsHour" transcript found online backs him up. Neither Wilkins nor anyone else on the panel expressed concern that embedded reporters would make U.S. troops seem to be "fellow human beings." What Wilkins did express was admiration for the Pentagon's plan to embed reporters, suggesting that as journalists got to know soldiers better it would inevitably lead to better coverage for the Pentagon. "Well, essentially these [reporters] are in the same foxhole," he told host Jim Lehrer, "and that has to color how you approach the war."

"The notion I would not want troops to be seen as human is absurd," Wilkins said Monday. "I care about those kids over there in the desert. I teach kids who are 19, 20, 21 years old. Of course I wish them well."

He saw politics at play from the Journal's editorial team, which regularly ridicules supposed liberal, anti-military bias among journalists and academics. "A lot of neoconservatives are fighting a rear-guard action against the Vietnam War culture," said Wilkins. "And they would see people like me who were against the war in Vietnam as someone who would be against our troops, or having an anti-American bias," says Wilkins.

The notion that journalists today don't respect the troops, or don't see them as human, does seem far-fetched. The truth is the press more often treats U.S. troops almost reverently, producing countless human-interest stories about their sacrifices and triumphs, both on the battlefield and back home. MSNBC, for instance, features an in-studio monument, "America's Bravest Photo Wall," where families send in photos of troops and the news channel pins them up on a wall, giving viewers a sketch of the U.S.'s fighting forces. And one MSNBC station I.D. features swelling music and dramatic photos of U.S. troops, with the on-screen message "Honoring America's Bravest. Far from Home, Close to Our Hearts."

If there's any second-guessing going on in the press, it's of Pentagon war planners, rarely the troops on the ground.

Contacted Monday morning, Rabinowitz conceded the quote in question did not show up on the printed transcripts for the "NewsHour," but told Salon she was standing by her story. "I do not invent quotes," she explained. "He said it ... I'm not surprised Roger doesn't remember saying it."

Rabinowitz, who writes a media log for the Journal's Web site and who won a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in 2001, said she did not tape the "NewsHour" program and threw her notes away, but remembered circling Wilkins' name on her yellow pad when he made the utterance. She said it was possible that she misattributed the phrase to another "NewsHour" guest, former Washington Post reporter Haynes Johnson. But since Johnson's father covered World War II with the troops as a reporter himself, it's doubtful he would be concerned that today's embedded journalists would make soldiers appear to be "fellow human beings. "If it turns out that I had a fugue of some kind," Rabinowitz said, "I'll apologize."

She suggested Wilkins said the phrase in passing while others were speaking and that's why it did not show up in the transcripts, and that the "NewsHour" representative was going to review the tape and report back to her. But a check of the complete audio file that "NewsHour" posted online confirms that neither Wilkins nor Johnson -- nor anyone else -- ever said what Rabinowitz reported.

Reached a second time Monday, Rabinowitz, after reviewing the audio portion, agreed that neither Wilkins nor Johnson had made the "fellow human beings" quote on "NewsHour."

"What could have happened, I don't know," she said, adding that she definitely heard that phrase from a TV pundit that night but was doing a search of the electronic database Nexis/Lexis to determine where she heard it. "I certainly didn't dream it up."

If the Journal determines Rabinowitz mistakenly attributed the quote to Wilkins, a correction will run. "He'll of course get an apology," she says, "and he will have earned it."

Perhaps it'll be the first dispute of this war to be solved diplomatically.

Commentary:
I'm thinking most people read the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal for the same reason they listen to Rush Limbaugh. To hear or read how utterly stupid a person can actually become and then laugh.

The WSJ once said Reagan ended the Cold War, forgetting of course that the Soviet people voted communists out of power because they were given free elections by Gorbachev.

The Journal also said the debt-causing-tax-cuts of the 1980's was great for the economy. Forgetting that debt is unpaid taxes is actually a tax increase. The editorial page also supported Bush's tax cuts, which are creating a massive tax burden for the next generations. All in all, the WSJ is good for a laugh, but not to be taken seriously.


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Shock and Awe (January 2003)
CBS News
David Martin
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2003

CBS) They're calling it "A-Day," A as in airstrikes so devastating they would leave Saddam's soldiers unable or unwilling to fight.

If the Pentagon sticks to its current war plan, one day in March the Air Force and Navy will launch between 300 and 400 cruise missiles at targets in Iraq. As CBS News Correspondent David Martin reports, this is more than number that were launched during the entire 40 days of the first Gulf War.

On the second day, the plan calls for launching another 300 to 400 cruise missiles.

"There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," said one Pentagon official who has been briefed on the plan.

"The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before," the official said.

The battle plan is based on a concept developed at the National Defense University. It's called "Shock and Awe" and it focuses on the psychological destruction of the enemy's will to fight rather than the physical destruction of his military forces.

"We want them to quit. We want them not to fight," says Harlan Ullman, one of the authors of the Shock and Awe concept which relies on large numbers of precision guided weapons.

"So that you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes," says Ullman.

In the first Gulf War, 10 percent of the weapons were precision guided. In this war 80 percent will be precision guided.

The Air Force has stockpiled 6,000 of these guidance kits in the Persian Gulf to convert ordinary dumb bombs into satellite-guided bombs, a weapon that didn't exist in the first war.

"You're sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you're the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted," Ullman tells Martin.

Last time, an armored armada swept into Kuwait and destroyed Saddam's elite republican guard divisions in the largest tank battle since the World War II. This time, the target is not the Iraqi army but the Iraqi leadership, and the battle plan is designed to bypass Iraqi divisions whenever possible.

If Shock and Awe works, there won't be a ground war.

Not everybody in the Bush Administration thinks Shock and Awe will work. One senior official called it a bunch of bull, but confirmed it is the concept on which the war plan is based.

Last year, in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, the U.S. was badly surprised by the willingness of al Qaeda to fight to the death. If the Iraqis fight, the U.S. would have to throw in reinforcements and win the old fashioned way by crushing the republican guards, and that would mean more casualties on both sides.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Statement from CBS News Anchor Dan Rather: "We assure you this report contains no information that the Defense Department thinks could help the Iraqi military

© MMIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Commentary:
So what happened to this failed plan? When Peter Arnett said the US plan failed over at NBC, he was fired. Every American knows the phrase "shock and awe" by now and we all know it is a complete failure. Telling the truth when you work at one of the War Networks will cost you your job. So, what are they really telling us? Yeah...you got it...lies!


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Affirmative Action Arguments Pile Up
By ANNE GEARAN
Washington Post/The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 1, 2003; 7:52 AM

Even before a word is spoken in court, Supreme Court justices are being inundated with advice on how they should rule in a historic affirmative action case.

More than 100 friend of the court filings rolled in during the weeks preceding Tuesday's oral arguments in the case. Lawyers could not remember another case that generated more.

The arguments were also a hot ticket, with people lining up a day early to try to get a seat, and the opposing sides planned dueling demonstrations and news conferences.

Hundreds of people were gathered outside the court late Monday.

"Affirmative action helped me, and I'm here to support students from all over the country," said Rosa Clemente of New York City. "The Supreme Court needs to do the right thing and support affirmative action," added Clemente, who described herself as a "black Puerto Rican" with degrees from the State University of New York at Albany and Cornell University.

The University of Michigan and its supporters contend that a diverse student body is a worthy goal that benefits all students. Government, in this case a public-funded university, has what the Supreme Court has called a compelling interest in furthering that goal, the school argues.

Three white students who challenged the Michigan policies frame their argument in stark terms: It is not fair for a minority to win a coveted place on campus just because he or she is a minority.

"I was treated unfairly because of my skin color," said Jennifer Gratz, a white student rejected by the university. "Court records show that if I had been black, Hispanic or Native American, I would have had a nearly 100 percent chance of admission with my grades and record."

The Bush administration sided with the students, but did not call for an outright end to affirmative action.

The students are supported by a range of conservative legal groups, some law professors and affirmative action opponents.

The case asks how and whether race can be a factor when public colleges and universities choose their students. More broadly, the issue poses wrenching legal and constitutional questions about equality, fairness, opportunity and history.

"The essential question is whether our nation desires significant inclusion of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans in selective colleges and universities," a filing from 38 elite private colleges told the justices.

"If so, (the schools) respectfully submit this compelling goal cannot be achieved without some consideration of race in the selection of students for admission."

The cases directly address only admissions at public, tax-supported institutions such as the University of Michigan and its law school, but the court's rationale is expected to have a wide ripple through private colleges and universities, other government decision-making and the business world.

The court's ruling, expected by July, could effectively end any state-sponsored affirmative action, or it could rewrite the rules for when race may be a factor in government decisions.

A majority of friend of the court filings support the notion of affirmative action, if not its precise use at Michigan.

Some of that support came from surprising quarters, including retired military officers and CEOs of major corporations. Those briefs generally made the point that racial diversity is a fact of modern life and should be acknowledged, promoted and protected.

Many lawyers said the court will probably take into account the changes in higher education and in society since the court last spoke on the issue 25 years ago. That fractured ruling, University of California v. Bakke, struck down quota systems but left some room for race to be a factor in university admissions.

Public and private universities have tried to design admissions systems that walk the careful path set out in Bakke, even as the high court disavowed most uses of affirmative action in other areas.

Lawyers for Michigan say the school adhered to Bakke when adopting admissions programs that give extra credit to minority applicants. The admissions rules make it more likely that a black, Hispanic or Native American will edge out a white applicant who has similar test scores, grades or other attributes.

The cases are Grutter v. Bollinger, 02-241 and Gratz v. Bollinger 02-516.

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
We can't help but wonder why a conservative president and court feels the need to decide admission policies at private universities.

The Boy Scouts are a private organization and discriminate at will according to this same court. Why can't schools?

Bush is clearly a hypocrite. He favors a ban on gays in the Boy Scouts, but favors "government control" over admission policies even though both are private institutions. Whatever happened to "less government?"

There's one sure thing, conservatives are consistently inconsistent.


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GAO: Pension Program in Trouble
By LEIGH STROPE
Washington Post/The Associated Press
Monday, March 31, 2003; 11:14 PM

The government's cash-strapped pension insurance program is paying more of its administrative costs with money set aside for benefits to workers on bankrupt plans, congressional investigators say.

Expenses at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. are skyrocketing as more employer-provided pensions go broke, according to the General Accounting Office report. Last year, PBGC spent money set aside for benefits to cover 95 percent of its administrative expenses, which weren't detailed in the report.

"The pension trust funds should be protected for the benefit of the millions of retirees that PBGC is, by law, expected to protect," said Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, the top Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, who requested the report.

"The trust fund is not for unnecessary or inappropriate administrative operating expenses that have no relation to termination of pension plans," he said.

PBGC receives no funds from taxpayers, and is financed by insurance premiums set by Congress and paid by employers. The agency also gets its funding from the pension plans it takes over, recoveries from companies that were responsible for the plans and investments.

The agency in 2002 rang up a record $3.6 billion shortfall after burning through its entire $7.7 billion surplus, for a net loss of $11.37 billion. It assumed control over a record 144 pension plans covering 187,000 people. It also paid a record $1.5 billion in benefits, nearly 50 percent higher than 2001.

In its response to the report, PGBC said congressional investigators failed to consider that the agency incurs numerous, indirect costs when it terminates a pension plan. Also, PBGC's expenses have grown in relation to the pension plans it controls.

In 1985, PBGC had responsibility for 171,000 pensioners in 1,300 plans. At the end of 2002, that grew to 783,000 pensioners in more than 3,100 plans.

"More termination work meant more work in information technology, procurement, human resources and most other areas of administration," said the response letter by John Seal, PBGC's chief management officer.

In 1985, PBGC used no extra money from pension funds for operating costs. The same year, Congress began setting annual limits on PBGC's administrative costs, but a few years later granted some exceptions that were funded by pension trust funds.

In 1987, the agency spent $7.3 million in trust fund money beyond the $35.8 million administrative limit approved by Congress. By 2002, that had grown to $214 million, while the congressional limited spending had dropped to $11.6 million.

PBGC has proposed eliminating the congressional budget limits altogether.

In the report, investigators found "significant problems with the way PBGC develops its proposed budget estimates." It does not reliably calculate expense estimates, which "are not meaningful and thus are ineffective in controlling administrative costs," the report said.

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
This story ran one day before PBGC became the trustee of US Airways' pension plan for pilots which is underfunded by $2.5 billion. PBGC will have to pay out about $600 million, which makes this the sixth-largest bailout in it's history. Four out of ten largest PBGC bailouts are airlines.

Why is congress underfunding them, and why are they taking money out of the trust fundt to pay for administrative costs? Ask the republicans.


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