Convicts for Export

China has devised a novel strategy to relieve pressure on its overcrowded prisons: employ convicts as laborers on overseas projects in the developing world. The practice has exposed another facet of China’s egregious human-rights record, which, when it comes to the overseas operations of Chinese companies, includes the government’s failure to enforce its own regulations.

China executes three times as many people every year as the rest of the world combined. Amnesty International has estimated that, in 2007, China secretly executed on average “around 22 prisoners every day.”

In addition to being the world’s leading executioner, China has one of its largest prison populations. The 2009 “World Prison Population List” compiled by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College, London, put the total number of inmates in Chinese jails at 1.57 million – larger than the population of Estonia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Swaziland, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji, or Qatar.

The forced dispatch of prisoners to work on overseas infrastructure projects raises new issues regarding China’s human-rights record. It also adds a new element — the dumping of convicts — to its trade and investment policy, which has been much criticized for dumping goods.

Thousands of Chinese convicts, for example, have been pressed into service on projects undertaken by state-run Chinese companies in Sri Lanka, a strategically important country for China as it seeks to enhance its regional position in the Indian Ocean. After providing Sri Lanka’s government with offensive weapon systems that helped end the country’s decades-long civil war, China has been rewarded with port-building, railroad, and other infrastructure projects.

Chinese convicts also have been dispatched to the Maldives, where the Chinese government is building 4,000 houses on several different islands as a government-to-government “gift” to win influence. So far, however, China has failed to persuade the country’s president to lease it one of the 700 uninhabited Maldivian islands for use as a small base for the Chinese navy.

Chinese companies’ operating practice for overseas projects, including in Africa, is to keep the number of local workers to a bare minimum and to bring in much of the workforce from China, some of which comprises convicts “freed” on parole for project-related overseas work. Convict laborers, like the rest of the Chinese workforce on such projects, are housed near the project site. That way, if any convict worker escaped, he would be easy to find in an alien setting.

In theory, such practices run counter to regulations promulgated by the Chinese commerce ministry in August 2006, in response to a backlash against Chinese businesses in Zambia following the death of 51 Zambian workers in an explosion at a Chinese-owned copper mine. These regulations called for “local ization,” including hiring local workers, respecting local customs, and adhering to safety norms. During an eight-nation 2007 African tour, Chinese President Hu Jintao made a point of meeting with Chinese businesses to stress the importance of corporate responsibility in their local dealings.

Moreover, in October 2006, the State Council – China’s cabinet – issued nine directives ordering that Chinese overseas businesses, among other things, “pay attention to environmental protection,” “support local community and people’s livelihood cause,” and “preserve China’s good image and its good corporate reputation.”

But Chinese regulations are sometimes promulgated simply to blunt external criticism, and thus are seldom enforced, except when a case attracts international attention. For example, in 2003 China enacted a law on environmental-impact assessments, which was followed in 2008 by “provisional measures” to permit public participation in such assessments. Yet Chinese leaders remain more zealous about promoting exports and economic growth than in protecting the country’s air and water.

Similarly, the State Council’s 2006 nine directives to Chinese overseas companies have been subordinated to the drive for exports and growth, even when it imposes environmental and social costs on local communities abroad. Indeed, as part of the government’s “going global” policy, Chinese companies are offered major incentives and rewards for bagging overseas contracts and boosting exports.

The use of convict laborers adds a disturbing new dimension to this strategy. But even before convicts became part of China’s overseas development effort, some Chinese projects, especially dam-building schemes, were embroiled in disputes with local communities in Botswana, Burma, Pakistan, Ghana, and Sudan. In fact, several small bombs exploded less than three months ago at the site of Burma’s Myitsone Dam, whose construction by a Chinese company in insurgency-torn Kachin State is displacing thousands of subsistence farmers and fishermen by flooding a wide swath of land.

Chinese companies cannot get thousands of prisoners released on their own, let alone secure passports and exit permits for them. It is obvious that the practice of pressing convicts into service on overseas projects has been instituted at the instance of the Chinese government.

Until the Chinese government’s treatment of its own citizens and those of other countries is guided by respect for basic human rights and the rule of law, China is unlikely to command the respect that it seeks on the world stage.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010.

Shock World Court Ruling Warned Will Destroy Obama, America


Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers

Russian diplomatic and foreign affairs experts are in shock today over the International Court of Justice (World Court) [symbol top photo left] ruling yesterday that declared the independence declaration of the Serbian province of Kosovo to be legal and not a violation of International Law.

According to the World Court’s President, Judge Hisashi Owada, and supported by a majority ruling, “The court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declaration of independence. Accordingly it concludes that the declaration of independence of the 17th of February 2008 did not violate general international law.”

After the World Court ruling Russian Foreign Ministry officials publicly stated that they would continue not to recognize Kosovo as an independent Nation, a stand opposed by the United States whose Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of it yesterday “Kosovo is an independent state and its territory is inviolable.”

Note: The independence declaration of Kosovo has long divided the United States and Russia, which have respectively championed Kosovo’s and Serbia’s cause. It has also split several International blocs. Most European Union member-states recognize Kosovo’s independence, but five others – Spain, Cyprus, Slovakia,Greece and Romania do not due to separatist movements in their own Nations that threaten their sovereignty.

Though this World Court ruling is being supported by the United States now, Russian historical intelligence analysts in a report today on this momentous event are warning that the Americans, more than any other Nation on Earth, stand the most to lose because of it, especially President Obama, who by his administrations support of Kosovo now puts him firmly opposed to the most powerful of the United States “secret” orders, the Society of Cincinnati. [Photo Order of Cincinnati emblem bottom left]

The Society of the Cincinnati is a historic organization with branches in the United States and France founded in 1783 to preserve the ideals and fellowship of the Revolutionary War officers and to pressure the government to honor pledges it had made to officers who fought for American independence. Now in its third century, the Society purports itself as a nonprofit historical and educational organization that promotes public interest in the American Revolution through its library and museum collections, exhibitions, programs, publications, and other activities

The concept of the Society of the Cincinnati was originated from Major General Henry Knox. The first meeting of the Society was held in May 1783 at a dinner atMount Gulian (Verplanck House) in Fishkill, New York, before the British evacuation from New York City. The meeting was chaired by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, and the participants agreed to stay in contact with each other after the war. Membership was generally limited to officers who had served at least three years in the Continental Army or Navy but included officers of the French Army and Navy above certain ranks.

Later, membership was passed down to the eldest son after the death of the original member. Present-day hereditary members generally must be descended from an officer who served in the Continental Army or Navy for at least three years, from an officer who died or was killed in service, or from an officer serving at the close of the Revolution.

Each officer may be represented by only one descendant at any given time, following the rules of primogeniture (right of first born). It was this aspect ofprimogeniture which caused the society initially to be controversial, as primogeniture was associated with the rules governing European nobilities.

The Society is named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who left his farm to accept a term as Roman Consul and then served as Magister Populi (with temporary powers similar to that of a modern era dictator), thereby assuming lawful dictatorial control of Rome to meet a war emergency.

When the battle was won, he returned power to the Senate and went back to plowing his fields. The Society's motto reflects that ethic of selfless service: Omnia Relinquit Servare Republicam (“He relinquished everything to save the Republic”).

The Society has from the beginning had three objectives, referred to as the “Immutable Principles”: “To preserve the rights so dearly won; to promote the continuing Union of the States; and to assist members in need, their widows, and their orphans.”

Important to note, this report says, is that in all of the United States history only seven of its Presidents have been members of the Society of Cincinnati, four of them following the assassination of their predecessor.

The first Society of Cincinnati member to gain the Presidency was General George Washington (1732-1799) who is credited with being the “Father of the Nation” for winning his Nation’s war of Independence from the British. Washington gained further fame by returning to his Virginia farm in the “spirit of Cincinnatus” after ending his second term of office and not, as many had wished, becoming a king.

The second Society of Cincinnati member to become President was General Andrew Jackson (1767-1845). A hero of the War of 1812 for defeating a superior British force at the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson was put into power by the Society of Cincinnati to defeat the establishment of a Central Bank that was supported by President John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) and was feared would split the Nation.

Of the danger facing the United States should a Central Bank be allowed to gain control of the US economy Jackson warned:

“The bold effort the present (central) bank had made to control the government ... are but premonitions of the fate that await the American people should they be deluded into a perpetuation of this institution or the establishment of another like it. I am one of those who do not believe that a national debt is a national blessing, but rather a curse to a republic; inasmuch as it is calculated to raise around the administration a moneyed aristocracy dangerous to the liberties of the country.”

Directly to President Adams and the other Central Bank supporters Jackson said directly:

“Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves.”

Adams was enraged at his and the Central Banks defeat by Jackson and refused to attend his inauguration. To his dying day Adams retained a great hatred of the Society of Cincinnati and as a Member of the United States House of Representatives (the only American President to serve in this body after leaving office.) cast the only “no” vote on a law to give medals to the US Military officers who had served in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Immediately after casting his vote Adams collapsed and died two days later.

The third Society of Cincinnati member to become President was General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), who like Jackson before him was put into power to defeat those forces attempting to create a Central Bank said needed due to the United States massive debts incurred from their Civil War (1861-1865) and opposed by President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), who said:

“The government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credit needed to satisfy the spending power of the government and the buying power of consumers. The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of government, but it is the government's greatest creative opportunity. The financing of all public enterprise, and the conduct of the treasury will become matters of practical administration. Money will cease to be master and will then become servant of humanity.”

Upon President Lincoln’s assassination by those forces advocating a Central Bank he was succeeded by President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) who, like Lincoln before him, opposed those European forces [the Rothschild’s banking family alone was reported to have lost nearly $50 million in support of the Confederacy.] attempting to take control of the American economy and in further “outrages” against themforgave the Southern States of their debts, granted unconditional amnesty to all Confederate Soldiers, freed all remaining slaves in the United States, and paid back the Russian Empire for its blocking of a North American invasion by British and French forces by purchasing Alaska for $7.2 million.

Note: Contrary to what American school children are taught today, Lincoln did not free all the slaves in the United States, that was done by President Johnson. What Lincoln did do was sign two executive orders under the authority of his position as “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy" under Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution”. The first one, issued September 22, 1862, declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. The second order, issued January 1, 1863, named ten specific states where it would apply. These two executive orders are today known as the “Emancipation Proclamation”.

Note: Not even told to American schoolchildren about their true history was that Russian Naval squadrons set out towards the coast of North America in the second half of 1863 to protect the United States from British and French invasions. (British Forces landed in Canada, French Forces in Mexico) The Atlantic squadron commanded by rear admiral S.S. Lesovskii (frigate "Aleksandr Nevsky", "Peresvet", "Osliabia", corvettes "Variag", "Vitiaz" and clipper "Almaz") departed from the Russian port of Kronshtadt and went to New York. Another squadron - Pacific - was commanded by rear admiral A.A. Popov (corvettes "Bogatyr", "Kalevala", "Rynda", "Novik", clippers "Abrek" and "Gaidamak"). They went from the ports of the Far East and set out to San Francisco. In September 1863, the squadron of Lesovskii arrived at the port of New York, and the squadron of Popov - to the port of San Francisco. The Russian squadrons stayed in these ports of North America and sailed near its West and East coasts until August 1864.

For President Johnson’s continued opposing the aims of the Central Bankers he was greatly weakened by two attempts to impeach him from office [In 1926 the US Supreme Court ruled the basis for those impeachment attempts as unconstitutional.] thus necessitating the need for the Society of Cincinnati to put General Grant in power.

The forth Society of Cincinnati member to become President was Chester A. Arthur (1829-1886) who was also the first non-military member of the order to ascend to the Presidency but did so through the rules of primogeniture (right of first born) granted to him as the direct descendant of maternal grandfather and Revolutionary War leader Uriah Stone and was “established in place” to take power upon the assassination by these European bankers of President James A. Garfield (1831-1881).

President Garfield warned of the dangers to America should these Central Bankers ever gain power by stating shortly before his death in 1881, “Whoever controls the money of a nation, controls that nation and is absolute master of all industry and commerce. When you realize that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.”

The fifth Society of Cincinnati member to become President of the United States was William McKinley (1843-1901) whose membership in the order was granted under their rules of primogeniture through his grandfather and American Revolutionary War hero David McKinley, and who by his own right had distinguished himself as a hero in the Civil War.

President McKinley began his attack against the Central Bankers with his ally and Secretary of State John Sherman (1823-1900) whose connection with the Society of Cincinnati was through the membership of his older brother and Civil War here General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891). The legal tool used by President McKinley and Sherman against the European bankers was the law known as the “Sherman Antitrust Act” which was first brought to bear against the Rothschild supported and funded JP Morgan financial empire known as the Northern Trust who by the late 1800’s owned nearly all of America’s railroads.

Note: George Peabody, a Massachusetts’s trader, set up a banking house - George Peabody & Co. - in London in 1837. He became regarded as a "financial ambassador in London. Carrol Quigley attributes the use of tax-exempt foundations for manipulation of society to Peabody, seen in his European based Peabody foundation.

Daniel Colt Gilman, a member of the Skull & Bones and first President of the Carnegie Institution, was involved in the establishment of the Peabody foundation. He was in such high regard by the elite that they have erected a statue of him across from the Bank of England. Peabody was getting old and needed a younger partner. Junius Morgan, of Hartford, Connecticut, was recommended to Peabody.

In 1854 Junius and his family arrived in London to join George Peabody & Co. When the elite’s concocted American Civil War broke out, Peabody and Junius Morgan raised loans for the North. It appears Junius played both sides of the war. Ralph Epperson claims Junius was one of the Rothschild agents who shipped supplies to the South.

When Peabody retired in 1864 Junius took over the business. The firm was re-named JS. Morgan & Co. That same year Junius’ son, J.P. Morgan, became a junior partner in the firm. A year later J.P. left for America to represent the firm in the New York. After the end of the Franco-Prussian War, Junius Morgan was called on to help restore the French economy.

Around this time his bank was talked of as a rival to the Rothschild’s New Court, but Junius was a Rothschild agent, when he prospered so prospered the Rothschild’s and the Illuminati. J.S. Morgan & Co. was one of the Rothschild’s great power tools in the United States. In 1869 Junius’ son, J.P. Morgan went to London to met with the Rothschild’s. They laid out the plans to form Northern Securities, a company that would act as an agent for New Court in the USwith JP Morgan ruling as a proxy for the family.

In 1871 Junius’ son, J.P. Morgan, made an alliance with Tony Drexel, heir to the powerful Philadelphia bank. Their firm - Drexel, Morgan & Co. -resided in an extravagant new building on Wall St., which is still Morgan headquarters today. After the Europeans got over their lack of confidence at the end of the CIvil War, money began to stream across the ocean to the US, providing massive profit for the firm. It set out to finance the growing number of industrial projects in America. The House of Morgan was getting extremely rich and this past week announced a quarterly profit of $1.46 Billion.

Shortly after President McKinley began his attack against the Central Bankers he was assassinated (1901) allowing his Vice President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1858-1919) to take power. Upon the Rothschild backed “and paid for” President Roosevelt taking office one of Roosevelt’s first acts was to drop the United States government lawsuits against the Northern Trust and accelerate the American age known as “Manifest Destiny” which continues to this day and basically gives these Central Bankers the “power” to plunder the entire World for profit and gain above all else.

Note: The Roosevelt’s had been in New York since the mid-17th century. Theodore Roosevelt was born into a wealthy family of Dutch origin; by the 19th century, the family had grown in wealth, power and influence from the profits of several businesses including hardware and plate-glass importing.

The family was strongly Democratic in its political affiliation until the mid-1850s, then joined the new Republican Party. Theodore's father, known in the family as "Thee", was a New York City philanthropist, merchant, and partner in the family glass-importing firm Roosevelt and Son. He was a prominent supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the Union effort during the American Civil War.

His mother Mittie Bulloch was a Southern belle from a slave-owning family in Roswell, Georgia and had quiet Confederate sympathies. Mittie's brother, Theodore's uncle, James Dunwoody Bulloch, was a United States Navy officer who became a Confederate admiral and naval procurement agent in Britain. Another uncle, Irvine Bulloch, was a midshipman on the Confederate raider CSS Alabama; both remained in England after the war. From his grandparents' home, the young Roosevelt witnessed Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession when it came through New York.

The last chance for the Society of Cincinnati to thwart the European plan to establish a Central Bank in the United States ended on April 14, 1912 with the deliberate sinking of the RMS Titanic by British agents that killed one of the orders members named Major Archibald Willingham Butt (1865-1912) along with the American business tycoons John Jacob Astor IV, Benjamin Guggenheim and Isidor Straus who were returning to the United States from Great Britain after what they believed was a successful “negotiation” with the Rothschild’s to “leave America alone” under “threat of war”.

Note: Throughout this over 300 year battle between the forces for freedom and independence against these European (and now by extension United States) banking interests many in America, like Germany of last century, are led to believe that powerful Jewish interests control these monolithic institutions.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, even though there are Jewish families involved in these powerful banks they are now, and always have been controlled by European royalty aided and abetted in their crimes against humanity by the Catholic Church. If not for the actions of many of America’s and Europe’s most powerful Jewish families the European and Catholic Church “master plan” to control the entire World would have been accomplished a hundred years ago.

According to Burke's Peerage, the Bible of European aristocratic genealogy, all American Presidents (including Obama) have carried European royal bloodlines into office. 34 have been genetic descendants from just one person,Charlemagne, the brutal eighth century King of the Franks. 19 of them directly descended from King Edward III of England. In fact, the Presidential candidate with the most royal genes has won every single American election. The Society of Cincinnati in knowing that European royal interests would always seek to gain control of America has always managed to “convert” many of these Presidents to their cause too.

With the last “obstacles” removed from creating a Central Bank in the United States with the sinking of the Titanic the European banking powers forced through the American legal system what is known as the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 which once enacted (and remains to this day) became the sole and complete authority over the United States economy forcing the American people into two World Wars and countless other conflicts during the past 97 years all designed with one single purpose, to create for Europe’s royal families a “New World Order” controlled by them.

After World War II (1939-1945) the sixth Society of Cincinnati member to become President of the United States was General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower (1890-1969), who was “appalled” over his Nations defacto surrender to Nazi German forces during World War II in order to obtain the atomic bomb Hitler was ready to use against them, and the deliberate murder of his close friend and fellow Society of Cincinnati member General George S. Patton (1885-1945) who upon his learning that Europe’s royal “powers” had delivered the atomic bombs secrets to the Soviet Union was ready to march against them.

Both Eisenhower and Patton, as members of the Society of Cincinnati and Sons of the American Revolution, were especially enraged over President Harry Truman’s (1884-1972) dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan.

Note: For more information on the United States defacto surrender to Nazi Germany go to our May 25, 2009 report “Obama Assumes Dictatorial Powers As Israel Prepares For All-Out War” where the links will guide you to the historical proof of this event.

Prior to the expiration of President Eisenhower’s second term [American Presidents are only allowed to serve two 4-year terms] the Society of Cincinnati attempted to install another one of their members as President but failed when Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) was defeated by President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) in the 1960 election.

Johnson was, however, able to gain President Kennedy as a Society of Cincinnati ally to the fight against the European royal powers attempting to destroy America, and they appeared near victory when on June 4, 1963 President Kennedy issued Executive Order 1110 which for the first time since 1913 returned to the United States government the power to issue currency, without going through the Federal Reserve (Central Bank).

Five months later, on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was brutally assassinated while sitting by the side of his wife in a Dallas, Texas motorcade, an event so shocking to then Vice-President Johnson he was reported to have hid in the Presidential planes bathroom “huddled in the fetal position” and “crying like a baby”.

Upon the death of President Kennedy, President Johnson became the seventh and last Society of Cincinnati leader of America, and one of his first acts was to repeal Kennedy’s Executive Order 1110.

Since 1963, to this present day, the United States has remained under the control of the royal European banking elite through their control of the Federal Reserve who during this past nearly 60 years have all but dismantled what was once the great Nation known as the United States of America.

Through their infiltration of all levels of government, corporations and media, they have used their forces to destroy America’s “moral fiber” and reduce this once great power to but a shadow of its former self. Their once great industrial might is now gone, their schools are noted for their shockingly high dropout rates (even those who graduate know less than a child born a century ago), its once great cities are fast falling into ruin as its roads and bridges disintegrate too, and, perhaps worst of all, these once great people have nearly lost all hope.

But, for good or bad, and as this report continues, the World Court’s ruling on Kosovo may point to what could very well be a revival….but not without America and her people experiencing a “cataclysmic shock” as their Nation faces the certain prospect of outright civil war and could very possibly by destroyed.

The stage for this all occurring is being set now as the most pivotal day in the history of the United States is racing towards us all….December 21, 2012.

For as this date is more well known as the end of the ancient Mayans long count calendar (and ending of the World?), it is also the date the Federal Reserve’s 99-year old charter to control the American economy ends. And, most importantly, for it to be renewed it would require not only a majority vote in both houses [Senate and House of Representatives] of the US Congress, but also a three-quarter majority vote by every one of their 50 States’ legislative bodies.

Russian diplomatic, historical, financial, and intelligence experts, who have followed this saga for decades, all conclude that the Great Game being played between the Society of Cincinnati and the royal European banking powers amounts to nothing less than the complete reshaping of the entire World for centuries to come, it is that momentous of a moment.

On the side of the Society of Cincinnati are those forces that have, literally, turned on the “money spigot” to force the Federal Reserve into total outright bankruptcy by enlarging the United States debt to stratospheric proportions beyond any hope of it being paid. On the other side are the royal European banking interests who, along with their Vatican allies, are plunging the European Union into the largest monetary contraction known to history by cutting their Nation’s budgets to the “bare bone” in order to have the reserves to prop up what’s left of America when it eventually defaults.

Standing on the sidelines, so to speak, is the rest of the World, most notably Russia, China, the Arab World, South America, and Israel…all of whom are arming themselves “to the teeth” as nearly all of them believe this saga will erupt into Total Global Warfare as these most ancient of foes battle to the death.

Most important to remember about everything you’ve read so far is that it was taken nearly verbatim from the files located in Russia’s Foreign Ministry that we were granted unprecedented access to. These are the same reports that Russian academic Igor Panarin, dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats, based his report upon that stated the United States would begin to disintegrate into civil war in 2010 and break apart into a number of separate Nations.

Though Professor Panarin’s grim report on the United States has been derided in the West, especially in America, the “trigger events” he based his analysis upon have all come true….and none more important than the World Court’s Kosovo ruling that gives any US State, or group of US States, Indian Reservations, or as much land that their illegal Mexican population can seize and hold, that declare their independence from the United States Federal Government can now be legally recognized by any country in the World.

this report and believing it not true, they are in the greatest danger because they are, and to put it plainly, ignorant fools.

To them we highly suggest they read (Today!) the American Spectator report “America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution” written by Boston University’s Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University Angelo M. Codevilla that details how the two classes that exist in America today have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century's Northerners and Southerners….the ones that started the Civil War.

To the rest of you, we strongly encourage you to support our efforts by going to the Sorcha Faal’s Special Report “Everything Will Change….” and giving whatever you can to help us “pay” our dear Russian friends who have given us such unprecedented access to their most private of files and increase our likelihood of getting more of them in the future.

Also, to the thousands of independent news and website blogs, all around the World, who take the Sorcha Faal’s reports and post them on your sites without including the links or, even worse, not even linking back to this reports original source…Shame On You! All you are accomplishing by your actions [aside from the outright theft of intellectual property that doesn’t belong to you] is depriving your readers of the full knowledge contained in these reports provided by the links we have put into them going back, and as it should be, to the original source material.

And finally, to those of you who have supported our efforts THANK YOU! (And our dear Russian friends thank you too.) Your efforts are what make our efforts possible, and when you come right down to it, really, really looking at the truth of all things…We’re all in this together and as the old Benjamin Franklin saying goes, “We must hang together, gentlemen...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

Wal-Mart Begins “Mark Of The Beast” Age For World

By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers

Reports being prepared for Patriarch Kirill are apparently showing that the American based Global retail giant, and World’s largest corporation, Wal-Mart has begun ushering in what Russian Church scholars have long stated would be the “Mark of the Beast” age prophesized to come about prior to ending of our present modern day one.

According to the ancient prophecies the “Mark of the Beast” is a combination of letters and symbols that will be physically and permanently placed on the forehead or right hand of people Most people will consider it an honor to receive the mark as it will open doors of acceptance, prosperity and peace, or so they will be told.

The sole prophetic reference to the “Mark of the Beast” is contained in the Christian faiths New Testament Bible’s Book of the Revelation of John which in Chapter 13, Verses 16-18 states:

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

The Book of the Revelation of John is the last in the collection of documents which constitute the New Testament (the second of the two major divisions of the Christian Bible). It is also known as Revelation, the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse of John, and the Apocalypse. These titles come from the Greek,apokalypsis, meaning revelation, which is the first word of the book.

The word apocalypse is also used for other works of a similar nature, and the style of literature (genre) is known as apocalyptic literature. Such literature is marked by distinctive literary features, particularly prediction of future events and accounts of visionary experiences or journeys to heaven, often involving vivid symbolism. The Book of Revelation is the only apocalyptic document in the New Testament canon, though there are short apocalyptic passages in various places in the Gospels and the Epistles.

Revelation brings together the Worlds of Heaven, Earth, and hell in a final confrontation between the forces of good and evil. Its characters and images are both real and symbolic, spiritual and material, and it is frequently difficult to know which is which. Revelation's cryptic nature has ensured that it would always be a source of controversy. Nevertheless, it has not only endured, but captured the imagination of generations of Bible students, both professionals and laypeople alike.

The author, named John, has traditionally been identified with John the Apostle, to whom the Gospel of John is also attributed. Most scholars think that Revelation was written near the end of the 1st Century.

Russian Church Leaders have long identified both the United States and the European Union as being the places where the “Mark of the Beast” age would originate as these Nations have for the past nearly 4 decades engaged in the systematic eradication of all Christian knowledge from their societies with many of them adopting laws banning the teaching of the religion in their schools and forbidding their students to have Bibles in their possession.

These reports state that the eradication of all ancient religious knowledge, especially the prophecies, was a vital prerequisite to the “Mark of the Beast” age coming about because it could not be accomplished without the ascendancy of the many technological “wonders” our World now has, but which if their true purpose was known would see a rebellion amongst Christian believers against their use.

Popular American and European pop culture, these reports continue, have also co-opted the ancient prophetic warnings of the “Mark of the Beast” age to such an extent that hundreds of millions of unlearned people identify the word Armageddon with the asteroid disaster movie bearing its name, rather than its true meaning as the epic “end of World” battle this age will usher in.

To the specific actions being taken by Wal-Mart that are raising these fears was their recent announcement that they will begin putting what are called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) computer tags into certain items of clothing beginning August 1, 2010, a move that Katherine Albrecht, director of a US group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), says “is a first piece of a very large and very frightening tracking system”.

To understand Albrecht’s fears of this “very large and very frightening tracking system” Wal-Mart’s actions are ushering in, one must first understand what these RFID computer chips are.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is the use of an object (typically referred to as an RFID tag) applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification and tracking using radio waves. Some tags can be read from several meters away and beyond the line of sight of the reader.

Radio-frequency identification comprises interrogators (also known as readers), and tags (also known as labels).

Most RFID tags contain at least two parts. One is an integrated circuit for storing and processing information, modulating and demodulating a radio-frequency (RF) signal, and other specialized functions. The second is an antenna for receiving and transmitting the signal.

There are generally three types of RFID tags: active RFID tags, which contain a battery and can transmit signals autonomously, passive RFID tags, which have no battery and require an external source to provoke signal transmission, and battery assisted passive (BAP) RFID tags, which require an external source to wake up but have significant higher forward link capability providing greater range.

Important to note about RFID tags is how tiny they can be made, and even though Wal-Mart is stating that they are “removable”, one wonders how a buyer of their merchandise can find them, especially with the knowledge that they can be made as small as “dust” sized chips powerful enough to store 38-digit numbers using 128-bit Read Only Memory (ROM).

What’s also important to understand about Wal-Mart’s actions is that as the World’s largest buyer of merchandise and consumer goods it will force all of its suppliers to install RFID tags into all of their products, and which means that these manufactures will have to incorporate the placement of these RFID tags into their manufacturing process regardless who the end buyer will be. (For example: A major International manufacturer of jeans is not going to have two separate facilities making this clothing, one for Wal-Mart putting in these RFID tags, the other not putting them in for everyone else they sell to.)

To fully understand the true scope and power of these RFID tags one must also understand that Wal-Mart’s decision to start incorporating them into their merchandise (coincidentally?) in 2010 also coincides with the estimate that this is the same year that all cell phones sold in the US will have RFID technology in them too and enabling products to be tracked from their point of sale to anywhere they are within communication range of a cell phone, or cell phone like device, including laptop computers, e-book readers and iPods®, to just name a few.

Merchandise sold by Wal-Mart, or for that matter any other retailer, are not the only things being implanted with RFID chips, either, as over the past decade the United States National Animal Identification System (NAIS), the European Unions Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) and Australia’s National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) have implemented programmes to ensure that all farm animals in their countries are computer tagged and controlled.

All that is left now, these reports continue, to fully usher in the “Mark of the Beast” age is the implanting into human beings these same RFID tags being put into farm animals which will enable those governments doing so to track every aspect of their citizens lives, to include:

An obese person attempting to purchase a fatty type food would have their purchase denied based on RFID communication between the food they are attempting to buy and what is mandated on their RFID tag enabled electronic medical records.

A person owing an outstanding balance on their mortgage or credit card would have all other purchases denied based on the RFID communication between that persons banks and credit bureaus.

A person attempting to purchase guns or ammunition would have it denied based on the RFID communication between that person and their criminal record.

Though these are but a few of the things being envisioned by the elite classes for their RFID tagged citizens it must also be mentioned that there are “greater good” aspects to the “Mark of the Beast” age too, and which include:

The immediate tracking of RFID tag implanted children who go missing or are abducted.

The immediate availability of a RFID tag implanted person’s entire medical history in the event of an emergency.

A virtual end to nearly all types of theft and other crimes as RFID tagged people are immediately traceable by law enforcement personnel.

To how soon this “Mark of the Beast” age will begin we can, perhaps, glimpse from a recent report in the Washington Post that shows that the United States has become a virtual police state with fully 1,271 of its government organizations and 1,931 of its private companies, both employing over 850,000, are engaged in intelligence activities solely designed to track and control nearly every aspect of their citizens lives.

To the greatest moral issue facing people relating to the soon coming “Mark of the Beast” age these reports warn [though this is an issue still being strongly debated within the Russian Church] that merely by one accepting into their lives any form of it means they are accepting it all.

Now to if by ones mere purchasing, or using of merchandise containing “Mark of the Beast” technology will condemn them many are perplexed due to the many good aspects they provide to modern humanity. Many of our World’s oldest religious communities however, including the Amish people living in the United States, believe the safest course of action has is to keep from their lives all “Mark of the Beast” technology so as not to even give the appearance of acceptance.

To the safest course of action to be taken, and as we see it, one must decide for themselves, and should do so sooner rather than later because, like it or not, the age of the “Mark of the Beast” is upon us all.


Pakistan aids insurgency in Afghanistan

Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harboured strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public on Sunday.

The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.

Much of the information — raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan— cannot be verified and likely comes from sources aligned with Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants. Some describe plots for attacks that do not appear to have taken place.

But many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable.

While current and former American officials interviewed could not corroborate individual reports, they said that the portrait of the spy agency’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.

Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside al-Qaida to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and al-Qaida work together, directly linking the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, with al-Qaida is difficult.

The records also contain firsthand accounts of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to confront insurgents who launched attacks near Pakistani border posts, moved openly by the truckload across the frontier, and retreated to Pakistani territory for safety.

The behind-the-scenes frustrations of soldiers on the ground and glimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skullduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Pakistan as an ally by American officials, looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike at Qaida havens. Administration officials also want to keep nuclear-armed Pakistan on their side to safeguard NATO supplies flowing on routes that cross Pakistan to Afghanistan.

This month, secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, in one of the frequent visits by American officials to Islamabad, announced $500 million in assistance and called the United States and Pakistan "partners joined in common cause."

The reports suggest, however, that the Pakistani military has acted as both ally and enemy, as its spy agency runs what American officials have long suspected is a double game — appeasing certain American demands for cooperation while angling to exert influence in Afghanistan through many of the same insurgent networks that the Americans are fighting to eliminate.

Behind the scenes, both Bush and Obama administration officials as well as top American commanders have confronted top Pakistani military officers with accusations of ISI complicity in attacks in Afghanistan, and even presented top Pakistani officials with lists of ISI and military operatives believed to be working with militants.

Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said that Pakistan had been an important ally in the battle against militant groups, and that Pakistani soldiers and intelligence officials had worked alongside the United States to capture or kill Qaida and Taliban leaders.

Still, he said that the "status quo is not acceptable," and that the havens for militants in Pakistan "pose an intolerable threat" that Pakistan must do more to address.

"The Pakistani government — and Pakistan’s military and intelligence services — must continue their strategic shift against violent extremist groups within their borders," he said. American military support to Pakistan would continue, he said.

Several Congressional officials said that despite repeated requests over the years for information about Pakistani support for militant groups, they usually receive vague and inconclusive briefings from the Pentagon and CIA

Nonetheless, senior lawmakers say they have no doubt that Pakistan is aiding insurgent groups. "The burden of proof is on the government of Pakistan and the ISI to show they don’t have ongoing contacts," said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who visited Pakistan this month and said he and Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman, confronted Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, yet again over the allegations.

Such accusations are usually met with angry denials, particularly by the Pakistani military, which insists that the ISI severed its remaining ties to the groups years ago. An ISI spokesman in Islamabad said Sunday that the agency would have no comment until it saw the documents. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said, "The documents circulated by WikiLeaks do not reflect the current on-ground realities."

The man the United States has depended on for cooperation in fighting the militants and who holds most power in Pakistan, the head of the army, Gen Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, ran the ISI from 2004 to 2007, a period from which many of the reports are drawn. American officials have frequently praised General Kayani for what they say are his efforts to purge the military of officers with ties to militants.

American officials have described Pakistan’s spy service as a rigidly hierarchical organization that has little tolerance for "rogue" activity. But Pakistani military officials give the spy service’s "S Wing" — which runs external operations against the Afghan government and India — broad autonomy, a buffer that allows top military officials deniability.

American officials have rarely uncovered definitive evidence of direct ISI involvement in a major attack. But in July 2008, the CIA’s deputy director, Stephen R Kappes, confronted Pakistani officials with evidence that the ISI helped plan the deadly suicide bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul.

From the current trove, one report shows that Polish intelligence warned of a complex attack against the Indian Embassy a week before that bombing, though the attackers and their methods differed. The ISI was not named in the report warning of the attack.

Another, dated August 2008, identifies a colonel in the ISI plotting with a Taliban official to assassinate President Hamid Karzai. The report says there was no information about how or when this would be carried out. The account could not be verified.

General linked to militants

Lt Gen Hamid Gul ran the ISI from 1987 to 1989, a time when Pakistani spies and the CIA joined forces to run guns and money to Afghan militias who were battling Soviet troops in Afghanistan. After the fighting stopped, he maintained his contacts with the former Mujahedeen, who would eventually transform themselves into the Taliban.

And more than two decades later, it appears that General Gul is still at work. The documents indicate that he has worked tirelessly to reactivate his old networks, employing familiar allies like Jaluluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose networks of thousands of fighters are responsible for waves of violence in Afghanistan.

General Gul is mentioned so many times in the reports, if they are to be believed, that it seems unlikely that Pakistan’s current military and intelligence officials could not know of at least some of his wide-ranging activities.

For example, one intelligence report describes him meeting with a group of militants in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, in January 2009. There, he met with three senior Afghan insurgent commanders and three "older" Arab men, presumably representatives of al-Qaida, who the report suggests were important "because they had a large security contingent with them."

The gathering was designed to hatch a plan to avenge the death of "Zamarai," the nom de guerre of Osama al-Kini, who had been killed days earlier by a CIA drone attack. Mr Kini had directed Qaida operations in Pakistan and had spearheaded some of the group’s most devastating attacks.

The plot hatched in Wana that day, according to the report, involved driving a dark blue Mazda truck rigged with explosives from South Waziristan to Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, a route well known to be used by the insurgents to move weapons, suicide bombers and fighters from Pakistan.

In a show of strength, the Taliban leaders approved a plan to send 50 Arab and 50 Waziri fighters to Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, the report said.

General Gul urged the Taliban commanders to focus their operations inside Afghanistan in exchange for Pakistan turning "a blind eye" to their presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It was unclear whether the attack was ever executed.

The United States has pushed the United Nations to put General Gul on a list of international terrorists, and top American officials said they believed he was an important link between active-duty Pakistani officers and militant groups.

General Gul, who says he is retired and lives on his pension, dismissed the allegations as "absolute nonsense," speaking by telephone from his home in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani Army keeps its headquarters. "I have had no hand in it." He added, "American intelligence is pulling cotton wool over your eyes."

Senior Pakistani officials consistently deny that General Gul still works at the ISI’s behest, though several years ago, after mounting American complaints, Pakistan’s president at the time, Pervez Musharraf, was forced publicly to acknowledge the possibility that former ISI officials were assisting the Afghan insurgency. Despite his denials, General Gul keeps close ties to his former employers. When a reporter visited General Gul this spring for an interview at his home, the former spy master canceled the appointment. According to his son, he had to attend meetings at army headquarters.

Suicide bomber network

The reports also chronicle efforts by ISI officers to run the networks of suicide bombers that emerged as a sudden, terrible force in Afghanistan in 2006.

The detailed reports indicate that American officials had a relatively clear understanding of how the suicide networks presumably functioned, even if some of the threats did not materialize. It is impossible to know why the attacks never came off — either they were thwarted, the attackers shifted targets, or the reports were deliberately planted as Taliban disinformation.

One report, from Dec 18, 2006, describes a cyclical process to develop the suicide bombers. First, the suicide attacker is recruited and trained in Pakistan. Then, reconnaissance and operational planning gets underway, including scouting to find a place for "hosting" the suicide bomber near the target before carrying out the attack. The network, it says, receives help from the Afghan police and the Ministry of Interior.

In many cases, the reports are complete with names and ages of bombers, as well as license plate numbers, but the Americans gathering the intelligence struggle to accurately portray many other details, introducing sometimes comical renderings of places and Taliban commanders.

In one case, a report rated by the American military as credible states that a gray Toyota Corolla had been loaded with explosives between the Afghan border and Landik Hotel, in Pakistan, apparently a mangled reference to Landi Kotal, in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The target of the plot, however, is a real hotel in downtown Kabul, the Ariana.

"It is likely that ISI may be involved as supporter of this attack," reads a comment in the report.

Several of the reports describe current and former ISI operatives, including General Gul, visiting madrasas near the city of Peshawar, a gateway to the tribal areas, to recruit new fodder for suicide bombings.

One report, labeled a "real threat warning" because of its detail and the reliability of its source, described how commanders of Mr Hekmatyar’s insurgent group, Hezb-i-Islami, ordered the delivery of a suicide bomber from the Hashimiye madrasa, run by Afghans.

The boy was to be used in an attack on American or NATO vehicles in Kabul during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifices that opened Dec. 31, 2006. According to the report, the boy was taken to the Afghan city of Jalalabad to buy a car for the bombing, and was later brought to Kabul. It was unclear whether the attack took place.

The documents indicate that these types of activities continued throughout last year. From July to October 2009, nine threat reports detailed movements by suicide bombers from Pakistan into populated areas of Afghanistan, including Kandahar, Kunduz and Kabul.

Some of the bombers were sent to disrupt Afghanistan’s presidential elections, held last August. In other instances, American intelligence learned that the Haqqani network sent bombers at the ISI’s behest to strike Indian officials, development workers and engineers in Afghanistan. Other plots were aimed at the Afghan government.

Sometimes the intelligence documents twin seemingly credible detail with plots that seem fantastical or utterly implausible assertions. For instance, one report describes an ISI plan to use a remote-controlled bomb disguised as a golden Koran to assassinate Afghan government officials. Another report documents an alleged plot by the ISI and Taliban to ship poisoned alcoholic beverages to Afghanistan to kill American troops.

But the reports also charge that the ISI directly helped organize Taliban offensives at key junctures of the war. On June 19, 2006, ISI operatives allegedly met with the Taliban leaders in Quetta, the city in southern Pakistan where American and other Western officials have long believed top Taliban leaders have been given refuge by the Pakistani authorities. At the meeting, according to the report, they pressed the Taliban to mount attacks on Maruf, a district of Kandahar that lies along the Pakistani border.

The planned offensive would be carried out primarily by Arabs and Pakistanis, the report said, and a Taliban commander, "Akhtar Mansoor," warned that the men should be prepared for heavy losses. "The foreigners agreed to this operation and have assembled 20 4x4 trucks to carry the fighters into areas in question," it said.

While the specifics about the foreign fighters and the ISI are difficult to verify, the Taliban did indeed mount an offensive to seize control in Maruf in 2006.

Afghan government officials and Taliban fighters have widely acknowledged that the offensive was led by the Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was then the Taliban shadow governor of Kandahar.

Mullah Mansour tried to claw out a base for himself inside Afghanistan, but just as the report quotes him predicting, the Taliban suffered heavy losses and eventually pulled back.

Another report goes on to describe detailed plans for a large-scale assault, timed for September 2007, aimed at the American forward operating base in Managi, in Kunar Province.

"It will be a five-pronged attack consisting of 83-millimeter artillery, rockets, foot soldiers, and multiple suicide bombers," it says.

It is not clear that the attack ever came off, but its planning foreshadowed another, seminal attack that came months later, in July 2008. At that time, about 200 Taliban insurgents nearly overran an American base in Wanat, in Nuristan, killing nine American soldiers. For the Americans, it was one of the highest single-day tolls of the war.

Tensions with Pakistan

The flood of reports of Pakistani complicity in the insurgency has at times led to barely disguised tensions between American and Pakistani officers on the ground.

Meetings at border outposts set up to develop common strategies to seal the frontier and disrupt Taliban movements reveal deep distrust among the Americans of their Pakistani counterparts.

On Feb. 7, 2007, American officers met with Pakistani troops on a dry riverbed to discuss the borderlands surrounding Afghanistan’s Khost Province.

According to notes from the meeting, the Pakistanis portrayed their soldiers as conducting around-the-clock patrols. Asked if he expected a violent spring, a man identified in the report as Lt. Col. Bilal, the Pakistani officer in charge, said no. His troops were in firm control.

The Americans were incredulous. Their record noted that there had been a 300 percent increase in militant activity in Khost before the meeting.

"This comment alone shows how disconnected this particular group of leadership is from what is going on in reality," the notes said.

The Pakistanis told the Americans to contact them if they spotted insurgent activity along the border. "I doubt this would do any good," the American author of the report wrote, "because PAKMIL/ISI is likely involved with the border crossings." "PAKMIL" refers to the Pakistani military.

A year earlier, the Americans became so frustrated at the increase in roadside bombs in Afghanistan that they hand-delivered folders with names, locations, aerial photographs and map coordinates to help the Pakistani military hunt down the militants the Americans believed were responsible.

Nothing happened, wrote Col Barry Shapiro, an American military liaison officer with experience in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, after an Oct. 13, 2006, meeting. "Despite the number of reports and information detailing the concerns," Colonel Shapiro wrote, "we continue to see no change in the cross-border activity and continue to see little to no initiative along the PAK border" by Pakistan troops. The Pakistani Army "will only react when asked to do so by US forces," he concluded.


An IIT, IISc-designed laptop for just Rs 1500

More than five years after it was conceived by then education secretary Sudeep Banerjee to take on Nicholas Negroponte's $100 laptop and one-and-half years after his demise, HRD minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday unveiled access-cum-computing device priced at Rs 1500 or $35 for students but can be eventually owned by public at large.

The sleek-looking device -- a cross between I-Pad and tablet PC and charged by an equally sleeker solar panel -- is designed by experts at IIT, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The upper price limit for the device is pegged at $35.

HRD ministry has made an open invitation to one and all to come up with more variants that fulfills specifications spelt out by it. The ministry has set up several separate teams, which are involved in bringing out their prototypes. In the next few months -- by then more innovations will emerge and even price can come down to $20 or $10 --- the ministry will issue an international expression of interest for manufacturing of these devices. "Initially manufacturing might be done in Taiwan or some other place but eventually it will be done in India," Sibal said. He said there are already enough offers for lower price. The $35 price, he said, is inclusive of cost of manufacturing abroad. However, the cost of the solar panel has not been factored into the price yet. The ministry is in talks with a company to bring down the cost of solar panels.

One reason for the low cost -- apart from the falling prices of chip -- is the sheer number of students who will get this device. Under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan alone, there are more than 11 crore children, who are the likely receipients. Add to that lakhs of aided and unaided schools in the primary and secondary sector. Even university student can use the machine. At the current price point of $35, Sibal said, there would be 50% subsidy toeducational institutions, which will effectively bring down the cost to only Rs 750. The initial order will be for no less than one lakh laptops.

Based on Open Source, the device does not have a hard-drive. It can not only support video-web conferencing facility, but also boasts of several other latest features -- multimedia content viewer (pdf, docx, ods, adp, xls, jpeg, gif,png, bmp, odt, zip, AVCHD, AVI, AC3), searchable Pdf reader, unzip tool for unzipping files, computing capabilities such as Open Office, SciLab for printing support, media player capable of playing streamed along with stored media files, USB port etc.


Putin’s Parliamentary Circus

Naming a louche pop singer to the Duma is just the latest in a string of bizarre appointments for Russia’s increasingly brazen ringmaster.

If you're a Russian government official leading a press conference, you know it's a bad sign when your otherwise loyally self-censoring press corps is in such disbelief at your announcement that reporters keep asking if it's true. The nightmare came true on Wednesday for the election chair of the ruling United Russia party, who had to explain -- and explain again -- that yes, pop singer Nikolai Rastorguev was going to be a United Russia deputy in the Russian parliament.

Rastorguev is the close-cropped and slightly bloated frontman of Russian pop group Lyubé, which became popular in perestroika days for its gruff, hoodlum-with-a-heart-of-gold quality (the band members came from the working-class Moscow suburb of Lyubertsy, thus the name), its clever lyrics, and its nonchalance toward authority. For nearly 21 years, the band has performed in army tunics and sung jokey songs like, "Stop Fooling Around, America," a half-serious call for the United States to give back Alaska, the video for which is a random soup of Soviet kitsch with Photoshop graphics. (Did Sarah Palin see that one coming from her window?)

Now riddled with liver and kidney problems, Rastorguev has been drifting into the Kremlin's lucrative embrace for years. In 2002, then-president Vladimir Putin mentioned that Rastorguev was his favorite performer and invited the band for an earnest political discussion at his dacha. Then, in 2006, Rastorguev joined Putin's United Russia party, proclaiming, perceptively, that it was the "the only serious political force in the country." The following year, he joined the United Russia ticket for the parliamentary elections in the southern Stavropol region, mostly as a performer at party rallies. Then, a few weeks ago, a Duma seat opened up and Rastorguev, who in 2008 gave Putin a vial of Lyubé cologne, was asked to step in -- partly, observers say, as a "thank you" for all those rally concerts.

But the craziest part of all is that it has ceased to feel unusual. When Rastorguev takes his seat in a few weeks, left vacant by a parliamentarian sent east to Yekaterinburg, he will join a long list of celebrities who have served for United Russia in the parliament during the Putin era. First, there was the raspy strummer Alexander Rozenbaum, who served briefly and with little distinction, followed by the more active, Barry Manilow-esque Iosif Kobzon. The two singers are gone, but over the last three years Putin has replaced them with a bevy of beauties -- a ballerina, a boxer, two gymnasts, and a speed skater -- in a move that's oddly reminiscent of his buddy Silvio Berlusconi's tactic of naming famous busty women, or outright porn stars, to head up Italian ministries. (Notably, the speed skater is now a vice speaker, and one of the gymnasts is Alina Kabaeva, the rhythmic gymnast rumored to be Putin's mistress who recently gave birth to a son she named Dmitry, a name he shares with the current Russian president.)

Now, with Rastorguev's ascendance, the existence of celebrities in the Duma seems to be creating an insane perpetual-motion machine: Responding to stunned journalists at the Wednesday press conference, the United Russia election chair said, "What sensation? Is it so rare for various athletes and artists to become deputies?" Responding in turn to such circular logic, one political scientist joked that the members of Deep Purple -- another Putin favorite -- might be Russia's next parliamentarians.

It is crazy, yes, but it is also brazen. Padding his parliament with inexperienced celebrities -- celebumentarians? -- is perhaps Putin's most blatant admission that the Duma is little more than a rubber stamp, a gesture at the democracy Russia says it has.

"Don't you understand?" says opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. "United Russia is not a political party. These people are just the hired help. You know, at the king's court, there were jokers and singers and clowns, and the king was their master. Their job is just to raise their hands on command and then put them down again."

In talking about Rastorguev's bizarre appointment, some members of United Russia seemed grudgingly willing to defend the increasingly outlandish party line: "A singer can do government and civil service," United Russia deputy Boris Resnik says. "It doesn't strike me as at all odd."

Others are trying to play a more subtle card. Gleb Pavlovsky, a top Kremlin advisor, was quite honest about the fact that Rastorguev was less than experienced, though, he added, it is "unlikely that they'll demand any extraordinary activity of him. He will be a cultural voice."

Pavlovsky also conceded that, "of course, they" -- athletes and artists -- "give a somewhat non political character to the party, but I don't think it's a big problem."

And, taking the by-now-familiar Kremlin line of invoking Russian exceptionalism as a salve for all wrongs, Pavlovsky maintained that this was simply a phase. "It is not something to be proud of in our political life," he said. "It is our inheritance from the late Soviet period when film directors and academics were political figures. I would prefer more lawyers, but it's a slow process."

Moreover, according to Pavlovsky, naming celebrities to the state Duma was "a correct tactic in forming the United Russia party as the party of the majority, a catchall party. It's quite normal ... there are athletes and artists in the parliament of every country in Europe." Pavlovsky declined to list any examples, but he suggested that including popular figures in party lists was a way to fight chronic public skepticism. "It's totally normal," he says. "People have felt a lot of distrust toward the government since Soviet times, so to attract them, it's important to have leaders of public opinion in the party."

It's a strategy that, paradoxically, seems to be working. On the one hand, according to a recent poll by the Levada polling center, Russians have not really had the wool pulled over their eyes: Only 9 percent of Russians believe that their current form of government can be called "a democracy." (Two years ago, it was 15 percent.) "People see that state bureaucrats are getting more and more power and that the people get less and less; they see the highly personalized rule, the rigged elections," says Levada sociologist Oleg Savelev. Russians, in other words, are not stupid.

United Russia, on the other hand, is smarter. Levada polling -- widely seen as the country's most reliable -- shows that Russians have largely bought into five years of rhetoric of "sovereign democracy," the theory propagated by the Kremlin, and seen as an excuse for creeping authoritarianism, that the Western model of democracy would be inappropriate for Russia. Nearly half of respondents say that Russia needs a form of democracy that is "completely unique, corresponding to the national traditions and specifics of Russia."

And, strangely, in the few years since Putin started granting election-list slots and Duma seats as favors to his favorite celebrities, Pavlovsky's cynical tactics seem to be paying off. (And let's be clear here: In a country where opposition figures are routinely plucked off ballots on absurd technicalities, there can be no question that someone has to be allowed to run.) Russian opinion of the Duma -- inefficient and obstreperous in Boris Yeltsin's days; a rubber stamp now -- has always been low. But, since 2007, it has received a significant boost (relatively), with 13 percent approving of the Duma, up from 9 percent.

Which is also nearly the same spread as in the democracy poll.

Pavlovsky's "leaders of public opinion" appear to be actually overcoming the Russian skepticism toward government, never mind that the government itself is now run, almost literally, by circus performers.

To fix such a brain-scrambling non sequitur, one can only turn to someone like Victor Shenderovich, a keen political satirist whose political comedy puppet show Kukly was yanked off the air in 2002 for needling Putin a bit too hard.

"You know, this is a problem for a professional satirist, when events are funnier than any commentary you can provide," he says. "Any joke would be gratuitous because the events are already a joke."


Did China Just Win the Caspian Gas War?

While Washington and Moscow had their eyes on one another, Beijing stole the prize.

Natural gas is in the midst of a transformative moment. The advent of shale gas, the growth of seaborne liquefied natural gas (LNG), and a new "green" image for the old hydrocarbon brought more uses, attention and yes, even controversy, to global gas markets. But the world's most influential player in all this is neither the world's largest gas producer, Russia, nor the world's second-largest consumer, the United States. It's China. Despite being much more reliant on oil and coal, Beijing has nevertheless managed to become the most agile and active force in the global gas market.

The reason has just as much to do with geopolitics as geology. As China seeks to secure energy sources for its growing economy, it has expanded production at home and made strides at ensuring its access to gas abroad. That quest has displaced a two-decades-long shadowboxing match between the West and Russia -- a "Great Game" China is now poised to win.

China's recent reach into global gas opportunities is fueled by soaring domestic demand, as Chinese industry grows despite the global economic downturn. There are signs that Beijing's energy geopolitics ambitions cannot keep up: The onshore price of natural gas in China was just increased 25 percent. As a result, China is not only stepping up its own natural gas development, but also expanding its capacity to import LNG from places like Australia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Qatar.

Domestically, China's East-West pipeline brings gas from the energy-rich autonomous region of Xinjiang to the booming east coast. Xinjiang's proven reserves are about 700 billion cubic meters (about a tenth the size of U.S. reserves), but there might be a lot more. And PetroChina officials are exploring new shale gas and coal-bed methane opportunities all over the country. Eager to wean Beijing off of troublesome gas producers such as Iran, the Barack Obama administration recently signed a technology transfer agreement with the Chinese that would give Beijing the same revolutionary extraction capabilities that have created a shale gas bonanza in North America. One of Beijing's official goals is that China's coal-bed methane production should be 16 times higher in 2020 than it is today. Some analysts predict that China will reach 80 percent self-sufficiency in gas production by that time.

Further afield, Beijing has put into place infrastructure that would make Houston blush. Stretching 1,139 miles, the China-Central Asia pipeline connects Xinjiang with natural gas-rich Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and the biggest prize -- with potentially the world's fourth-largest energy reserves -- Turkmenistan. With the completion of this mammoth project, which was inaugurated in Turkmenistan by Chinese President Hu Jintao last winter, China became the most influential player in the struggle for resources in the energy-rich Caspian basin. Some analysts have even sounded the death knell for Russia's energy influence in Central Asia, Moscow's traditional back yard.

Then, in early June, Turkmenistan's president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, announced construction of a trans-Turkmen pipeline that will connect the China-Central Asia pipeline to the country's vast western resources -- the very same reserves traditionally exploited by Russia and earmarked for the U.S. and EU-backed trans-Caspian, Nabucco project planned to go west across the Caspian and through Turkey to Austria. Turkmenistan's $2 billion trans-Turkmen project is, according to the president, going to be built with Turkmen money, labor, technology, and expertise. But, sources familiar with the project's specifications say that there is little likelihood that it would have been undertaken without Chinese support, both financial and technical.

Both the Russian and Western ability to respond to this incursion on their pipeline plans looks weak. In April 2009, a major explosion damaged the main gas pipeline connecting Russia to Turkmenistan. Although Russian gas monopoly Gazprom denies any culpability, Turkmen officials accuse Moscow of shutting down the pipeline to avoid high payments for gas during a time when global gas prices were unexpectedly low. While exports to Russia have resumed, they are less than a third of what they once were.

Meanwhile, Western companies involved in the Nabucco project announced an open season for investment in the project this year. But serious doubts remain about whether the project will be able to get beyond its first stage of tapping into Azerbaijani and possibly Iraqi gas -- a crucial first step before expanding across the Caspian. Western private-sector actors are also working against each other: Nabucco competes for its Azerbaijani resources with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (which just got a major new investor in Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas) and Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy, a smaller capacity pipeline that may well come to fruition because it is less ambitious than Nabucco.

Yet though Chinese state-controlled energy companies are riding high at the moment, nothing is assured. Chinese moves in the Caspian could well create a backlash, for example. Caspian gas producers welcome the cash and efficiency that comes with Chinese investment, but the attendant political influence is not always viewed favorably. Gas-rich Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are not interested in supplanting one imperial master in Moscow for another in Beijing.

What is certain is that the Chinese consumer's hunger for gas reserves has landed Chinese companies right in the middle of one of the world's most hotly contested geopolitical battlegrounds. If Chinese companies are not careful, they could drag Beijing into the region's hard security squabbles: Afghanistan, Georgia, Iran, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Deeply invested powers, such the United States and Russia, may not appreciate another cook in the Caspian kitchen.

Who Tried to Kill Fang Xuanchang?

A chilling attack on a controversial science journalist in Beijing bodes poorly for scientific progress.

On the evening of June 24, Fang Xuanchang, a 37-year-old science and technology editor at China's Caijing magazine, finished work around 10 p.m. and began his walk home. Half an hour later he was nearing his apartment by Beijing's third ring road when he felt a sudden blow to his back. Fang turned to see two large men behind him brandishing steel bars.

Fang tried to run away and then shield himself as the men, ignoring his attempts to communicate with them, struck him repeatedly across his back and head. Brawny and adept in martial arts, Fang not only remained conscious, but also managed to fight back. Finally, as Fang stumbled toward a taxi, his clothes soaked in blood, the attackers left the scene.

Later that night at Beijing's Navy General Hospital, doctors sutured a 2-inch gash on the back of his head. His assailants behaved like professionals, carrying out the brutal ambush in about four minutes and showing little concern about passersby witnessing the attack. "Their goal was clear,It was to kill me on the spot, or stop me from reaching the hospital in time so that I would bleed to death."

Why would someone try to kill Fang Xuanchang? No one knows, or even seems to care. The attackers remain at large, despite an ongoing police investigation and Caijing's best efforts to cooperate with the police and involve the All-China Journalists Association. The attack was covered in brief in Beijing-based newspapers, including a brief editorial in a state-run newspaper arguing that journalists shouldn't be attacked. But no one in the Chinese media has gotten into the question of who would attack Fang -- and more importantly, why exactly Fang might have been attacked.

For Fang's colleagues, however, the message is clear: Reporting on controversial topics, as Fang has done, is unsafe. Journalists who are abused don't necessarily find out who has attacked them or why, but the message sent to their friends and colleagues is clear: Don't go there, or you could be next. It has a chilling effect on a wide circle of people. In the case of science journalism, the financial and political stakes are increasingly high, and the personal risks might be increasingly high as well.

Fang is one of the leading figures among China's scientific muckrakers -- a scourge of academic and government-sponsored pseudoscience and a critic of public and private quackery. For more than 10 years as a journalist, editor, and blogger on the influential (although frequently blocked) Chinese watchdog website New Threads, Fang has taken on academics listing faked awards and publishing plagiarized papers; hawkers of herbal cancer "cures," such as Wang Zhenguo, peddler of the Tian Xian herbal cancer treatment; and Chinese scientists who claim to predict earthquakes, among other targets. But paranoia and anger, even violence, mark some recent responses to Fang's work.

Several weeks ago Fang, previously science editor at China Newsweek (unrelated to the U.S. magazine Newsweek), appeared alongside a fellow rationalist, the biochemist-turned-columnist Fang Shimin (no relation, better known by his pen name Fang Zhouzi), on a Shenzhen TV debate about earthquake forecasting -- a largely discredited practice that remains an article of faith for many Chinese scientists and officials. One speaker, an official from China's national earthquake administration, a significant bureau under the State Council, spoke positively about parrots that can predict temblors and the paranormal abilities of a man who claimed he heard ringing in his ears before the quake in Yushu, in northwest China, in April. One guest on the show, Ren Zhenqiu of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, accused the science activists of accepting U.S. money to stifle Chinese innovation. Fang Shimin claimed on his blog that after the recording, Ren Zhenqiu called him a "big Chinese traitor" and threw a punch at him.

And this is not the full extent of the threats against Fang Shimin. On July 2, Fang said on his Sina microblog that he had received a threatening phone call. "Be careful in the next few days," the voice said. "Someone is going to fix you."

Scientific ideas have a complex life in China. Today an important government slogan is the "scientific view of development," yet academic fraud is widespread. In January, the scientific journal Acta Crystallographica Section E, a peer-reviewed international journal based in Britain, announced the wholesale retraction of more than 70 papers by Chinese scientists who had falsified data. Three months later, the same publication announced the removal of another 39 articles "as a result of problems with the data sets or incorrect atom assignments." According to New Threads, 37 of these were entirely produced at Chinese universities. One Chinese-government study cited by Nature found that about one-third of more than 6,000 scientists surveyed at six top Chinese institutions said they had practiced "plagiarism, falsification or fabrication."

Critics have blamed the pressure to produce fraudulent papers on unrealistic publication targets set by bureaucrats. But for Fang Xuanchang, the problem goes deeper still, as he told me when we met in May. It represents a slide backward from the scientific spirit of the anti-imperialist May 4th Movement -- the early 20th-century uprising that championed democracy, critical thought, and innovation. Speaking after the attack, Fang described himself and his colleagues as "quixotic." "Not many people understand the work we are doing," he said. "Most Chinese people's attitudes to science are superstitious and fearful." Things might be even worse at the elite level, he said, where science is encouraged in the abstract, without a grasp of the scientific method. Regarding scientific and critical thinking, Fang added, "Chinese people need a new enlightenment."

Such issues are not only of parochial concern: Renewing China's oft-cited historical reputation for scientific innovation is a matter of urgency for the world. Last month a report from Britain's National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts suggested that as China enters a new phase of economic and geopolitical might, the country's potential to roll out new, low-carbon technologies becomes an increasingly important factor in global efforts to address climate change.

Harnessing scientific prowess requires promoting good academic practice, scientific education, critical thinking -- and science journalism.

The Sheikh Who Got Away

How the United States got Lebanon's leading Shiite cleric dead wrong -- and missed a chance to change the Middle East forever.

The coffin of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, covered in a black cloth embroidered in gold with verses from the Quran, wound through Beirut's southern suburbs July 6, traveling from his home to the Hassanein mosque, where he used to deliver Friday sermons. It was followed by thousands of mourners, most of them wearing black and many carrying pictures of Lebanon's most eminent Shiite cleric on their way to his final resting place.

Tributes poured in from across the Middle East. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei referred to the late ayatollah as a "true companion of the Islamic Republic." Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, even came out of hiding to pay his respects at Fadlallah's casket and offer his condolences to his family. Nasrallah issued a statement mourning the death of "a merciful father and a wise guide."

But the accolades did not just come from America's enemies. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni leader considered sympathetic to the United States, called Fadlallah "a voice of moderation and an advocate of unity." Ali al-Adeeb, an official in Iraq's Dawa Party, which Fadlallah helped create, said that it "will be hard to replace him." Dawa Party leader and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has worked closely with U.S. forces in the country, counted himself among the ayatollah's many followers. Even British Ambassador to Lebanon Frances Guy offered her praise, writing that when visiting with him "you could be sure of a real debate … and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person."

Although Fadlallah may have confounded the Middle East's traditional fault lines, the United States never wavered on its stance toward the ayatollah: He was the "spiritual advisor" to Hezbollah, a terrorist who was responsible for numerous attacks on U.S. interests in the region. This grudge was formed more than a quarter-century ago, during Lebanon's 15-year civil war, when the CIA reportedly sponsored a notorious plot to assassinate Fadlallah.

On March 8, 1985, a car bomb carrying 200 kilograms of explosives detonated outside Fadlallah's home in the southern suburbs of Beirut. The bomb devastated the neighborhood, killing 80 people and wounding approximately 200 more. Fadlallah, however, escaped without injury. In the eyes of his followers, there was no doubt who was responsible: They strung up a "MADE IN USA" banner over a destroyed building immediately following the attack. The U.S. government, however, steadfastly denied any involvement. Targeted assassinations, officials pointed out, were explicitly forbidden since Gerald Ford's administration.

Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's explosive account of CIA involvement in the Middle East, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987, would eventually undermine the official denials. Woodward, drawing on interviews with President Ronald Reagan's aggressive CIA Director William Casey, reported that Casey had circumvented the spy agency's established bureaucracy to funnel money to a professional hit team trained to assassinate Fadlallah.

It was a bloody time for the United States in Lebanon. The 1983 U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks bombings and the 1984 attack on the U.S. Embassy annex in East Beirut had claimed the lives of hundreds of Americans. The CIA station chief in Beirut, William Francis Buckley, was also kidnapped in 1984 and eventually died in captivity after being tortured by Hezbollah interrogators. U.S. officials were itching for revenge. Fadlallah "had been connected to all three bombings of Americans facilities in Beirut," wrote Woodward. "He had to go."

Woodward may have gotten an explosive scoop on the inside story of the CIA's involvement, but he got the much easier story of Fadlallah's relationship with Hezbollah wrong. In Veil, Woodward refers to Fadlallah as "the leader of the Party of God, Hizbollah," and an "archterrorist." The confusion over Fadlallah's connection to the organization would continue to bedevil U.S officials and media until the current day.

Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer who worked in Beirut during the 1980s, denies that Fadlallah played any operational role within Hezbollah. "I can guarantee you, and I have seen every bit of intelligence, that Fadlallah had no connection [to the attacks]," he told me. "He knew the people carrying out the terrorism acts, but he had no connection in ordering them."

Fadlallah himself consistently denied having any official role within the Shiite militant group, even while making no apologies for supporting many of its aims. "I live in a warm atmosphere surrounded by the youth of 'Hezbollah,' whom I consider my sons," he said in one 1995 interview. "However, and since the inception of Hezbollah, I was never part of its organizational structure."

Fadlallah did have relationships with some of the highest-ranking Hezbollah officials and had never made a secret of the fact that he issued rulings offering religious sanctions for its attacks. He enthusiastically supported attacks against Western forces in Lebanon during the civil war and continued to support attacks on Israel until his last days.

"He wasn't our friend, let's get that straight," noted Baer. "But that doesn't mean he was a master terrorist."

Fadlallah's political worldview considered the Islamic world a victim of oppression and injustice at the hands of imperialism and Zionism. Like his contemporaries in the Shiite Islamic revival of the era, he turned to the Quran for justification to overturn the status quo. "There is no alternative to a bitter and difficult jihad," he wrote in a 1983 article titled "The Islamic Revolution in Iran: Reflections from the Inside," to remedy these ills.

He also provided religious legitimacy for the use of suicide operations in this religious war. "There is no difference between dying with a gun in your hand or exploding yourself," he reasoned. "What is the difference between setting out for battle knowing you will die after killing ten [enemies], and setting out to the field and knowing you will die while killing them?"

While Fadlallah's political agenda often overlapped with Hezbollah's, he often parted ways with the group on important matters of religion. He came to embody an Arab Shiism that competed for primacy with the Iranian clerics who seized power following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Fadlallah distinguished himself from Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini by fusing Shiism with Arab nationalism.

"[N]obody can criticize the Islamists about their Arabism," he wrote in his 1997 book Hadith Ashura. "We are intertwined with Arabic, our Prophet was Arab, our language is Arabic, and for this reason Islam has been able to expand in the Arab circle."

Hezbollah, with its strong religious and operational ties to Iran, recognized Khomeini and later Khamenei as its preeminent source of religious knowledge and authority. Fadlallah supported wilayet al-faqih, Iran's religiously inspired system of governance, during the 1980s, under the reign of Khomeini, a respected cleric. However, he soon broke with the system after Khomeini's replacement by Khamenei, who could not match his predecessor's religious authority.

In 1995, Fadlallah declared himself a marja, the highest religious authority within Shiism -- a step that was opposed by the Iranian religious establishment, which saw Khamenei as the proper source of emulation for the Shiite world. Although both Iran and Hezbollah issued statements praising Fadlallah upon his death, they studiously avoided referring to him as a marja.

For this reason, Western claims that Fadlallah was "the spiritual advisor" to Hezbollah were particularly ironic: Although he was clearly influential, it was on precisely the issue of Fadlallah's ultimate religious authority that he and the Party of God parted ways.

Starting in the 1990s, Fadlallah began to preach a more self-consciously modern version of Shiism, placing particular emphasis on scientific and rational methods. He opposed the practice of self-flagellation on the Shiite holy day of Ashura, arguing that it accentuated sectarian differences in Lebanon rather than promoting coexistence. His rulings in the field of gender relations have also been important: He asserted that women were qualified to lead men in prayer and were fully capable of moving up the ranks of the Shiite clergy, up to the post of ayatollah. In 2007, he issued a fatwa saying that a woman could fight back in self-defense if she were beaten by her husband.

This debate was more than an internecine feud over religious principles -- it had important repercussions for the political balance of power within Lebanon's Shiite community. Fadlallah criticized Hezbollah openly at times, notably picking a fight with the group after it declared to its supporters that voting for the party in the 2005 parliamentary election was a religious obligation. He argued that such "perverted practices" would eventually delegitimize religious authority. His extensive network of schools throughout Lebanon, which enrolled 14,300 students in 2000, produces its own religious textbooks rather than use those approved by Iran's religious leadership.

Just as the relationship between Fadlallah and Hezbollah was hitting a low point in the mid-1990s, the United States once again lumped the Shiite cleric in with the party. Fadlallah was declared a "leading ideological figure" of Hezbollah and named a "Specially Designated Terrorist," which empowered the U.S. Treasury to freeze his assets and prohibited him from conducting any future financial transactions with U.S. institutions.

Fadlallah's charities continued to attract the attention of the U.S. government -- even causing problems for some of its erstwhile allies. In 2003, the United States barred then Lebanese Finance Minister Fouad Siniora from entering the country because of a donation he had made to Fadlallah's charity years earlier. Siniora would go on to serve as Lebanon's prime minister from 2005 to 2009, acting as a staunch supporter of U.S. policies in the region during a period when the Lebanese government confronted Syria and its domestic Lebanese allies.

Following the end of the Lebanese civil war, Fadlallah became more circumspect about justifying attacks on Western targets. Along with Hezbollah and Iran, Fadlallah condemned the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as incompatible with Islamic law. The attackers, he said, were not martyrs but "merely suicides." He attributed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's motivations for carrying out the attacks to "personal psychological needs" stemming from a "tribal urge for revenge." He also denounced the July 7, 2005, attacks in London as "a kind of barbarism that Islam unequivocally rejects."

As Fadlallah grew in stature throughout the Arab world and also seized the attention of many in Washington, the competing portrayals of him quickly failed to bear even a passing resemblance to each other. For the U.S. government, he was an unrepentant terrorist who played an integral role in Hezbollah's most vicious operations. To the mourners in Beirut, he was a fierce critic of colonialism and an important pioneer in efforts to reconcile traditional religious teaching with modernity and gender equality.

There was an element of truth to the U.S. stance: Fadlallah was certainly no liberal, nor an ally to be recruited to advance U.S. security goals. However, even a quarter-century after that misguided assassination attempt, U.S. officials failed to appreciate the areas where their interests and Fadlallah's overlapped, both in isolating Iran and reducing the appeal of fundamentalism within Lebanon. The United States always preferred blunt instruments and simple epithets -- crude tools indeed for a complex man.