Monday, June 22, 2009

The White House Fly

FDA Threatens to Seize All Natural Products that Dare to Mention H1N1 Swine Flu

by Mike Adams
In an effort to censor any online text that might inform consumers of the ability of natural products to protect consumers from H1N1 influenza A, the FDA is now sending out a round of warning letters, threatening to "take enforcement action... such as seizure or injunction for violations of the FFDC Act without further notice."

"Firms that fail to take correction action," the FDA warns, "may also be referred to the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations for possible criminal prosecution for violations of the FFDC Act and other federal laws."

The message is crystal clear: No product may be described as protecting against or preventing H1N1 infections unless it is approved by the FDA. And which products has the FDA approved? Tamiflu (the anti-viral drug that most people will never have access to), and soon the new H1N1 vaccine that's being manufactured at a cost of one billion dollars (paid to Big Pharma by the taxpayers). This vaccine, of course, will be utterly useless because H1N1 will undoubtedly mutate between now and the time the vaccine is ready, rendering the vaccine useless.

In other words, according to the tyrants at the FDA, the only products that may be marketed alongside the term "H1N1" are those products that either don't work or aren't available to most people. Anything that really works to prevent influenza infections -- such as natural anti-virals, medicinal herbs, etc. -- is banned from even mentioning H1N1 without the threat of being criminally prosecuted.

Note: I reveal the five most powerful natural anti-viral remedies in a free report you can read here:

Such are the operations of our U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- a criminal organization that's working hard to do what every criminal organization does: Eliminate the competition! As the defender of Big Pharma, the FDA is also the destroyer of knowledge that seeks to remove educational statements from the internet. Truth has nothing to do with it -- it is verifiably true that anti-viral herbs, probiotics and other natural products help protect consumers from influenza -- but the FDA cannot allow such statements to remain online for the simple fact that people might become informed. And that, it seems, would be a dangerous precedent.

If people were informed about the healing and protective powers of herbs, they would no longer remain enslaved by the medical establishment. Profits would be lost. Power would evaporate. This is why people can never be allowed to attain any real knowledge about herbs, superfoods or nutritional supplements. And the FDA will threaten people with imprisonment just to make sure they don't dare publish knowledge that the FDA does not want the people to see.

National Applications Office Focus of Spy Battle

The National Applications Office is an awful lot more interesting than it sounds. It's not an office to deal with people applying for jobs with the Federal Government. It's not a patent office for sticky inventions. It's not a workplace safety evaluation agency within OSHA. The National Applications Office is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security that coordinates the use of military spy satellites to conduct surveillance against Americans, within the borders of the USA, without any search warrant.

obama spy satelliteWe first took note of the move toward this office way back in the summer of 2007. When most Americans were too busy enjoying the beach to notice, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell announced that the powers of the Protect America Act, which had just been passed into law by Congress, would be used to redirect military spy satellites put into space to watch over the Soviet Union. Now, the satellites would be watching Americans, and sharing information about the activities of Americans with state and local law enforcement, to be used in investigations and prosecutions. The kicker: The spying would all take place without any search warrant to establish probable cause for suspicion.

In 2008, the FISA Amendments Act was passed, extending and expanding the unconstitutional powers of unreasonable search and seizure created under the Protect America Act. As a United States Senator, Barack Obama voted for the law, enabling satellite spying against Americans to continue. Now, with Obama as President, George W. Bush's plans for the National Applications Office are going ahead at full pace. Obama seems rather fond of having a Big Brother eye in the sky, watching you. There are indications that satellite spying, through the National Applications Office and beyond, include massive warrantless wiretapping of Americans' private emails and telephone calls.

Members of Congress who have been briefed on the activities of the National Applications Office have expressed grave concerns that it will be abused, and have voiced protests in the past, but Congress has provided enough funding to get the National Applications Office up and running anyway.

Jury in RIAA Trial Slaps $2 Million Fine on Jammie Thomas

Thomas-Rasset (then just Jammie Thomas) went to trial two years ago, and was ordered to pay $222,000 by a different jury for the same songs. The judge in the first case declared a mistrial. Thomas-Rasset opted for a new trial instead of settling like the 30,000-plus others the RIAA has sued or threatened to sue for copyright infringement.

Thomas-Rasset, fined $80,000 a track, told our sister publication, Ars Technica, she wouldn't pay.

Clearly, the Minneapolis jury didn't buy her latest version of events. This time, she testified that her children might have used her computer to file share on Kazaa. The previous trial, she testified a file-sharing hack or crack hijacked her WiFi connection, even though she didn't have a WiFi router.

Under the Copyright Act, juries can award damages of up to $150,000 per pilfered track. About $3,500 was the average payment in the thousands of RIAA cases that settled out of court.

In December, the record labels announced they were winding down their 5-year-old litigation campaign and instead began lobbying ISPs to disconnect music file sharers. But the RIAA, the labels' litigation arm, said it was continuing with the hundreds of cases already in the legal pipeline.

Here's Thomas-Rasset's $1.92 million playlist.

Confidential memo reveals US plan to provoke an invasion of Iraq

by Jamie Doward, Gaby Hinsliff and Mark Townsend

A confidential record of a meeting between President Bush and Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq, outlining their intention to go to war without a second United Nations resolution, will be an explosive issue for the official inquiry into the UK's role in toppling Saddam Hussein.

The memo, written on 31 January 2003, almost two months before the invasion and seen by the Observer, confirms that as the two men became increasingly aware UN inspectors would fail to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) they had to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second resolution legitimising military action.

Bush told Blair the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colours over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes this would put the Iraqi leader in breach of UN resolutions.

The president expressed hopes that an Iraqi defector would be "brought out" to give a public presentation on Saddam's WMD or that someone might assassinate the Iraqi leader. However, Bush confirmed even without a second resolution, the US was prepared for military action. The memo said Blair told Bush he was "solidly with the president".

The five-page document, written by Blair's foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, and copied to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK ambassador to the UN, Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff, the chief of the defence staff, Admiral Lord Boyce, and the UK's ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, outlines how Bush told Blair he had decided on a start date for the war.

Paraphrasing Bush's comments at the meeting, Manning, noted: "The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin."

Host an enemy combatant!

Iran, citizen media and media attention

My Heart's in Accra

Ethan Zuckerman's musings on Africa, international development
and hacking the media.

It's been an interesting few days for people who study social media. As the protests over election results have continued in Iran, and Iranian authorities have prevented most mainstream journalists from reporting on events, there's been a great deal of focus on social media tools, which have become very important for sharing events on the ground in Iran with audiences around the world. I, like many of my friends at the Berkman Center and Global Voices, have spent much of the past two days on the phone with reporters, fielding questions about:

- Whether social media is enabling, causing or otherwise driving the protests in Iran
- How Iranian users are managing to access the internet despite widespread filtering
- The ethics (and practice) of distributed denial of service attacks as a form of information warfare
- Whether such online activities are unprecedented

Rather than tell you what I and colleagues have been saying to reporters, I'll point you to one of the better stories, by Anne-Marie Corley in MIT's Technology Review - she interviews several of my Berkman and Open Net Initiative colleagues and outlines the argument many of us are making:

- Social media is probably more important as a tool to share the protests with the rest of the world than it is as an organizing tool on the ground.
- Iranians have been accessing social networking sites and blogging platforms despite years of filtering - there's a cadre of folks who understand how to get around these blocks and are probably teaching others.
- Because so many Iranians use social media tools - often to talk about topics other than politics - they're a "latent community" that can come to life and have political influence when events on the ground dictate.

Gaurav Mishra rounds up dozens of blog and MSM articles and offers an excellent overview of arguments around these questions (with a strong dose of his own interpretation, much of which I share.) He references Evgeny Morozov, who's got a thorough denunciation of DDOS as a strategy for protest, correctly pointing out that it mostly functions to make participants feel better about themselves by giving them a way to feel involved with the protests. Unfortunately, unlike positive online gestures of solidarity (retweeting reports from Iran, turning Twitter or Facebook pictures green), this one does little more than piss off sysadmins, helps Iranian authorities make the case that forces outside Iran are "attacking the country" and encourage user-driven censorship as a response to unwanted speech.

'Hello, Pot? This is Kettle. You're Green.' --US Hypocrisy Toward Iran

Citizens For Legitimate Government is a multi-partisan activist group established to expose and resist US imperialism, corpora-terrorism, and the New World Order.

 By Lori Price,

The world's biggest hypocrite and meddlesome nosy parker, the United States, has outdone itself with its reaction to the post-election events in Iran. At least five glaring 'grand hypocrisy' categories have emerged, with more likely on the way. What other country -- having just endured eight years of dictatorship as the result of two stolen elections -- could actually spew outrage over... another nation's 'stolen election?' Gag me with a green chainsaw.

Grand hypocrisy #1: Obama Presses Iran to Halt 'Violence Against Own People,' Forgetting US 'Violence Against Own People'

Police Unleash Force On Rally in Tehran --Obama, in Boldest Terms Yet, Presses Iran to Halt Violence Against Own People (The Washington Post) 21 Jun 2009 Fiery chaos broke out in downtown Tehran on Saturday as security forces blocked streets and used tear gas, water cannons and batons to break up a demonstration against the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Security forces were seen firing warning shots into the air, but there were also unconfirmed reports that several people were hit by gunfire. President Obama, in his strongest comments to date on a political standoff that has paralyzed Iran for a week, urged the Iranian government "to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people."

'Violence and unjust actions against its own people.' How undemocratic of the government of Iran!

But, looky here! Use of Force Against RNC Protesters "Disproportionate," Charges Amnesty International (Amnesty International, London) 05 Sep 2008 Amnesty International is concerned by allegations of excessive use of force and mass arrests by police at demonstrations in St. Paul, Minnesota during the Republican National Convention (RNC) from September 1-4, 2008. The human rights organization is calling on the city and county authorities to ensure that all allegations of ill-treatment and other abuses are impartially investigated, with a review of police tactics and weapons in the policing of demonstrations.

And here! Democracy Now! Host and Producers Arrested at Republican Convention (The Washington Post) 01 Sep 2008 Democracy Now! radio host Amy Goodman and two producers were arrested while covering demonstrations at the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn. Goodman was released after being held for over three hours, but is still waiting to hear when Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar would be released... "They seriously manhandled me and handcuffed my hands behind my back. The top ID [at the convention] is to get on the floor and the Secret Service ripped that off me. I had my Democracy Now! ID too. I was clearly a reporter." Goodman, who was released after being charged with a misdemeanor, said that Salazar had been hurt in the face, while Kouddous had been thrown up against a wall and hurt his elbow. "Nicole told me that as they moved in on three sides, she asked them 'How do I get away from this?' and they jumped on her." Both Kouddous and Salazar could be held for up to 36 hours. "One of the police kept shouting at me 'Shut up, shut up," she said. "It was extremely threatening."

Raytheon ADS – A Pain ray gun to keep us in line (Newlaunches) 26 Jun 2008 Controlling an angry mob is not the task of any sane individual; sometimes it requires raw brute force. So far the use of tear gas and water canons has eased an awkward riot situation. There are some laser weapons, also called dazzlers, which are handheld devices that can temporarily blind criminals, while kinetic technologies include bean-bag rounds, water cannons and even sponge grenades filled with powdered irritant chemicals. According to a report by its Scientific Development Branch a new type of pain ray gun or Active denial system (ADS) has been developed which projects microwave-like radiation for distances of more than 500 yards, creating an excruciating and full-body burning sensation in anyone caught in its beam. The millimeter-wave rays penetrate skin to a depth of about 1/64in but cause no permanent damage, according to Raytheon, the system's US-based maker. Prototypes of the weapon, called Silent Guardian, weighed about three tons and were mounted on trucks. The Scientific Development Branch, based in Sandridge in Hertfordshire, has been looking at a portable version of the ADS being developed by Raytheon for the US National Institute of Justice.

I don't see the Raytheon pain ray gun tweets - where are they? Can you imagine what the Faux News trolls would say if Iran was testing a pain ray gun for use on 'angry mobs?'

Also, where was Barack Obama's condemnation of police violence in Minnesota, the wall-to-wall PentaPost coverage, CNN's insipid 'iReports' and the millions of green tweets regarding the US crackdown on protesters in the US?

Grand hypocrisy #2: US condemns Iran for disallowing protests

The US media is outraged -- I tell you -- outraged, that Iran is forbidding protests!

Bush: Clap Me Or No EU Speech ( March 2003 George Bush pulled out of a speech to the European Parliament when MEPs wouldn't guarantee a standing ovation. A source close to negotiations said last night: "President [sic] Bush agreed to a speech but insisted he get a standing ovation like at the State of the Union address. His people also insisted there were no protests, or heckling." Mr Bush's every appearance in the US is stage-managed, with audiences full of supporters.

Yes, and if you disagree with "stage-management" at Dictator Bush's appearances, you are herded into a "First Amendment Zone," and threatened with a felony charge. See Michael Rectenwald's account of such an experience: "Neville Island on Labor Day 2002: First Amendment Behind Bars" 02 Sep 2002.

Grand hypocrisy #3: US loves riots and civil upheaval over stolen elections... as long as there's no civil upheavals and riots over *US* stolen elections!

Iran finds US-backed MKO fingermarks in riots (Press TV) 21 Jun 2009 The terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) has reportedly played a major role in intensifying the recent wave of street violence in Iran. Iranian security officials reported Saturday that they have identified and arrested a large number of MKO members who were involved in recent riots in Iran's capital. According to the security officials, the arrested members had confessed that they were extensively trained in Iraq's camp Ashraf to create post-election mayhem in the country.

Qashqavi: VOA, BBC guiding unrest in Iran (Press TV) 21 Jun 2009 Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi pins the blame for the recent post-election turmoil across the country on US and British media outlets. "Voice of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) are state-funded channels and not privately-run. Their budgets are ratified in the US Congress, as well as the British Parliament. The two channels serve as mouthpieces of their respective governments," Qashqavi stated on Saturday. He noted that the two news outlets seek to stir up ethnic discord across Iran in the hope of fomenting the country's disintegration.

Suicide bombing leaves 3 injured in Tehran (Press TV) 20 Jun 2009 A terrorist bombing attack has targeted the mausoleum of Imam Khomeini in southern Tehran, wounding three pilgrims at the site. The suicide bomber himself was killed in the blast that rocked the northern entrance of the shrine of the founder of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini, on Saturday, IRNA reported.

See: US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran --America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the government. 25 Feb 2007 CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran's border regions. The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods terrorists in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime. In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials... Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA's classified budget but is now "no great secret", according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph. His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: "The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime."

If Iran 'dealt with movements that resorted to terrorist methods' against the US, the US would have declared war on Iran in what, five pico-seconds? And, LieberBush/Boner (Boehner) would be yelping for Obama's impeachment because five pico-seconds would not be quick enough.

Iran Election Crisis: 10 Incredible YouTube Videos

It's no secret that social media's played an important – maybe even historic – role in the Iran election protests that have swept the nation into discord and disarray. Many social media companies have made a contribution towards opening the flow of communication within and out of Iran, YouTube (YouTube) included.

As we reported earlier this week, thousands of Iran-related videos are being uploaded to YouTube every day, revealing first-hand accounts of the crisis to the world. Some are incredible, some are eye-opening, and other shock you to your very core. We've included ten of these incredible videos, in a chronological order that helps provide context to the crisis in Iran. Be prepared, for these videos can evoke some very strong emotions:

1. Saturday, June 13th

This was one of the first Iran election protests videos to be spread around the web. Translate, the video's title is "Saturday 23 June." In actuality, this video was taken on Saturday, June 13th in what we believe to be Tehran.

2. June 13th: Riot in tehran streets after election day

This now well-known video has over 400,000 views. You can see the green masks of the Mousavi movement onn clear display.

3. June 13th: BBC – Protest against Iran election results

The BBC was on top of the Iran crisis. This popular video is an incredible on-the-ground report.

4. June 14th: Iranians protest against election results, police intervene

This is one of the first videos that shows the police getting involved in breaking up the crowds that formed not long after the elections. There are cries, screaming, running, burning wreckage, and many angry citizens.

5. June 14th: Iran Election Protest in Paris

The protests have not just been inside of Iran. There have been demonstrations in cities across the world in support of Mousavi's Green Movement. This well-produced video comes out of Paris.

6. June 17: Protesting in Silence – Tehran


7. June 19th: Poem for the Rooftops of Iran

From the video's description: "A woman speaking about the state of her country while filming the rooftop shouting of "Allah-o Akbar" in Iran on Friday June 19th"

The poem and the background noise make this video evoke emotions that are unlike most of the other videos coming out of Iran.

8. June 20th: Basij Milita have opened fire into crowds

This unedited video from the BBC is a display of how the violence has escalated in all of Iran.

9. June 20: Wounded Girl Dying [GRAPHIC CONTENT]

WARNING: The following video is very graphic, disturbing, and involves the death of an Iranian woman.

DO NOT WATCH unless you feel capable AND are old enough.

Nevermind the crisis in Iran – this is one of the most brutal videos I have ever seen in my life. That is why I have provided multiple warnings about this one, but I feel that it is important to include it for several reasons:

- Social media is raw, and that YouTube allows you to get the uncensored version of things. We cannot be blind to that fact.

- This is, in my mind, the most incredible of all the videos coming out of Iran.

- Sometimes, you have to see everything to really understand what's going on. Things are very, very bad in Iran, period.

With all of that said, this video is just gut-wrenching.

10. June 20th: Tehran Tazahorat

You can't help but be amazed by the sheer number of people in the streets. This video has been passed around a lot recently in social circles, and for good reason. It's incredible, just like all of the videos here.

YouTube shows us a progression

As I built this post, I saw a progression of events through the video. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good one. It puts on display escalating violence, mayhem, and turmoil. Iran is a nation in chaos, and as we monitor the situation, we must realize that social tools provide us with unfettered access to the situation. Sometimes, that access can be disturbing. The flip side though is that we can truly know what's going on in Iran. This way, we really stay informed.

If you have more videos from Iran, we encourage you to share them within in the comments, or to just share your thoughts on these videos.

Agents say DEA is forcing them illegally to work in Afghanistan

By Marisa Taylor

WASHINGTON — As the Obama administration ramps up the Drug Enforcement Administration's presence in Afghanistan, some special-agent pilots contend that they're being illegally forced to go to a combat zone, while others who've volunteered say they're not being properly equipped.

In interviews with McClatchy, more than a dozen DEA agents describe a badly managed system in which some pilots have been sent to Afghanistan under duress or as punishment for bucking their superiors.

Such complaints, so far mostly arising from the DEA's Aviation Division, could complicate the Obama administration's efforts to send dozens of additional DEA agents to Afghanistan as part of a civilian and military personnel "surge" that aims to stabilize the country.

Veteran DEA pilot Daniel Offield has alleged in an employment discrimination complaint he was told if he refuses to go to Afghanistan in July he'll be demoted. The Stockton, Calif., agent asked for a reprieve because he was in the process of adopting two special needs children and offered to serve his required temporary duty in other countries.

Another agent, David Beavers, told McClatchy that he was ordered in July 2007 to prepare to go to Afghanistan in two weeks while he was on bereavement leave after his mother-in-law died. To avoid going, the Orlando, Fla., pilot decided to retire early.

Both men have flown for the DEA in Latin American countries wracked by drug violence, but they say service in a combat zone should be treated as voluntary because they're not military personnel.

"You could say that the war on drugs is dangerous," said Beavers, a DEA pilot for more than 20 years. "But it's not quite like Afghanistan, where you can get your legs blown off by an (improvised explosive device)."

Agents said supervisors told them that working in dangerous countries is part of their job requirements, but Offield's Sacramento-based lawyer said such compulsory duty violates a 2008 federal law that requires civilian personnel to serve voluntarily.

"The DEA is not only violating the law," said attorney Richard Margarita, a former DEA agent and county prosecutor. "They could very well be sending Dan Offield to his death."


Justices Reject Inmate Right to DNA Tests


William G. Osborne sought more discriminating DNA testing after his conviction.
WASHINGTON — Prisoners have no constitutional right to DNA testing that might prove their innocence, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a 5-to-4 decision.
The court divided along familiar ideological lines, with the majority emphasizing that 46 states already have laws that allow at least some prisoners to gain access to DNA evidence.

"To suddenly constitutionalize this area," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, "would short-circuit what looks to be a prompt and considered legislative response."

The case before the court concerned Alaska, which has no DNA testing law. Prosecutors there have conceded that such testing could categorically establish the guilt or innocence of William G. Osborne, who was convicted in 1994 of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a prostitute in Anchorage.

In a dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the Constitution's due process clause required allowing Mr. Osborne to have access to DNA evidence in his case.

"For reasons the state has been unable or unwilling to articulate," Justice Stevens wrote, "it refuses to allow Osborne to test the evidence at his own expense and to thereby ascertain the truth once and for all."

Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged the "unparalleled ability" of DNA testing "both to exonerate the wrongly convicted and to identify the guilty." Such testing has played a role in 240 exonerations, according to the Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School, which represents Mr. Osborne. In 103 of those cases, the testing also identified the actual perpetrator.

Peter Neufeld, a director of the project, said Thursday's decision would have pernicious consequences.

"It's unquestionable that some people in some states who are factually innocent will not get DNA testing and will languish in prison," Mr. Neufeld said. "Some of them will die in prison."

The world's weirdest festivals

The Baby Jumping Festival (El Colacho)

June 11-15, 2009

Castrillo de Murcia, Spain


First staged in 1620, this strange event celebrating Corpus Christi sees grown men dressed as the Devil leaping over a row of babies lying in the street.

Urban Coyotes Have Streetwise Ways

All Things Considered · When coyotes snarl and bark, yelp and howl just a few yards from your front door, the chills go straight to the base of your spine. I've seen this pack roam the city streets near my house. It's just a few miles from downtown Phoenix, and a few feet from a desert park. Darren Julian, who tracks urban wildlife for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, says this area is a sanctuary for urban coyotes.

Here, "coyotes and other wild animals have a place to escape and not be bothered," Julian says. "[They'll] hide under many of these creosote bushes or paloverde trees, but then go find food sources in your yard."

Julian says a pack of coyotes can claim up to 3 square miles of territory. Sometimes the only evidence of their existence is a hairy pile of scat left behind in some alleyway. They hide in overgrown yards. They den in oleander hedge rows and prowl the streets looking for colonies of feral cats to munch on. One morning, Erin Luker let her 8-pound Yorkie, Lucy, into the backyard with grim results.

"When she didn't come back inside, I went out to find her," Luker says. "I opened the door, I heard her yelp, and she ran back inside. She was just mangled."

Lucy died later that day. But as you quarantine your Chihuahua, you should know this: Urban coyotes actually do more damage to rats and goose eggs than anything else. That's according to Ohio State University's Stan Gehrt, who spent the past 10 years studying wild coyotes — in Chicago.

"At first we discovered there were many more coyotes living in the city than we had ever guessed." Gehrt estimates that more than 2,000 coyotes thrive in the Windy City, which is about 2,000 more than you might expect. Many thrive in the concrete nooks and crannies of the downtown Loop. His favorite lived virtually unseen near a retention pond right next to a post office.

"There were literally hundreds of people walking a few feet away from an alpha female coyote without ever knowing it," he says.

As Iraq runs dry, a plague of snakes is unleashed

An unprecedented fall in the water levels of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has left the rural population at the mercy of heat, drought – and displaced wildlife. Patrick Cockburn reports

The Desert Horned Viper lurks in sand, only eyes, nostrils and horns above the surface.
The Desert Horned Viper lurks in sand, only eyes, nostrils and horns above the surface.

Swarms of snakes are attacking people and cattle in southern Iraq as the Euphrates and Tigris rivers dry up and the reptiles lose their natural habitat among the reed beds.

"People are terrified and are leaving their homes," says Jabar Mustafa, a medical administrator, who works in a hospital in the southern province of Dhi Qar. "We knew these snakes before, but now they are coming in huge numbers. They are attacking buffalo and cattle as well as people." Doctors in the area say six people have been killed and 13 poisoned.

In Chabaysh, a town on the Euphrates close to the southern marshland of Hawr al-Hammar, farmers have set up an overnight operations room to prevent the snakes attacking their cattle.

"We have been surprised in recent days by the unprecedented number of snakes that have fled their habitat because of the dryness and heat," Wissam al-Assadi, one of the town's vets said. "We saw some on roads, near houses and cowsheds. Farmers have come to us for vaccines, but we don't have any."

The plague of snakes is the latest result of an unprecedented fall in the level of the water in the Euphrates and the Tigris, the two great rivers which for thousands of years have made life possible in the sun-baked plains of Mesopotamia, the very name of which means "between the rivers" in Greek. The rivers that made Iraq's dry soil so fertile are drying up because the supply of water, which once flowed south into Iraq from Turkey, Syria and Iran, is now held back by dams and used for irrigation. On the Euphrates alone, Turkey has five large dams upriver from Iraq, and Syria has two.

The diversion of water from the rivers has already destroyed a large swathe of Iraqi agriculture and the result of Iraq being starved of water may be one of the world's greatest natural disasters, akin to the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest.

Foreclosure of the Week