Today's conditions brought to you by the Bush Junta - marionettes of their hyperdimensional puppet masters - Produced and Directed by the CIA, based on an original script by Henry Kissinger, with a cast of billions.... The "Greatest Shew on Earth," no doubt, and if you don't have a good sense of humor, don't read this page! It is designed to reveal the "unseen."
If you can't stand the heat of Objective Reality, get out of the kitchen!
Monday, May 24, 2004
New Article: Jupiter, Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and the Return of the Mongols - Laura Knight-Jadczyk
Picture of the Day
de Lune sur l'étang du Méjean (Hérault)
We start today's page with some good news:
Well there ya have it! We've been "ranting" all this time for nothing. Of course, we'll just ignore the fact that The Pew Research Center is financed by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which was created by the children of an oil tycoon.
If one looks objectively at the US media, it is plainly obvious that the major news outlets tow the line of the Bush administration. The massive media conglomerates have ties directly to many in the current administration. Classifications of "liberal" or "conservative" are generally pretty useless. What matters is what the Bush administration does, and what the media reports about what the administration does. Bush lies, and the media repeats and supports those lies.
Recently, we have all read about the "revelations" regarding the torture of Iraqi prisoners. If the media was actually honest and objective, its reports would have reflected the fact that America has long been involved in overthrowing foreign governments, training paramilitary forces, teaching torture techniques, and generally sowing discord and promoting mayhem around the globe. The media did not even touch these topics when the news of the torture of Iraqis broke. How honest and objective is any news source that completely ignores warnings of torture from the Red Cross?
The US media is all about timing and spin, lies and illusions. The media is the apparatus by which the man behind the curtain projects the illusion of George Bush, president and patriotic cowboy, for the ravenous eyes of the masses. And ravenous they are - any illusion, any lie that even halfway explains current events is instantly absorbed and integrated in a process of control that has been honed by the powers that be for generations.
One would like to think that if the curtain ever falls, and the transition to a full blown dictatorship in America is complete, that some of the people might just wake up and smell the coffee. While this is certainly possible, it requires the development in the individual of an ability to see reality as it is. The truth seems to be that the vast majority do not want to See anything. They are happy with their imaginary lives, with their illusory being, and with the mountain of lies they continually repeat to themselves to dull that gnawing pain that tries to tell them that something isn't quite right.
No, it appears that it is far more likely that the people will willingly give themselves to the machine they have helped to create. They will sacrifice their own children, as well as the children of others, in a vain attempt to plug the black hole within that demands all. It is the ultimate act of revenge for being born into a world that will never be perfect enough, that will never fulfill that deepest part of us that seeks to be free of our Earthly bonds.
As slaves, we feel and think that if only we can control another, if only we can "save" another, we just might achieve some small degree of "freedom". Never mind the free will of the other - in an act of blind arrogance, we will determine the other's needs. And so, the modus operandi of the powers that be is adopted and internalized as our own natural state. What we fail to consider is that true freedom is allowing the world to be as it is - allowing other people to be as they are, regardless of how we would like things to be.
So, yes, George Bush is a liar. The US media - liars. We who live in this world - liars. The question is, what do we Do about it, if anything? Perhaps there is another state of being, a nonlinear and open mode of existence that, while obscure and confusing at first, can in fact be real. It is clear, however, that working towards this other mode of being requires constant work, constant reevaluation, constant struggle against the machine which we helped create and within which we have become an integral cog. The machine will fight back if one tries to remove oneself. The task then becomes a question of commitment to the path we have each chosen.
booed for anti-Bush remarks
E.L. Doctorow, one of the most celebrated writers in America, was nearly booed off the stage at Hofstra University Sunday when he gave a commencement address lambasting President George W. Bush and effectively calling him a liar.
Booing that came mainly from the crowd in the stands became so intense that Doctorow stopped speaking at one point, showing no emotion as he stood silently and listened to the jeers. Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz intervened, and called on the audience to allow him to finish. He did, although some booing persisted.
Doctorow, who spent virtually all of his 20-minute address in Hempstead criticizing Bush, told the crowd that like himself the president is a storyteller. But "sadly they are not good stories this president tells," he said. "They are not good stories because they are not true." That line provoked the first boos, along with scattered cheers.
"One story he told was that the country of Iraq had nuclear and biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction and was intending shortly to use them on us," he said. "That was an exciting story all right, it was designed to send shivers up our spines. But it was not true.
"Another story was that the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was in league with the terrorists of al-Qaida," he said. "And that turned out to be not true. But anyway we went off to war on the basis of these stories."
Those lines provoked an outburst of boos so loud the "Ragtime" author stopped the speech. Rabinowitz approached the podium and called for calm. "We value open discussion and debate," he said. "For the sake of your graduates, please let him finish."
Some students and most of the faculty responded with a standing ovation, and Doctorow resumed speaking. He attacked Bush for giving the rich tax breaks, doing "a very poor job of combating terrorism" and allowing the government to subpoena libraries "to see what books you've been taking out."
Many parents and relatives of the more than 1,300 undergraduates were livid over the address, saying afterward that a college graduation was not the place for a political speech. "If this would have happened in Florida, we would have taken him out" of the stadium, said Frank Mallafre, who traveled from Miami for his granddaughter's graduation. [...]
But some defended Doctorow's speech. "I think he's entitled to his opinion and he's as American as anyone else," said a Hempstead resident who identified himself only as Frank and whose daughter was graduating. [...]
Berliner said it was relatively common during the Vietnam War, but "extraordinarily uncommon" in recent times for a speaker to have to stop speaking.
Still, it has happened recently. Last year, New York Times reporter Chris Hedges was booed off the stage when he tried to deliver an antiwar speech at Rockford College in Illinois.
Some Hofstra professors said Doctorow was on target in discussing the war. "I thought this was a totally appropriate place to talk about politics because that's the world our students are entering," said sociology professor Cynthia Bogard. "I only wish their parents had provided them a better role model."
In our presentation of the daily Signs of the Times, we have repeatedly attempted to bring home to our readers the very clear fact that "our leaders lie", and that they do it pretty much all the time. We understand that, as a result of cultural and social programming, not to mention our innate human nature and what has been termed "the predator's mind", it is a very difficult task to See objectively and divest ourselves of the beliefs and needs that prohibit us from doing so. For this reason, we tend to reiterate core concepts backed up with evidence - "our leaders lie to us" being one of those concepts. The following few articles from today's news, complete with commentary, provide us with an excellent opportunity to face ourselves into the very clear and stark reality that much of what we are being told by our leaders are outright lies. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly for us, they are the sort of lies that implicate every one of us, and hold the promise of dire consequences if we allow ourselves to believe them.
A videotape emerged today apparently showing the wedding party in Iraq that survivors say was attacked by US warplanes last week in raids that killed up to 45 people.
The US military has admitted launching air strikes at targets near the Syrian border last Tuesday but insists it attacked a safehouse for foreign insurgents and that there was no evidence of a wedding.
The top US military spokesman in Iraq, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, told reporters at the weekend that there could have been some kind of celebration but said "bad people have celebrations too".
He insisted there were "no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration".
However, the video obtained by APTN - which lasts for several hours - shows a large wedding party, and separate footage shot by AP cameramen the following day shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans, and brightly coloured beddings used for celebrations scattered around a bombed-out tent. There were also fragments of ordnance that appeared to have US markings.
An AP reporter and photographer, who interviewed more than a dozen survivors a day after the bombing, were able to identify many of them on the wedding party video.
The survivors say dozens of missiles were launched lat at night after the festivities had ended and that women and children were among those killed, as were the bride and groom.
The US military has launched an investigation into the raids on the village of Mogr el-Deeb, which is about five miles from the Syrian border, but maintains that the evidence suggests it was a safehouse for insurgents coming over the border.
Iraqi officials said at least 13 children were killed and the AP reporter obtained names of at least 10 whom relatives said had died. Brig Gen Kimmitt has denied finding evidence that any children died in the raid although he admitted that a "handful of women" - perhaps four to six - were "caught up in the engagement". [...]
Fresh allegations of American abuse of prisoners continue to appal the world. But now 'The Independent on Sunday' has uncovered proof of US troops deliberately and indiscriminately shooting civilians. Here we examine new evidence that suggests the lawlessness in the American military was never confined to the prison camps and torture rooms but extended to the streets and homes of Iraq
Whitaker in London and Justin Huggler in Baghdad
Amid the welter of ugly pictures from Iraq last week were images worse than those of the humiliation and torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison. These show chunks of flesh and hanks of women's hair scattered across a scene of devastation. Among the few recognisable objects are musical instruments.
This is the scene of an incident that has divided Iraqis from their occupiers like few others. It has highlighted an issue more significant, yet far less discussed, than mistreatment in prisons: the degree to which indiscriminate use of American firepower has made enemies of the Iraqi population. According to independent estimates - none are available from the coalition - about 11,500 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the start of the war in March last year.
The footage of flesh, hair and musical instruments was filmed by a video crew that reached the location of what local people say was a wedding party attacked without warning by the Americans, killing women and children. The instruments belonged to the band of Hussein Ali, one of Iraq's most famous wedding singers, whose relatives buried him in Baghdad last week.
Despite this evidence - and earlier pictures filmed by al-Arabiya television, showing two dead babies wrapped side by side in a blanket, and a headless child lying next to the body of his or her mother - American commanders continue to insist that their strike, on a remote village in the desert close to the Syrian border, was against foreign fighters crossing into Iraq.
"These were more than two dozen military-age males," scoffed Maj-Gen James Mattis, commander of the US 1st Marine Division. "Let's not be naive." What about the video footage? Maj-Gen Mattis said he had not seen it, but added: "Bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologise for the conduct of my men." Although an investigation has been promised, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, said in Washington: "We feel at this point very confident that this was a legitimate target, probably foreign fighters."
Not only that: the Americans are now also dropping hints that the "foreign fighters" could be linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an Islamist militant leader and ally of Osama bin Laden who is in Iraq, and who is accused of personally beheading the American hostage Nick Berg. Although such a connection was "still to be determined", said General Myers, it was "not out of the question".
More telling, however, was the reaction of the occupation authorities to the damaging video footage. US officials demanded al-Arabiya give them the name of the cameraman who shot the pictures. Al-Arabiya refused.
As the Abu Ghraib scandal has proved, shocking images can lead to investigations not only in Iraq but in Afghan-istan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, and cause trouble not only for the military but for the CIA and the White House as well. Until they saw the pictures, Americans were unaware of what was happening to Iraqis in custody; they remain ignorant of the reasons for the mounting toll of civilian deaths, both during and since the invasion last year, despite the evidence of those few Americans who have witnessed them, such as Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey.
Ever since the occupation began, there have been regular stories of American soldiers who were attacked by insurgents on the streets of Iraqi cities and reacted by spraying the entire area with wild, indiscriminate gunfire, killing and maiming innocent Iraqi bystanders. Other accounts, however, are even more sinister.
Before he was jailed for a year last week for failing to return from leave, another soldier who served in Iraq, Sergeant Camilo Mejia, said a friend of his, a sniper, had shot a child about 10 years old who was carrying an automatic weapon. "He realised it was a kid," said Sergeant Mejia. "The kid tried to get up. He shot him again." The child died.
Few images exist of such incidents, not least because journalists seeking to record them have ended up dead themselves. Thanks to the persistence of one or two news organisations that have lost employees in Iraq, these deaths are among the few to have been independently investigated. After an award-winning cameraman, Mazen Dana, became the second Reuters employee to be killed, the agency hired a security company and carried out an exhaustive inquiry which found few differences of fact with the military investigation, but which differed radically on the conclusions.
The soldier who shot Mr Dana claimed he had made "sudden movements" which made him think the cameraman was about to fire a rocket-propelled grenade, that he was blinded by the sun at the time, and that he could not distinguish at a distance of 75 metres between an RPG and a television camera.
Despite pages of evidence proving the sun was not in the position claimed, and photographs demonstrating the visible difference at 75 metres between a camera and a large weapon, the US military is sticking to its finding that the journalist's death was "justified based on the information available ... at the time".
If an organisation with the international clout of Reuters cannot get the Pentagon to admit an error might have been made, the survivors of last week's slaughtered wedding party have even less chance that their version of events will prevail. But the incident illustrates several of the concerns expressed about the operations undertaken by US forces in Iraq, including their ignorance of Iraqi culture, their isolation from local people and their over-dependence on firepower.
"How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border to hold a wedding?" demanded Maj-Gen Mattis.
The answer is plenty, if you come from a clan of livestock herders and that is where you have lived all your life. The clan straddles the Syrian border; even distant relatives would be expected to turn up from there, as well as the far corners of Iraq.
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the US military spokesman in Iraq, said US forces found guns, Syrian passports and a satellite phone at the scene of the fighting. None of that was surprising, either: even in the cities, every house has a weapon. In a village 75 miles from the nearest town they are even more necessary, both to protect against bandits and to shield flocks from wild animals. With no telephone lines and no mobile coverage, it is not unusual for such places to have a satellite phone as well.
Comment: We can just imagine the scene. The US military enter the area of the wedding and see small children with their heads missing, a bride with her brains staining the dress she was married in a few hours earlier, old men and women disemboweled. They realise what they have done, yet they still refuse to accept it. The search desperately for anything that will allow them to justify what they have done. They stumble across some passports! Wow! Pretty incriminating eh? Even worse, Guns! Now they can go home, convinced that the woman in the bridal gown was actually an evil insurgent in disguise.
If this is all the justification required for the US military to attack a town, we wonder what ridiculous excuses they will come up with to kill and imprison American citizens if and when martial law arrives in the US...
"The British military tends to have far more open dealings with the local population than the Americans," said Christopher Bellamy, professor of military science at Cranfield University. "While the British rely more on local intelligence to warn them of trouble in advance, US forces have a 'stand-off' posture, which means trouble tends to erupt without warning. As a result they need to deliver enormous amounts of firepower to overcome it."
Eleanor Goldsworthy, UK forces specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, said the approach taken by British forces in Iraq was: "If we behave, we earn their goodwill." The American attitude, by contrast, was: "If they behave, they earn our goodwill." And if they don't, others might add, US forces will punish them - the policy that appeared to be adopted when the Marines moved on Fallujah last month in the wake of the deaths of four American private security men.
The insistence of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, on a "war lite" policy, said Professor Bellamy, meant that "American forces have to make up in firepower what they lack in manpower". Because US soldiers specialised early in their careers, and received less overall training than their British counterparts, the majority were not effective combat troops, and had to be protected by those with the appropriate training.
"The philosophy is almost that of the wagon train, and tends to lead to the 'spray and slay' behaviour we have seen," said the analyst.
"It is hard to over-estimate the lack of awareness of most American soldiers in Iraq," said a military source. "Many, perhaps most, have never been abroad before. They see their mission as giving democracy to the Iraqis and enforcing stability, and find it very difficult to understand why the Iraqis aren't grateful. They have no idea that they are seen as arrogant and aggressive."
In the view of British forces, the source added, such attitudes had led to a succession of "fundamental mistakes", and had made senior officers extremely hostile to being put under American command. This is one of the options reported to be under consideration by Downing Street this weekend as the deployment of more British forces is weighed.
The US wants Britain to take over from the departed Spanish contingent in the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, where American firepower is being deployed against militias loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric declared an outlaw by Washington.
"Seeking to adopt normal low-profile British tactics in the wake of American aggressiveness would be difficult enough," said the military source, "but to have to go in under US operational command would be a disaster."
Comment: Clearly the American government and its military is out of control (if they were ever "in" control). No longer does the rule of law apply, 'anything goes' is the watchword of modern US foreign and domestic policy. Many will instinctively disagree with this assessment, not s much because there is not the evidence to back it up (there is) but rather because they do not want to believe the ugly truth which sits staring at them, even from of the recesses of the relatively controlled government owned media. The point that people overlook is that "they" do not need a good reason to invade other countries, murder their citizens, trash the US constitution and lock up any dissenting Americans. They do it simply because they can, because the sleeping electorate will do whatever they are told. Is this not a good enough reason? It seems to be all the justification Bush and Cheney need.
Do Americans really think that the "beast" that is their government and military will not eventually turn on them? Think about the reports on today's Signs page, the sneering contempt for human life shown by US military commanders and by default those in government that give them their orders. Think about the lack of humanity in so many US soldiers who can be so easily lead to see an Iraqi child an little more than an animal and gun him down remorselessly. These are your "benevolent leaders", these are the men you trust to protect you. Are Americans insane? The state of being in complete and utter delusion about reality could indeed be compared to a type of madness, for it leads people to believe and act in such a way that they become a danger to themselves and their own lives. Never moreso than today is this true of the American people as a whole.
Marine's tale: 'We killed 30 civilians in six weeks. I felt we were committing
During 12 years in the US Marines, including three years putting new recruits through boot camp, Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey hardly questioned his role. But what he saw in Iraq changed that.
"In a month and a half my platoon and I killed more than 30 civilians," Mr Massey said. He saw bodies being desecrated and robbed, and wounded civilians being dumped by the roadside without medical treatment. After he told his commanding officer that he felt "we were committing genocide", he was called a "wimp".
Mr Massey, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and depression, left the Marines in November. Back home in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, he says the cause of the uprising in Iraq is that "we killed a lot of innocent people".
His 7th Marine Weapons Company, armed with machine guns and missiles, was one of the first into the country in March last year. "We would take over villages and control checkpoints," he said. "My men and I would fire warning shots at oncoming vehicles. But, if they didn't stop, we didn't have any qualms about loading them up."
The Marines were told that Iraqis were filling ambulances with explosives, and that soldiers were dressed as civilians, but after pouring fire into vehicles and hearing no explosions, they started to doubt the truth of these claims.
"Iraqi military compounds had nothing in them, except for dismantled tanks, equipment that was barely functioning, and barracks that looked like ghost towns," Mr Massey said.
Comment: Ask yourself why? Why was bogus intelligence and information passed to US soldiers? Did someone want them to kill thousands of innocent Iraqis. Extrapolating out, we might conclude that some also wanted the entire Iraq invasion to descend into a quagmire. Why? Part of a grander plan maybe?
The incident that haunts him most took place early in April, near an Iraqi military compound five miles from Baghdad's airport. "There were approximately 10 demonstrators near a tank," he said. "We heard a shot in the distance and we started shooting at them. They all died except for one. We left the bodies there.
"We noticed that there were some RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] about 200 metres away from them - they might have come from the military compound. The demonstrators had the ability to fire at us or at the tank, but they didn't. The survivor was hiding behind a column about 150 metres away from us. I pointed at him and waved my weapon to tell him to get away. Half of his foot had been cut off. He went away dragging his foot. We were all laughing and cheering.
"Then an 18-wheeler [truck] came speeding around. We shot at it. One of the guys jumped out. He was on fire. The driver was dead. Then a Toyota Corolla came. We killed the driver, the other guy came out with his hands up. We shot him too.
"A gunny from Lima Company came running and said to us: 'Hey, you just shot that guy, but he had his hands up.' My unit, my commander and me were relieved of our command for the rest of the day. Not more than five minutes later, the Lima Company took up our position and shot a car with one woman and two children. They all died."
The next day the platoon guarded a checkpoint at Baghdad Stadium. "A red Kia Spectra sped toward us at about 45mph. We fired a warning volley above it but the car kept coming. Then we aimed at the car and fired with full force. The Kia came to a stop right in front of me, three of the four men shot dead, the fourth wounded and covered in blood. We called the medics, but he died before they arrived. That day we killed three more civilians in the same circumstances. I talked to my captain afterwards and told him: 'It's a bad day.' He said: 'No, it's a good day.'"
Mr Massey watched as badly injured Iraqis were repeatedly "tossed on the side of the road without calling medics". His reaction to the event that triggered the recent siege of Fallujah - the sight of the blackened, mutilated bodies of four American private security men - was that "we did the same thing to them".
Iraqis, he said, "would see us debase their dead all the time. We would be messing around with charred bodies, kicking them out of the vehicles and sticking cigarettes in their mouths. I also saw vehicles drive over them. It was our job to look into the pockets of dead Iraqis to gather intelligence. However, time and time again, I saw Marines steal gold chains, watches and wallets full of money."
Several members of his platoon expressed concern that so many civilians were being killed, but Mr Massey says he told them: "We've got a job to do." Finally, however, he voiced his own doubts to his commanding officer. "I told him I felt like we were committing genocide in Iraq, that we were doing harm to a culture. He said nothing and walked away. I knew my career was over." Later, he says, his superior poured abuse on him, saying, "You're a poor leader. You're faking it. You're a conscientious objector, you're a wimp."
Family's fury at mystery death
The first Mohammed Munim al-Izmerly's family knew of his death was when his battered corpse turned up at Baghdad's morgue. Attached to the zipped-up black US body bag was a laconic note.
The US military claimed in the note that Dr Izmerly, a distinguished chemistry professor arrested after US tanks encircled his villa, had died of "brainstem compression".
Dr Izmerly's sudden death after 10 months in American custody left his family stunned, not least because three weeks earlier they had visited him in the US prison at Baghdad airport. His 23-year-old daughter, Rana, recalled that he had seemed in "good health".
The family commissioned an independent Iraqi autopsy. Its conclusion was unambiguous: Dr Izmerly had died because of a "sudden hit to the back of his head", Faik Amin Baker, the director of Baghdad hospital's forensic department, certified.
The cause of death was blunt trauma. It was uncertain exactly how he died, but someone had hit him from behind, possibly with a bar or a pistol, Dr Baker confirmed yesterday.
"He died from a massive blow to the head. We don't disagree with the coalition's report, but it doesn't explain how he got his injuries in the first place," he told the Guardian.
Dr Izmerly was on the coalition's original "200 list" of suspects from Saddam Hussein's regime, and his death happened just two weeks after the US military began its own secret inquiry into the prison west of Baghdad. Last Friday the Pentagon admitted it was now investigating eight more suspected murders.
Several prisoners have been found to have died before or during interrogation. They include Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a former commander of Iraq's air defences, who died last November during interrogation at Qaim.
The original US autopsy said he had died of a heart attack. It now appears he was suffocated during interrogation when a CIA officer put him in a sleeping bag and sat on him.
Last night the family of Dr Izmerly were in little doubt he had been murdered in US custody. The reasons for his death were covered up, they believe.
"This was not natural," Rana told the Guardian yesterday, in the first interview given by the family since his death. "The evidence is clear. It suggests the Americans killed him and then tried to hide what they had done. I will hate Americans and British people for the rest of my life. You are democrats. You said you were coming to bring democracy, and yet you kill my father. By accepting your governments, you accept what they do here in Iraq.
"You offer no proof that he did something wrong, you refuse him a lawyer and then you kill him. Why?"
Dr Izmerly does not appear to be among the cases under the review announced by the US defence department last week [...]
The family presented its autopsy findings to an Iraqi judge. "He told us, 'You can't do anything to the coalition. What happened is history,'" Ashraf said. [...]
Comment: Indeed, Iraqis can do nothing with the US sponsored colation authority in Iraq, in the same way that the US people can do nothing with the US government at home. They will lie as and when they see fit. You can either believe them and become part of the deception, or you can See the truth and reflect that in your being. The choice is, as always, for each to make. But you need not limit your understanding of the world to the US and it's actions at hiome, a cursory glance at the world scene, throughout which the tentacles of the US control system are evident, and you can see that the lies and deception are an intricate part of all life here on the BBM... take Israel for example...
By Ed O'Loughlin,
Herald Correspondent in Rafah
About 11.30am last Tuesday, within moments of each other, Asma al-Mughair, 16, and her brother Ahmed, 13, died on the roof of their home in the Tel Sultan district of Rafah.
The Israeli Defence Force, whose soldiers and tanks had just occupied Tel Sultan, said the next day that it had investigated the incident and concluded that the siblings were killed by "a work accident" - a euphemism for a militant's bomb that explodes while it is being assembled - or by a roadside bomb set by Palestinian militants.
The IDF rejected the family's claim that the two children were shot dead by an Israeli sniper - Asma as she took in laundry, Ahmed as he fed the family pigeons.
Dr Ahmed Abu Nkaria, deputy head of Rafah's tiny hospital, concluded that both children had been killed by single gunshots to the head. There was no other sign of trauma, he told the Herald the following day.
On Saturday two small groups of journalists picked their way past the Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles surrounding Tel Sultan to become the first to enter since the curfew was eased the day before.
At the Mughairs' three-storey house the children's older brother, Ali, 26, showed us the spot in the corner of the rooftop where, he said, Asma had been taking in laundry when a bullet blew the side of her head off. There was still a thick stain of blood and brain matter there.
Smear marks showed where, he said, he had dragged her body towards the stairwell. In the stairwell another pool of blood and brains marked the spot where Ahmed was killed. According to his father, Mohammed, Ahmed was feeding pigeons on the roof when he heard the shot that killed his sister. Seeing her lying in the corner of the roof, he ran into the stairwell to call for help. He then returned to the top of the stairs, where a single bullet struck him in the head.
The rooftop area showed no signs of an explosion. Two large metal satellite dishes were completely unmarked by shrapnel or scorching, although there were three bullet holes in one of the dishes. The wall around the rooftop was unscarred.
Ali al-Mughair said the sniper who shot his brother and sister continued to fire at him as he tried to recover her body from the corner, forcing him to crawl flat on his stomach. The plaster wall inside the stairwell was scarred by at least one bullet, which Mr Mughair says was fired at this time.
Mr Mughair pointed to the spot from which, he says, the sniper or snipers shot his siblings. A crude hole was visible in the wall of a high residential building, a little over 100 metres away.
The owners of this building, the Abu Jalalla family, said that at 10am on Tuesday it was taken over by Israeli troops who kept them all under armed guard in one room of the house until 2am the next day.
A visit to the upper floors revealed that several holes had been knocked through the walls to provide firing points, with mattresses and chairs arranged to allow shooters to watch comfortably for targets.
Half-eaten Israeli Army rations were discarded in the rooms and on the roof, as were spent 7.62mm and 5.56mm bullet cases.
On the roof, the hole that Mr Mughair indicated as the firing point gave an excellent view over his rooftop.
Beside the hole lay a discarded cardboard box. The Hebrew writing on the box read: "20 rounds 7.62 mm ammunition for snipers".
To the naked eye the bullet-torn washing that Asma Mughair never took off the line was clearly visible through the hole, flapping in the breeze. So was the bullet mark in the stairwell.
Officially the Israeli Defence Force says that the incident is still under investigation.
Israeli military sources continue to say that a Palestinian bomb may have killed the children.
The Israeli Defence Force insists that it operates at the highest standards of ethical behaviour consistent with a country at war, and that - unlike Palestinian terrorists - its soldiers never deliberately target civilians.
A Palestinian girl was shot dead on Saturday, a day before her fifth birthday. Israeli military sources reportedly said they did not know of any shooting in the neighbourhood where she was killed.
Brian Whitaker explains why a book packed with sweeping generalisations about Arabs carries so much weight with both neocons and military in the US
Monday May 24, 2004
Consider these statements:
"Why are most Africans, unless forced by dire necessity to earn their livelihood with 'the sweat of their brow', so loath to undertake any work that dirties the hands?"
"The all-encompassing preoccupation with sex in the African mind emerges clearly in two manifestations ..."
"In the African view of human nature, no person is supposed to be able to maintain incessant, uninterrupted control over himself. Any event that is outside routine everyday occurrence can trigger such a loss of control ... Once aroused, African hostility will vent itself indiscriminately on all outsiders."
These statements, I think you'll agree, are thoroughly offensive. You would probably imagine them to be the musings of some 19th century colonialist. In fact, they come from a book promoted by its US publisher as "one of the great classics of cultural studies", and described by Publisher's Weekly as "admirable", "full of insight" and with "an impressive spread of scholarship".
The book is not actually about Africans. Instead, it takes some of the hoariest old prejudices about black people and applies them to Arabs.
Replace the word "African" in the quotations above with the word "Arab", and you have them as they appear in the book. It is, the book says, the Arabs who are lazy, sex-obsessed, and apt to turn violent over the slightest little thing.
Writing about Arabs, rather than black people, in these terms apparently makes all the difference between a racist smear and an admirable work of scholarship.
The book in question is called The Arab Mind, and is by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at several US universities, including Columbia and Princeton.
I must admit that, despite having spent some years studying Arabic language and culture, I had not heard of this alleged masterpiece until last week, when the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh mentioned it in an article for New Yorker magazine.
Hersh was discussing the chain of command that led US troops to torture Iraqi prisoners. Referring specifically to the sexual nature of some of this abuse, he wrote: "The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"One book that was frequently cited was The Arab Mind ... the book includes a 25-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression."
Hersh continued: "The Patai book, an academic told me, was 'the bible of the neocons on Arab behaviour'. In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged - 'one, that Arabs only understand force, and two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation'."
Last week, my own further enquiries about the book revealed something even more alarming. Not only is it the bible of neocon headbangers, but it is also the bible on Arab behaviour for the US military.
According to one professor at a US military college, The Arab Mind is "probably the single most popular and widely read book on the Arabs in the US military". It is even used as a textbook for officers at the JFK special warfare school in Fort Bragg.
In some ways, the book's appeal to the military is easy to understand, because it gives a superficially coherent view of the Arab enemy and their supposed personality defects. It is also readily digestible, uncomplicated by nuances and caveats, and has lots of juicy quotes, a generous helping of sex, and no academic jargon.
The State Department, too, used to take an interest in the book, although it seemingly no longer does. At one stage, the training department gave free copies to officials when they were posted to US embassies in the Middle East.
In contrast, opinions of Patai's book among Middle East experts at US universities are almost universally scathing. "The best use for this volume, if any, is as a doorstop," one commented. "The book is old, and a thoroughly discredited form of scholarship," said another.
None of the academics I contacted thought the book suitable for serious study, although Georgetown University once invited students to analyse it as "an example of bad, biased social science".
There is a lot wrong with The Arab Mind apart from its racism: the title, for a start. Although the Arab countries certainly have their distinctive characteristics, the idea that 200 million people, from Morocco to the Gulf, living in rural villages, urban metropolises and (very rarely these days) desert tents, think with some sort of single, collective mind is utterly ridiculous.
The result is a collection of outrageously broad - and often suspect - generalisations. Patai asserts, for example, that Arabs "hate" the west.
He backs up this claim with two quotations: one from a book published in the mid-50s ("Most westerners have simply no inkling of how deep and fierce is the hate, especially of the west, that has gripped the modernising Arab"), and another from Bernard Lewis - currently the neocons' favourite historian - referring to the mood of "many, if not most Arabs" in 1955 (just before the Suez crisis).
We are also informed (page 144) of "the Arab view that masturbation is far more shameful than visiting prostitutes".
Whether this is why Iraqi prisoners were forced to masturbate in front of cameras is unclear, but the only supporting evidence for Patai's claim is a survey of Arab and US students published in 1954: the US students admitted to masturbating twice as often as the Arabs, while 59% of the Arabs, but only 28% of the Americans, said they had visited a prostitute during the previous 12 months.
In "outlying areas", such as Siwa oasis in Egypt, Patai says, "homosexuality is the rule, and practised completely in the open". This unequivocal statement is based on accounts dating from 1935, 1936 and 1950, and, in a footnote, Patai concedes that they "need to be checked out by an anthropologically trained observer".
There is also a good deal of confusion in the book between the present and the past. An Arab man, Patai writes, even if he has four wives, "can have sexual relations with concubines (slave girls whom he owns)".
All this adds up to an overwhelmingly negative picture of the Arabs. Positive characteristics are mentioned, but are given relatively short shrift.
Hospitality and generosity - two highly regarded virtues in Arab societies - get three and one and a half pages respectively, compared with a whole chapter devoted to alleged sexual hang-ups.
The book is a classic case of orientalism which, by focusing on what Edward Said called the "otherness" of Arab culture, sets up barriers that can then be exploited for political purposes.
The Arab Mind was originally published in 1976, but - according to one US academic - actually belongs to the "national character" genre of writing that was popular in comparative politics around the middle of the last century.
Its methodology, therefore - not to mention much of its content - was considerably behind the times even when it first appeared.
Patai died in 1996, but his book was revived by Hatherleigh Press in 2002 (nicely timed for the war in Iraq), and reprinted with an enthusiastic introduction by Norvell "Tex" De Atkine, a former US army colonel and the head of Middle East studies at Fort Bragg.
"It is essential reading," De Atkine wrote. "At the institution where I teach military officers, The Arab Mind forms the basis of my cultural instruction."
In a speech last week, the US president, George Bush, congratulated himself on having removed "hateful propaganda" from the schools in Iraq.
Perhaps it is now time he turned his attention to military schools in the US.
Comment: More evidence of the type of lies that are disseminated by the control system. The point is that they are done for one reason - to mold the thinking of the masses. Each of us, whether we like it or not, plays our part. By the very act of being alive and conscious (to whatever degree) we are particpating in this grand experiment called "humanity". The default part we play is that of tools of those that sit in control over us. We have a choice however, to play the default role, or to awaken to the reality of our predicament and to choose to be the masters of our own fate. To free the one thing that is of absolute importance in maintaining our state of enslavement - our minds. Get indignant, refuse to be manipulated, take back the means to determine your own future. We do not have to be forced into accepting the reality that is the choice of only a part of humanity. We may even come to the conclusions that we are not "all the same"...
May 20, 2004
Why is it when George Bush talks to God he is told by the Almighty to wage war against Saddam Hussein but when someone else talks to the same God, he or she is told to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"? (Matthew 5:44)
Why is that Ariel Sharon, a professed believer in the God of the Old Testament, goes after Yasser Arafat and in essence declares him to be open prey, but then someone else believing in the same God, is told "when you come upon your enemy's ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back"? (EX 23:4) In other words, you are to be kind to your enemy.
While some in God's name attack and kill wantonly -- even women and children whose deaths are simply collateral damage -- others have been told by the same God "You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword." (EX 22:22) That's pretty stout language.
How can one explain such differences from people who claim to have spoken to the same God and yet walk away with diametrically opposed instructions?
I believe the answer is found in the differences of the brains of different individuals.
If all our brains were identical, we would all think and act alike. That, as we well know, is not the case. I suggest that different people hear different messages from God because their brains are essentially different. Let me express it another way: Evolution does not progress at the same rate in all human brains.
We do know that different individuals exhibit quite different capabilities. A star basketball player has moves that no amount of training can duplicate. We know that physical coordination originates in the cerebellum and the brain's motor reflexes. The brain of a professional basketball player is different from the brain of an uncoordinated klutz like myself.
Professor Marian Diamond, University of California, Berkeley, discovered that Einstein's brain contained many more glial cells than those found in the average "Albert." You can send me to the best schools, have me tutored by the most learned professors, give me free rein to take advantage of any opportunity I choose but I will never be able to develop the Theory of Relativity. Einstein's brain and the brains of others responsible for great discoveries and insights are simply more highly developed than mine. Am I assuming too much by suggesting that the brains of these giants are also different from those of most of my readers?
We do not have Michelangelo's brain available for examination. However, is it too much of an assumption to claim that his brain was different in some significant aspects from my brain? Again, I can take advantage of any and all opportunities but I will not be able to paint the Sistine Chapel.
Evolution does not progress at the same rate for all of us. Some members of our species, as the saying goes, "are more equal than others." It does not take a genius to accept what I have said so far. Certainly, in Einstein's case, the hard evidence is present. I am willing to bet my dollar against your donut that Michael Jordan's brain will evidence a far more complex structure of the brain's motor areas than does mine.
I advance the case that brains perceiving a God who commands the killing of assumed enemies are different from the brains of those who hear a God commanding them to love that same enemy.
If God is thought to be a consistent entity, then he cannot issue totally contradictory demands! The difference in what is heard must find its genesis in the different construct of the brains of different persons. Again, the individual who perceives God ordering the killing has a different brain structure from the person who understands that the command is to love his or her enemies.
In previous columns, I discussed the research of Paul MacLean, M.D., ret'd Chief, Laboratory of Brain Evolution and Behavior, NIMH. I am certainly not claiming that MacLean has the final answer to the problems before us. However, I claim that he discovered the evolutionary process that bequeathed three different cortices to every member of our species.
I am suggesting that in the development of the human brain not all three cortices follow the same progression in all individuals. In some, the prefrontal cortex is more highly developed -- in others that cortex is in a simpler state. The prefrontal cortex is the situs for empathy, altruism, and long-range planning.
Father Damien or Albert Schweitzer had more highly developed prefrontal cortices than most people. Father Damien established a leper colony in Hawaii and dedicated his life ministering to those unfortunate people. Dr. Schweitzer left the comforts of a successful life as a physician, theologian, and organist. He went to darkest Africa and established a hospital at Lambarene.
I propose the prefrontal cortex of both Damien and Schweitzer permitted them to respond to life with a high degree of empathy and altruism. More than that, they were able to plan for their ventures to insure the success of their labors.
We also know that the basal ganglia, the most primitive part of the human brain, is hard-wired to establish and protect one's territory. MacLean suggests that one's belief systems -- philosophy, religion, politics, etc. -- are part of each person's territory. Of course, Damien's and Schweitzer's skulls contained the basal ganglia. No one can live without it. In addition to behavioral imprints, it is also responsible for breathing, heartbeat, and other physiological survival functions such as swallowing and vomiting.
However, the more highly developed prefrontal cortex of Damien and Schweitzer allowed them to manage the territorial imperative of the basal ganglia and elevate their lives to one of service. They understood what it meant to care not only for one's neighbors but also one's enemies. Their highly developed prefrontal cortex, I propose, gave them the ability to transcend the merely human and become humane persons.
I suggest that most "men of the world" do not have the benefit of a more developed prefrontal cortex. The evolutionary development of their brains has simply not reached that level. Controlled by the basal ganglia, they perceive those who disagree with their belief systems as enemies who invade their space. Therefore, they must be eliminated. They simply do not have the necessary neural circuits to see life through the perspectives of empathy and altruism. They are also incapable of understanding the long-range consequences of their actions. As a result, most of their enterprises fail.
Napoleon met his Waterloo. Alexander the Great died in a drunken brawl. Mussolini was suspended from a rope and stabbed to death. Hitler committed suicide. Stalin's reign of terror barely lasted three decades. Being unable to see beyond the immediate matters at hand, they failed to comprehend the meaning of their actions.
Evolution does not proceed at the same pace in all individuals. I suggest that even as there are obvious differences in the "talents" of people like Jordan, Einstein, and Michelangelo, there are also differences in the "talent" to be empathetic.
I would further suggest that those of our species who have a more highly developed prefrontal cortex will comprehend and, to some degree, subscribe to my thesis. Those who lack that neural capability might become very defensive about their territory.
Therein I see a major dilemma of our species.
Comment: Indeed. We elaborated on this theme almost 2 years ago. Our understanding of the details is slightly different, but the basic premise is the same. Again we say, those that recognise the application of what we have been saying and what is detailed on our website need not feel that they are alone - in a minority yes - but not alone. If it is true that there are essentially two (or more) "races" of humanity, it would explain a lot about our world history and the events we see presently on the planet.
& World Report
White House officials say they've got a "working premise" about terrorism and the presidential election: It's going to happen.
"We assume," says a top administration official, "an attack will happen leading up to the election." And, he added, "it will happen here."
There are two worst-case scenarios, the official says. The first posits an attack on Washington, possibly the Capitol, which was believed to be the target of the 9/11 jet that crashed in Pennsylvania. Theory 2: smaller but more frequent attacks in Washington and other major cities leading up to the election.
To prepare, the administration has been holding secret antiterrorism drills to make sure top officials know what to do. "There was a sense," says one official involved in the drills, "of mass confusion on 9/11. Now we have a sense of order."
Unclear is the political impact, though most Bushies think the nation would rally around the president. "I can tell you one thing," adds the official sternly, "we won't be like Spain," which tossed its government days after the Madrid train bombings.
Comment: How can they be so sure an "attack will happen"? They will orchestrate it or be complicit in it. You can take that to the bank.
May 24, 2004
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A four-wheel drive vehicle blew up on Monday near an entrance to Baghdad's "Green Zone" compound where the U.S.-led administration is based, and soldiers at the scene said they suspected a car bomb.
Witnesses said they saw three people in the car the moment before it went up in flames, but there was no official word on any casualties.
U.S. soldiers, Iraqi police and firefighters were quickly on the scene, dousing the burned out white sport utility vehicle with water, sending clouds of steam and smoke into the air.
Soldiers said the blast flipped at least one car into the air. The busy road, which is lined with shops and leads to the Green Zone and the nearby Foreign Ministry, was sealed off.
Last week, a suicide car bomb attack on another entrance to the Green Zone killed several Iraqis including the president of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council.
OK - we may have the smoking gun in the Berg video that proves the Nick Berg was killed by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison. In addition to all the other evidence that I posted on my blog, I have been seeing some messages that if proved to be so answers the question as to who really killed Berg.
There has been a semi-secret government initiative to add digital signatures to various digital consumer products. Photocopiers and digital cameras store an encrypted signature to identify the unit that made the video. This digitial signature is totally inique to each device and is more unique than a fingerprint.
Today new pictures were released of prison torture at Abu Ghraib prison. But not just still pictures. Today video was released showing prisoners being tortured by Americans. Aparently Kodak film experts are Kodak Park in Rochester New York have compared the digital watermarks of the turture video and the beheading video and have determined that one of the cameras used in the Nick Berg beheading is THE SAME CAMERA that took the prison torture video.
If this turns out to be true then there is NO DOUBT that Berg was killed by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison.
Lewis and Andrew Mitchell
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - OPEC ministers said on Monday they would not be hurried into a decision on higher oil output limits after Saudi Arabia broke ranks to go it alone.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries leading producer, Saudi has called on the cartel to raise quota restrictions by up to 11 percent.
But Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi confirmed over the weekend that Riyadh was opening the pumps in any case -- to 9.1 million barrels a day, up 10 percent from an estimated 8.3 million in April. [...]
Taha, Arab News
According to the statement, Israeli troops broke into the UNRWA office for the Jenin Camp Reconstruction Project on May20 , and fired a shot in the direction of the senior project manager, Paul Wolstenholme.
Soldiers then blindfolded, handcuffed and detained Wolstenholme for three hours and threatened him, the statement said.
UNWRA pointed out that this was the second time Israeli troops forcefully entered the Jenin office. On Nov.22 ,2002 , an Israeli soldier shot and killed Iain Hook, then the UNRWA project manager. [...]
Guide to Israeli Prisons, Jails, Concentration Camps, and Torture Chambers
JERUSALEM (AFP) May 23, 2004
More than four in 10 teenage Israelis support the right of soldiers to refuse to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to an opinion poll published Sunday.
Of 500 Israelis between the ages of 15 and 18 surveyed, 43 percent said soldiers, both conscripts and reservists, should be permitted to say no to duty in the territories, while 57 percent said they should not be allowed to refuse.
Only one in four Israeli adults said the right to say no should be granted, according to the Israeli Institute for Democracy.
When asked if soldiers should be allowed to refuse to evacuate Jewish settlements by force, 43 percent of youths and 29 percent of adults said yes. [...]
PRAGUE (AFP) May 24, 2004
Czech police stopped in April illegal arms and ammunition shipments to Iraq and several Asian and African countries, police spokesman Blanka Kosinova said Monday. [...]
"They were sending weapons on order to Africa, the Middle East, Iraq, Iran and Israel and now face up to 10 years in prison," she said.
She said police had seized 157 long-range weapons, 20 pistols, nine machine-guns and six revolvers in raids. [...]
Mulled Using Birds for Bio-War After WW2
LONDON - Britain considered training pigeons to deliver biological weapons after World War II but decided the birds had outlived their usefulness in battle, government files released last week show.
Comment: Ah, our benevolent leaders, always thinking of new and more elaborate ways to kill as many people in as horrible a way as possible..
May 24, 2004
PARIS (AFP) - A showcase new terminal at Paris's Charles De Gaulle airport may have to be demolished if investigations show that the fatal collapse of part of its roof was the result of a design fault, the head of France's airport authority warned.
Four people were killed and three injured early Sunday when a 30-metre (98-ft) section of the departure lounge at the recently-opened Terminal 2E sheared away from the rest of the building, crashing to the tarmac below in a vast mound of concrete, glass and steel. [...]
Aid agencies were today warning of looming famine and a humanitarian crisis in Darfur, western Sudan, where up to a million people have been driven from their homes by government-backed militias.
The arid desert region is hit by a cyclical "hunger gap" from April until harvest-time in October, but attacks on towns and villages by the "Janjawid" mounted Arab militias, which human rights observers say include members of the armed forces, have exacerbated the crisis this year.
Oxfam's regional director, Caroline Nursey, called for international help to tackle the situation. "This crisis is bigger than any one agency can cope with and the international community and the government of Sudan need to work together to end civilian suffering," she said
Around a million people are believed to be internally displaced in the region, while 200,000 refugees have fled over the border to neighbouring Chad. [...]
Amnesty International said this week there was "compelling evidence" that the Sudanese government was largely responsible for the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, after its delegates returned from visiting refugee camps in Chad.
National Park Service officials acknowledge providing "talking points" to help guide employees but say that's standard practice and insist that no policy prevents superintendents from being candid.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a group based in Washington, D.C., contends park leaders are being forced to downplay negatives because President Bush made election-year promises to take good care of the nation's parks.
"The Bush administration is trying to turn every national park into a local re-election campaign office," said Jeff Ruch, the group's executive director. [...]
Comment: The land of the free and home of the censored...
ID system makes its mark
Demarco, Globe Correspondent
Adventure is Tom Bruynell's middle name. Ever since the 4-year-old could walk, he has wandered off at shopping malls, the San Diego Zoo, and his big sister's school band recital. He once went missing for 45 minutes before police tracked him down in the back room of a store playing on a computer.
And so, when his mother, Karen, heard that a free child identification program was being offered in her hometown of Milton yesterday, she grabbed Tom and her other two children and made a beeline to the event.
"These two stick to me like glue," she said, hugging her other children, Jonathan and Hilary . "Tom is the one that's very curious and adventurous and not afraid. And that makes me afraid."
Bruynell's were among the estimated 14,000 children who participated yesterday in a massive, seven-state identification drive organized by the Masonic Child Identification Program, or CHIP.
With 67 participating communities, including several in and around the Boston area, the effort was touted as the largest single-day "comprehensive" child identification drive ever held in the United States.
In addition to being fingerprinted, the children were videotaped answering questions about their family, favorite hiding spots, and places they like to go after school. Dentists and dental hygenists volunteered their time, taking teeth impressions and saliva samples for DNA analysis from each child.
Comment: Is it too paranoid to point out the fact that it is the "very curious and unafraid" children that are, consciously or unconsciously, singled out for "tagging"? Whatever the case, this is very very creepy...
Bill Hill "Bill Nevins
A New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.
The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed-- inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this continual recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging the gap between theory and observation. It would, at the least, raise serious questions about the validity of the underlying theory.
But the big bang theory can't survive without these fudge factors. Without the hypothetical inflation field, the big bang does not predict the smooth, isotropic cosmic background radiation that is observed, because there would be no way for parts of the universe that are now more than a few degrees away in the sky to come to the same temperature and thus emit the same amount of microwave radiation.
Without some kind of dark matter, unlike any that we have observed on Earth despite 20 years of experiments, big-bang theory makes contradictory predictions for the density of matter in the universe. Inflation requires a density 20 times larger than that implied by big bang nucleosynthesis, the theory's explanation of the origin of the light elements. And without dark energy, the theory predicts that the universe is only about 8 billion years old, which is billions of years younger than the age of many stars in our galaxy.
What is more, the big bang theory can boast of no quantitative predictions that have subsequently been validated by observation. The successes claimed by the theory's supporters consist of its ability to retrospectively fit observations with a steadily increasing array of adjustable parameters, just as the old Earth-centred cosmology of Ptolemy needed layer upon layer of epicycles.
Yet the big bang is not the only framework available for understanding the history of the universe. Plasma cosmology and the steady-state model both hypothesise an evolving universe without beginning or end. These and other alternative approaches can also explain the basic phenomena of the cosmos, including the abundances of light elements, the generation of large-scale structure, the cosmic background radiation, and how the redshift of far-away galaxies increases with distance. They have even predicted new phenomena that were subsequently observed, something the big bang has failed to do.
Supporters of the big bang theory may retort that these theories do not explain every cosmological observation. But that is scarcely surprising, as their development has been severely hampered by a complete lack of funding. Indeed, such questions and alternatives cannot even now be freely discussed and examined. An open exchange of ideas is lacking in most mainstream conferences. Whereas Richard Feynman could say that "science is the culture of doubt", in cosmology today doubt and dissent are not tolerated, and young scientists learn to remain silent if they have something negative to say about the standard big bang model. Those who doubt the big bang fear that saying so will cost them their funding.
Even observations are now interpreted through this biased filter, judged right or wrong depending on whether or not they support the big bang. So discordant data on red shifts, lithium and helium abundances, and galaxy distribution, among other topics, are ignored or ridiculed. This reflects a growing dogmatic mindset that is alien to the spirit of free scientific enquiry.
Today, virtually all financial and experimental resources in cosmology are devoted to big bang studies. Funding comes from only a few sources, and all the peer-review committees that control them are dominated by supporters of the big bang. As a result, the dominance of the big bang within the field has become self-sustaining, irrespective of the scientific validity of the theory.
Giving support only to projects within the big bang framework undermines a fundamental element of the scientific method -- the constant testing of theory against observation. Such a restriction makes unbiased discussion and research impossible. To redress this, we urge those agencies that fund work in cosmology to set aside a significant fraction of their funding for investigations into alternative theories and observational contradictions of the big bang. To avoid bias, the peer review committee that allocates such funds could be composed of astronomers and physicists from outside the field of cosmology.
Allocating funding to investigations into the big bang's validity, and its alternatives, would allow the scientific process to determine our most accurate model of the history of the universe.
Comment: The article ends with "To avoid bias, the peer review committee that allocates such funds could be composed of astronomers and physicists from outside the field of cosmology" - which implicitly seems to imply that astronomers and physicists outside the field of cosmology are less biased. But is it really the case? Take for instance the "string theory lobby". Lubos Motl, a moderator of the newsgroup sci.physics.strings, writes about another physicist, an open minded Nobel Prize winner Brian Josephson this way:
Some more examples of games physicists play can be found at this Online Science Forum
Last but not least our pages on the "Alan Sokal hoax" and "Bogdanovs affair" illustrate these games from yet another perspective.
Leading environmentalist urges radical rethink on climate change - Civilization might be overwhelmed by Global Warming
McCarthy Environment Editor
Global warming is now advancing so swiftly that only a massive expansion of nuclear power as the world's main energy source can prevent it overwhelming civilisation, the scientist and celebrated Green guru, James Lovelock, says.
His call will cause huge disquiet for the environmental movement. It has long considered the 84-year-old radical thinker among its greatest heroes, and sees climate change as the most important issue facing the world, but it has always regarded opposition to nuclear power as an article of faith. Last night the leaders of both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth rejected his call.
Professor Lovelock, who achieved international fame as the author of the Gaia hypothesis, the theory that the Earth keeps itself fit for life by the actions of living things themselves, was among the first researchers to sound the alarm about the threat from the greenhouse effect.
He was in a select group of scientists who gave an initial briefing on climate change to Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Cabinet at 10 Downing Street in April 1989.
He now believes recent climatic events have shown the warming of the atmosphere is proceeding even more rapidly than the scientists of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thought it would, in their last report in 2001.
On that basis, he says, there is simply not enough time for renewable energy, such as wind, wave and solar power - the favoured solution of the Green movement - to take the place of the coal, gas and oil-fired power stations whose waste gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), is causing the atmosphere to warm.
He believes only a massive expansion of nuclear power, which produces almost no CO2, can now check a runaway warming which would raise sea levels disastrously around the world, cause climatic turbulence and make agriculture unviable over large areas. He says fears about the safety of nuclear energy are irrational and exaggerated, and urges the Green movement to drop its opposition.
In today's Independent, Professor Lovelock says he is concerned by two climatic events in particular: the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which will raise global sea levels significantly, and the episode of extreme heat in western central Europe last August, accepted by many scientists as unprecedented and a direct result of global warming.
These are ominous warning signs, he says, that climate change is speeding, but many people are still in ignorance of this. Important among the reasons is "the denial of climate change in the US, where governments have failed to give their climate scientists the support they needed".
Comment: Don't worry, according to REAL experts, sudden glacial rebound and earth changes, evidence for the proximity of which are plentiful, will not happen for 50 thousand billion gadzillion years, zzzzzzz....
YAKIMA, Wash. - Months ago, national fire managers predicted the 2004 wildfire season would be a bad one in the West. Now, they're changing their forecast: It's going to be worse.
With unseasonably warm temperatures in March and April, the potential loss of heavy air tankers for safety reasons and a years-long drought continuing, Western states and the federal government are facing the possibility of another devastating fire season.
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Will climate change trigger mass extinctions or will new life bloom in its wake?
Some of the scientific scenarios are apocalyptic and see a warmer world leading to the most profound changes since the demise of the dinosaurs.
"The biodiversity and nature impacts (of global warming) are well-documented...all the signals are there: birds migrating earlier, flowers blooming earlier, seasons changing," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the Climate Change Program for the conservation group WWF International. [...]
ADELAIDE, Australia - An earthquake shook Australia's famed Barossa Valley winemaking region early Monday, authorities said, but caused no major damage.
The magnitude 3.2 quake hit the picturesque region of vine-clad hills in the early hours of the morning.
A ship carrying 4190 South Korean and Japanese cars sank after colliding with an oil tanker south of Singapore.
The collision between the oil tanker Mt Kaminesan, loaded with 279,949 tonnes of crude oil, and car carrier MV Hyundai No 105 occurred just before midnight on Saturday, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said.
"All the cars sank. But there is no spill [of crude oil] from the tanker," said MPA spokeswoman Theresa Pong. [...]
The MV Hyundai's crew of 20 - four Koreans and 16 Filipinos - were rescued before the ship sank and there were no injuries to members of either vessel, the authority said. [...]
By PAUL ELIAS,
AP Biotechnology Writer
SAN FRANCISCO - A clone of a cloned prized bull thrives today on a Japanese farm, living proof that "serial cloning" can successfully create life beyond mice.
The second generation cloning that created the black bull named Kamitakafuku took place in 2000, but wasn't announced until Sunday because researchers wanted to ensure the bull matured and was healthy. The only other mammal known to have been cloned from a clone are mice.
"We have proven that recloning can be done in higher species," said University of Connecticut researcher Xiangzhong "Jerry" Yang, one of three authors of the study. The results appeared online Sunday in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
The experiment has little practical effect: recloning — and even cloning — is far too inefficient to clone even the most prized bull for profit. [...]
Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Male breast cancer is on the rise in the United States -- bad news for men and their doctors, who do not even know to look for it, researchers reported on Monday.
Although the disease remains extremely rare -- just 1,600 cases are predicted for 2004 -- the 25 percent increase in 25 years is worrying, said Dr. Sharon Giordano of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who led the study.
"I don't think anybody had specifically looked to see if male breast cancer had been increasing over time, because it is so rare," Giordano said in a telephone interview.
"I was surprised to find that it was increasing, although in retrospect I should have known. We have seen a huge increase in breast cancer in woman, as well."
No one knows why, added Giordano, a specialist in breast cancer. In both sexes breast cancer is related to the hormone estrogen, so obesity could be a factor. Fat cells produce estrogen.
So could environmental chemicals, or changes in lifestyle. [...]
G. McNEIL Jr.
Space: With Hubble's help, a Penn State astronomer may have seen for the first time a planet outside our solar system.
Pennsylvania State University astronomer Steinn Sigurdsson was understandably cautious last week in describing the object he's found with Hubble, glowing beside a dim "white dwarf" star.
"What we see is in the right place, and faint enough to be a planet," he said. "There's definitely something there. ... But we're being careful about not claiming anything right now."
Mon May 24,
Nightlife lovers in Niamey have repeatedly complained of a woman who appears from nowhere, curses and threatens them before vanishing as if she had "evaporated." Young women in skimpy outfits have been particular targets for the evil spirits.
"Given the rumor which has been circulating for at least three weeks now of strange apparitions stalking people, notably young women, I have ordered all the elderly chiefs of Niamey to resort to the traditional sacrifices, with qualified people, to stop this curse," Niamey Mayor Jules Oguet said Monday. [...]
FIRST there was a fence post in Sydney that supposedly bore a remarkable resemblance to the Virgin Mary, and now Queensland has its own religious phenomena.
Hundreds flocked to a Catholic church in the Brisbane suburb of Inala on the weekend to catch a glimpse of statues which have apparently been weeping blood and rose-scented oil.
Yesterday a squad of volunteers was enlisted – each with hand-written "security" tags pinned to their lapels – to direct crowds and explain the strange happenings at the little-known Vietnamese community church.
Digital cameras and video recorders jostled to capture images of the sacred seeping objects, now tucked away in glass display cases.
"It looks genuine enough, but then I suppose I don't know what a fake one looks like," Toowoomba visitor Mark Power said.
"I'd like to believe, but (I'll) wait and see what the church says." [...]
Comment: After all, when has the church ever been wrong before? It seems it might be a better idea to think for oneself instead of relying on organizations designed to suppress and control.
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