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Tuesday, June 1, 2004

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©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Al-Qaeda winning: Asian analysts

May 31, 2004 - 10:30PM

The al-Qaeda network is winning the global war on terror, while Washington's use of overwhelming force against Muslim extremists is creating a sea of hatred and is strategically flawed, Asian analysts said.

They were speaking at a three-day Asia-Pacific Roundtable on security organised by Malaysia's Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), which drew some 100 international participants.

ISIS director-general Mohamed Jawhar Hassan said that even though al-Qaeda had lost some of its traditional bases in Afghanistan, the terror group's top leadership remained intact and its ability to wreak havoc remained as strong as ever.

"The US-led international battle is losing while the al-Qaeda-led international network is winning," Mohamed said.

The director of Singapore's Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Barry Desker, said al-Qaeda remained resilient and the use of force could not eliminate terror threats.

"The response cannot be a military one. This is fundamentally a US error," he said, adding that the US-led war on Iraq and subsequent occupation had driven Islamic militants to wage jihad, or holy war, against Washington.

"Iraq is seen as the epicentre of jihad," he said, adding that al-Qaeda was propagating the view that the US occupation was the manifestation of an evil scheme to dissolve Islamic identity.

Noordin Sopiee, Malaysia's ISIS chairman, said the world was losing the war on terror because "we have expanded the sea of hatred and expanded the reservoir of deep-seated rage (in the Muslim world)."

Stanley Roth, Boeing's vice-president for Asia international relations, said the threat of terror existed in every region and "the war has not been won."

He said the fear of terrorism was affecting oil prices and hurting air travel.

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Al Qaeda's Next Strike 

By Fred Burton 
"Stratfor Intelligence Report"
05/30/04  

Summary 

Al Qaeda likely has a number of sleeper cells still embedded in the United States, and logic dictates that Houston, Texas, is high on their target list. 

Analysis 

In our last Terrorism Intelligence Weekly, Stratfor discussed improvements in intelligence-gathering efforts that have aided the ability of Western governments to predict or pre-empt attacks. At the same time, however, the threat within the continental United States -- where al Qaeda is likely to attempt a major strike before the presidential elections -- also has intensified. Logic dictates that Washington, New York, Dallas, Houston or Austin, Texas, could be targeted in an attack that quite possibly would involve a "dirty bomb." 

Continuing with this line of reasoning, Houston appears to be the most likely target. [...]

Why Houston -- and How? 

For the next major al Qaeda strike, preoperational surveillance is likely under way. 

The timing for an attack within the United States is nearly perfect: while Americans are engrossed with Iraq, presidential politics and the rising price of oil. Logic dictates that cells are in place and awaiting a signal to act; as in the recent attack in the Saudi city of Yanbu, operatives could have had time to infiltrate the potential target, observing the lay of the land and the routines of security forces. 

Although Stratfor believes that strikes could be carried out against multiple targets of opportunity, certain factors -- including time and al Qaeda's targeting criteria -- lead us to conclude that Houston, Texas, is near the top of the list. Not only is it home to much of the nation's oil infrastructure, which carries significant economic implications, but it also is a city of 5 million people -- and the home of former President George H.W. Bush. A strike here would lend a personal nature to the attack that would send a clear message across the desk of President George W. Bush. 

In our view, the strike would be sophisticated and spectacular. It likely would involve either a dirty bomb deployed within the city, or a conventional attack against oil infrastructure, carried out on the scale of Sept. 11.

In this case, we believe a truck bomb is the most likely delivery mechanism -- perhaps a stolen delivery van, helping to mask the driver's intentions. This scenario was discussed by a sleeper cell in New York City before the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, and al Qaeda has shown a tendency to return to previous attack plans. The assailants might use a ramming car to break through perimeter fences while either shooting or running over security guards. However, it also is feasible that they could use legitimate company identification cards in order to slip past the guards. Once near the target, the explosive would be detonated, killing the attack team. [...]

Comment: "Preoperational surveillance"? Does that have anything to do with all the Israelis running around in moving trucks? Gee, sounds like Mossad and Moving Companies... The reader might want to have a look at Victor Ostrovsky's book By Way of Deception where you will find that the above scenario was actually trademarked by Mossad a long time ago...

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Can terrorist warning sway votes?

BY KEN FIREMAN
WASHINGTON BUREAU
May 31, 2004

WASHINGTON -- The new warning that al-Qaida agents are in the country planning attacks has dragged terrorism back into the political spotlight after months in the wings -- but no one is entirely sure what role it will play in the unfolding campaign drama.

Political analysts say almost any renewed discussion of terrorism benefits President George W. Bush because the public -- even as it questions Bush's leadership on Iraq and the economy -- still regards him as best able to deal with that threat.

"It reminds people of his golden age," said Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker, referring to the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. "He was Brad Pitt at Troy. And that is what they [Bush campaign officials] want. They want people to look at George Bush's Homeric age."

Most analysts believe a new terrorist attack on U.S. soil also would increase support for Bush, at least in the short run, as Americans follow the time-honored instinct of rallying around the president in a crisis.

But much that has already happened in this year's campaign has confounded the conventional wisdom -- and the terrorism issue may prove equally unpredictable.

Last week's warning by Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller about the prospect of new attacks produced an unexpectedly mixed political fallout because of reports of internal administration disputes about the severity of the threat. [...]

Despite this controversy, pollsters say there is no doubt that Bush holds a significant advantage over Kerry with the public on the question of who can best cope with the threat of terrorism.

A recent national survey by Quinnipiac University, for example, found that 51 percent of those polled approve of the way Bush is handling terrorism. In contrast, only 42 percent approve of his management of the economy and 41 percent of his handling of Iraq. Several other polls have reported similar results.

"The one trump card that the president holds among the American people is that he's still given high marks on terrorism," said Utica-based pollster John Zogby. [...]

The possibility of a new terrorist attack hangs over the election in part because of what happened in Spain. Three days before that country's March 14 national election, terrorists killed 191 people in a series of train bombings. Several Islamic radicals have been arrested in connection with the attacks.

In the election that followed, Spanish voters unexpectedly turned out the ruling Popular Party, which had sent troops to Iraq in support of the U.S. occupation. The new Socialist government withdrew those troops, leading some analysts to conclude that the terrorists had successfully manipulated Spanish public opinion and government policy.

Ashcroft and other government officials have warned that al-Qaida may attempt something similar in the United States by staging attacks at the summer political conventions or around the November election.

Once again, however, analysts say the fallout from such an attack may be highly unpredictable. [...]

Most analysts and pollsters said a terrorist attack shortly before the election would probably increase support for Bush. But one occurring earlier might not, they said, because the initial rally-'round-the-president reaction would have time to fade -- and be supplanted by controversy about whether the administration had done an effective job of guarding against an attack.

Zogby, who is something of a maverick in his field, said he thought this conventional wisdom was wrong. The closer an attack occurs to Election Day, he said, the less support Bush would gain from it.

"If it happens in the next couple of months, it is to the benefit of the president," Zogby said. "If it happens after the Democratic convention, after Kerry successfully defines himself as a credible candidate ... it could actually backfire on the president."

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Kerry's support for Israel repels Arab voters

By Ashraf Fahim
Special to The Daily Star
Tuesday, June 01, 2004

NEW YORK: The battle for the hearts and minds of Arab-American voters has taken a decidedly negative turn for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry.

A raft of statements by Kerry lauding President George W. Bush's unequivocal support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has alienated some in a community that, though relatively small, is strategically situated in certain states expected to be closely contested in the November election.

Kerry has recently endorsed Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan as well as Bush's April 14 commitment to Sharon, acquiescing to Israel's retention of large West Bank settlements, and the denial of Palestinian refugees' right of return. Previously, Kerry has expressed support for Israel's assassinations of Palestinian leaders, the construction of its separation barrier and the isolation of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. 

Kerry has only been too willing to criticize Bush for his "lack of engagement" in the peace process, and failure to dispatch a high-level mediator to the region, something the senator says he would do immediately upon assuming office.

While there is widespread dissatisfaction with the Bush administration among Arab-Americans on issues like Iraq and civil liberties, Kerry's support for Sharon is leading some to draw back from him for the time being.

New York resident Sarab al-Jijakli says that although most Arab-Americans oppose Bush's policies, Kerry has not yet provided "clear leadership" on Palestine or Iraq. "Why should Arabs vote for Kerry?" he asks. "Just because he's not Bush?"

Siegman underlines, however, that presidential hopefuls walk on eggshells when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue for fear of alienating the pro-Israel constituency. Therefore, he says: "One cannot take seriously anything Kerry says about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Kerry's recently expressed views have been a letdown to community leaders like James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute (AAI), who is in close contact with the Kerry campaign. At an AAI conference in October, Kerry had won plaudits for labeling Israel's separation barrier "provocative and counter-productive." But he has since called it a "legitimate act of self-defense." [...]

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It’s official now, US Army 'robbed' Iraqis

Eric Schmitt
New York Times

WASHINGTON, MAY 31: The US Army is investigating at least two dozen cases in which American soldiers are accused of assaulting civilian Iraqis or stealing their money, jewellery and other property during raids, patrols and house-to-house searches, senior defence officials said on Sunday.

In some instances, investigators say, soldiers were reported to have stolen cash from Iraqis they stopped at roadside checkpoints, apparently under the pretext of confiscating money from suspected insurgents. [...]

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No More Tears, No More Sympathy for America

By Omar Barghouti
Outlook India

Dear Americans,

I've written to you a published open letter a year after the criminal attacks of September 11th reiterating my heartfelt condemnation of those attacks, while reminding you, despite your pain, to search deeper for the context, for the root causes that made them possible. I still had not run out of sympathy for your victims then. After Iraq, you can still count on my moral rejection of any similarly criminal attack against you in the future, but you can forget about my sympathy. I hope you realize what the difference means. 'Who cares?', you may ask. Well, although I obviously do not speak for the peoples of the south, the Arabs, or even my own people, the Palestinians, I suspect much of what I convey to you here is widely shared in all three domains.

Despite the horrifying exposure of your military's war crimes and systematic dehumanization of and terror against Arabs and Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, your elected representatives are feverishly seeking a technical, bureaucratic explanation of what happened, and are trying -- to no avail, evidently -- to portray every incident of terror or abuse as a rare occasion committed by an isolated group of individuals against standing orders and in contravention of American ethical values and norms. Whom are they fooling? Is there anyone left in Europe, not to mention the Arab world, who still believes your government's policy gives a damn about moral principles or international law? Hasn't it become abundantly clear that your country is increasingly being viewed by the rest of the world, especially the southern part of it, as a lawless, immoral, bullying and murderous empire?

If all what has been revealed about the illegal, racist behaviour of your armed forces around the world has failed to convince you to democratically impeach, or at least withdraw your support for, the ruling neo-conservative regime in Washington, then you're proving that far from being an isolated aberration, this arrogant, fundamentalist, imperialist junta does in fact represent America today. Still, from my perspective, this can never justify a terrorist attack against civilians in your country or anywhere else, but it can surely blunt any potential sympathy one would normally have -- and did indeed express after September 11th -- in such circumstances.

The next time the US is afflicted by terrorism many of us who did in fact shed tears in 2001 will not do so again. For one, I shall maintain my moral consistency and still condemn any comparable attack as criminal and immoral, mainly out of principle; but, honestly, I doubt I shall re-experience the sincere dejection and searing agony that I felt the first time.

Whatever you ask, please do not ask why we "hate" you. Putting aside the simplistic and dichotomic nature of such a question -- "you're either with us or against us," your great leader says -- let me give you my straight answer: I don't.

But, I hate what your government is doing in your name, with your tax money, and with solid support from most of you. I despise the fact that your country is sponsoring Israeli colonial oppression against my people, shielding Israel from the world's wrath and from the overdue prospect of sanctions for violating every applicable precept of international law in maintaining its military occupation and illegal colonies in the West Bank and Gaza, its racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens and its obdurate rejection of the internationally protected right of our refugees to return to the lands from which Israel had expelled them, and on the ruins of which it had established itself.

I hate the way your mainstream media refers to our innocent victims, whether in Iraq or Palestine, as faceless numbers, as relative humans, as dispensable objects in your empire's crusade for world domination.

I hate the repugnant hubris of your "elected" lawmakers, who owe their seats and privileges to a few very powerful lobbies controlling your lives and minds, and forming the pillar of American flouting of international law in every field imaginable. It is ironic that lawmakers anywhere can become such an infested breeding ground for lawlessness in international affairs.

I hate the fact that your military, oil and other sinister industries have flourished at the expense of killing, injuring or ruining the livelihood of millions in Asia, Africa and Latin America. And I strongly resent the fact that in order to keep prices low at your gas pumps, Arabs have had to suffer under despotic rulers, hand-picked and buttressed by your consecutive governments for decades.

I hate the silence, the apathy -- and therefore the implicit approval -- that your majority espouses when faced with incriminating evidence of your government's wrongdoing in our countries. After Falluja, you were silent. After Rafah, you were apathetic. After Guantanamo's horrors were revealed, you turned your eyes and ears the other way.

Why do most of you hate us, we, people of the south, should ask? Why can't you accept us as beings who are equally human, who possess a similar sense of pride, who have similar dreams and aspirations, and who value peace and dignified living more than anything else? Why can't you see that all we need is justice and a chance to develop on our own, without your government's oppressive exploitation, patronizing intervention, or masterly dictates.

Your country is way too powerful now for anyone to have the guts to drag it to the international criminal court, where most of your leaders ought to stand trial; but if Rome is any example, I would not take solace in that transient strength. You have a clear moral, legal and political obligation to change your country's course. For the foreseeable future, it can afford to stay on its current path, crushing every head raised in resistance, and battering every soul that refuses to be enslaved, but this path has always led to one destination: utter defeat under the feat of the oppressed majority which will undoubtedly prevail, as it always has.

Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political analyst.

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Patriot Act Besieged

Nat Hentoff

A Justice Department honcho confesses: 'We are losing the fight for the Patriot Act'

The objective of the Patriot Act [is to make] the population visible and the Justice Department invisible. The Act inverts the constitutional requirement that people's lives be private and the work of government officials be public; it instead crafts a set of conditions that make our inner lives transparent and the workings of government opaque. - Elaine Scarry, "Acts of Resistance," Harper's Magazine, May 2004

The Patriot Act makes it able for those of us in positions of responsibility to defend the liberty of the American people. - George W. Bush, quoted by the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation, May 2004

In March, at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, I debated Chuck Rosenberg, chief of staff to James Comey, John Ashcroft's second-in-command at the Justice Department. A former counsel to FBI director Robert Mueller, Rosenberg, a former prosecutor, has specialized in counterintelligence and counterterrorism.

The next day, the headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story on the debate (March 22) was "Ashcroft Staffer Admits Patriot Act Is Unpopular." And Chuck Rosenberg was quoted in the story: "We're losing this fight."

The reporter, Doug Moore, told me Rosenberg had made that admission during the intermission in our debate. It wasn't my eloquence that deflated Rosenberg, but rather my focus that afternoon on the insistent resistance to the Patriot Act around the country—and in Congress.

By May, 311 towns and cities—and four state legislatures (Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, and Maine)—had passed Bill of Rights resolutions instructing the members of Congress from those areas to roll back the most egregiously repressive sections of the Patriot Act, subsequent executive orders, and other extensions of the act.

According to Nancy Talanian, director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee in Northampton, Massachusetts, and the primary organizer and coordinator of this campaign to preserve the Constitution, "Hundreds more communities and states are considering resolutions. Last December, the National League of Cities approved a resolution calling for amending the Patriot Act."

And on May 12, The Hill, a Washington publication that gets inside congressional maneuvers, ran a report by Alexander Bolton ("Presidential Push Fails to Quell GOP Fear of Patriot Act"): "A group of libertarian-minded Republicans in Congress is blocking President Bush's effort to strengthen domestic counterterrorism laws and reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, which the president has made one of his top domestic priorities this year."

Not the whole Patriot Act, but sections of it, come up for congressional renewal by December 2005. Bush is pressing hard for Congress to renew those parts now. Standing in his way, however, is Republican conservative James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. According to The Hill: "Sensenbrenner has made it clear to colleagues that he will not consider reauthorization of the bill until next year."

On April 20, Wired News quoted constitutional law professor David Cole, of the Georgetown University Law Center, on the resistance to the Patriot Act. Since 9-11, Cole has been the Samuel Adams of our time, a one-man version of the pre-Revolution committees of correspondence. Said Cole:

"One year after 9/11, National Public Radio did a poll and found that only 7 percent of Americans felt they had given up important liberties in the war on terrorism. Two years after 9/11, NBC or CBS did a very similar poll and they found that now 52 percent of Americans report being concerned that their civil liberties are being infringed by the Bush administration's war on terrorism. That's a huge shift."

And on April 14, in Salt Lake City, when the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, came home to harvest support for the Patriot Act, among his fiercest critics was Scott Bradley of the Utah Branch of the ultra-conservative EagleForum. Bradley reminded Hatch—Ashcroft's premier cheerleader in Congress—of a prediction by Osama bin Laden in a BBC interview after 9-11. The arch-terrorist said:

"The battle has moved to inside America. . . . Freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people and the West in general into an unbearable hell and choking fire." [...]

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Iranian judiciary quashes blasphemy death sentence against dissident

TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran's hardline judiciary has quashed a death sentence for blasphemy against dissident intellectual Hashem Aghajari, a spokesman announced, in a move that could remove a major source of tension in the Islamic republic.

The spokesman, Gholamhossein Elham, confirmed to the student news agency ISNA that the Supreme Court had again scrapped a ruling that had sparked major student protests and badly damaged Iran's image abroad.

Aghajari's defense lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told AFP that he had yet to be informed of the decision, although the sympathetic Supreme Court ruling has been anticipated for several weeks.

Aghajari, a history professor at Tehran University who lost a leg in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, was convicted of blasphemy by a judge in the western city of Hamedan in November 2002 after he called for a reformation in Iran's state Shiite Muslim religion.

He had said in a speech to students there that Muslims were not "monkeys" and "should not blindly follow" religious leaders. [...]

Aghajari was also sentenced to eight years in jail. The term was later commuted to four years before being scrapped on April 14, but he is still being held in Tehran's Evin prison.

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Iran Says It's Building Stealth Missile

AP
June 1, 2004

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran is producing its first stealth missile, a rocket that can evade electronic detection, the Iranian Defense Ministry said Tuesday while withholding its range.

The missile, named Kowsar after a river in Muslim descriptions of paradise, will be capable of hitting ships and aircraft, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Reza Imani told The Associated Press.

He refused to give the missile's range or provide other details. Features of the Kowsar, such as its guidance and positioning systems, are currently on show at an exhibition in Tehran that is open only to select government officials. [...]

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Blasts Sound in Baghdad, Smoke Rises in Green Zone

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Blasts echoed across central Baghdad on Tuesday and smoke rose above the Green Zone headquarters of the U.S.-led administration where officials were meeting to name an Iraqi government to take over from June 30.

At least four mortar-like blasts rang out and two columns of smoke spiralled into the air just inside the Green Zone, a heavily fortified compound where U.S., U.N. and senior Iraqi officials were meeting.

Around 20 minutes later, another barrage of blasts was heard.

Insurgents regularly fire mortars or rockets at the Green Zone, although most attacks only cause superficial damage.

In recent weeks forces opposed to the U.S.-led coalition have stepped up attacks against the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, killing the president of the council in a car bomb attack last month.

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Bomb Blast in Pakistan Mosque Kills 16

By ZARAR KHAN
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday June 1, 2004 9:31 AM

Hundreds of Shiite youths rioted after the explosion at the Imam Bargah Ali Raza mosque, which came a day after unidentified gunmen killed the Nazamuddin Shamzai.

The rioters burned shops and vehicles and blocked highways and the main rail line. Provincial police chief Kamal Shah said two men trying to steal an ambulance were shot and killed. Seven others were injured when police opened fire to disperse the crowd.

The explosion was the latest in a series of terror attacks in Pakistan's largest city. It was not clear yet if it was the work of a suicide bomber. [...]

Much of Karachi's violence is blamed on Islamic militants, angered by Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan, but clashes between rival Sunni and Shiite Muslims are also common.

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Al-Yawer Named Iraq's New President

Tuesday June 1, 2004 9:46 AM
By HAMZA HENDAWI
Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's Governing Council named a popular, U.S.-educated Sunni leader as the president of the interim government Tuesday, after the Americans' preferred candidate turned down the post.

The selection of Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer to the largely ceremonial post broke a deadlock over the makeup of a new Iraqi government set to assume power June 30.

Council members had angrily accused the American governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, of trying to install Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister, over their opposition. Sources had said earlier that the Americans warned that if the members went ahead and voted for al-Yawer, the United States might not recognize the choice. [...]

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US fails to talk round defiant council

Deadlock on choice of president delays unveiling of government

Luke Harding and Michael Howard in Baghdad
The Guardian
Tuesday June 1, 2004

The UN's special envoy to Iraq failed to unveil the new interim government yesterday after a second day of embarrassing wrangling between the US and the governing council.

Lakhdar Brahimi had said he would announce it by the end of May, ahead of the formal transfer of sovereignty in 30 days' time. But his plan was delayed again, apparently at the US's request, after the governing council refused to endorse Washington's choice of Iraq's first post-Saddam president, 81-year-old Adnan Pachachi.

Council members have insisted that Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar, the council's president, should get the job.

"The Americans have asked for the meeting to be delayed until today," said Dr Mahmoud Othman, a leading member of the US-appointed council. "The coalition seems to be trying to interfere in every single decision, in every cabinet post and every ministry.

"If the new administration is not elected by Iraqis then at least it can be appointed by Iraqis ... the way Mr Bremer and Mr Brahimi are behaving is not a good model for the future." [...]

According to council members, the US was lobbying furiously among Shia leaders to try to persuade them to back Mr Pachachi. The former Iraqi foreign minister from the pre-Saddam era has close connections with Washington and the UN, as well as with pro-US countries in the Gulf.

Sheikh Ghazi, by contrast, is a businessman and prominent Sunni tribal figure who has recently criticised the US's inept management of Iraq. He also enjoys the support of the Shias and the Kurds.

Either way, the dispute is likely to confirm the widespread impression among ordinary Iraqis that nothing will change after the partial handover of power. It also weakens the authority of Mr Brahimi, who appears to be unable to act independently from the US.

Mr Bremer and Robert Blackwill, President George Bush's special envoy, will meet council members today, a day late. Relations between Mr Bremer and the governing council appear to have collapsed in the past week. At an ill-tempered meeting on Sunday, the ambassador told the Iraqis that if they voted for Sheikh Ghazi as president he would ignore their decision.

One disenchanted governing council member then suggested that the new president's first act should be to establish a "de-Bremerisation" committee.

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Prominent U.S. Jews, Israel blamed for start of Iraq war

By Nathan Guttman
Haaretz Correspondent

WASHINGTON - As the argument in the United States over the necessity of the war in Iraq and the manner in which it was waged intensifies, and as the presidential election date draws nearer, those who have tried to accuse Israel or the U.S. Jews of pushing the administration into battle are once again sounding their voices.

In the American Jewish community, they warn it could get worse.

The most blatant example in recent weeks was an article written by veteran Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (Dem.-South Carolina), who charged in an article published in a Charleston newspaper at the beginning of the month that behind the decision to go to war was "President Bush's policy to secure Israel."

In his article, Hollings mentions the names of three prominent Jews, from the neoconservative stream in the administration, as those responsible for pushing for the decision to go to war in Iraq.

Two weeks later, Hollings stepped up to the podium in the Senate and delivered an emotional address in which he defended his statements, attacking the Jewish establishment and repeating the main thrust of his claims.

Hollings has been the most outspoken U.S. official against the alleged Israeli-Jewish connection to the war; but a week ago, the issue was also picked up by retired general Anthony Zinni, a well-known and esteemed figure from the center of the American political spectrum.

In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes," Zinni, who, with Tom Clancy, is about to publish a book in which he harshly criticizes the war and Bush's team, said there were a number of neoconservatives who had promoted the idea of the war in Iraq with the purpose, among others, of "strengthening the position of Israel."

Zinni mentioned the names of five representatives of the neoconservative stream - all of them Jewish. He did say, however, that the religious or ethnic affiliations of the members of the administration were of no bearing on the matter.

Despite the significant difference between the statements of Zinni and those of Hollings, certain members of the U.S. Jewish community are beginning to feel a little uncomfortable.

"The fact is that this claim is out there," says the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, on the charge that the Jews and supporters of Israel were the ones who pushed the U.S. into the war. "We were pointed out at the beginning, and it's easier to blame us when things go bad," he adds.

The claims about the Jewish-Israeli link to the war were raised even before they were voiced by extreme right-wing spokespersons such as Pat Buchanan and Democratic Congressman Jim Moran, who found himself having to apologize for saying that without the Jewish community's strong support, the U.S. would not have gone to war in Iraq. [...]

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Bush Plans To Slash Popular Programs After Election

A leaked White House memo shows that if George Bush is re-elected, he will make large cuts in many government programs, including both homeland security and veterans programs, while again cutting the taxes of the wealthy.

By Stewart Nusbaumer

Referring to America’s war dead, President Bush told an audience at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day that "America acknowledges a debt that is beyond our power to repay." Many of the nation’s 26 million living veterans, some of whom were wounded in wars, some of whom are old and frail, are wondering if President Bush is interested in repaying the debt owed to them. Veterans, as well as other Americans, are asking, where is George Bush's "compassionate conservatism"?

A memorandum from the White House Budget Office, recently obtained by the Associated Press from congressional sources who requested anonymity, instructs government agencies to prepare for massive cuts to domestic programs in 2006, even as the administration pushes for $1 trillion in new tax cuts. [...]

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Crude Oil Rises After Saudi Attack Raises Concern About Supply

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- Crude oil rose as much as 2.3 percent in New York on concern terrorists may strike oil installations, after the third attack in a month against foreigners killed 22 last weekend in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter.

On its first day of trading since the attack in Khobar, crude oil for July delivery rose as much as 92 cents to $40.80 a barrel in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the world's biggest energy market. The exchange was closed yesterday for a holiday.

Police are hunting for three of the four gunmen from the attack that ended Sunday as security forces stormed a housing compound for foreign workers and rescued 25 hostages. The U.S. advised its citizens to leave the country and the U.K. said Britons should avoid non-essential travel there, which could rob the Saudi oil industry of technical and managerial support. [...]

On Sunday, Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil company by output, said it is loading oil tankers and exporting crude as normal after Saturday's attacks on residential and office compounds in the city of Khobar.

The Saudi Arabian oil ministry also said the attacks won't derail plans to boost production to 9 million barrels a day this month. The country pumped 8.35 million a day in April, according to Bloomberg estimates. [...]

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Saudi attacks weaken dollar's footing

May 31, 2004

Paris - The dollar suffered from news of the killings in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, said to have been caused by Al-Qaeda, as traders sold the currency to move into others seen as safer investments.

In Paris the euro was being traded at $1.2215 from $1.2213 four hours earlier and $1.2223 late on Friday.

The dollar was at ¥109.38 from ¥109.53 earlier and ¥109.97 on Friday.

Trading was quiet because big banks in London were closed for a holiday, as were several markets in Europe. New York markets were also closed for a holiday.

Twenty-two foreign nationals were killed by four gunmen who attacked two oil company office blocks in the Saudi Arabian city of Al-Khobar.

Heightened prospects of further such attacks and possible disruptions to Saudi Arabian oil supplies weighed heavily on the dollar and pushed the price of crude oil higher.

"The dollar's wider decline was primarily driven by returning risk-aversion," BNP Paribas brokers said. [...]

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Saudi security forces 'allowed kidnappers to flee'

BY AGENCIES IN AL-KHOBAR, SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi security forces allowed some kidnappers in the bloody weekend attack on a residential compound to flee because they threatened to blow up the building, according to reports.

At least 22 people died in the attack, including a Briton whose body was dragged through the streets of the port city of al-Khobar.

One employee of the Oasis compound said today that a hostage heard the gunmen shouting that they would release their captives if the security forces let them go.

"The security forces refused at the beginning but then apparently relented," he said.

"There was a kind of a deal reached to let the hostages go free, though some hostages had already been killed." Nine hostages died after their throats were cut.

This employee's account could not be independently confirmed as Saudi authorities have not provided many details on how the stand-off ended when security forces stormed the building yesterday, freeing 41 captives. [...]

The official death toll from the 25-hour ordeal was eight Indians, three Filipinos, three Saudis, two Sri Lankans, an American, a Briton, an Italian, a Swede, a South African and a 10-year-old Egyptian. [...]

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OPEC Has Already Turned to the Euro

As the dollar's rate of exchange continues to fall against the world's major currencies, there has been much speculation about the likely knock-on effect. One area receiving a lot of attention is crude oil in general, and OPEC in particular.

It has been suggested that OPEC may begin pricing crude oil in terms of the euro, and further, that OPEC may actually begin invoicing its crude oil exports in terms of euros. This latter step would require shifting out of dollars, with OPEC receiving euros in payment.  […]

As the dollar has fallen, the dollar price of crude oil has risen. But the euro price of crude oil remains essentially unchanged throughout this 3-year period. It does not seem logical that this result is pure coincidence. It is more likely the result of purposeful design, namely, that OPEC is mindful of the dollar's decline and increases the dollar price of its crude oil by an amount that offsets the loss in purchasing power OPEC's members would otherwise incur. In short, OPEC is protecting its purchasing power as the dollar declines.

The US also imports oil from non-OPEC countries, but these countries have the same economic interest as OPEC. They too want to preserve their purchasing power of the crude oil they exchange for dollars, so they would logically be amenable to OPEC's apparent pricing scheme.

Thus, it seems clear that OPEC and the other oil exporters are already pricing crude oil in terms of euros, at least tacitly. Whether they start invoicing their crude oil sales in terms of euros remains to be seen. [...]

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India to host senior US defence officials this week

NEW DELHI (AFP) May 31, 2004

Senior Indian and US defence officials will meet here this week, an official said Monday, in the first high-level face-to-face contact between India's new left-leaning government and Washington.

"The two-day meeting of the India-US Defence Policy Group will begin in New Delhi Tuesday," a defence ministry spokesman said. The group was set up in 1993 and meets annually, alternately in New Delhi and Washington, to review military ties.

The meeting will be chaired by India's defence secretary, Ajay Prasad, and the US undersecretary for defence policy, Douglas Feith, the spokesman said.

The delegations will meet for a day in the capital New Delhi and then continue their talks in the Himalayan tourist resort of Shimla.

It will be the first high-level encounter between India and the United States since the Congress-led government was sworn in a week ago after a surprise election win over the previous Hindu nationalist-led government.

It also comes after Washington in March named India's rival Pakistan a major non-NATO military ally, raising a furore in New Delhi, which does not have similar status.

New Delhi said the granting of special ally status to Pakistan, a significant player in the US-led "war on terror", had "significant implications" for India-US relations. [...]

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Pentagon Plans Test of Atmospheric Dispersion

Washington (SPX)
May 04, 2004

The Department of Defense is conducting an atmospheric dispersion survey will be held in and around the Pentagon from April 19 to May 15, 2004. The survey will advance knowledge about the weather conditions and movement of simulated airborne contaminants around and inside the Pentagon. The resulting data will be used to improve, refine and verify a computer model that simulates the atmospheric transport of potential contaminants around the Pentagon.

Knowledge gained about the airflow around the Pentagon, and the associated transport of gases and their infiltration into the building, will allow the development of improved systems for protecting other Department of Defense facilities.

The survey, which is being called exercise Pentagon Shield, will use a large array of sensors to measure temperature, wind speeds, wind directions, and other specialized measurements to aid development of an advanced chemical and biological protection system for the Pentagon and its occupants. The Pentagon Shield exercise is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

The sensors being used are standard weather sensors and include battery-powered wind sensors mounted on light poles around the Pentagon, on the building roof, and in the courtyard.

A large, 100-foot tower mounted with weather sensors will be located to the southwest of the Pentagon building, on Arlington Cemetery property. A 30-foot by 10-foot blimp will be parked in South Parking and flown mostly during the nighttime hours to measure the winds at various heights. Two long-range laser-based sensors will be placed on the grounds of the Navy Annex to measure winds around the entire Pentagon reservation.

During the exercise, a safe, non-toxic, colorless, odorless gas will be released over a three-day period within the first two weeks of May. The tracer gas will simulate how chemical or biological agents would flow around and into the Pentagon. The tracer gas being used is sulfur hexafluoride, SF6, which is completely safe and commonly used in airflow testing. The gas also is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for injection into the body for specialized tests due to its safe properties. [...]

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Singapore and US joint naval exercises to focus on maritime warfare

SINGAPORE (AFP) Jun 01, 2004

Singapore and the United States began their 10th annual joint naval exercises here on Tuesday with more than 1,500 personnel and 12 ships from both countries participating.

In a joint statement, the Singapore and US defence ministries said the 12 days of exercises would focus on maritime warfare, specifically anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine strategies.

The ministries said the exercises, which will be held in Singapore's waters as well as in the South China Sea, were a continuation of the two nations' "excellent defence relations".

"The two countries' armed forces interact regularly through numerous activities, ranging from exercises and joint training to staff talks, personnel exchanges and courses," the statement said.

The exercises come amid a backdrop of heightened global maritime security fears, with Singapore leading international calls for greater multilateral efforts to protect Southeast Asia's shipping lanes.

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Chinese army preparing large-scale military exercises aimed at Taiwan

BEIJING, (AFP) - China is gearing-up for large-scale military wargames aimed at "taking control of the Taiwan Strait", with 18,000 troops and the amphibious landing of a tank brigade.

The exercises were to take place in June and July on Dongshan Island in southeastern Fujian province just 150 nautical miles west of Taiwan's Penghu Island, the New Express Daily said, citing a pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper.

China has become increasingly agitated with independence-leaning Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, and the report referred to the exercises as the first-ever aimed at "striving to control the Taiwan Strait."

The 18,000 soldiers will be deployed from the land, navy and air force of the Nanjing Military Region, where some 500 short-range ballistic missiles are pointed at Taiwan.

"Sukoi Su-27 fighter jets will be outfitted with KN59M guided air-to-surface missiles in an effort to maintain control over the Taiwan Strait and ensure that tank brigades can make a landing and engage in warfare," the report said.

Submarines, war ships and a guided missile brigade would also be involved in the exercises that were to be led by Lieutenant General Huang Jiang, it said. [...]

China Monday blamed Washington's arms sales for the deteriorating state of cross-Strait ties.

"Due to the support and connivance of the United States, Taiwan authorities have gone further down the road toward 'independence' and the United States is responsible for the current worsening situation across the Taiwan Straits," the official Xinhua news agency said.

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Britain backing plans to end EU's China arms ban: report

LONDON (AFP) May 31, 2004

Britain is likely to back anticipated moves by some European Union nations to end a 15-year-long ban on arms sales to China, a report said late Monday.

Britain is expected to line up alongside France and Germany in arguing that the restrictions, imposed after the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protestors in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, should be ended, The Times said.

However any moves would most likely come to nothing as the United States would oppose the move and could even block European nations which sell arms to China from having access to US military technology, the newspaper said in its Tuesday edition.

London understood this position but was still keen to make the move as ministers believe a new EU code of conduct on arms sales would stop weapons being used by China for "external aggression or internal repression", it added. [...]

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Midwest, South Clean Up After Storms

Tuesday June 1, 2004 9:31 AM
By DEANNA WRENN
Associated Press Writer

MARENGO, Ind. (AP) - The death toll from a chain of Memorial Day holiday thunderstorms and tornadoes stood at 10 as residents of the South and Midwest struggled with power outages, debris and water-logged streets.

Storms produced heavy rain, high winds and dozens of tornados along an arc from Louisiana to New England. More thunderstorms moved across parts of the Great Lakes states Monday.

Gov. Joe Kernan surveyed the damage from a helicopter Monday, a day after the storms that destroyed dozens of homes, and said the town of Marengo "just got clobbered.'' The National Weather Service estimated winds up to 170 mph blew through the town of 800 people.

Two Indiana National Guard units were expected to arrive Tuesday in Marengo, about 35 miles northwest of Louisville, Ky., to move heavy debris to help reopen roads, said Lt. Col. Larry Powers, a Guard spokesman.

Kernan has extended a disaster emergency he issued last week for the entire state. He said he expected Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to arrive Tuesday to begin reviewing whether areas would be eligible for disaster aid. [...]

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New earthquake in Greece's Ionian sea

ATHENS (AFP) May 31, 2004

A new earthquake struck early Monday in Greece, measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale and centered in the Ionian Sea off the western coast, with no injuries or damage reported, the Geodynamic Institute of the Athens Observatory said.

The tremor some 225 kilometers (140 miles) southwest of Athens was recorded at 9:30 am (0630 GMT).

The epicenter was the same as that of a slightly weaker earthquake on Sunday that measured 4.8 on the Richter scale.

Greece is located in a zone of high earthquake activity, and the western Peloponnese region, where the two quakes occurred, is particularly prone to tremors.

Three other smaller tremors, measuring 4.4, 4.3 and 4.3, were recorded some 100 kilometers (60 miles) away off the tourist island of Zakinthos in the space of an hour and a half on Sunday evening.

Tourists felt the tremors, but no one was hurt.

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Twisters, record rain pelt area

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Friday, May 28, 2004

TENINO, Wash. -- Two small tornados touched down in southwest Washington, damaging barns near Tenino and La Center but causing no injuries.

The twisters Thursday afternoon apparently were spawned by a 10-square-mile storm cell embedded in an intense cold front that brought heavy rain to much of the western part of the state, the National Weather Service said.

"It was very common across the area today to see extremely heavy rainfall with localized low visibility and ponding of water on roadways," said Mark O'Malley, a weather service meteorologist in Portland, Ore.

At one point visibility on Interstate 5 was cut to 50 feet, State Patrol troopers said. [...]

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250 Birds Fall From The Sky

19/05/2004 01:36 PM

Simon Mowbray from DOC tells Newstalk ZB's Paul Holmes about the mysterious case of birds falling from the sky in South Auckland.

Seem to have died "violently."

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10,000 Birds Fall From Sky

From correspondents in China

MORE than 10,000 birds died mysteriously in eastern China's Jiangsu province, dropping like rain from the sky, state media reported yesterday.

Farmers and other witnesses in Sangongdian village in Taizhou city saw flocks of bramble finch suddenly fall from the sky on Tuesday, the Beijing Youth Daily said.

Most of the birds were dead when they hit the ground and some were injured, it said. The birds look like sparrows and are small in size.

Officials from the local centre for disease prevention and control rushed to the scene. Samples from the birds were taken to a lab in nearby Nanjing city for testing to determine the cause of death.

Experts from the Jiangsu province agriculture department said that because the birds died while in flight, the cause of death may have been contamination in their food, water or environment. [...]

Comment: For more information on mysterious bird deaths and outgassing, see the February 6, 2004 Signs page.

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The humble mud volcano

by Thijs Westerbeek
1 June 2004

Mud volcanoes are a geological phenomenon that has largely escaped the attention of the general public. Yet there are hundreds of thousands of them, scattered all over the globe.

Over the past few decades scientists from all over Europe have been researching the mud volcanoes on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea in an international project called 'Medmud'.

Mud volcanoes - which come in different sizes, from knee high to as big as a mountain - are often shaped like normal volcanoes, but instead of lava they expel a mixture of mud, rocks and gasses. Most of the time they just bubble away gently, but they can be dangerous.

When a mud volcano ejects large amounts of gas suddenly, there is a risk of asphyxiation for humans and animals in the immediate vicinity. The gas plume can also catch fire. Luckily most mud volcanoes are found on the sea floor where they cause little harm. [...]

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Geyser erupts in back garden

By SUE ALLEN
28 May 2004

The concept of an eye-catching water feature took on a new slant for Shaun Payne when a 25-metre geyser blew its stack in his back garden near Lake Taupo.

Mr Payne, who has lived in Tokaanu village at the southern end of Lake Taupo for just over a year, said the day began as normal. He said he was having a cup of tea with a friend about 9.30am yesterday morning when he heard a loud rumbling noise.

"There's an 80-year-old bore in the back garden we use to pump hot water into our hot pool and you can always hear the water there but just as my friend, Ian, went to look down it the water just shot up like a gusher and he only just got out of the way."

Mr Payne said the fearsome jet of boiling water shot 25 metres into the air and started raining stones, some as big as a man's fist, on to the house.

About five houses were also caked in mud.

"I'm a fifth-generation Kiwi and I have never seen anything like it, there was just a massive force underneath."

Last night the gusher was still spouting boiling water high into the night sky with no let up in sight.

"Someone told me there was one that went for 60 days once and then just stopped all of a sudden. This one has been going full blast all day and it doesn't look like it's going to stop. [...]

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Boy starts breathing as he's prepared for funeral

Toddler had been pronounced dead after drowning

The Associated Press
1:53 p.m. ET May 28, 2004

BOISE, Idaho - A hospital worker preparing a 22-month-old for a funeral home noticed the boy was breathing — more than an hour after he had been pronounced dead from drowning.

Logan Pinto apparently wandered away from his baby sitter Thursday and fell into a canal near his home in Rexburg, about 275 miles east of Boise. He was submerged for nearly 30 minutes before police found him a half-mile downstream, said Rexburg police Capt. Randy Lewis.

Though an officer gave him CPR and emergency workers did everything they could to revive him, Lewis said, the boy was pronounced dead when it appeared the effort had failed. After giving the boy’s mother and stepfather — Debra and Joe Gould — some time to say goodbye, Madison Memorial Hospital nurse Mary Zollinger began to prepare Logan’s body for the funeral home.

But when she looked at the boy, she noticed his chest was slightly moving and realized that Logan was alive. [...]

"It’s called divine intervention, I think. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it hardly, especially after leaving there and seeing what had transpired," Lewis said. "I don’t know how to explain it. It’s joyous and relieving."

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Missing Black Holes Found

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
28 May 2004 06:00 am ET

European researchers have found 30 previously hidden supermassive black holes anchoring faraway galaxies, which suggests there at least twice as many of the colossal gravity wells as thought.

Supermassive black holes hold as much matter as millions or billions of suns. The newfound black holes were long sought but went unnoticed because they lurk behind veils of dust and are so faraway that even the galaxies they anchor are difficult to examine in any detail.

"This discovery means that surveys of powerful supermassive black holes have so far underestimated their numbers by at least a factor of two, and possibly by up to a factor of five," said study leader Paolo Padovani from Space Telescope-European Coordinating Facility and the European Southern Observatory in Munich, Germany.

They were found using the Astrophysical Virtual Observatory (AVO), a database of observations from various telescopes. Making the detections required analyzing views from three telescopes: the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory; and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile. [...]

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Scholars lecturing on 'Buffy' seriously

KARIN MILLER, Associated Press Writer
Friday, May 28, 2004

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- It's tough for scholars to be taken seriously when their subject is a TV show about a California blonde fighting evil in a high school built on a gateway to hell.

Particularly when the title is as campy as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

But enough professors and writers study the comedic drama and its spinoff, "Angel," to hold a deadly serious academic conference here this weekend attracting more than 325 people.

Buffyologists from as far away as Singapore were presenting 190 papers on topics ranging from "slayer slang" to "postmodern reflections on the culture of consumption" to "Buffy and the new American Buddhism."

There was even a self-conscious talk by David Lavery, an English professor at Middle Tennessee State University, on Buffy studies "as an academic cult."

Lavery and Rhonda Wilcox, a professor at Gordon College in Georgia, co-hosted the conference and are known as the "father and mother" of Buffy studies. They acknowledged they've endured a lot of ridicule from colleagues, but said that's part of the topic's allure.

"It keeps the uncool people away. If you can't get past the title you have no business watching," said Lavery, who co-wrote a book on Buffy with Wilcox.

"It's a badge of honor," said Wilcox, adding that the feeling is similar to a central theme of the show. "The main characters are outsiders. Others are looking at them funny, but they know they're doing the right thing so they do it anyway."

When Wilcox first heard the show's title, she thought "it would either be stupid or the anti-stupid. Within the first few minutes I realized how wonderful and clever it was."

Wilcox, who wrote her doctoral thesis at Duke University about Charles Dickens, compared the show's depth and texture to his 19th century serial novels. "I think it's a great work of art."

It's also become quite a teaching tool.

College courses across the globe are devoted to the show, which was canceled last year, and secondary schools in Australia and New Zealand also provide Buffy classes. Episodes often are used to reach troubled teens, Lavery said. [...]

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