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Friday, June 18, 2004

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From our readers...

We love getting mail from our readers. It is with feedback like the following that we are better able to finetune our work:

You people never cease to amaze me at the lies and rumors you start/perpetuate. The laser story tops everything you have done. I will never subject myself to your garbage again...Ken

Thanks, Ken. You might want to let New Scientist know that their article on the laser weapons upset you so much. Yup, those mainstream media sources are very disturbing.

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Blaming Saudi Arabia for 9/11

Thursday, June 17, 2004

With Michael Moore's movie coming out, it is going to be even more popular to blame 9-11 on Saudi Arabia, and in particular on its ruling families. While it is certainly true that some prominent Saudis support fundamentalist Islam, it is a long row to hoe to go from that fact to blaming the Saudis for 9-11. The reasoning connecting the Saudis to al Qaeda, such as it is, is described by Bob Dreyfuss as a "a guilt-by-association chain of reasoning", and goes like this:

"the Saudi government has ties to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi establishment; Wahhabis are benighted Muslim conservatives who have little tolerance for more enlightened Islamic thinkers; some Muslim conservatives support terrorism; some terrorists have ties to Al Qaeda: therefore, the Saudi government supports Al Qaeda."

Dreyfuss goes on to say:

"This is silly reasoning. It echoes the silly argument that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda; it echoes the Richard Perle-inspired belief that Saudi Arabia is the brains behind Islamic terrorism; it echoes Michael Ledeen's wrongheaded belief that Saudi Arabia is one of the 'terror masters,' like Iran; and it ignores the fact that Saudi Arabia is not only battling Al Qaeda in a fight to the death, but that Saudi Arabia is perhaps Al Qaeda's No. 1 target and enemy."

We have to remember that the people behind these theories on Saudi Arabia are the same neocons who are angling for an excuse to wage war on the Saudis to steal the oil fields (with the Israeli thefts of Palestinian lands, and the recent American theft of the whole country of Iraq, and the planned theft of the Saudi oil fields, you really have to wonder if all the neocons are just kleptomaniacs). The attacks are part of a propaganda program to have Islamic fundamentalist terrorism render Saudi Arabia ungovernable, so the neocons can march in to 'protect' the oil (Michael Ledeen is completely explicit about the neocon plans).

We also have to remember that the Saudis are one of America's largest foreign investors, with approximately 60% of Saudi foreign investments going to the United States, and would hardly be interested in doing anything to harm their investments. The recent admission that at least one flight did leave American airspace carrying Saudis, including one Saudi prince, at a time when most American flights were still cancelled after 9-11, will no doubt add to the accusations against the Saudis.

If you think about it, however, the presence of so many Saudis of prominent background in the United States on September 11, some of whom were actually in Boston, and all of whom had to be flown out in a hurry to protect their own security, proves that the Saudi elites had absolutely no foreknowledge of 9-11. They would hardly leave their children in such a position if they had any knowledge that such an attack was going to occur.

Americans may dislike the fact that foreign nationals received better treatment than Americans did at a time when the United States was in a state of crisis, but all it proves is that the American elites try to be very friendly to the Saudi elites who control much of the world oil supply. It is not a surprising connection, and proves nothing about Saudi culpability.

The Saudi government is a dictatorial monstrosity, and the Saudi elites contain an unfortunate combination of oil playboys and religious nuts, but there is not the slightest reason to connect either the Saudi government or the people who run it to the events of September 11 or to support for al Qaeda.

Blaming the wrong people diverts attention from the real guilty parties. As I've said before, the Saudis don't control NORAD, and since the standdown of normal air protection was crucial to the success of the 9-11 conspiracy, Americans ought to be looking much closer to home for the real culprits.

Comment: Americans should look "closer to home" for the real perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, only in terms of those that control US foreign and domestic policy. Geographically however, there is a small "shitty little country", as one noted French politician called it, in the Middle East that deserves a thorough investigation for evidence of its involvement in the downing of the twin towers...

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US military on the move

By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Although hopes for transforming Iraq into a pro-US base in the heart of the Arab world have been badly set back, President George W Bush's administration is proceeding as fast as possible to reinvent US forces worldwide as "globocops", capable of pre-empting any possible threat to its interests at a moment's notice.

In the past month, the Pentagon has confirmed plans to sharply cut forces stationed at giant US bases in Germany and South Korea and to redeploy them to smaller, more widely dispersed facilities - sometimes called "lily pads" - along an "arc of crisis" stretching along a wide band from Southeast Asia to West Africa, as well as to bases in Guam and back home.

Pentagon officials have confirmed a proposal to reduce one-third of the US forces in South Korea by the end of next year. That would amount to a cut of 12,500 of the 37,000 US troops there. South Korean officials have stressed that the reductions are only a proposal and suggested it might be revised.

In Germany, more than half the estimated 70,000 US troops stationed there - specifically the 1st Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Division - could begin pulling out by next year. About 100,000 US troops are stationed in Europe.

In Japan, about three-quarters of the 47,000 US personnel in the country are located on the southern island of Okinawa. Periodic calls for a reduction in the numbers have been resisted, although the US is reportedly now considering moving some Marines within Japan, from Okinawa to the northern island of Hokkaido.

The Asahi Shimbun reported this move would involve about 14,000 Marine Corps. The move was aimed at promoting integration with Japan's Self-Defense Forces to improve efficiency as part of the US Defense Department's plan to globally transform its military, the daily said. Among the changes speculated in the Japanese press are moving US Navy aircraft out of Atsugi, southwest of Tokyo, and US Air Force units out of Yokota, in western Tokyo.

The worldwide redeployments will be the topic of congressional hearings beginning this week. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the force behind the shift in troops, is scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee.

The planned redeployments, the most sweeping since the onset of the Cold War more than 50 years ago, are all part of a global strategy to build, in Rumsfeld's words, a "capability to impose lethal power, where needed, when needed, with the greatest flexibility and with the greatest agility".

As for where the "need" is, Pentagon officials state publicly that would be defined by threats to "stability". But a closer look at where Washington is most interested in acquiring access to military facilities suggests the determining factor may be proximity to oil and gas-producing areas, pipelines and shipping routes through which vital energy supplies pass. [...]

"The most serious potential consequences of the contemplated shifts would not be military but political and diplomatic," wrote Kurt Campbell, a former senior Pentagon official now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Celeste Johnson Ward, in a Foreign Affairs article last year. The redeployments, they warned, could be construed as the beginning of a withdrawal from what Rumsfeld last year scornfully called "Old Europe".

And that, in turn, could reinforce traditional isolationist tendencies in the US that, before World War II, sought to prevent Washington from engaging in political "entanglements" with European countries or international institutions in ways that might constrain its freedom of action in the Americas or anywhere else.

Indeed, the repudiation of permanent alliances in favor of "coalitions of the willing" - a major feature of the Bush administration's post-September 11 policies as it was in the Wolfowitz-Libby paper - not only recalls isolationism; it is also entirely consistent with the strategy underlying the proposed redeployments.

A similar consideration worries South Korea, where Washington's proposed 12,000-plus troop withdrawal includes some 3,500 who are being sent to bolster beleaguered US forces in Iraq.

The Koreans worry that such a significant withdrawal now might not only complicate a particularly tense time in intra-Korean relations, but may also signal Washington's desire to reduce Seoul's say in whether or not Washington attacks North Korea. "This is about psychology," Derek Mitchell, a former Pentagon Asia expert recently told the Los Angeles Times.

A related concern was voiced by Campbell and Ward when the proposed redeployments were still on the drawing board. "Unless the changes are paired with a sustained and effective diplomatic campaign," they warned, "they could well increase foreign anxiety about and distrust of the United States."

That, in effect, is what has happened, as officials from both Germany and South Korea have complained that they were not fully consulted about the redeployments before they were leaked to the press or officially announced - a failure that only increases the impression that Washington is proceeding unilaterally, even with its closest allies.

This is not surprising, because most of the same people - including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy - who led the drive to war in Iraq remain in charge of implementing the new global strategy.

While these officials have lost virtually all influence over policymaking in Iraq as a result of their virtually total failure to anticipate the challenges faced by US occupation forces after the war, they are working feverishly to reconfigure Washington's global military forces for the coming generation.

Comment: More evidence that the entire "war on terror" is an illusion designed to garner public support for the continued concentrating of power into the hands of a few megalomaniacs in Washington.

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Senate Votes to Add 20,000 Troops to Army

By KEN GUGGENHEIM, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jun 17,11:02 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Defying the Bush administration, the Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to add 20,000 troops to an Army stretched thin by the war in Iraq and other commitments around the world.

The 93-4 vote in the Republican-led Senate — following a similar action by the House — reflected the anxieties lawmakers have been hearing from families of service personnel whose tours in Iraq keep getting extended and whose return to civilian life is repeatedly postponed. [...]

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Martial law threatened for Iraq

By Nicolas Pelham and James Drummond in Baghdad
Financial Times
June 17 2004 21:34

Iraq's incoming government is considering imposing martial law to help stabilise the country after another two car bomb attacks on Thursday killed at least 41 Iraqis.

The first bomb, packed with artillery shells, exploded outside an army recruiting centre in central Baghdad killing 35 people. The centre had been hit in a similar strike earlier this year. A second attack north of Baghdad killed another six Iraqi civil defence soldiers.

The blasts were the latest in a spate of increasingly well-organised attacks, including suicide attacks against foreign civilians working for the US-led coalition, an assassination of a senior Iraqi official, and the sabotage of military and industrial targets.

Co-ordinated strikes on Iraq's oil pipelines in the north and south of the country have reduced exports to a trickle and depleted the country's prime source of revenue.

The escalating violence has forced the new interim government of Ayad Allawi to consider assuming broader security powers in the aftermath of the June 30 transition.

"A decision to impose martial law could be taken if the attacks continue," said Hazem Shaalan, the defence minister.

Muwaffaq Rubaie, national security adviser, confirmed to the Financial Times on Thursday that the idea of declaring a form of martial law was under active consideration by Iraqi ministers.

The debate highlights the dilemma for the new Iraqi government, which is trying to establish order without jeopardising its democratic credentials.

Such laws carry uncomfortable echoes of the legal fabrications used by the former regime of Saddam Hussein and many current Arab governments to justify repressive and totalitarian rule.

The idea was at an early stage, Mr Rubaie said, and had not been discussed substantively with US officers. At least 130,000 American soldiers will remain in the country after an Iraqi government takes over.

Mr Rubaie said a new law would need to be passed because the temporary constitution agreed in March as the basis of the new Iraqi state did not include provisions for emergency rule.

"It [the new law] should not have sweeping powers. It should be limited in time and space," he said. "[But] the terrorists are shooting people on sight. You need to be a little bit more proactive, a little bit more robust."

In an effort to win public confidence, Iraqi officials such as Mr Shaalan and Mr Rubaie have sounded increasingly belligerent in their condemnations of the spate of car-bombings and assassinations.

"In the coming days we will take the battle from house to house and from street to street with all the means we possess," Mr Shaalan said on Thursday.

Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary general, said that Iraq was still too dangerous for the UN to return, telling reporters in New York he was "extremely worried" about the security situation on the ground.

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SKorea to send 3,000 troops to Iraq starting August

June 18, 2004

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea will start deploying some 3,000 troops to northern Iraq from August on a relief and rehabilitation mission, the Defense Ministry said.

The contingent of mostly non-combatants, the third largest in the US-led coalition in the war-torn country, will be based in Arbil, in the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq, the ministry said.

A 900-strong advance party will leave for Iraq in early August, followed by a 1,100-member main body of troops with a third group of 1,000 joining them later, ministry spokesman Nam Dai-Yeon told a briefing.

"The main party will arrive between late August and early September and the rest will arrive after the main party has settled down," he said.

The announcement came a day after the ruling Uri Party endorsed the troop dispatch and followed a meeting of President Roh Moo-Hyun's National Security Council called to hammer out final details of the deployment.

"The dispatch of additional troops to Iraq is aimed at supporting efforts for peace and rehabilitation in Iraq, cementing our alliance with the United States, and contributing to our national interest and world peace," said Nam.

President Roh has championed the troop dispatch as a way of improving bilateral ties with the United States, strained over the North Korean nuclear standoff. [...]

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Holiday from Iraq means "death road" to airport

By Michael Georgy
Friday June 18, 02:24 PM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Need a holiday from Iraq? Don't forget your passport, tickets -- oh, and a flak jacket in case you are ambushed on the notorious highway to the airport.

The "death road" to Baghdad International Airport, also known as RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) alley, is probably Iraq's most dangerous highway.

Scores of U.S. military convoys and Western contractors have been hit in sophisticated guerrilla ambushes that have claimed dozens of lives along the thoroughfare.

"According to the latest information, there is one successful attack every two days on that road. It is a high risk area," said one of the hundreds of Western security consultants hired to protect foreigners in Iraq.

"That road is so notorious that even if our clients asked to pass through there, I would look them in the eye and say no."

Guerrillas are showing no let-up, planting roadside bombs, unleashing rocket-propelled grenades or conducting drive-by shootings on the six-lane highway.

Western security consultants say there have been more than 50 attacks on the road since early April. Applying stickers to maps, they try to trace the patterns -- and advise clients to take back roads instead.

Demand for flights out of Iraq jumped in April when kidnappings and fierce clashes between U.S. troops and rebels made road travel too risky. [...]

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Creating an Iran Crisis

Matthew Clark
csmonitor.com
June 16, 2004

US accuses Iran of intimidating UN ahead of vote on resolution critical of Iran's nuclear cooperation.

While the US media focused on fresh violence in Iraq ahead of the June 30 power transfer and the capture of an American contractor by militants in Saudi Arabia, the smoldering row between the US and Iran intensified Wednesday.

US diplomat Kenneth Brill accused Iran - one of the three members in the Bush administration's "Axis of Evil" - of bullying diplomats in order to relieve international pressure on Iran to cooperate more with UN nuclear weapons inspectors.

Iran has long maintained that its nuclear facilities are purely to create energy, and denies that it is developing nuclear weapons.

Mr. Brill said: "This full-blown effort to try to change the direction of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] board through public and private intimidation suggests Iran has something to hide. ... People who are trying to produce electricity for light bulbs don't engage in this kind of behavior."

A Voice of America editorial, representing the views of the US government, states that "Iran, with its vast oil and gas resources, has little need for nuclear energy."

This comes on the heels of Iran's angry reaction to unusually candid comments by IAEA's director general Mohammed ElBaradei, who said Monday that Iran's cooperation with the IAEA had been "less than satisfactory" and that the probe "can't go on forever."

On Tuesday, IAEA members Britain, France, and Germany drafted what The Associated Press calls "a toughly worded resolution" that "lacked a direct threat of sanctions but did keep pressure on Iran to come clean on aspects of its 20-year covert nuclear program that was discovered two years ago."

"If this resolution passes, Iran will have no moral commitment to suspend uranium enrichment," Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said. "The IAEA resolution is very bad... [it] violates our country's rights. ... If it passes, in the future we will have more problems with co-operating with the agency."

The Tehran Times reports that the secretary of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Reza'i, warned Tuesday that Britain, France, and Germany would be making a serious mistake if they do not soften the resolution.

A dark point will forever remain in the history of Iran's relations with these countries if Europeans do not revise their proposed draft resolution and make amendments. ... Europeans must not confront Iranians and must not behave in a way as to reinforce the impression that Europe and the US are pursuing a continued dissension in the region and that they are seeking to open a new chapter of animosity [...]

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Annan raps U.S. on global court

By Evelyn Leopold
Friday June 18, 11:09 AM

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has rebuked the United States for trying to get another exemption from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court and urged the Security Council to oppose the measure.

He is expected to press his case at a luncheon with council ambassadors on Friday. And next week more than 40 nations are scheduled to debate the measure in a public meeting, at which time U.S. abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan is bound to be mentioned.

"The blanket exemption is wrong. It is of dubious judicial value and I don't think it should be encouraged by the council," Annan told reporters on Thursday.

Annan has opposed the measure in past years but used particularly harsh language this time, noting the human rights scandal in U.S.-run prisons in Iraq.

"I think it would be unfortunate for one to press for such an exemption, given the prisoner abuse in Iraq," he said. "I think in this circumstance it would be unwise to press for an exemption, and it would be even more unwise on the part of the Security Council to grant it." [...]

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US firm spread hostage video

News24.com
17/06/2004 20:10

Berlin - Video images of a US engineer taken hostage in Saudi Arabia, possibly by the al-Qaeda network, could have been put on the internet via a US firm based in California, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Thursday.

The video was released on Tuesday and shows relatively high-quality film of hostage Paul Johnson, who kidnappers from a group called "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" have threatened to kill by Friday.

The origin of the video was traced to Silicon Valley Land Surveying Incorporated, a California land surveying and mapping company, said Spiegel online, the internet service for the respected German weekly.

The magazine said that according to its research the move was the first time al-Qaeda had "hijacked" a website to broadcast its propaganda. [...]

Comment: Well, there goes the internet...

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Putin says Iraq planned US attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that after the 9/11 attacks Moscow warned Washington that Saddam Hussein was planning attacks on the US.

He said Russia's secret service had information on more than one occasion that Iraq was preparing acts of terror in the US and its facilities worldwide.

Mr Putin said he had no information the Iraqi ex-leader was behind any attacks.

It came a day after US President George W Bush insisted there had been links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.

He disputed the preliminary findings of a US commission investigating the 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York that found no "credible evidence" of a relationship between the two.

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Militants 'behead US hostage'

Al-Qaeda militants are reported to have beheaded an American engineer they have been holding hostage in Saudi Arabia.

Graphic photographs apparently showing the corpse of Paul Marshall Johnson, who was abducted in Riyadh last week, have appeared on an Islamist website.

And latest reports say the body of the 49-year-old has been found near the Saudi capital.

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Bush and Cheney Stick with the Cover Story

On Thursday both President Bush and Vice President Cheney stuck with their assertions of a close tie between Saddam Hussein and Usamah Bin Laden. Cheney even had the nerve to attack the New York Times for daring to report the findings of the 9/11 commission that there was no operational involvement of Iraq in September 11 (something that even Bush had earlier admitted when pushed).

Cheney as much as admitted that he gets his news on these things from the National Review, a rightwing magazine that is not known for having real experts on the Arab world, the sort who know Arabic and have lived there, on the staff.

Bush took cover in the 1994 Sudan meetings between al-Qaeda and Iraqi secret police, which went nowhere.

These two top leaders have been successful in misleading the American public in the past by using innuendo mixed with falsehoods (Cheney said, "We know where the WMD is" and Bush alleged Niger uranium purchases that the CIA knew were false). I suppose they think that mere repetition will somehow hypnotize the public yet again.

I doubt it will work. Before, they had enormous credibility as political leaders with the press, in part because of 9/11. That has begun collapsing. And even the American public, which doesn't pay much attention to foreign news, has started figuring out that it was misled into a misadventure that could still end in catastrophe.

Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld admitted that he had a prisoner entered into the Iraqi prison system without recording it, keeping the prisoner anonymous and unknown to the Red Cross. Apparently the prisoner ended up being forgotten in virtual solitary confinement. No doubt he was a bad guy, but it is hard to see how this procedure made anyone safer.

The episode is further fodder for widespread suspicions that Rumsfeld authorized at least in a general way the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghuraib.

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Biometrics - great hope for world security or triumph for Big Brother?

British police ready to link up to databases of US intelligence

Owen Bowcott in Morgantown, West Virginia
Friday June 18, 2004
The Guardian

British police will almost certainly be given access in the near future to US intelligence databases containing DNA samples, fingerprints and digital images of thousands of foreign nationals seized around the world by the US as terror suspects.

As the war on terror increasingly comes to rely on biometric technology - the use of physical characteristics unique to individuals such as iris pattern, DNA and fingerprints to verify identify - western police and intelligence agencies are drawing up plans for sophisticated biometric databases which would allow them to share sensitive information.

"The only way to trace a terrorist is through biometrics," Mike Kirkpatrick, assistant director of the FBI's criminal justice services division, told a conference for European firms selling biometric security measures yesterday. "[Traditional] passports are pretty damn meaningless."

The FBI, which has more than 75m fingerprints on its criminal and civil computer records, is adding biometric details from suspects detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"We are obtaining DNA from terrorists around the world as we encounter them," Mr Kirkpatrick said. "We have set up a terrorist screening centre. In Iraq, the high value detainees are having DNA samples, fingerprints and digital photographs taken. The numbers involved are in the thousands. We are doing it wherever it's appropriate, wherever there's a threat to the USA."

Canada, he told the conference in Morgantown, West Virginia, had already been given direct electronic access to such FBI databases. "We are having discussions with the UK, through Pito [the Police Information Technology Organisation], about whether they should have [direct] access to our systems ... I would hope mutual exchanges [of information online] will happen in the next few years. It's in everyone's interest that we have a good sharing mechanism."

Already, the first practical results of coordinated database programmes and reinforced border controls are coming on stream. They all rely heavily on biometric components. In Britain, the passport agency has begun trials to examine what type of biometric details the next generation of travel documents will contain.

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EU heads 'agree new constitution'

The issue of voting rights pitted big countries against their smaller allies
Leaders from 25 countries have agreed the first written constitution for the European Union, diplomats say.

The deal came after the UK and France publicly criticised each other over the slow progress at the Brussels summit.

But both Germany and France backed a compromise constitutional draft put forward by Ireland - the current holder of EU presidency.

Reports say the other sticking point - a new European Commission president - has been postponed for later talks.

[...] France and Germany have backed Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, but Britain opposes him on the grounds that he could be too eager to make the EU more federal.

Among other candidates, a UK commissioner, Chris Patten, has been proposed - but President Chirac said he did not think it was a good idea to have a candidate from "a country which doesn't take part in all European policies".

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Fire Shuts Vermont Yankee Nuke Plant

Jun 18, 2004

BOSTON (Reuters) - Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was shut Friday after an early morning transformer fire in one of its non-nuclear units, a company spokesman said.

There were no injuries.

"The plant is shut down," said Rob Williams, a spokesman for Entergy Corp. which runs the 510 megawatt power plant. One MW can power 1,000 homes.

"Around 7 (EDT) this morning there was a fire. The fire is now extinguished, but the fire department is still on the scene."

Williams said it was too soon to say what damage the fire caused to the plant, which is located in Vernon, Vermont, roughly 100 miles northwest of Boston.

After the fire was discovered, the plant declared an "unusual event," the lowest form of emergency. The plant was automatically shut down after the transformer failed, Williams said, adding this happened in one of the plant's non-nuclear units. The transformer steps up the voltage for transmission of electricity on power lines.

"Unusual events" happen only every few years, Williams said, pointing out that the last time it occurred at the Vermont plant was when a seismic monitor thought an earthquake had been detected.

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Poll Suggests Bush Support Has Grown

By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jun 17, 7:11 PM ET

WASHINGTON - President Bush got a boost from the public's recent focus on the funeral of Ronald Reagan and support for his Iraq policy spiked over the last month as the United States prepared to hand power over to Iraqis, according to a poll released Thursday.

What's not clear, however, is the effect the Sept. 11 commission's Wednesday statement that it has found no credible evidence Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida had a collaborative relationship will have on the polls. The commission's findings raised fresh questions about the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq.

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, said the poll found evidence that Bush got a benefit from the attention paid to the Reagan funeral and the moves toward a handover of power in Iraq. Interviews for the poll started before Reagan's death and continued during the coverage of the extended period of memorials and funerals.

"Bush got a little lift last week from the Reagan commemoration," Kohut said. "His (approval) ratings were 44 percent in interviewing done before ... and went up to 50 percent after Reagan's death." [...]

Bush had a slight lead over Kerry in a three-way matchup, with the president at 46 percent, Kerry at 42 percent and independent Ralph Nader at 6 percent. Bush and Kerry were tied in a two-way race. [...]

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Israeli Army Wants 'Remote Control' Border

Friday June 18, 2004
RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI
Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - The Israeli army envisions a "remote control'' border with the Gaza Strip after a troop withdrawal, including unmanned patrol cars and computerized observation posts that would automatically spot and kill attackers, a military official said Friday.

The technology already exists, but the plan hasn't been approved yet, and fallback options are being considered, the official said on condition of anonymity. [...]

An Israeli army think tank has been working on a new border design for months, the military officials said. The planners envision a "remote control'' border that will cut down on the number of troops being deployed in the area. High-tech equipment for border control is already being tested, they added.

A computerized observation system will allow the army to identify "hostile elements'' and fire deep into Gaza, Yediot said. The system will even choose the most appropriate weapon to use to hit a specific target.

In addition, the army is testing unmanned patrol cars that can identify and defuse explosives by remote control. Planners have prepared alternatives in case the technology is not useable in time, military officials said.

On Thursday, the Israeli Defense Ministry published a bid for an 80-foot-deep trench between Egypt and Gaza meant to block Palestinian arms smuggling after a withdrawal.

The trench would cost millions, and military officials said it remains unclear whether more Palestinian homes would have to be demolished to make room for it.

Such plans deepen Palestinian fears that Israel will block all movement in and out of Gaza. "The Israeli government is planning to turn Gaza into a big prison, with 1.3 million people,'' said Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat. "I think it would be better to have ... security cooperation. That's what people do when they have a shared border.''

However, Israel says that it needs to seal Gaza to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants. On Friday, a homemade rocket was fired from Gaza at the Israeli bordertown of Sderot, landing in the backyard of a home. The rocket caused some damage, but no injury. Dozens of such rockets have been fired in more than three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

Comment: Finally we begin to see evidence of the ultimate goal of Sharon and the Zionists, which includes their current plans to withdraw from the Gaza strip. As the Palestinian cabinet minister says above, Sharon is planning to enclose 1.3 million Palestinian men women and children into an area of just 300 square miles. This area will be guarded by remote controlled machines with the capacity to rain bombs and missiles on the Palestinians within.

Of course, this plan must be hidden from the general public by couching these actions in terms of "peace"...

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Sharon: I am following in Begin's footsteps in planning unilateral withdrawal

By Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Wednesday he was following in the footsteps of former premier Menachem Begin, who evacuated the Yamit settlement in the Sinai Peninsula in 1982.

Speaking at the dedication ceremony of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, Sharon quoted Begin as having said it was his duty to carry out the controversial evacuation of Yamit as part of the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.

"Until the day I die, I will carry this pain in my heart," Sharon quoted Begin as saying. "But it was my duty as prime minister."

The lavish heritage center, which is similar to an American presidential library, is expected to be used as an education and research center for high school and university students.

Sharon, apparently referring to his decision to evacuate all the Gaza Strip settlements and four in the West Bank, said he would continue following Begin's path.

"It is in this spirit that I have acted up until now, and this is how I intend to continue," said Sharon, who stumbled on his way to the podium and was helped up by his assistants.

But Sharon's interpretation of Begin's intentions did not go unchallenged, with another speaker at the ceremony using Begin's words to implicitly criticize Sharon's disengagement plan.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) quoted Begin as saying: "So long as I lead the nation as prime minister, I promise that we will not leave any part of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and Jerusalem will be the only capital of Israel forevermore."

Begin's family, including his son Benny, sat at the edge of the hall during the ceremony and left before the celebratory cocktail.

Comment: Sharon is, and always has been, a man of war. He has done everything in his power to ensure that peace never breaks out in Israel and occupied Palestine. Indeed, it is the one thing that he fears the most. Let no one be fooled, his ultimate goal is the destruction of the Palestinian people, which will likely include the destruction of many ordinary Jews also.

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Israel goes ahead with expansion of settlements

17 June 2004

The US has objected to Israeli plans to expand the main Jewish settlements in the West Bank and extend construction of its controversial "anti-terror fence" to its deepest point inside the occupied territories.

Palestinian officials said both plans reinforced concerns that Sharon intended to use the removal of settlers from the Gaza strip as a pretext for entrenching Jewish towns in the West Bank and possibly annexing them to Israel.

Israel this week began construction on sections of the fence around Ariel settlement, extending the massive steel and concrete barrier about 20km into the occupied territories at a point where the West Bank is 52km wide. [...]

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North Korea Accuses U.S. of Hiding Chemical Weapons Near DMZ

2004/06/17

PYONGYANG, June 17 (KCNA-Yonhap) -- North Korea Thursday accused the United States of hiding chemical and nuclear weapons at its South Korean military bases near the Demilitarized Zone.

The North's official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), citing a statement from the Pyongyang-based Korean National Peace Committee (KNPC), said evidence found in late April indicated the storage of chemical weapons at border stations belonging to the U.N. Forces Command which controls the DMZ.

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China Flexes Muscle

By Peter Brookes
CNSNews.com Commentary
June 16, 20
04

A storm is brewing across the Pacific and almost no one seems to be paying attention -- except the Pentagon.

With attention riveted on Iraq and terrorism, only a precious few outside of dedicated China hands have noticed the swelling military might of the People's Republic of China.

In fact, when the Pentagon issued its "Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China" (defenselink.mil) in late May, it made a nary a splash in any media market.

The report's a big deal because China looms as America's biggest foreign-policy challenge in this century. Iraq will pass and al Qaeda will be defeated - but China will soon stand before us like a teenage Goliath, anxious to flex its political, economic and, perhaps, even military muscle.

As the Pentagon notes:

-- In 2004, the PRC's military budget will grow by 11.6 percent - excluding weapons research and purchases. Add those in, and China's defense budget becomes the world's third largest (after the U.S. and Russia and ahead of Japan) at $50 billion to $70 billion a year.

-- China's imports of high-tech weaponry rose 7 percent over last year. From its largest supplier, Russia, China has bought nearly $20 billion in arms, including world-class Su-27 and Su-30 fighters, stealthy KILO-class diesel submarines and prodigious Sovremennyy-class destroyers equipped with supersonic, sea-skimming SS-N-22 anti-ship cruise missiles.

-- To boost its access to top-of-the-line weaponry, Beijing is lobbying the European Union to lift its 1989 Tiananmen Square arms embargo. France and Germany are supportive of lifting the ban - and Britain is teetering.

-- China's next military frontier is space, including manned space travel and the development of reconnaissance satellites and anti-satellite lasers capable of destroying intelligence and communications satellites.

-- The People's Liberation Army is paying very close attention to the revolution in American military affairs (beginning with Operation Desert Storm) in order to improve its doctrine and assess U.S. vulnerabilities. [...]

The buildup far exceeds China's self-defense needs. No nation threatens China. So what's it all for?

Short term, Beijing's military focus is on unification with Taiwan. Long term, the goals include making Japan strategically subservient and replacing America as the preeminent power in Asia.

Though positive political developments in China could ease some fears, the buildup raises enormous potential for conflict across the entire region. [...]

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US Government signs up automobile engine disabling device

US Gov patents web site
Apr 2004

The present invention has application to the disabling of vehicles such as automobiles and other vehicles having an engine controlled by a motor controller or other component that is vulnerable to malfunctions induced by a pulse of electrical energy. The invention has application to remotely disabling vehicles in high speed pursuits. In one aspect of the invention, an apparatus for remotely disabling an electronic device may be deployed from a platform. In various embodiments, the platform may be a stationary platform in the path of an approaching vehicle incorporating the electronic device or a movable platform for pursuing the vehicle.

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Quake shakes devastated Bam

Tehran, June 18, IRNA -- An earthquake measuring 4 degrees on the Richter scale hit the ancient city of Bam in the southeastern Iranian province of Kerman Thursday.

The seismological base affiliated to the Geophysics Institute of Tehran University recorded it at 18:27 local time (1357 GMT) in Bam's outskirts.

There has been no immediate reports on possible damages or casualties.

Bam's suburbs had experienced another with a 3.6 magnitude Wednesday.

A killer 6.3-Richter earthquake flattened Bam, once known as the Silk Road City, in the wee hours of Dec 26, 2003, 05:28 local hours (0158 GMT), claiming over 41,000 lives and leaving tens of thousands injured and homeless.

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Madonna compares Bush to Saddam

Madonna has said US President George Bush and ex-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein are alike because "they are both behaving in an irresponsible manner".

She pulled the anti-war video for her American Life single last year because there was a "lynch-mob" patriotism in the US at the time, she told ABC News.

"I have children to protect and I just didn't think it was the right time."

Surprise Meteor Shower Possible in June

Fri Jun 18,11:00 AM ET
By Joe Rao
SPACE.com's Night Sky Columnist, SPACE.com

Meteor enthusiasts will likely be out in force in the coming nights, hoping to catch a glimpse of an on-again, off-again meteor display. Special emphasis will be placed on two specific nights: June 22-23 and June 26-27.

Ironically, the month of June is usually not noteworthy for any major meteor showers.

Yet six years ago, during the final weekend of June 1998, sky watchers worldwide were caught off guard by an unexpected shower of bright meteors and fireballs.

From Japan, for instance, came reports of meteors that were visible even through heavily overcast skies. Reports from visual observers in other regions suggested that this surprise meteor display produced meteor rates of anywhere from 50 to 100 per hour and lasted more than half a day.

Similar bursts of June meteor activity were noted many decades ago, in 1916, 1921 and again in 1927. Because the meteors seemed to fan-out from a region of the sky near the northern border of the constellation of Bootes, the Herdsman, they became popularly known as the "June Bootids."

Comet bits

It was also in 1916 that the legendary British meteor observer, William Denning, first suggested that these meteors were bits and pieces shed by the Comet Pons-Winnecke, a rather small, dim object and a member of the Jupiter family of comets. Such comets are so-named because they have their aphelia the point in their elongated orbits that place them farthest from the Sun at roughly the same distance of the planet Jupiter.

The orbits of the Earth and the comet were relatively close to each other during the early 20th Century.

In fact, Pons-Winnecke's closest point to the Sun its perihelion slowly shifted from just inside the Earth's orbit in 1916 to just outside it during 1921 and 1927. Astronomers assumed that it was this close proximity between the two orbits that accounted for the enhanced meteor activity seen in those three years.

But since then, due to a series of relatively close encounters with Jupiter's powerful gravitational field, the orbit of the comet has significantly changed.

Since 1921, the gap between the orbits of the Earth and the comet has been gradually increasing, becoming more than 22 million miles (35 million kilometers) by 1998. Because of this large gulf between the two orbits, it seemed logical to believe that any future enhanced meteor activity from Comet Pons-Winnecke would be all but impossible. That argument certainly held up until June 1998. How then, could that meteor shower have taken place with the two orbits so widely spaced?

The answer came from astronomers David Asher of Armagh Observatory in Ireland and Vacheslav Emel'yanenko, of South Ural University, Chelyabinsk, Russia. Their studies showed that the 1998 meteors were the result of meteoroids released from Comet Pons-Winnecke back in the year 1825.

Asher and Emel'yanenko pointed out that the planet Jupiter completes one orbit around the Sun in the same time that it takes the meteoroids shed from Comet Pons-Winnecke to complete two. In other words, while Jupiter takes 12 years to go around the Sun, the meteoroids from Pons-Winnecke take 6 years; a 2 to 1 ratio. So instead of spreading around the whole orbit, the meteoroids were kept clustered closely together by Jupiter's gravitation.

Computer simulations by Asher and Emel'yanenko also demonstrated that the comet and its ejected particles from 1825 were apparently disturbed by Jupiter in different ways, so that in the ensuing years the comet and the particles that it shed became widely separated from each other.

Ultimately, however, in June 1998, the meteoroids ended up cutting right through the Earth's orbit, producing the unexpected bevy of bright meteors.

Another good shower?

So if the meteoroids that produced the bright 1998 display are still basically moving around the Sun in a 6-year orbit, does that mean that we'll be in for a repeat performance in 2004? Viewpoints are mixed.

Jrgen Rendtel, president of the International Meteor Organization, believes that 2004 could be another good year to look for the June Bootids.

Rendtel points out that on Sunday, June 27 at 01h GMT (which corresponds to Saturday, June 26 at 9:00 p.m. EDT) the Earth should be passing through essentially the very same region of the meteoroid stream as in 1998.

That time would be the middle of the peak activity seen in 1998, but since that display lasted for many hours, observers worldwide should stay alert through Saturday night on into Sunday morning for any unusual or enhanced meteor activity.

On the other hand, David Asher's belief is that little or nothing will be observed, based primarily on the simple argument that unusual numbers of bright meteors should also have been seen in 1992 and 1986, but nothing apparently occurred.

In recent days, a different forecast for the June Bootids has been issued by Jerimie Vaubaillon of the Institut de Mcanique Cleste et de Calcul des phmrides, in Paris, France and Russians Sergey Dubrovsky and Sergey Shanov.

Their calculations suggest that the Earth will interact with a swarm of meteoroids that were ejected by Comet Pons-Winnecke at not just one, but several of its past visits to the Sun, most notably in 1819, 1825, 1830, 1836 and perhaps 1875. In addition, the predicted peak for this activity comes several days earlier than Rendtel's suggestion: Wednesday, June 23 at 11h GMT (7 a.m. EDT).

Western North America and the Pacific Ocean will still be in darkness at that time, and are favored with the best possible views. But should the activity last for many hours, then it could be worthwhile to carefully watch the sky from Tuesday night, the 22nd, on until the first light of dawn on Wednesday, the 23rd.

Whether you plan to look for the June Bootids on the night of June 22-23 or again on the night of June 26-27, keep in mind that the constellation of Bootes will be excellently positioned as darkness falls. It will appear nearly overhead and high up in the northern sky and will remain in view through the night as it descends toward the northwest.

Fortunately, the Moon will be a rather wide crescent and will set just before midnight (local daylight time) on the night of June 22-23. It will, however, be more of a hindrance on the night of June 26-27 when it will have increased in brightness to a bright gibbous phase and not setting until after 1:30 a.m.

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Scientists sound alarm on Canadian weather forecasts

Last Updated Thu, 17 Jun 2004 17:59:06

TORONTO - Continuing funding cuts threaten Canadian research on reducing smog and climate change, and improving the accuracy of severe weather forecasts, top government and university scientists warned Thursday.

The group of 21 scientists sounded the alarm in a new report, saying since the mid-1990s, there are fewer meteorologists working at Environment Canada's weather office and much of the equipment is out of date.

It's time for the federal government to put more funding into the meteorological service so it can better predict severe weather patterns, said Peter Taylor, an atmospheric scientist at Toronto's York University.

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Superbug deaths 'set to double'

All types of MRSA appear to be developing resistance to vancomycin
Deaths from the hospital superbug MRSA could double over the next five years, experts have warned.

UK scientists say the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria is becoming increasingly resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin.

Around 5,000 Britons die each year from infections acquired in hospital.

But the researchers, whose study is published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, say more lives will be lost if vancomycin can no longer be used.

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New bug indicates global warming

Thursday, 17 June, 2004

An insect that normally inhabits warm countries has been found living and breeding in the UK, entomologists say.
The green "shield" bug, which attacks a broad range of crops, is usually seen in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Australia, North America and Africa.

Its arrival in Britain is a clear sign of climate change, claim experts from the Natural History Museum, London.

"I'm always reluctant to invoke global warming but it is the only explanation" said curator of beetles, Max Barclay.

Stink bugs

The green vegetable bug (Nezara viridula) is similar to our native green shield bug (Palomena prasina), but is paler in colour and has a longer, narrower shape. Also, unlike its British cousin, the green vegetable bug has no brown markings.

The insects - sometimes known as "stink" bugs, because of the foul odour they emit when threatened - are regular stowaways to the UK.

They often get shipped in with imported vegetables but, until recently, they have not been able to stand Britain's cold climate.

Now three healthy colonies have been found in London - two in the Queen's Park area and one in Kings Cross.

I'm always reluctant to invoke global warming but it is the only explanation

Max Barclay, London Natural History Museum
"When somebody first brought a specimen to me I didn't believe it," Max Barclay told BBC News Online. "I thought somebody had picked it up on their holidays, but it really was eating their tomatoes in London."

Of course, if three colonies have been found, the actual number is likely to be far higher.

"It is not something that is going to attract much attention," said Dr Barclay. "So there may well be several colonies living unnoticed."

Clear sign

This is not the first time an insect that usually likes warm weather has come to the UK. But the really interesting thing about the green vegetable bug is that we know it could not survive here in the past.

"World experts on this group said in 1959 that it can't establish in the British Isles," said Dr Barclay. "They said it is a regular import - it is always coming in - but it can't live here.

"And for forty years there was no record of it, so they seemed to be correct. But obviously something has changed now."

He continued: "I have been looking at a lot of new species that have come in over the years - but this is the only one that tells a clear story about global warming.

"In all the other cases people say, 'Is this to do with global warming?' And we have to say we are not sure. But in this case we are sure."

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Spacecraft reveals comet's mini world of rock

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
18 June 2004

Close-up photographs of a comet have shattered the belief that these traditional portents of doom are so-called "dirty snowballs" composed of dust and ice.

Pictures taken by a spacecraft that flew within 150 miles of the comet Wild 2 reveal that the subject is a solid chunk of rock with a spectacularly sculpted landscape.

The images taken by the Stardust spacecraft as the comet made its nearest approach last February clearly show that the comet's 20 square miles is covered in broad mesas, craters, pinnacles and canyons with flat floors and sheer walls.

Scientists led by Professor Donald Brownlee, the Stardust's principal investigator at the University of Washington, were prepared for featureless images of an icy surface coated in dust. "It's completely unexpected. We were expecting the surface to look more like it was covered with pulverised charcoal," Professor Brownlee said.

Instead the Stardust photographs - published in the journal Science - depict a mini world scarred by a series of collisions with other space objects over many millions of years. The scientists involved in the mission have identified two kinds of crater on the comet, one with a central rounded pit and a surrounding rough terrain, the other with a flat floor and steep sides.

Two craters look like footprints, and have been named Right Foot and Left Foot. Unlike craters seen on Earth or the Moon, the craters on Wild 2 are virtually devoid of the powdery debris seen scattered around typical impact craters. Professor Brownlee said that was because there is hardly any gravity on the surface of Wild 2.

Comment: We have been saying for years what "scientists" are now accepting as fact. While it is not surprising that governments around the world would seek to keep any foreknowledge of a meteor impact threat out of the public domain, this does not preclude the right that each of us have to read between the lines and open our eyes to the reality of life here on the BBM.

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German "samurai" on the loose

Friday June 18, 02:23 PM

BERLIN (Reuters) - A camouflage-clad German man wielding a samurai sword attacked at least seven hikers in forests west of Berlin, performing sword tricks before ordering them to leave the woods, police say.

They suspect a 46-year-old local man who trained in martial arts and survival skills in camps in Papua New Guinea and Vietnam to be the attacker.

"He's dangerous and has been hard to find because he wears camouflage," said Catrin Feistauer, spokeswoman for the Nauen police department. Police have used infrared cameras mounted on helicopters to try and track him down.

The man pushed two elderly people off their bikes and, flashing his sword, shouted at them to leave the forest. He later tried to drive a young couple out of the woods. No one was seriously hurt.

"It's frightening because the violence level has increased each time," Feistauer said on Friday.

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