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Friday, June 25, 2004

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Events Reveal An Astonishing And Frightening Confluence Of Arab, Islamic, Isreali And American Extremists' Agendas

Raghida Dergham Al-Hayat 2004/06/25

[...] The time has come perhaps to raise the question as to the confluence of three fundamentalisms--extremist Islamic, fanatical Jewish, and crazed Christian--in their various locales and manifestations. Is this confluence a coincidence? Or does every fundamentalism need a counter-fundamentalism to justify its extremist nature?

In Saudi Arabia, as in Iraq, the events of the past few years have revealed an astonishing and frightening confluence among Arab, Islamic, Israeli, and American extremist movements. There is a kind of secret conversation taking place among the various quarters and nooks of extremism, a mutual summons whereby one extremism feeds off the other.

The "Al-Qaeda" network wishes to reign supreme in Saudi Arabia once it brings about its collapse, even if such a collapse means a total breaking up of the kingdom and the installation of a radical Islamic government on only a portion of its land. Chaos is Al-Qaeda's weapon.

The clique of American and Israeli extremists is working to bring about the collapse and break-up of Saudi Arabia by spreading chaos, Al-Qaeda's weapon of choice, for strategic goals convenient for both Israel and the United States. Control of the oil-rich eastern region is only one of these goals, and a very important one. But the other goal consists of dividing the Arab region to remove any threat or challenge it might pose for Israel.

Al-Qaeda and this radical extremist American-Israeli clique agree on the desire to sever the American-Saudi relationship, even if for entirely different reasons.

"Al-Qaeda" wants to push the Americans out and believes that its tactics will result in the closing of American bases in the Arab and Islamic region.

The Israeli radical movement has sought to sever the strong relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia ever since the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah launched the initiative that was subsequently adopted by the Arab leaders in the Beirut Summit. The initiative threatened to expose the persistent Israeli refusal for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the principles of a two-state solution, Palestine and Israel, an end to Israeli occupation, and the peaceful coexistence of Israel with all states in the region.

The terrorist events of September 11, in which 15 of the 19 perpetrators were Saudis, came as a gift to the band of Israeli extremists and their American cohorts. Thus began the campaign against Saudi Arabia.

The convergence in the goals and actions of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian radical movements, exemplified by both Al-Qaeda and the clique of American-Israeli extremists, leads one to these important questions: Who is Al-Qaeda? Who are its true followers? And why does it continue to heap misery on Arabs and Muslims while claiming to avenge their oppression?

Those men who are hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan, or those who have snuck away to Iraq, or those who have taken control of the pulpits in Saudi mosques, who are they really? Whose interests do they represent?

Surely they do not represent the interests of the Arab and Islamic peoples who have no need for the culture of destruction that those men continue to embrace. Surely the Palestinians have not benefited one bit from these men. And surely Iraq has not benefited, and will never benefit, from them. Who are these men? And whom do they work for?

We know that they worked with the CIA in Afghanistan in the past and were financed by Saudi Arabia in its war against the Communist infidels. We know that they held Afghanistan hostage and used the Taliban to impose their rule. We know that they went back to Algeria to seek power and there they massacred their opposition as they do now in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

There are some in popular Arab and Muslim circles who are convinced that the terrorist attacks of September 11 where not the work of Arabs and Muslims and that the Al-Qaeda network had no hand in them. If such a scenario is true, then let Al-Qaeda put forth unequivocally its evidence and proof of innocence. If indeed it were infiltrated by Israelis, as some claim it was, Al-Qaeda has the responsibility to explain this infiltration. If there really were Israelis carrying out operations in its name, as some profess, then it is incumbent upon "Al-Qaeda" to make that clear.

In any case, this network has failed to serve the interests of Arabs and Muslims. It is instead exploiting their causes and future and only serving the interests of their enemies. The time has come to take a stand, by the people.

Because the Arab and Muslim populace is incapable of ridding itself of Al-Qaeda by popular vote, its only recourse is to protect itself by not allowing this network to use Arabs and Muslims as its constituency. This requires a concerted effort to isolate Al-Qaeda and its likes and to come out in public demonstrations protesting against them and against all forms of extremism.

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Isn't The Struggle Originally Against Racism?

Azmi Bishara 2004/06/25

Some of us have felt comfortable that there is no relation between Israel's building of the wall in the West Bank and the unilateral disengagement from Gaza. A lot of us adopted the term Israeli "demographic motives" as if it were a neutral term or a natural reason that pushes Israel towards disengagement. Some of us have even been lured to consider the high Palestinian birth rate a threat to Israel. In fact, we are talking about racism and there is no other meaning for demographic motives. We are dealing with a colonial racial segregation for there is no other meaning to the Israeli wall, which does not draw political boundaries between two sovereign states but deliberately leads to a Palestinian authority bound behind a wall in the West Bank and a fence in Gaza. Its only task would be the administration of the trapped Palestinians' affairs so they don't expose Israel's security to any danger.

Meanwhile, Israel only becomes more racist. For as long as it is acknowledged to be a Jewish State by the Arabs and the world then there won't be any place for Arabs in it except as guests. In other words, the Palestinians, the natives of the land within the green line, are only guests in the Jewish State. This would lead to a more racist Israel, for instead of calming down and becoming more confident, racist procedures that intend to protect its demographic nature would become more legitimate. With every passing day, the racist disposition inside the "only democracy" in the region would intensify to the extent that an anti-democratic mood and culture would dominate Israeli political and social life. Undoubtedly, the political, media and cultural elite in Israel bear a big responsibility in this dangerous political process. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Israeli society is currently the most racist modern society. Opinion polls reflect the staggering degree of racism that no other modern society would dare express without the issue turning into a major international scandal. Not a single western society would accept the prevailing mood in the Israeli street as a natural situation in the political culture of a democratic state.

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Madrid 3/11 train bombing suspects linked to Spanish Security Services

London Times, 20 June 2004
www.globalresearch.ca 22 June 2004

The Spanish investigation has revealed that two individuals involved in allegedly supplying explosives to the alleged 3/11 Madrid terrorists were police informers. More specifically Rafa Zouhier, was a police informer to an elite unit of the Guardia Civil known as Unidad Central de Operaciones, UCO). The second individual, Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras, was an inforrmer to the National Police Corps, more specifically the narcotics brigade of Aviles (Cuerpo Nacional de Policia del jefe de la Brigada de Estupefacientes de Aviles).

Deafening silence of the Western media: The few press reports (outside of Spain), while acknowledging the names of the individuals, fail to mention the links of these individuals to the Spanish police.

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US gives Iraq troops legal cover

By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent

The US Government has said it plans to maintain legal jurisdiction over US forces in Iraq after the handover of sovereignty at the end of June.

It is taking the action so its forces are not subject to Iraqi courts.

US defence officials say the intention is that this would be done with the agreement of the Iraqi people.

[...] A senior US military official also said that the plan would be that all foreign coalition forces would continue to be immune from Iraqi prosecutions.

There are about 140,000 US troops currently in Iraq and 25,000 from other countries.

The most likely option at the moment appears to be that the current US administrator Paul Bremer would extend what is known as Order 17, which gives all foreign personnel in Iraq protection from prosecution in Iraqi courts.

Comment: "With the Iraqi people"? Which of the Iraqi people? With whose authority? Ah, that well known Iraqi, Paul Bremer! Of course!

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Fallujans deny al-Zarqawi in their midst

Friday 25 June 2004, 14:45 Makka Time, 11:45 GMT

Iraqi fighters in Falluja, their faces hidden behind chequered cloths, have denied in a taped message that al-Qaida-linked Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was holed up in their city.

"The American invader forces claim that al-Zarqawi, and with him a group of Arab fighters, are in our city," a masked man read from a piece of paper on Friday.

"We know that this talk about al-Zarqawi and the fighters is a game the American invader forces are playing to strike Islam and Muslims in the city of mosques, steadfast Falluja."

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US troops 'suffocated' Iraqi general

Friday 25 June 2004, 1:54 Makka Time, 22:54 GMT

The US Army plans to file charges against two military intelligence officers in the suffocation death of an Iraqi general during questioning in Iraq in November.

According to a Denver Post report on Thursday, negligent homicide and manslaughter charges were being brought against two warrant officers over the death of Iraqi Major General Abid Hamid Mauhush, a former commander in the Iraqi air force.

Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, based at Fort Carson, Colorado and a member of the 66th Military Intelligence Group, is accused of suffocating the general in a sleeping bag while sitting on his chest and covering his mouth, according to Pentagon documents obtained by the newspaper.

The other soldier, Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Williams, was involved in the interrogation at a US military facility at Qaim, Iraq, the newspaper said.

The general's death was among more than 30 prisoner deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Pentagon said last month it was investigating.

[...] The general had undergone more than two weeks of daily interrogations while in US custody, the newspaper said.

The US military said at the time that he apparently died of natural causes after complaining that "he didn't feel well and subsequently lost consciousness."

But an autopsy released by the Pentagon in May said Mauhush died of asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression.

A spokesman at Fort Carson said he had no comment.

Comment: Lies, lies, and more lies. "It was a group of terrorists" when the US murdered 40 guests at a wedding. "It was al Zawqari's safe house" when it was an Iraqi family. But when the war was based on lies, why should we be surprised that they continue.

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MP Says Prison's Top Intelligence Officer Saw Dead Detainee

Capt. Donald J. Reese, commander of the 372nd Military Police Company, said he was summoned one night in November to a shower room in a cellblock at the prison, where he discovered the body of a bloodied detainee on the floor.

A group of intelligence personnel was standing around the body, discussing what to do, and Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of military intelligence at the prison, was among them, Reese said.

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Wolfowitz says Iraqis not overly concerned with abuse issue

Capitol Hill-AP -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the prisoner abuse issue isn't a big concern for Iraqis. He says that during his trip to Iraq last week, he was struck by how little the issue came up.

He told the House Armed Services Committee that Iraqis are "focused far, far more" on how to defeat the insurgents. Wolfowitz says with assassinations occurring "every day," the Iraqis "know where their priorities are."

His comments came as the White House released a thick file of papers documenting its internal deliberations on rules for interrogating prisoners.

Administration officials they're fighting what White House aides fear is a growing perception that the administration authorized torture as an interrogation technique.

Comment: Yeah, those Iraqis, they just aren't like us. In fact they probably condoned the torture since they are little more than animals themselves, right?

Notice that Wolfowitz said that the issue didn't come up during his trip to Iraq. Then, the next question is, how many Iraqis did he meet that weren't part of the neo-con imposed imperial structure? It isn't surprising that those particular Iraqis weren't interested in torture. They are too busy clawing their place in the new "sovereign" government. Wolfowitz is an arrogant bare-faced liar who will say and do anything that is required to satisfy his lust for power and control.

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Majority of Americans say Iraq war a mistake

Friday June 25, 05:30 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For the first time since the start of the war in Iraq, a majority of Americans now say the U.S.-led invasion was a mistake, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll.

Amid continuing violence in Iraq and questions about the justification for the war, 54 percent of the 1,005 Americans polled said it was a mistake to send U.S. troops into Iraq, compared with 41 percent who held that view three weeks ago.

The findings mark on Thursday the first time since Vietnam that a majority of Americans has called a major deployment of U.S. forces a mistake, USA Today reported on its Web site.

In addition, the poll found that for the first time a majority also said the war in Iraq has made the United States less safe from terrorism. [...]

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Because Dubya Said So!

Why prolong this insidious war? Gouge the economy? Rape the environment? Only one retort left

By Mark Morford
SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

It's somewhere around 1977 and I'm about 10 years old and I'm up past 10 pm watching juicy riveting prime-time "Magnum, P.I." (or whatever), and of course right at that moment I want nothing more from the universe than to stay up another hour and watch even more TV so as to feel, you know, older, and wiser, and somehow cooler.

And right about then my mother walks in and says hey kiddo, time for bed, and I plead and whine and protest and say no no no please please please why why why, and she says, slightly exasperated and motherly, well, because I said so.

She had her reasons, of course. After all, you gotta set some ground rules, gotta establish the boundaries and make the wee ones understand that the world ain't always full of clear explanations and justifiable details, and sometimes you, as the dumb oppressed plebe, you just gotta shut the hell up and do whatever the elders say because, well, they said so.

You loathed that line then, and you'll hate it even more now.

Yes, the line has returned with a nasty vengeance. Let us watch as this all-encompassing mantra of childhood, this absolutely invidious comeback line you simply are not allowed to question, let us watch how it mutates, in a twist of raging egomania, into the Bush administration's most bestest catchphrase du jour.

Let's watch, for example, as the bipartisan 9/11 commission -- the one that Bush finally, reluctantly, whiningly, after nearly three years, agreed to allow to exist at all -- let's watch as they emerge after months of investigation with a report that declares, once again and for the 500th time, that there was no collaboration whatsoever between Saddam and al Qaeda in the 9/11 attack. Duh.

Of course, when the 9/11 commission's report came out, BushCo was quick to reply: Um, well, we never actually claimed, you know, verbatim or whatever, that 9/11 was orchestrated by Saddam and al Qaeda, you know, together.

Except, of course, yes you did, Dubya. Repeatedly. Ad nauseam. In this very memo to Congress, outlining your reasons for leading America into this brutish hellpit. And also on just about every newscast and interview and mumbled speech, hint and gesture and Dick Cheney's pallid snicker, all resulting a huge majority of misguided and fear-pummeled Americans who honestly believed not only that Saddam had a role in 9/11 but also that he pretty much piloted those doomed planes himself, and that's why we needed to blast the living crap out of his piss-poor nation and earn ourselves huge gobs of global scorn while generating more anti-U.S. hatred among terrorists than Osama could have ever dreamed. Go, team!

Oh but here's Dubya, in an AA-grade bout of denial, summing up the entire point quite nicely: "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

See? That's all you need to know. There was a connection because I say there was a connection. We stomped into war for justifiable reasons because I say there were justifiable reasons. Nearly 1,000 U.S. soldiers have died for my oily and ultraviolent petrochemical corporate cronies because I say they should die. End of story and off to bed now, you little punkass American suckers.

And lo, "Because I said so" spreads like an ugly rash through BushCo's increasingly teetering, imploding administration, as they desperately cling to any tattered shreds of whatever the hell it was that they claimed was the original reason that they shoved this nation into an economic tailspin and launched us into a brutal, violent, unwinnable war that, by most every measure, we've already lost. [...]

Comment: The author ends the article with the idea that Americans can go to the polls in November and vote Bush out of office because "we the people" say so. Yes, Bush misled Americans. Yes, America has been living in a manufactured bubble of fear since the attacks of 9/11. But as we have repeatedly pointed out, Kerry has declared his intentions to basically carry on the tradition of war without end.

Bush is able to deceive the people because they allow themselves to be deceived. To vote for Kerry is to simply buy into the new lie. We are often asked what one should do, then, once one realizes the ugliness of the current predicament in the US of A. Perhaps simply seeing the reality of the world around us - coupled with an internal reexamination of the ways we deceive ourselves - is all we can do for the moment. Perhaps such a reevaluation of our inner and outer worlds is the key that can unlock - on an individual basis - a future that one had not previously considered.

To network with others who are in the same boat, the reader may wish to join the CassChat discussion group.

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Gore: Bush Lied About al-Qaida, Iraq Link

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jun 24, 4:59 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Al Gore on Thursday accused President Bush of lying about a link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein and said the president refuses to back down from that position to avoid political fallout.

"They dare not admit the truth lest they look like complete fools for launching our country into a reckless, discretionary war against a nation that posed no immediate threat to us whatsoever," Gore, the former vice president who lost the presidency to Bush in 2000, said during a speech at Georgetown University Law Center.

Republicans responded that the Democrat's assertions were false and out of touch.

Ken Mehlman, Bush's re-election campaign chairman, admonished Gore for delivering "another gravely false attack" and the Republican National Committee contended he was out of touch.

"Al Gore's history of denial of the threat of terrorism is no less dangerous today in his role as John Kerry's surrogate than it was in the 1990s in his role as vice president, a time when Osama bin Laden was declaring war on the United States five different times," RNC spokesman Jim Dyke said in a statement.

Mostly sidelined from the presidential race, Gore emerges every few months with another stinging review of the Bush administration. The former vice president, who has grown irate and bellowed in previous appearances, took a more tempered but highly sarcastic tone on Thursday.

Gore accused Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney of deliberately ignoring warnings from international intelligence services, the CIA and the Pentagon before the Iraq war that their claim of a link between al-Qaida and Saddam was false.

With a smirk, Gore then added: "So when the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued its report finding 'no credible evidence' of an Iraq-al-Qaida connection, it should not have come as a surprise. It should not have caught the White House off guard." [...]

Gore said Bush and Cheney won't acknowledge what he called their fabrication because of the "harsh political consequences" of admitting there's no evidence of a link. "If they believe these flimsy scraps, then who would want them in charge? Are they too dishonest or too gullible? Take your pick," Gore said.

Gore also accused Bush of abusing his presidential powers by invading Iraq without a war declaration from Congress, allowing Americans deemed "unlawful enemy combatants" to be held without being charges, and authorizing "what plainly amounts to the torture of prisoners."

He also called on the administration to disclose all of its interrogation policies — including those used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the CIA — and analyses about them.

"We deserve to know what and why it's being done in our name," Gore said to applause.

Still popular among Democrats, Gore is an important ally for Kerry because he can criticize Bush in harsher terms than Kerry, this year's Democratic presidential candidate. Aides said Kerry must temper his critiques of Bush to avoid alienating the independent and swing voters who will influence the outcome on Nov. 2. [...]

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Cheney Loses It & Tells Senator Leahy to Go "F*** Himself"

Vice President Dick Cheney, ignoring the careful manners of politics, lost his temper and told a Democratic senator to "f- - - yourself" after a pointed exchange on the Senate floor.

According to sources, Cheney objected to Leahy's barrage of criticism over government contracts with Halliburton, Cheney's old company, and Leahy brought up GOP carping against him during judicial confirmation hearings last year.

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Ring of steel welcome for Bush

25/06/2004

A quiet corner of rural Ireland was encased in a steel cage tonight as military helicopters patrolled the skies above thousands of troops.

The normally tranquil Dromoland Castle in Co Clare became a fort as US President George W Bush touched down at the nearby Shannon Airport.

Anti-war protesters who gathered outside lines of more than 2,000 troops and heavy armour.

All routes to Shannon Airport and the luxurious castle grounds were sealed off and police officers paced roadsides keeping a watchful eye that no-one strayed into unapproved areas, while camouflaged army vehicles waited in the bushes.

Local people simply gazed on in amazement as the largest security operation in the history of the State swung into action and transformed their peaceful neighbourhoods into something not unlike a war film set.

The surreal atmosphere was compounded by the location of chemical toilets like those used at music festivals at road junctions to accommodate the needs of hundreds of troops and garda officers patrolling the remote countryside.

Previous American presidents had received a warm welcome to Ireland but Mr Bush was kept well away from the people of Shannon, the majority of whom were firmly against his visit.

Conor Creegan, of Shannon town, said: “The locals are disgusted, our life has been disrupted for several weeks now.”

Fiona Wheeler, another local who had been issued with a special security pass to allow her access to her home, said she was disgusted by the “over-the-top” security arrangements.

"In my recollection the last place people had to carry passes was under Apartheid in South Africa," she said.

"There are gardaí behind every bollard and every pillar."

"This huge expense is sinful, Shannon does not have an ambulance service but millions of euro are being spent to protect just this one man."

Naval ships patrolled the Shannon River and estuary, while specialist decontamination units and bomb disposal teams were on standby to deal with a possible chemical or biological attack.

But the only visible threat to the quiet countryside were noisy protesters who had set up a colourful peace camp outside the security cordon.

The demonstrators, who had travelled from all over Ireland, were undeterred by their lack of sleep the previous night due to supportive motorists blowing their horns as they passed.

Lisa McKee, a protester who had travelled more than 200 miles from Belfast, said there was a relaxed atmosphere in the camp, despite the nearby presence of water canons and riot police.

"We don’t anticipate any violence but I think they will use water cannons," she said as the sun blazed down.

Roads across Clare, which is known as the banner county, were bedecked with banners declaring opposition to President Bush’s visit.

Liz Curry of the Dublin Grassroots Network said it was clear everyone in the area was opposed to Mr Bush’s arrival.

"We are also trying to highlight the continuous use of Shannon Airport by US troops," she said.

Local ethnic food shops, health stores and supermarkets donated food to the protesters to ensure they were prepared for their march to police lines in the general vicinity of the airport.

Caoimhe Butterly, who spent eight months in Iraq last year, said it was ironic that President Bush’s meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern tomorrow was taking place on the international day to commemorate the victims of torture.

"I think Bush should be indicted rather than invited," she said.

Peace campaigner and former Army commandant Ed Horgan was one of three protesters arrested while on a boat in the Shannon estuary this afternoon.

But campaigners insisted the blow would not deter them.

As they prepared for their hike to the nearby airport, gardaí raided the camp and burst hundreds of balloons they had intended to release into the air with messages attached.

"We will not be deflated," said one defiant protester.

And with that they were off to meet the most powerful man in the world with an untraditional Irish welcome.

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Ex-Army man slams tank deployment

25/06/2004

A peace activist and former Irish army officer has slammed the deployment of Scorpion tanks in Co Clare as part of the security for the visit of US President George W Bush.

Edward Horgan, who commanded a tank squadron during his military service said the Scorpion was unsuitable for use in riot situations and the Minister for Defence should be sacked for deploying the vehicles.

2Those tanks are completely inappropriate for crowd control. They can only kill people," he said.

"They have only been used once for crowd control in the world, I believe, and that was in Indonesia, where they killed hundreds of people in the province of Aceh. "

"For the Irish Government to deploy the Scorpion tanks at Shannon Airport against people like me is an atrocious decision and I would call for the resignation or even the sacking of the Minister for Defence for doing so."

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Ahern urged to raise Camp X-Ray issue

25/06/2004

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was urged today to raise the issue of Guantanamo Bay with the US President during the summit.

Stephen Jakobi, who is legal adviser to the European Parliament on Guantanamo Bay, said the summit represented a "last chance" for Europe to put pressure on the US over what he said was the abuse of detainees’ basic human rights.

Mr Jakobi, of the charity Fair Trials Abroad, said: “What has been accumulating is evidence that interrogation procedures at Guantanamo include torture and abuse.

"We’ve also got abused victims appearing before a kangaroo court. This summit is the last chance to do something about it."

Comment: It is interesting to note that, while on the world political stage, many European leaders will stand against the policies of the US, but when it comes to dealing with the citizenry, differences dissolve. They, it seems, believe that they are the "elite", the rest of us being the great unwashed.

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Up to 200 feared dead in Iran road accident

June 25, 2004

TEHRAN (AFP) - Up to 200 people were feared dead after a truck loaded with fuel exploded following a collision outside the far southeastern city of Zahedan, Iranian state television said, quoting a Red Crescent official.

The flames engulfed six buses and five other trucks, two of which were carrying tar, causing a massive inferno, the television said.

It said the explosion occurred at a police post late on Thursday night at around 10:15 pm (1745 GMT).

The Red Crescent put the death toll at between 50 and 200, the television said. It had earlier reported more than 70 dead and 84 injured.

According to the report, the tanker immediately caught fire after crashing, with the flames spreading over a perimeter of around 50 metres (yards). [...]

State television showed footage of carbonised bodies lying amidst a scene of total destruction. [...]

Sistan-Baluchestan is situated on the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and serves as a major transit point for narcotics being smuggled into Iran and to Europe. [...]

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Does US army use Israeli bullets?

Aljazeera
Friday 25 June 2004, 2:58 Makka Time, 23:58 GMT

Israeli-made bullets bought by the US Army should be used for training only, not for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, US lawmakers have told army generals.

Since the army has other stockpiled ammunition, "by no means, under any circumstances should a round (from Israel) be utilised", said Representative Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii on Thursday - the top Democrat on a House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee with jurisdiction over land forces.

The US Army contracted with Israel Military Industries Ltd. in December for $70 million in small-calibre ammunition.

It is unclear whether Abercrombie was addressing the possibility of Israeli bullets having US been used in current Iraq and Afghanistan combat operations or simply suggesting future engagement rules.

Two possible suppliers

The Israeli firm was one of only two worldwide that could meet US technical specifications and delivery needs, said Brigadier General Paul Izzo, the army's programme executive officer for ammunition.

The other was East Alton, Illinois-based Winchester Ammunition, which also received a $70 million contract.

"There's a sensitivity that I think all of us recognise," Representative Curt Weldon told the army witnesses, including Major General Buford Blount, who led US troops that captured Baghdad in April 2003. [...]

The Army does not want to repeat its history of building capacity during wartime "only to dismantle it in peacetime", Blount added.

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World court to rule on Israel's West Bank barrier on July 9

Fri Jun 25, 7:36 AM ET

THE HAGUE (AFP) - The International Court of Justice said it would give an advisory ruling on the legality of Israel's West Bank barrier on July 9, after hearings in the case were boycotted by the Jewish state.

The ICJ, the United Nations highest legal body, heard three days of testimony in February from 15 parties arguing against the controversial barrier.

The UN General Assembly called on the ICJ in December to give an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the barrier.

Israel insists its construction is necessary to prevent infiltrations by West Bank militants, but it cuts deep inside the territory, de facto annexing some of the region's most fertile land and complicating the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Regardless of the outcome of the ICJ case, Israel has insisted it will complete the barrier, which is eventually expected to stretch some 700 kilometers (430 miles), by the end of next year. [...]

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N Korea 'threatens nuclear test'

North Korea has warned it could carry out a nuclear test if demands for aid are not met, US officials said.

The threat was allegedly made on Thursday on the sidelines of six-nation talks between the US, the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan.

Unnamed US officials said Pyongyang had made similar threats before, and that the talks had still been useful.

A nuclear test by North Korea would add to regional unease and pressure its neighbours to join a nuclear arms race.

The warning about a possible nuclear test came during one-to-one talks between James Kelly, the US negotiator, and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan.

South Korean officials played down the incident, saying the warning had not been a "direct threat".

Correspondents said the North Korean delegation may have raised the issue to stress the pressures it was under from hard-liners in Pyongyang.

Comment: Notice that the threat came "during one-to-one talks", so presumably, it was the US delegate that reported the comment. What kind of spin is this being given?

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Powell to see Sudan 'catastrophe'

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that many people are dying in the "catastrophe" in Sudan's Darfur area.

Mr Powell is due to visit both the capital Khartoum and the war-torn western region next week.

Human rights campaigners say Arab militias are conducting genocide against black Africans.

About 1.2 million people fled their homes and many are living in camps, where food and medicines are running desperately short.

Sanctions threat

"The situation is so dire that if we were able to do everything we wanted to do tomorrow, there would still be a large loss of life because of the deprivations that people are under now," Mr Powell said.

US envoy for war crimes Pierre Prosper has said that "genocide" may be taking place in Darfur but this had not been established.

"I can tell you that we see indicators of genocide and there is evidence that points in that direction," he said in testimony before the House of Representatives International Relations Committee.

If the US decides that genocide is taking place, it is legally obliged to take action.

Comment: Note to Mr. Prosper: Check out Iraq. We have it from good sources that the occupiers are committing war crimes against the population, things like bombing civilians, torturing prisoners, all well-documented with photos and video. You should be able to get your hands on the evidence easily enough. This should not, of course, prevent you from acting against war crimes in Sudan.

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True extent of Sudan's agony revealed by NASA images

THE true scale of the ethnic cleansing of civilians in Sudan has been uncovered by a NASA aerial survey which showed nearly 400 villages have been completely or substantially destroyed.

The existence of the photographs has been revealed by a United States aid chief, who said his organisation’s estimate that 350,000 people could die in the next nine months "is conservative".

Andrew Natsios, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development, also painted a shocking picture of the refugee camps inside Sudan where hundreds of thousands of black Africans have fled from brutal attacks by the Arab militia known as the Janjaweed. [...]

Mr Natsios put the blame for the crisis squarely on the Sudanese government, saying US and United Nations reports from the country show clearly that the Sudanese military is directly connected to Janjaweed fighting in Darfur.

"They arm them, they use them, and now they have to stop them," Mr Natsios said on Wednesday after meeting Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, who is planning to visit Sudan soon and make a first-hand assessment of the situation in Darfur.

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Chirac's offer to Sarkozy: A poisoned chalice?

Katrin Bennhold/IHT IHT
Friday, June 25, 2004

PARIS - In the latest chapter of the simmering power struggle between France's two most closely watched politicians, President Jacques Chirac told his finance minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, that he was free to seek the presidency of the ruling party, traditionally seen as paving the way to the presidency.

The catch: Sarkozy has to give up his ministerial duties, according to sources close to Chirac.

It is yet another poisoned chalice dangling in front of Sarkozy, France's most popular minister, political experts said Thursday.

The proposal leaves the 49-year-old Sarkozy with a dilemma: quit his job at the Finance Ministry after barely three months, giving the impression that he puts his career before his country, or stay put and forgo the full-blown support of the financing and campaign machine that is the Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, ahead of the next presidential election in 2007.

"This is very clever maneuvering," said Brice Teinturier, director of political studies at the Paris-based Sofres Institute. "Given how popular Sarkozy is, it would be very difficult for Chirac to oppose his candidacy, so he is trying to stifle his ambitions without saying it."

[...] Sarkozy is the most popular member of the government at a time when both Chirac and the prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, have seen their approval ratings slump.

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540 bombs found in latest World War II weapons clean-up in China

AFP
Friday June 25, 1:57 PM

A team of Chinese and Japanese chemical experts found 540 mustard and phosgene bombs in the latest clean-up of Japanese chemical weapons left in China in World War II, state media said.

The eight-day clean-up was carried out in a village near Qiqihar city in northeastern Heilongjiang province, where Japan had a logistics base during its invasion of China, Xinhua news agency said Friday.

The bombs were found last month in the courtyard of the home of a local farmer. The house was built on the site of a former Japanese airport.

Japan has estimated that its forces abandoned more than 700,000 chemical weapons in China after the war, although Chinese experts say as many as two million such weapons exist.

This would give China the world's largest stockpile of abandoned chemical weapons.

Some 600,000 bombs have already been collected and stored in Jilin province, awaiting the construction of a bomb incinerator to destroy them. Japan has for years accused China of foot-dragging in the construction of the incinerator.

Under the UN Chemical Weapons Convention, one of the earliest international treaties aimed at ending the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Japan has until 2007 to destroy the bombs.

But experts say it will take much longer to safely dispose of so many bombs.

Last year Japan committed 21.1 billion yen (192 million dollars) to clean up the weapons from a budget over the past five years that has totalled some 60 billion yen (547 million dollars).

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Working...And Poor

Business Week

In today's cutthroat job market, the bottom rung is as high as most workers will ever get. But the political will to help them seems a long way off

Katrina Gill, a 36-year-old certified nursing aide, worked in one of the premiere long-term care facilities near Portland, Ore. From 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., she was on duty alone, performing three rounds on the dementia ward, where she took care of up to 28 patients a night for $9.32 an hour. She monitored vitals, turned for bedsores, and changed adult diapers. There were the constant vigils over patients like the one who would sneak into other rooms, mistaking female patients for his deceased wife. Worse was the resident she called "the hitter" who once lunged at her, ripping a muscle in her back and laying her flat for four days.

Last month, Gill quit and took another job for 68 cents an hour more, bringing her salary to $14,400 a year. But like so many health-care workers, she has no health-care benefits from her job. So she and her garage mechanic husband pay $640 monthly for a policy and have racked up $160,000 in medical debts from their youngest son Brandyn's cancer care.

In New York City, Joseph Schiraldi, 41, guards one of the biggest terrorist targets in the world: the Empire State Building. For eight hours a day, he X-rays packages, checks visitors' IDs, and patrols the concourse. But on $7.50 an hour in the priciest city in the U.S., he's a security officer without security -- no pension, no health care, and no paid sick days, typical for a nonunion guard.

Bellingham (Wash.) day-care teacher Mandy Smith can't afford child care for her 6-year-old son, Jordan, on her take-home pay of $60 a day. Neither can commercial cleaner Theresa Fabre on her $8.50 an hour job. So her son, Christian, 9, waits for her after school in a crumbling upper Manhattan library where the kids line up five-deep to use one of two computers. The librarian doubles as a de facto babysitter for 40 or so other kids of the working poor.

Over the past year, the loss of lucrative white-collar work offshore has dominated news headlines, provoking economic anxiety among middle-class families who fear they may be next. But there's an equally troubling yet more often overlooked problem among the nation's working poor -- for whom the raises come in dimes, the sick days go unpaid, and the benefits are out of reach.

Today more than 28 million people, about a quarter of the workforce between the ages of 18 and 64, earn less than $9.04 an hour, which translates into a full-time salary of $18,800 a year -- the income that marks the federal poverty line for a family of four (table). Any definition of the working poor, of course, involves some blurry lines. Some, like Gill, who make just above the $9.04 wage, often bounce around the threshold with their chaotic hours, slippery job security, and tumultuous lives.

Comment: In a word, insecurity. Fear for their jobs, their families, their livelihood. The rich, the owners, the exploiters are happy to keep the working class in this state. It makes them docile. In the highly individualistic US society, the blame is always squarely on the person who loses his or her job, who has no opportunities. You are browbeaten to believe that if you fail, it is your own fault. There is always one person they can point to who "made it." But not everyone can "make it". There isn't room for everyone at the top, or even in the top 20%. They always need that bottom 80% to keep the feeding frenzy alive.

There's also the fact that about one-third work only part-time, and more than a third are 18- to 25-year-olds, who may still live at home but may eventually work their way up the ladder. Some perhaps moonlight with a second job. And others may have spouses whose incomes lift their families up. But most poor workers tend to marry people with similar backgrounds, leaving both to juggle jobs as janitors, health aides, and retail workers that don't raise them into the middle class.

Overall, 63% of U.S. families below the federal poverty line have one or more workers, according to the Census Bureau. They're not just minorities, either; nearly 60% are white. About a fifth of the working poor are foreign-born, mostly from Mexico. And the majority possess high school diplomas and even some college -- which 30 years ago would virtually have assured them a shot at the middle class.

TOIL AND TROUBLE
Now, though, most labor in a netherworld of maximum insecurity, where one missed bus, one stalled engine, one sick kid means the difference between keeping a job and getting fired, between subsistence and setting off the financial tremors of turned-off telephones and $1,000 emergency-room bills that can bury them in a mountain of subprime debt.

At any moment, a boss pressured to pump profits can slash hours, shortchanging a family's grocery budget -- or conversely, force employees to work off the clock, wreaking havoc on child-care plans. Often, as they get close to putting in enough time to qualify for benefits, many see their schedules cut back. The time it takes to don uniforms, go to the bathroom, or take breaks routinely goes unpaid. Complain, and there is always someone younger, cheaper, and newer to the U.S. willing to do the work for less. Pittsburgh native Edward Plesniak, 36, lost his $10.68-an-hour union job as a janitor when the contractor fired all the union workers to make way for cheaper, nonunion labor. So far, Plesniak has been able to dredge up work only as a part-time floor waxer. The pay: $6.00 an hour, with no benefits. "I feel like I'm in a nightmare," says the married father of three. "And I can't wake up."

What's happening in the world's richest, most powerful country when so many families seem to be struggling?

Comment: There is nothing wrong. Everything is functioning the way it should.

And what can be done? There's no question that robust growth is a potent remedy: Recall that the full-employment economy of the late 1990s reduced the ranks of the working poor. Five years of a 4% jobless rate bid up wages across the board. That brought a healthy cumulative 14% pay hike, after inflation, to those in the bottom fifth between 1995 and 2003, when they averaged $8.46 an hour, according to an analysis of Census data by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a liberal Washington research group. The share of the workforce earning subpoverty pay actually shrank eight percentage points, to 24% last year, or 5 million fewer than in 1995.

That's real progress, certainly. But it still leaves many workers earning less than what it takes to lift a family above the poverty line. In other words, the boom didn't last long enough to bring more people into better circumstances.

Comment: "Hey, it isn't our fault! The boom didn't last long enough!"

Now, in the current recovery, there has been brisk growth again, as well as high productivity and job creation. But so far, wages at the low end haven't budged much. Many of today's economic gains are flowing to profits and efficiency improvements, and the job market isn't tight enough yet to lift pay for average workers, much less for those on the bottom. Of course, if the recovery continues apace, a strong labor market could bump wages up.

Perplexing, too, are signs that many jobs the working poor hold won't, over time, lead them out of their straits. Five of the 10 fastest-growing occupations over the next decade will be of the menial, dead-end variety, including retail clerks, janitors, and cashiers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What's more, while full employment in the 1990s may have brought higher pay for people like health aides and maids, the ladder up into the middle class has gotten longer, and they are more likely than in other periods to remain a health aide or a maid.

A 2003 study of 1990s mobility by two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that the chances that poor Americans would stay stuck in their strata had increased vs. the 1970s. Given the economy's strong showing in the '90s, that's a concern. "If current trends persist, a greater and greater share of wealth will keep going into the hands of the few, which will destroy initiative," worries James D. Sinegal, CEO of Costco Wholesale Corp., which offers above-average pay and benefits in the retail sector. "We'll no longer have a motivated working class."

Comment: The US, as the strongest world power after the Second World War, was able to pay its workers more because it was stealing outrageously from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, as other countries rebuilt, there was competition and the spoils from the undeveloped (that is, the exploited poor countries) world had to be shared among the other western powers. There was less to go around. The illusion of the possibility of upward mobility is being shattered. Of course, the apologists for neo-liberalism don't put it in these terms. They prefer to speak of "initiative" and of a "motivated working class".

So although a fast-growing economy and full employment are necessary for powering wages at the bottom, they may not be enough in today's economy. To survive in waves of increasing global competition, U.S. companies have relentlessly cut costs and sought maximum productivity. That has put steady downward pressure particularly on the lowest rungs of the labor force, while rewarding the growing ranks of educated knowledge workers. In this increasingly bifurcated job market, workers who lack skills and training have seen their bargaining power crumble relative to those higher up the scale.

For one thing, globalization has thrown the least-skilled into head-on competition with people willing to work for pennies on the dollar. And a torrent of immigration, mainly poor rural Mexicans, has further swelled the low-end labor pool. Together, these trends have shoved many hourly wage occupations into a worldwide, discount labor store stocked with cheap temps, hungry part-timers, and dollar-a-day labor in India, Mexico, and China, all willing to sell their services to the lowest bidder. Against such headwinds, full employment offers only partial protection.

Comment: This effect of globalisation was predictable. It was foreseen. In fact, those who shed crocodile tears for the "working poor" in the US knew beforehand the results of shifting manufacturing to other parts of the globe. They just don't give a damn because their profits are up. They are in fine shape.

What's more, other traditional buffers don't help low-end workers as much anymore. While labor unions were largely responsible for creating the broad middle class after World War II, bringing decent wages and benefits to even low-skilled employees such as hotel and garment workers, that's not the case today. Most U.S. employers fiercely resist unionization, which, along with other factors, has helped slash union membership to just 13% of the workforce, vs. a midcentury peak of more than 35%.

Comment: Unions is the US are viewed with contempt and distrust. Given US unions, there is good reason to do so. Their links with US intelligence and organised crime ensure they do not exist to defend the interests of their members. However, the US rulers implemented an explicit policy of dividing US workers from their counterparts throughout the world. While the rest of the world celebrates International Workers Day on May 1, in the US, Labor Day is in September. The buying off of US workers after WWII with the fruits of US control of the capitalist world was also part and parcel of the strategy.

GRAVITATIONAL PRESSURE
The federal minimum wage, too, long served as a bulwark against low pay by putting a floor under the bottom as the rest of the workforce gained ground. At $5.15 an hour, it remains 30% less than it was in 1968, after inflation adjustments. It hasn't moved in nearly seven years, victim of a divided political Establishment in which programs for a relatively powerless group often get jammed up in bipartisan gridlock.

Add to all this the fact that a college degree, the time-tested passport to success, is today less available to those without family resources. The cost of college has exploded, leaving fewer than 5% of students from bottom-earning families able to get that all-important diploma. The result: The pattern of low skills crosses the generations. Columbus Harris, 50, a $6.75-an-hour driver for the elderly in Pine Bluff, Ark., couldn't help his kids with college. So his middle son Christopher joined the Army to get an education. "I worry about the fact that a lot of the gains in educational attainment are concentrated among the youngsters from rich and upper-middle-class families," says Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

There are no easy policy prescriptions for improving the working poor's prospects. Measures with any real impact are almost always costly and ignite political fights over priorities. Lifting the minimum wage by $1.50 an hour, for example, would boost the incomes of more than 10 million workers. A majority of the gains would flow to adult women over age 20, mostly nonunionized workers in retail, according to an analysis by the EPI. To support the wage floor over the long term, the minimum would need to be linked to some measure of national living standards, such as inflation or average wages, to keep many families from simply slipping back into working poverty after a few years. Yet trying to hike the minimum wage always sparks a monumental battle in Washington. That's just what's happening now, after Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D.-Mass.) proposed to lift it to $7.00 an hour.

Comment: How much easier to get support for war in Iraq than by benefits for the poor in the US...

Writing some new rules for globalization would shore up low-end workers, too. Some Democrats advocate linking trade pacts to labor rights, by, for example, requiring countries that want favored trade status to allow workers to form unions. The idea isn't to eliminate low-wage competition -- an impossibility, in any case -- but simply to blunt its sharpest blows, particularly on less-skilled, predominantly male factory workers. Many economists calculate that globalization has been responsible for about one-fifth of the decline in blue-collar pay since 1973. But just think back to the fight over NAFTA a decade ago to see how far such proposals might go in Congress.

Curbing the flood of unskilled immigrants, assuming it could even be done, also would ease some of the gravitational pressure on low-end pay. Slowing the pace of entry, or shifting the flow toward higher-skilled workers, would mitigate the stiff wage competition among everyone from janitors to sales clerks. Yet if anything, political momentum seems to be moving in the opposite direction, such as President Bush's proposals earlier this year to set up a temporary worker program.

A hike in unionization would also give the working poor some leverage over wages. The rule of thumb used to be that union workers earn about one-third more than nonunion ones. But the differential has ballooned with the collapse of pay scales at the bottom. Today, blue-collar workers in a union make 54% more than unorganized ones and are more than twice as likely to have health insurance and pensions, according to an EPI analysis. Because unions boost workers' bargaining power and help them win a greater share of productivity gains, any resurgence would give low-wage workers more clout to deal with the effects of factors such as globalization, immigration, and technology. Still, the U.S. isn't likely to alter the laws governing unionization any time soon. Employers have body-blocked such attempts since the late 1970s, arguing that profits and economic growth would suffer. Today, labor law reform still goes nowhere, snagged in the broader political deadlock that grips the U.S.

America's divisions surface only sporadically as a pressing issue. Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) put them at the core of his Presidential campaign, castigating the "two Americas" divided into rich and poor. This prompted John Kerry to adopt a populist tone for a while. Some Democrats urged him to target policies perceived as unfair to both low- and middle-income workers, from trade pacts to tax cuts for the wealthy. Kerry still mentions these issues, but they're hardly a central plank of his platform. Of course, that could change if Edwards ends up joining the ticket. A recent poll found that 78% of voters care more about fighting poverty than they do about gay marriage. "The issue is sitting out there for a candidate to seize on, but voters want to hear new solutions," says Democratic political consultant Tom Freedman.

WHERE HOPE LIES
Still, historically, class-based appeals have had scant resonance in U.S. politics. In addition, there's little sustained outcry from the working poor themselves, who often are overwhelmed by their personal difficulties and politically disengaged. Only about 40% of them vote, vs. 74% of the investor class, according to the Russell Sage Foundation. "If you look at families in the bottom 20%, they are dropping out of the political system like flies," says foundation President Eric Wanner.

A few initiatives, though, have broad enough appeal to win support from both sides of the divide. Lawmakers from both political parties are struggling to devise ways to help the uninsured get health coverage. While they're split on this subject, too, nearly everyone agrees that something should be done.

Comment: And this guarantees that nothing will be done.

The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers poor kids, was established by Democrats and Republicans alike, though a lot of children remain uncovered. Any expansion, or a broader solution that involves expanding Medicaid, would help many working poor adults, among the most likely to need coverage.

Similarly, the 1996 welfare reform effort has brought a rough consensus today that Congress should help welfare moms with child care so they can work. Washington could broaden eligibility for child-care help to include more working-poor families, too. Richer educational loan programs would also help. Given the country's soaring deficits, though, Congress isn't inclined to devote big resources to such projects. One place to look for money might be in the tax code, but in an election year, the high-profile investor class and the organized elderly are likelier to get any new largesse than the working poor.

Comment: And where did this deficit come from? George Bush and his push for war. There is always money from government coffers for the rich, for the military-industrial complex.

Government may be stalled, but some employers are stepping up, at least in small ways. A number of leading companies, including Bank of America Corp. and Marriott International Inc., have programs to aid their low-wage workers -- they offer small emergency loans or grants to employees who face sudden crises, help them with child care, or find creative ways to make their workdays more flexible.

Comment: Oh, isn't that nice. Such a heartfelt show of support. Just as long as these are individual solutions, on a case by case basis that never set a precedent.

"Assuming employers have answered the question as to whether they're paying market-based wages and benefits, there are still a lot of other things they can do, some of them relatively low cost," says Donna Klein, president of Corporate Voices for Working Families, a business group in Washington that sponsored a recent study on programs for low-wage workers.

Still, even those who push above a poverty-level wage can fall into a trap. Between $7 to $10 an hour, they make just enough to start losing what little safety net there is, says Ron Haskins, a former Republican staffer who helped spearhead the 1996 welfare reform, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. They often become ineligible for food stamps or child-care assistance, and the earned income tax credit starts phasing out for a single parent at $13,730. "For them, Horatio Alger does not apply," says Haskins.

Women, especially single ones, have the most difficulty. Often, their wages barely cover the cost of child care. Low-income women's pay is actually up since 1973, but they still average just $7.94 an hour, much less than their male counterparts. That's one reason the U.S. has the highest child-poverty rate in the industrialized world. "Our low-income mothers work twice as hard as those in any other industrial country -- but their kids are the worst off," says Syracuse University public policy professor Timothy M. Smeeding.

THE WAL-MART EFFECT
Lately, there's a new name for the downward pressure on wages: the so-called Wal-Martization of the economy. Most recently, the dynamic played out starkly in the five-month Southern California supermarket strike that ended in February. The three chains involved, Safeway (SWY ), Albertson's (ABS ), and Kroger (KR ), said they had no choice but to cut pay and benefits drastically now that 40 Wal-Mart Stores (WMT ) supercenters would be opening up in the area. The reason: Wal-Mart pays its full-time hourly workers an average of $9.64, about [one-third less than] the level of the union chains. It also shoulders much less of its workers' annual health insurance costs than rivals, leaving 53% of its 1.2 million employees uncovered by the company plan.

Now, after the strike, new hires will have lower wages and bear a much higher share of health costs than current union members, making health insurance too pricey for many of them, too. Eventually, many grocery jobs could wind up paying poverty-level wages, just like Wal-Mart's. "I used to load workers into my truck to take them down to United Way," says Jon Lehman, a former manager of a Louisville Wal-Mart who now works for the United Food & Commercial Workers Union. In his 17 years with Wal-Mart, he kept a Rolodex with numbers for homeless shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens. "They couldn't make it on their paychecks."

It's a prospect that deeply worries workers like Sherry Kovas. Over 26 years, she worked her way up to $17.90 an hour as a cashier at Ralph's Grocery Co. (KR ) store in the posh California enclave of Indian Wells. To Kovas, the Medici-like lifestyles of her customers -- the personal chefs, the necklaces that would pay her yearly salary -- never seemed so much an emblem of inequality as a symbol of what was possible. Now, though, after the banks foreclosed on some strikers' homes and the repo men hauled away their cars, there's already talk of grocery store closings in the area because of the new Wal-Mart supercenter up the road. "They say Wal-Mart's going to kill us," says Kovas, who fears losing the three-bedroom modular home that she, her five-year-old son, husband, and mother-in-law share. "But I'm 44 years old. I'm too old to start over."

Comment: It is always better if the oppressed are complicit in their oppression, if they can be convinced that it is "their fault". Now the greed of the rulers is such that the illusion of "initiative" is starting to crack.

The U.S. has long tolerated wider disparities in income than other industrialized countries, mostly out of a belief that anyone with enough moxie and hustle could lift themselves up in America's vibrant economy. Sadly, it seems that path is becoming an ever steeper climb. Strong recovery and vigorous growth will again get wages growing. But as a new phase of prosperity begins, it may be time for some added advantages for those struggling in a brutal global economy. Otherwise, the outcome could be more polarization and inequality. The farther down that road the country goes, the harder it will be to change course.

Comment: We do not think it is possible to "change course". On the contrary, we think it was "planned this way". Things are "as they should be" from the point of view of the people with power. The US economy and society is organised according to the needs of psychopaths, that is, those who run the show. The values of the society are the values, if one can call them that, of psychopaths. For more on this, see our article Official Culture.

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Medicare Lottery to Cover 50,000 People

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
June 25, 2004

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will give "50,000 lucky individuals" chosen in a lottery up to a 16-month jump on Medicare prescription drug coverage, paying for costly medications for cancer and other illnesses this year.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson estimated that 500,000 to 600,000 Medicare recipients without prescription drug coverage are eligible for the program Congress wrote into last year's prescription drug law.

"There'll be a lottery to be chosen as one of 50,000 lucky individuals," Thompson said at a news conference Thursday to announce the program. More than 450,000 others must wait until prescription drug insurance under Medicare begins in 2006. [...]

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Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America's Superstate by Robert Bryce

The United States of Texas
A Review by Farhad Manjoo

[...] In the most general terms, Bryce's theory holds that Texas, through its size and its geology, is an intrinsically powerful piece of land. "Texas has oil. Therefore, Texas has power." But lots of places in the world are rich in natural resources; what's special about Texas, Bryce says, is that it's rich in cronies -- businessmen and politicians who recognize the power of oil and who are willing to blur the lines between their professions in order to promote a common, Texas-oil-focused agenda.

Who are these cronies? George W. Bush, naturally, is at the top, along with everyone else in his family. There's Halliburton, of course, "with its ongoing business dealings in the Persian Gulf and its long, lucrative ties to Saddam Hussein." Then there's the Saudi royal family, whose members have long been close to the Bushes. And finally there's James Baker, the former secretary of state and secretary of the treasury. Baker is depicted as the state's über-crony, a "consigliere" to the Bushes and head of Baker Botts, the Baker family law firm that sits at the center of the Texas Republican network.

[...] Bryce's theory that Texas dominates American politics is also bolstered by the evidence. When it comes to Congress and the White House, Texas does dominate American politics. Since the New Deal, Texans have enjoyed extraordinary sway on Capitol Hill, with representatives from the state holding five of the last 16 terms for speaker of the House. And "although Texas may not own the White House outright, it definitely has a working set of keys," writes Bryce. Texans have held either the presidency or the vice presidency for 24 of the 44 years since 1960. Does anyone need to point out that the three men responsible for almost every bit of Democratic bellyaching these days -- George W. Bush, Karl Rove and Tom DeLay -- are all from Texas?

Comment: This is a very long and detailed review of two books dealing with Texas and its influence on US politics.

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Complicity of Canadian Government to Terrorize Muslim Citizens

The Canadian Government was supposed to oppose terrorism, instead it inflicted on us. The writer and his family got a first hand experience of the Canadian Government inflicted "terrorism."

Mahboob A. Khawaja, Ph.D.

06/21/04 "ICH" -- North American governments cherishing liberal democratic values were supposed to be opposing terrorism, not inflicting on their own citizens. Across the globe, by virtue of aggressive policy behavior, many democratic regimes are attempting to discard human rights and sabotage the effectiveness of human growth and civilizations. People of knowledge and wisdom must realize that police action and armed assault do not produce peace, social harmony and justice, and for sure, guns and bullets destroy all living things. When people produce products and services, societies and nations grow and prosper. People and markets grow in freedom, not in fear. Canadian intelligence services are using the logic of power, whereas, in democratic Canada, people would prefer an argument based on the power of logic and facts. Being big does not frighten the enlightened masses. When the educated and responsible citizens are mistreated and portrayed as an evil, history calls it the beginning to end of the repressive era. President Harry Truman made a candid observation:

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."

North American citizens of Japanese origin waited half a century to see the official apology for their mistreatment by Canada and America during the 2nd World War. Should the Muslims be treated likewise? History sees nations by their actions, not by their claims. Could we, the people of living conscience, take specific intelligent and proactive steps to reverse the prospective historical blunders?

Facts are known, but the political reasons for the police action are unknown. From all the available factual information, we believe that we were targeted because we are Muslim. The newspapers highlighted the religious and political derogatory in headlines, contents and ultimate motivation. On March 29, the RCMP/CSIS anti-terrorist squad raided my family home in Orleans, Ontario (Canada), in search of "bomb-making" materials but found no evidence to support the accusations or reasons for the search warrant.

A movie style attack with 40 plus masked gunmen accompanying international news media glitz, they smashed the doors, damaged other property, and arrested the family members at gunpoint, all to log in the proper entry data for the new Project Awaken.

"Is your house booby-trapped?" "Where are the explosives?" asked the armed guards. My shaken son could not understand what was going on at that particular moment in time clock? Could it be a rehearsal scene from a violent Hollywood movie? Or may be there is some mix-up in the address that is why the armed squad are pointing guns at me? "Don't move, don't move," shouted the masked men. It must be unreal, thought my daughter, who was horrified and became numb by the masked intruders, who tied her hands behind and asked her to remain silent. My wife went to do grocery, not knowing, our children will not consume it at breakfast and lunch. There will be no time allowed to children to take foods, as this was the new law and order. The lady officers of the invading army picked her up from the store, and younger sons were called out of the classrooms. My wife in Ottawa, frightened and speechless woke me up in Arabia during the early morning hours on March 30, to inform that our house was under police raid. The female escort officer was Corpl. Sherdina; I asked her, what is the problem officer? She replied in cellular phone, "we have house search warrant for bomb-making material." No officer, I said, there must be something wrong, we are not the people in this kind of business. She promised, some senior officer would call me with more information. That did not happen until this day.

Like the violent tornado, they destroyed in minutes, what took us years to build - the human dignity, social well being and living together in a civilized community of educated people. The law enforcement agencies follow the laws written in books for the human society. Legal stipulations are composed of paper and dry ink, do not have mind, heart and consideration on their own, but those who implement it, do. Our experience clearly shows that we were treated like the sub-human citizens living in 21st century Canada.

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'Incurable psychopath' to be set free

By MARLENE HABIB
Canadian Press

Toronto — The release next month of a convicted serial rapist described as being an "incurable psychopath" who had the goal of being "the most prolific killer in Canada" has prompted Ontario's Attorney-General to weigh in.

Michael Bryant said Thursday he'll ask the courts to place strict conditions on 31-year-old Martin Ferrier, who has spent 15 of the last 17 years behind bars on more than 60 convictions.

"Police officers and prosecutors are on top of this case, and want to do everything we can to keep the community safe," Mr. Bryant said.

The National Parole Board says it has no choice but to release Mr. Ferrier — a diagnosed "incurable psychopath" — because he's completed his 28-month sentence. According to board documents, Mr. Ferrier has expressed a desire to become Canada's best-known killer.

In 2002, he was sentenced to two years in Warkworth Institution in Campbellford, Ont. for verbally threatening his brother-in-law during a court hearing. Other convictions include sexual assault, forcible confinement, weapons possessions and uttering threats. [...]

All of Mr. Ferrier's convictions to date have resulted in light sentences that helped him avoid being declared a dangerous offender — but Mr. Bryant said he would consider a dangerous offender application if Mr. Ferrier were to re-offend.

Four parole board reports obtained by The Canadian Press on Thursday paint a scathing portrait of Mr. Ferrier — whose controversial release next month was highlighted by the Conservative Party as part of its federal election platform for overhauling the criminal justice system.

The documents, from the board's Kingston, Ont., regional office, say Mr. Ferrier has "adamantly refuted" the need for sex-offender treatment and is at high risk of re-offending and violence.

In an April 2003 board decision to keep Mr. Ferrier behind bars, it was determined Mr. Ferrier had difficulty controlling violent impulses. His most recent conviction was in June 2003 for assault with a weapon against another inmate.

The board was told that Mr. Ferrier said he wants to be "the most prolific killer in Canada," and that he would commit murder "to be a lifer." As far back as 1995, one report says, Mr. Ferrier was quoted as saying he was responsible for at least three murders, although the board adds: "This clearly remains unconfirmed." [...]

The parole board, in ruling on Mr. Ferrier's continued detention in 2003, also heard he wrote a "rather alarming letter" to his mother in which he stated his "associates . . . never fail to forget."

Mr. Ferrier's mother, Judy Perry, has been an outspoken opponent of her son's release, saying she fears for both her life and the lives of others.

Earlier this week, Ms. Perry said her son aspires to be as notorious as convicted murderer Paul Bernardo, who's serving life sentences at Kingston Penitentiary for the brutal slayings of teens Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

"Every time he does something, it's a little bit more serious," Ms. Perry, who lives in northern Ontario, told a Toronto newspaper.

Ms. Perry has been lobbying for legislative changes that would result in her son and other notorious criminals being declared dangerous offenders. [...]

Comment: From our Special Report on Psychopathy:

What is a Psychopath? Psychopaths cannot be understood in terms of antisocial rearing or development. They are simply morally depraved individuals who represent the "monsters" in our society. They are unstoppable and untreatable predators whose violence is planned, purposeful and emotionless. The violence continues until it reaches a plateau at age 50 or so, then tapers off.

Their emotionlessness reflects a detached, fearless, and possibly dissociated state, revealing a low-state autonomic nervous system and lack of anxiety. It's difficult to say what motivates them - control and dominance possibly - since their life history will usually show no long-standing bonds with others nor much rhyme to their reason (other than the planning of violence).

They tend to operate with a grandiose demeanor, an attitude of entitlement, an insatiable appetite, and a tendency toward sadism. Fearlessness is probably the prototypical (core) characteristic (the low-fear hypothesis). It's helpful to think of them as high-speed vehicles with ineffective brakes. Certain organic (brain) disorders and hormonal imbalances mimic the state of mind of a psychopath.

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Playful dog defuses shooting spree plans

Thu, 24 Jun 2004 23:58:22

TORONTO - A man from New Brunswick who called off a shooting spree after a chance encounter with a friendly dog appeared in court in Toronto on Thursday to face several weapons charges.

The man, who turned himself in to police on Wednesday afternoon, said he'd loaded his car with guns and ammunition in New Brunswick before setting out with plans of randomly shooting people in Toronto.

On arriving in east-end Toronto, the man reportedly went into a nearby park to load his weapons. There, he told police, a playful dog approached him. That encounter apparently changed his mind. He got back in his car and began looking for police. At about 5 p.m., he spotted a cruiser and turned himself in to the surprised officer.

Police said the man was carrying a loaded semi-automatic handgun when he approached the officer.

A search of the suspect's car turned up two rifles with scopes, a shotgun, a revolver, an air rifle, a machete, a hunting knife, a throwing knife, a camouflage mask and netting, and 6,296 rounds of ammunition.

The man reportedly told police that he planned the killing spree in order to get himself imprisoned for life.

James Stanson, 43, was charged Thursday with eight weapons-related offences, including carrying a concealed weapon, possession of ammunition for a dangerous purpose, careless storage of a firearm and unauthorized presence of a firearm in a motor vehicle.

Stanson was ordered to undergo further psychiatric evaluation before he returns to court on July 14. At that time the court will decide if he is fit to stand trial.

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Australia to slap graphic warnings across cigarette packs

AFP
Friday June 25, 4:58 PM

Australia's government decided to cover most of the outside of cigarette packages with graphic images showing the physical damage caused by smoking.

But Prime Minister John Howard's cabinet drew criticism for agreeing that the warnings -- carrying grisly images of diseased body parts -- would cover just one-third of the front of a packets and 90 percent of the back rather than a 50/50 front-back split sought by health groups.

Health Minister Tony Abbott said Friday regulations would soon be introduced requiring tobacco companies to begin including the new warnings on cigarette packets within 18 months -- a delay sought by the industry.

He rejected charges the government had caved in to tobacco firms, which fought to limit the warnings to one-third of the front of cigarette packets. [...]

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DNA tests solve mystery of Chilean sea 'blob'

Last Updated Thu, 24 Jun 2004 11:47:58

WOODS HOLE, MASS. - A mysterious sea creature that washed up on a Chilean beach last year is in fact the remains of whales, DNA tests show.

The 12-metre gelatinous blob washed ashore at Los Muermos about 1,000 kilometres south of Santiago in July 2003.

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Fifty-four feared dead, 168,000 evacuated in massive China rainstorms

Fri Jun 25, 3:03 AM ET

BEIJING (AFP) - Twenty-seven people were confirmed dead and another 27 were missing after massive rainstorms lashed central China's Hunan province, forcing the evacuation of 168,000 people, an official said.

The rainstorms engulfed 30 counties in the province over a six-day period, disaster relief official Fang Zhiyong told AFP Friday.

"Some people died because the floods washed them away, and some because their homes collapsed," the Beijing-based official said. "The floods also triggered mudslides."

Nearly eight million people live in areas affected by the storms, and 168,000 had to be relocated as their homes were threatened by the downpour and accompanying floods and landslides, he said.

The storms caused thousands of houses to collapse, with material losses estimated at three billion yuan (360 million dollars), he said.

"Some roads are extremely muddy or simply flooded," said Fang. "Traffic is very bad."

Among the worst-hit cities was Yueyang near giant Dongting Lake, which was also at the centre of large floods two years ago. [...]

This year could be no less disastrous. With the flood season approaching, China has warned that nearly 30,000 reservoirs have safety problems, and some might even collapse. [...]

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US experts say global warming faster than thought

Thu Jun 24,12:40 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A new US supercomputer has shown that global temperatures could be rising more than scientists had thought, experts said.

The computer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research projects that temperatures could rise by 2.6 degrees Celsius (4.7 degrees Fahrenheit) if countries continue to emit large amounts of carbon dioxide.

The previous estimates were a rise of about two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). [...]

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Farmers contend with frost

SASKATOON - Wednesday night's frost has had a dampening effect on the spirits of many Saskatchewan farmers.

Even if it turns out there wasn't extensive frost damage, the frost will delay the development of many crops.

Lorne McClinton, a farmer from near Yellow Grass, says the frost is a challenge that producers don't need right now.

He worked late Wednesday night spraying herbicide on his late maturing crops and when he woke up, McClinton was dismayed to see frost on his vehicles.

He says this has been a trying year. First it was too dry—then too wet. He has experienced flooding, hail, and now frost.

"Maybe I should be checking Exodus and making a check list of the plagues of Egypt because so far, like I said we're doing well on them. All we need is locusts and we'll just about have them." [...]

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Yukon's communication link threatened by fire

Jun 24 2004 02:24 PM CDT

WHITEHORSE - A fire in the southern part of the Yukon is threatening the territory's communication link with the rest of the world.

The Swan lake fire is just kilometers away from Northwestel's microwave radio site at Swift River near the Yukon-British Columbia border.

A spokesperson with Norwestel says that if the site is destroyed, it will effectively cut Yukoners off.

"This system carries all long distance traffic in and out of the territory," says Anne Kennedy. "Any long distance voice, data or Internet...any of those types of communications would be threatened."

As well as long distance service, an outage would affect bank machines, lottery terminals and some credit card purchases. The fire has already closed the territory's main road link once and travellers are advised the Alaska Highway may be closed again on short notice.

Kennedy says Northwestel is meeting with emergency measures officials on an hourly basis. She says right now the site is stable and crews are working to protect it.

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Senate bill bans P2P networks

By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
June 23, 2004, 12:27 PM PDT

update Popular file-trading networks such as Kazaa and Morpheus would be outlawed under a new bill that enjoys broad support from top Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Their legislation says "whoever intentionally induces any violation" of copyright law would be legally liable for those violations, a prohibition that would effectively ban file-swapping networks and could also imperil some consumer electronics devices.

Proponents argue that the bill focuses on curbing illegal activity on the Internet. "In the film 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,' the leering 'Child Catcher' lured children into danger with false promises of 'free lollipops,'" said Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "Tragically, some corporations now seem to think that they can legally profit by inducing children to steal; that they can legally lure children and others with false promises of 'free music.'"

The Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act, which was made public Wednesday, represents the latest legislative attempt by large copyright holders to address what they see as the growing threat of peer-to-peer networks rife with pirated music, movies and software. Violations of the IICA would be punished with civil fines and, in some circumstances, lengthy prison terms.

Foes of the IICA, including civil liberties groups and file-swapping network operators, are alarmed that the measure enjoys strong support from prominent politicians of both major parties. Its supporters include Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. [...]

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AOL workers sold spammers 92M addresses: prosecutors

The Toronto Star

NEW YORK — Millions of America Online customers were hit with junk e-mail after a company insider stole the Internet giant's subscriber list and sold it to spammers, prosecutors say.

The scheme resulted in AOL customers being sent unsolicited advertisements for herbal penile enhancement pills and Internet gambling come-ons, prosecutors said yesterday.

Screenames of Candian users are also "very likely" to have been on the subscriber list, AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham in Dulles, Va., said.

Sean Dugan, an AOL customer care consultant, agreed with this statement, but said billing information would not have been given out.

Prosecutors said Jason Smathers, 24, stole 92 million AOL screen names while working at AOL offices in Dulles, Va., and sold the list to a Las Vegas man, Sean Dunaway. Dunaway used it to send gambling ads and then sold it to spammers, a criminal complaint said.

Smathers' list also included customer postal codes and credit card types, prosecutors said. AOL said it did not appear that Smathers had gained access to credit card numbers, which the company keeps in a separate facility.

Smathers and Dunaway, 21, were arrested and charged with conspiracy.

Comment: If just two people getting together to commit fraud can be called a conspiracy, than the President and his neocon cabal could be charged with this crime a thousand times over. Of course, Bush and his handlers will never be charged with conspiracy - no matter how frequent and grandiose their lies - because our fearless leaders would never lie to us, right? Richard Dolan writes:

The very label [conspiracy] serves as an automatic dismissal, as though no one ever acts in secret. Let us bring some perspective and common sense to this issue. The United States comprises large organizations - corporations, bureaucracies, "interest groups," and the like - which are conspiratorial by nature. That is, they are hierarchical, their important decisions are made in secret by a few key decision-makers, and they are not above lying about their activities. Such is the nature of organizational behavior. "Conspiracy," in this key sense, is a way of life around the globe.

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Microsoft patents body power

By Matt Loney
Special to CNET News.com
June 23, 2004, 6:50 AM PDT

Microsoft has been awarded a patent for using human skin as a power conduit and data bus.

Patent No. 6,754,472, which was published Tuesday, describes a method for transmitting power and data to devices worn on the body and for communication of data between those devices. [...]

To reduce the redundancy of input/output devices, Microsoft's patent proposes a personal area network that allows a single data input or output device to be used by multiple portable devices. [...]

In its filing, Microsoft says its work addresses wearable devices that are too small to have any kind of interface or even a battery, such as earrings. The company proposes using pulsed AC or DC signals to power the devices. A 100Hz signal could be used to power one device, while a 150Hz signal could be used to power another, the company said, and data signals can be modulated on top of these power signals. [...]

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Strange Comet Unlike Anything Known

Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer, Space.com
17 June 2004

A detailed analysis of the comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt 2") has left astronomers astounded at an object that has no known peers in the solar system.

The comet, examined in a close flyby in January by NASA's Stardust spacecraft, has towering protrusions and steep-walled craters that seem to defy gravity. More than a dozen jets of material shoot out from its insides. Dust swirls around the comet in unexpectedly dense pockets.

Among the bizarre features are two depressions with flat floors and nearly vertical walls that resemble giant footprints. They aren't structured like typical impact craters. The features have been named Left Foot and Right Foot in a new map of the comet, which is roughly 3 miles (5 kilometers) wide.

Only two other comets have been seen up close, but both appeared fairly smooth and were nowhere near so heavily cratered. Nor do the pockmarked surfaces common to asteroids and moons bear much stylistic resemblance to the shapes seen on Wild 2.

"So far, as far as we know Wild 2 is a unique object," said Donald Brownlee, an astronomy professor at the University of Washington and Stardust's principal investigator.

Brownlee told SPACE.com that Wild 2 could represent a unique class of comet. He and his colleagues had expected it to be relatively featureless with a dusty, charcoal-like coating. Instead they found a place riddled with apparently ancient impact craters. Broad mesas and steep canyons stand out clearly. [...]

He suggested the consistency of the comet is something like freeze-dried astronaut ice cream. [...]

"Comets do blow up unexpectedly," Brownlee pointed out, adding that built-up internal pressure and "steam explosions" might be responsible for some of the surface features. [...]

Comet Wild 2 probably gathered itself together 4.5 billion years ago, just after the Sun was born, in a region beyond Neptune known as the Kuiper Belt. [...]

In 1974 it had a close encounter with Jupiter and was thrown onto a new orbit that brings it closer to the Sun. A comet loses material when it approaches the Sun, as solar radiation causes ice from its surface to "sublimate" into space, carring dust and larger particles with it. The process creates a cloud of material that reflects sunlight and creates the familiar head of a comet (scientists call it a coma) and sometimes a tail.

Among the new findings: Wild 2 has lost about 3 feet (1 meter) of its surface since 1974. [...]

Claudia Alexander, a program scientist for Rosetta from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has modeled comets for years. She did not expect the number of jets or their ability to lift the large chunks thought to then break up and create the particle swarms. And she's surprised that the comet is apparently not a loosely cemented rubble pile.

"I would have told you it wasn't going to be like that," Alexander said. "We are astonished and intrigued."

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Theoretical Astrophysicist Thomas Gold Dies at 84

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Thomas Gold, 84, a theoretical astrophysicist and one of the great celestial thinkers of the last century, died of heart disease June 22 at a hospital in Ithaca, N.Y. Mr. Gold, an emeritus professor at Cornell University, came to full prominence during the Space Age and continued hypothesizing about a range of matters -- from astronomy to zoology -- until his death.

Each theory he held was armed with a ferocious self-confidence that seldom dimmed over a six-decade career. He often resisted widespread expert beliefs contrary to his, saying a scientist's role was to probe.

"In choosing a hypothesis there is no virtue in being timid," he once said. "I clearly would have been burned at the stake in another age." [...]

The author of more than 280 scientific papers told Omni magazine: "Most men . . . can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven thread by thread into the fabric of their lives." [...]

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Electricity Goes Wild. Did the Devil Make It Do It?

By AL BAKER
June 24, 2004

CANNETO DI CARONIA, Sicily - There are many ways for evil to arrive but perhaps only one way to get rid of it: exorcism.

That about sums up the collective psyche of this stone-filled village perched above the sea after a series of puzzling electrical shorts, unexplained fires and smoky outbursts that struck in nine houses, displacing 17 families.

First to explode was Nino Pezzino's television, two days before Christmas.

Fuse boxes then blew in houses all along the Via Mare. Air-conditioners erupted even when unplugged. Fires started spontaneously. Kitchen appliances went up in smoke. A roomful of wedding gifts was crisped. Computers jammed. Cellphones rang when no one was calling, and electronic door locks in empty cars went demonically up and down. [...]

The intervening months can be summed up like this: Enel, the country's electrical company, cut power to the village. Some scientists came. They studied things. They made declarations about the release of electromagnetic waves. The town replaced its wires and grounded them. Now, the weird phenomena seem to have stopped, but the scientists are at a loss to explain why. [...]

One theory was that high pressure from under the crust of this volcanic spit of land on Sicily's northern coast had caused underground shifts that released electrical energy that eventually found its way to the village.

The supercharged ions, once in contact with man-made electronic devices, may have caused sparks to fly, the scientists say, especially since the hamlet is near transmission lines and railroad tracks. But the fires could just as easily have been caused by some unexplainable problem in the atmosphere, Mr. Martella said.

"The cause of the fires seems to have been static electric charges," he said. "What we don't understand is why there were these static electric charges."

Even less definitive was Gianfranco Allegra, of the Italian Center for Electro-technical Experimentation, in Milan. "No one knows what the cause of these fires are," he said. "They are inexplicable."

In the absence of clear science, villagers say there is no question it is the Devil's work. The causes, they say, have more to do with superstitions in a land known on maps as Demon's Valley, a veritable cradle of vampire lore. [...]

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Malfunctioning Car Remotes Still a Mystery

(Jun. 23) -- Today's technology should make our lives more convenient. But for some Valley residents, getting in and out of their cars is proving to be downright inconvenient. Their keyless remotes -- car remotes, garage door openers, and even after-market alarms -- aren't working and no one has a clue why.

For some reason, on the east side of the valley, remotes don't work, which is not only annoying to drivers, but to the dealer's that sell them. Like Steve Grossart, who said, "Hundreds and hundreds of calls coming in. Not just calls, people trying to replace their batteries thinking that's the problem, but it's not their battery."

Gary Shelley is one of those people. His remote won't open his truck unless he's right up next to it. His garage door remote doesn't work either. "Now that we know it's not just us, we thought maybe it was wireless control for our computer. Tried unplugging the computer, same problem," Shelley said. It's the same problem for a lot of people. [...]

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Eimad Abdulaziz looks upon the portrait of the Virgin Mary that appears to emit oil and has been declared a miracle by a Syrian Orthodox Archbishop.

Oil-Weeping 'Mary' Portrait Declared Miracle

June 24.04
By Scott Jason - Staff Writer
Paradise Post

On Eimad Abdulaziz's wall in Chico hangs a 14 inch by 18 inch portrait of the Virgin Mary, who is holding a young Jesus with both her hands. Her head tilts delicately down to her left and an angel floats on each side of her face. The portrait is mounted onto a piece of carved wood and coated in lacquer. On the glossy surface, about ten small drops of yellowish-green oil form. They are like raindrops on a windshield.

They began appearing around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 8.

That Sunday, they were declared a miracle by Archbishop Clemis Eugene Kaplan of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. Since the miracle was announced, hundreds of visitors, from as far as Lake Tahoe and Los Angeles, have come to the Abdulaziz house to pray.

Jeff Sayegh, a family friend, was called to the home after the miracle occurred.

"We feel it is a blessing for the house, for the community and for Chico," he said.

Abdulaziz's wife asked him to bring a bottle of milk for their son, Sayegh said.

After giving her the bottle, Abdulaziz went into a trance and told his wife he was seeing a bright light. He then told her that their portrait of the Virgin Mary downstairs was dripping oil.

Downstairs she confirmed her husband's vision and found the wall and carpet soaked in odorless oil, Sayegh said. She made a holy cross on her forehead with the oil and then made one on her husband's head upstairs, which took him out of his trance. He said he didn't remember anything of what had happened.

Comment: Well, that proves it then, if the guy was in a trance and saw a bright light it must be true! Who needs objectivity in dealing with things of this nature when you can be made to "see lights"!? But we do wonder just what the real reason for these sort of "miracles" is. Perhaps if we look at the net result on the people who experience it?...

For Durghali's son, Matthew, it is the second portrait of the Virgin Mary dripping oil he's seen. The first time was in Detroit for a youth church convention.

"It surprises you and it brings back your faith," he said.

He said some people think there is a message within the miracle, but others think the miracle is the message.

"For me, it's bringing people back to their faith," Durghali said. "It gives you faith; it's a sign of hope."

Comment: Well, there it is. Perhaps this is the sort of thing that the Vatican spokespeople mean when they talk about attacking the "new age" religions. After all, if you can't beat em' ya gotta join 'em. It brings a whole new meaning to the term "blood, sweat and tears".

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Nepalese Sweating Statue

KATHMANDU, India (Wireless Flash) -- Hindu priests in a remote Nepal village are breaking out in a cold sweat over a stone statue of a deity that has also begun to mysteriously sweat for no apparent reason.

The priests take the sweaty signal as a sign that bad things are about to come and are now praying to spare the country and the people from disasters or calamities, according to Reuters.

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Strange Lights Spotted After Power Outage

(CBS 5 News)---It was a power surge that left up to 65-thousand Arizonans in the dark one week ago.

Now, some are pointing to strange lights in the skies as a possible link to that massive outage. The disturbance was large enough to shut-down all 3 units at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. About the same time as this massive power outage some people in the West Valley spotted something strange hovering in the sky. [see video at linked website] [...]

Astronomer, Steve Kates, known throughout the Valley as "Dr.Sky" sayshe believes the video is legit. Kates says he has seen a lot over the years but THIS sighting is special and similar to the "Phoenix Lights" sighting back in 1997. [...] But Dr. Sky says regardless of *WHAT* this is...the timing of this showing up.... so close to the Palo Verde Outage is interesting.

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Hip Bible is cool, says top Anglican

Thu Jun 24 2004
By Richard Starnes

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has personally endorsed a hipster version of the New Testament that renames Heaven "the world beyond time and space" and warns Christian couples against becoming sexually frustrated.

The fresh translation, entitled As Good As New, turns upside down St. Paul's warnings against fornication, which appear in the authorized King James version of the Bible.

It also changes original Greek and Hebrew names of major biblical figures into nicknames and refers to parables as "riddles" and baptism as a "dip" in water.

The book is the work of John Henson, translation co-ordinator of ONE, a British network of radical Christians that has long advocated inclusive language in the Bible.

Writing the foreword to the book, Archbishop Rowan Williams, the worldwide head of the Anglican church, suggests some parts will startle.

For example, the authorized Bible quotes St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 as saying: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman."

Henson's version says: "Some of you think the best way to cope with sex is for men and women to keep right away from one another. I think that is more likely to lead to sexual offences.

"My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner. Husbands and wives should strive to meet each other's sexual needs. They should submit to one another for that purpose. It's not good to refuse a partner."

Henson, who acknowledges he has devoted much of his life trying to screen out "stale, technical, unconsciously exclusive words" in order to make the Bible more easily accessible, has sought out modern ways to express almost everything.

Nicknaming prominent characters, for example. Mary Magdalene becomes Maggie, St. Peter becomes Rocky, Andronicus becomes Andy and Barabbas becomes Barry.

Then there is demon possession, which turns into mental illness, the Son of Man is the Complete Person and salvation becomes healing.

"John's presentations of the Christian gospel is of extraordinary power simply because it is so close to the prose and poetry of ordinary life," says Williams.

"We have here a vehicle for thinking and worshipping that is fully earthed... blunt and beautiful prayers, familiar hymns made fresh -- polished and reset, as John would say."

Williams points out that the Gospels explain how unprofessional, unreligious audiences were thrilled to hear the words of Jesus and suggests for that to be plausible today, "they will need something like John's renderings.

"His work is, for a large part of the 'religious' reading public, a well-kept secret. I hope this book will help the secret to be shared and to spread in epidemic profusion through religious and irreligious alike."

A few things get changed in hip version of the traditional Bible:

Mark 1:4
Authorized version:
"John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins."

New version: "John, nicknamed 'The Dipper', was 'The Voice'. He was in the desert, inviting people to be dipped, to show they were determined to change their ways and wanted to be forgiven."

Mark 1:9-11
Authorized version: "And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. And there came a voice from the heaven saying, Thou are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

New version: "Then Jesus came from Nazareth to be dipped by John in the Jordan. As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time a pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, 'That's my boy! You're doing fine!' "

Matthew 23:26
Authorized version: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess."

New version: "Take a running jump, Holy Joes, humbugs! You wash your plates and cups in case they've been used by bad people, and the luxury food and wine you eat and drink from those same plates and cups come from the profits of your shady business interests. You're blind to real dirt, you humbugs."

Comment: Although sadly humorous, this new version of the bible is perhaps a good example of how the such "historical sources" can very easily become corrupted in such a way that they don't even remotely resemble the authors' original words or ideas. How many times were various sections of the bible rewritten and translated over the years? For an interesting look at the bible, see Who Wrote the Bible?

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