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Friday, July 2, 2004

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Lighting at Lectoure
©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Signs of the Times Blacklisted?

When you take on everyone's sacred cows, you make more enemies than friends.

Fortunately, there are many people who are looking for news and commentary that isn't predigested. The Internet is a powerful tool. Those who have come of age since the birth of the World Wide Web may not fully appreciate how the net has faciliated communications and news gathering for those of us who know what the New York Times means when they intone "All the news that's fit to print". While we may feel alone among our colleagues, family, and friends because of our ideas and critical approach to the news, as well as our ability to see the apparent lying on the part of Bush and his cronies, through the Internet we quickly learn that there are others who share our views, or at least our questioning. We can link up with these other people, share ideas, learn to network and how to increase our ability to learn and SEE.

Knowing that this tremendous resource exists is one thing, finding what is valuable amidst the noise is something else. If you know a site exists and you have the URL, it isn't difficult to find. But how do you find information when you don't have a specific address?

Google.

Google is now the search engine with the highest visibility, what the marketing pundits call "brand awareness". Yes, there are other search engines, but most users pass by Google. Google is big business. It is also American. If the Powers That Be wanted to control the access to information on the net (does posing this possibility make us conspiracy theorists?), one of the ways they would do this would be by controlling the information on Google.

Signs of the Times has been providing news and commentary now for over two years. It has been daily since May 2003. Our articles and comments have been reposted in many languages on other sites and in news groups. We are linked to by dozens of other web sites. We link daily to a wide variety of sources. Google says that they base their ranking system on, among other things, links to and from other sites. Our own experience attests to this fact. Look at the following data from June 8, 2004:

Search term: "alternative news"
08 June 04 - Ranking position 142

Now look at the ranking for Signs of the Times five days later:

13 June 04 - No Ranking

Whoops! We no longer exist! We rather doubt that we suddenly, overnight as it were, lost our links or other objective criteria by which Google does its ranking.

When we checked earlier today, we were still among the desaparecidos, the disappeared. Google has the same power in the virtual world that the Argentinian generals had in Argentina under the junta. One day you're there, the next, you're gone.

Here are our rankings on Google for some other search terms:

Search term: "news coverage"
Ranking 426

Search term: "news commentary"
No Ranking out of 785 links

Search term: "world news"
No Ranking out of 824 links

Search term: "global news"
No Ranking out of 855 links

Search term: "signs"
Ranking 41

But let us imagine that through some fluke, someone sitting in his or her office over lunch manages to find our site on Google or another search engine, or clicks through on a link from another site. This doesn't mean that they will be able to read the site.

Signs of the Times is being "filtered" so that many readers cannot access the site. Corporations subscribe to site blocking software that censors what employees can and cannot access while they are on the job, even during their breaks.

One reader sent in the message that comes up on his screen when he attempts to access the site from his work computer:

Warning message

Access to this site is not available through [Company name deleted] group infrastructure. Nevertheless, if this access is required, we suggest that you make a request to your security correspondent.

Best regards.

Blacklist Filter Category

Access denied by WebWasher DynaBLocator content category. The requested URL belongs to the following category: Sects.

When we investigate as to exactly HOW this software "excludes" a site, we find at the DynaBLocator website:

Up-To-Date - Dynamic and Always Current

Internet filtering software is only as good as the shelf life of its URL database. Because DynaBLocator™ is dynamically generated and continually updated, webwasher.com AG customers always have access to an accurate URL database. This accuracy is a result of highly sophisticated URL classification:

  • The Internet is continually searched for certain image samples. All URLs containing questionable images are flagged or categorized.
  • Web sites are passed through a linguistic-semantic analysis and are categorized based on their textual content.

The URLs are, to a large extent, automatically assigned to the 58 DynaBLocator categories. These automated processes are "trained" by human reviewers, who also closely scrutinize particularly sensitive or dangerous content.

With respect to accuracy, comprehensiveness, and speed, this multi-modal approach is clearly superior to conventional ways of categorization, where editors are left to manually sort out Internet Web site content on their own.

The database generated by the indexed and categorized URLs is integrated into the customer's WebWasher EE using an automated procedure - without any downtime or security risks as it appears with conventional technology.

Notice, in particular this: "The Internet is continually searched for certain image samples. All URLs containing questionable images are flagged or categorized." Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of "images" and "censorship" is pornography.

Now, consider what occurred between us and Paypal. They closed down our account with no warning because of some offensive content they found on our site. Pornography? No.

After an exchange of email, Paypal finally told us what was "offensive" about our website. You can see it HERE.

The text reads:

Graphic Photos of What the U.S. Terrorist Regime has wrought

So what is offensive to PayPal is that we are showing pictures of the results of US bombing and fighting in occupied Iraq, the civilian casulties of American "smart bombs" and brainwashed troops.

Signs of the Times still regularly receives emails exhorting our emphasis on "negativity", and reprimanding us that we do not focus on the "light". We have discussed this in an open manner on the site (See In Sync 1, In Sync 2, Dear Readers, Shocks and Signs of the Times), but it seems that our discussions have merely incited more declarations that we are missing the point.

Some have written that people are waking up to the Bush Reich and there is even an awakening to the light and spirituality. Interesting response, since most of the Internet spreads this propaganda, and these people cannot tolerate even our little spot of cyberspace where this oh, so precious sacred cow is put to pasture.

We wonder if these same people would respond in this manner if these photos were of their children, their fathers, their mothers, their grandmothers, or their grandfathers, if the invading army was on US soil and not in a far-off land full of people who are not showing any "gratitude" that they have been "liberated". These people must not have pictures brought into their homes of families sweating and dying in Iraq like sitting ducks, or of their loved ones fighting back against the occupation after Bush has incited the Iraqis to violence with his psychopathic, blood lust cry of "Bring 'em On!"

This is still troubling, because we wonder where is the empathy. Perhaps the Bush Reich has such a firm grip in the propaganda saturated spin-land that it has managed to suppress natural reactions to others' pain. Just where is America's soul?

Does it even have one?

An important point here is that the photos were of Palestinians, not Jews. It is quite alright to publish graphic photos of dead and maimed Jews who have ostensibly been attacked by "fanatical Islamic suicide bombers," or the pictures of Jews in concentration camps during or at the end of World War II. But looking at what the Israelis are doing today, or what US troops are doing, is forbidden, unless, of course, it fits into a propaganda tussle between factions of the elite. If pictures of US troops torturing Iraqis appear on CBS News, then one must wonder who wants them there and why.

Our photos don't play into the hands of the elite, therefore the photos, and Signs of the Times, must be suppressed. But in order to make certain that we do not become martyrs, to be certain there is always the slightest element of doubt in the minds of legalistic nitpickers, it is done in such a way that it can be justified on another basis than that of censorship: technical problems and the like. PayPal's admission that it was the pictures of the victims of US terror is valuable because it was an explicit admission of political censorship.

This leads, of course, to the question: What it is about publishing the truth - including news photos of the truth - that makes one a "sect"? Has the propaganda machine decided simply to label anyone who deals with these issues a "sect"? In fact, most of what we publish is simply news that is drawn from mainstream and some alternative sources. We simply assemble it and comment on it.

How can that be labeled "sect activity"?

Back in 2001, just as the attacks on the World Trade Center were being perpetrated, cass.org came under similar attack by a gang of cyber-terrorists who we initially thought were simply "grifters" or con-men. One of the terror tactics they used against us, at this very, very early stage, was to plaster the Internet with defamatory accusations that we were a "cult". It was only as time went by that we began to realize that there was a controlling "hand" behind this activity and a most definite objective. Based on subsequent events, as well as the fact that the "cyber-terrorists" mentioned above seem to have almost unlimited time and funds to spend on defaming us, it began to become apparent that they and their new recruits are very well "connected," shall we say?

The activities of "blacklisting" and defamation ramped up again after we published MOSSAD and Moving Companies and still again after the publication of our special report on Ethnic Specific Weapons.

We notice that this last item, a subject that may be connected to the mysterious deaths of many scientists, but in particular, to the alleged "suicide" of Dr. David Kelly who was involved with ultra secret work at Israel’s Institute for Biological Research, has NOT been picked up as an "item of interest" by any other "alternative news" sites. In point of fact, it is the single most terrifying thing going on at the present time and has implications for ALL of humanity. The Israelis are developing weapons that can target victims through their DNA, or, which can target people to be "saved" on the basis of their DNA.

We also notice that most of these other "alternative news sites" are not being blacklisted.

However, if we are being targeted today, their turn will come.

In the blurb above from the DynaBLocator site, we also read the following:

* Web sites are passed through a linguistic-semantic analysis and are categorized based on their textual content.

What seems to be evident is that there is no "sect" content on our website, but there is most definitely content that must offend the Powers That Be. This content must also be a sufficient threat to them that they are handling us "very carefully." They certainly realize that to shut us down directly would only draw more attention to what we are publishing and how we assemble the clues from mainstream news. They don't want to make martyrs out of us either: that would also draw more attention to our work.

And so, in the true spirit of COINTELPRO, "third party groups" are created to do the dirty work for them.

But also, clearly, we now see the "controlling hand" at work in the Internet blackballing of our website. It hasn't been enough to fund little groups of cyber-terrorists to defame us. More direct ways are now being used to "shield" the public from what we publish. This only tells us that we are on the right track. We must be a real burr under their saddle.

A wise man once said, I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it.

Henry David Thoreau spent two years at Walden Pond working on a book. In late July of 1846, a little more than one year into Thoreau's stay at Walden Pond, he walked into Concord to get the hole in his shoe repaired, but as he was leaving the cobbler's store, Sam Staples, the town constable, asked him to pay his poll tax. Thoreau refused. He objected to the use of the revenues of this poll tax, which were to help finance the United States' war with Mexico and to support the enforcement of slavery laws. Thoreau wrote that "the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure."

Thoreau refused to pay his taxes and refused the offers made by Sam Staples himself to pay the tax. Since he refused to have his tax paid, Staples was required to take him to jail. Thoreau spent that night in jail. During that evening however, someone heard that Thoreau was in jail and paid the taxes owed. No one really knows for sure who paid the tax, but most believe it was his Aunt Maria Thoreau.

As soon as he found out that his tax had been paid, he was outraged and wanted to remain in jail. His argument was that since he himself was not the one who paid the taxes, he still deserved to be in jail. The evening he spent in jail prompted him to write what became one of his most famous essays and perhaps one of the most important political essays ever, "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience." In "Civil Disobedience" Thoreau asks all of us to question our actions and the actions of our state. He writes:

"Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? ...I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves abolitionists should at once effectively withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they constitute a majority of one, before they suffer the right to prevail through them ... Moreover, any man more right than his neighbors, consitutes a majority of one already."

"Civil Disobedience" and Henry David Thoreau have had great impact on the lives of people the world over.

Thoreau fought for the rights of the individual. He is the father of the modern concept of Civil Disobedience, later used successfully by Mahatma Gandhi, and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Thoreau says in the final paragraph of "Civil Disobedience":

"There will never be a free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly."

Ralph Waldo Emerson came to see Thoreau while he was in jail and asked him why he was there. Emerson asked "Why not just pay the tax?"

Thoreau replied, "Are you against the war?"

"Yes."

"Then the question is," responded Thoreau, "what are you doing out there?"

Thoreau's views of justice can be seen in the following statements about injustice. If government, "is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn."

Thoreau cherished the rights of the minority to voice their opinion. He questions of our government, "Why does it not cherish its wise minority? . . . Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?" Thoreau believed that freedom of speech was the most cherished of all rights, and that we should never relinquish that right, for any reason.

Let us make it clear that we do not advocate breaking the law, because surely, quoting Thoreau's remarks will be twisted to suggest that we are saying such a thing by our friendly cyber-terrorists. We do, however, suggest that our work here on the Signs of the Times is a "counter friction" to governments that are machines of injustice. And certainly, we are being "excommunicated" for this.

If in today's climate in the US, a climate that is slowly pervading the globe, thinking such thoughts and defending our right to speak and think critically is to be "cultish", is it too outlandish to imagine that tomorrow we, and others like us, will be labelled "terrorists"?

Perhaps it is becoming an act of Civil Disobediance to to link to Signs and other sites that question the status quo and raise issues that the others try so hard to ridicule and discredit.

Olympic security shield still has holes

By Harry de Quetteville in Piraeus
02/07/2004

Greece began a huge deployment of security forces around Olympic venues yesterday to seal off the Athens Games from terrorist attack. The army, navy, police and coastguard were all mobilised.

The move was the long-promised "lockdown" after which venues are to be swept for bombs and constantly monitored before events start on Aug 13.

But the operation was severely hampered by the building delays which continue to plague preparations. While 11,000 police and soldiers established checkpoints around some venues, 59,000 are yet to be deployed.

The late completion of surveillance systems and the perimeter fencing may allow only 72 hours for the main stadium to be swept for bombs before the opening.

The sliding security deadlines are a result of the around-the-clock construction works which are still under way. At the main Olympic venue, where there is a 75,000-seat athletics stadium as well as a swimming centre and velodrome, convoys of buses ferried dozens of police and camouflaged soldiers to the gates yesterday.

Buses were easily outnumbered by the concrete mixers which raced into the venue unchecked every couple of minutes.

Next to one gate, which was guarded by dozens of officers, an unprotected 100-yard gap without fencing led straight to the running track.

None the less, the £650 million rolling deployment signals Greece's intent to ensure the safety of the first summer Games since the September 11 attacks.

Security oficials have been worried that Greece's long coastline could be almost impossible to protect against seaborne terrorism like the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 and was blamed on al-Qa'eda.

Suicide missions on explosives-laden boats are a particular threat as thousands of VIPs will be living in "floating hotels" - luxury liners moored in Piraeus harbour during the Games. During an exercise off Piraeus aboard a coastguard battle boat yesterday, Capt Elias Smyrnakis said Greek waters would be impregnable.

"On the ocean we have the navy, inshore we have the coastguard and in the harbour we will have divers," he said. With a mounted 50mm machinegun and up to five special forces personnel aboard for the Games, the captain said he had orders to sink any boat that threatened Piraeus.

"No terrorist will reach the floating hotels," he said

Comment: We do not doubt that it would be virtually impossible for actual Arab terrorists, with limited resources, know-how and funding, to mount an attack at the Olympics this year - but that does not mean there will be no attack. The Greeks could do everything possible to protect the Olympic village and stadiums from an attack from without, but if they overlook the possibility of an attack from within, they are sitting ducks.

The Mossad's mode of operation is to infiltrate the country they wish to attack long before (many years in some cases) the planned attack. They do this using a variety of means. Fake passports and identification for temporary agents, long term business fronts, complete with stock, clients and purchasing history, Israeli diplomatic contacts within the host country, etc. For example, if the Mossad planned to bomb the Olympics in Greece this year, they will probably have a business contact or own an actual business that has been involved in the building of the stadiums or perhaps overseeing some aspect of the private contract security services. They may even own a catering business involved with the Olympics - the possibilities are manifold.

One other vital resource which the Mossad uses to great effect is "Sayanim". Victor Ostrovsky tells us in his book, "By way of deception" that Sayanim are ordinary Jews living in the host country, who can be relied on to help with the logistics of setting up an attack. They might provide safe houses or a plausible alibi. Most of these Sayanim are fed a cover story which usually involves playing on their "patriotism" to ensure their co-operation. The point in all of this is to highlight the insidiousness of the Mossad and the lengths which its agents will go to to further the goals of Israel and the Zionists.

The above Reuters report mentions the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, which was attributed to al-Qaeda, which is Mossad front, as the following article shows...

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The USS Cole bombing against the backdrop of Israeli "Black Propaganda" Operations

by Michael Gillespie

Many in the Arab and Muslim communities in the United States are inclined to suppose that Israel may be responsible for the terror-bombing of the USS Cole in the Yemen port city of Aden on October 13. Although few Americans would suspect Israel, a trusted U.S. ally, of such a dastardly act, they may well be wrong while better informed and more experienced Arab and Muslim observers may be correct.

The Israeli intelligence agencies have a long history of carrying out what have been called "black propaganda" operations. Such covert actions are designed to create suspicion and inflame animosity between Israel's perceived enemies in the Middle East and Americans. While Israel's deadly surprise attack on the USS Liberty on June 6, 1967, is now widely viewed as having been carried out for the purp twoof keeping the USS Liberty's electronic monitoring capabilities from uncovering and reporting to Washington on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)'s military preparations in advance of the attack on the Golan Heights, which would have allowed the Johnson administration to apply diplomatic pressure to forestall the IDF's aggression against Syria, there are many other clear examples of Israeli intelligence agencies engaging in "black propaganda" for the purpose of damaging the public image of Arabs and Arab states and organizations and fomenting trouble between Arabs and Arab states and organizations and the U.S. government.

Lets look at just three examples. The hi-jacking of the Italian cruise ship the Achille Lauro by "Palestinian terrorists" was later reliably reported by former IDF arms dealer Ari Ben-Menashe in his 1992 book, "Profits of War: Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network", to have been ordered and funded by Mossad. Ben-Menashe revealed that Israeli intelligence organizations regularly engaged in "black operations," espionage activity designed to portray Palestinians and others in the worst possible light. "An example," wrote Ben-Menashe, "is the case of the 'Palestinian' attack on the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. That was, in fact, an Israeli 'black' propaganda operation to show what a deadly, cutthroat bunch the Palestinians were." According to Ben-Menashe, Israeli spymasters arranged the attack through "Abu'l Abbas, who, to follow such orders was receiving millions from Israeli intelligence officers posing as Sicilian dons. Abbas . . . gathered a team to attack the cruise ship. The team was told to make it bad, to show the world what lay in store for other unsuspecting citizens if Palestinian demands were not met. As the world knows, the group picked on an elderly American Jewish man in a wheelchair, killed him, and threw his body overboard. They made their point. But for Israel, it was the best kind of anti- Palestinian propaganda."

It should be noted that in April 1996, Abbas returned to Gaza and in a show of support for Yasser Arafat apologized for the hi-jacking and the killing of the American Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer without mentioning him by name, saying, "The hi-jacking was a mistake, and there were no orders to kill civilians." Abbas made no mention of Mossad involvement in the hi-jacking according to the April 23, 1996 Associated Press report.

The attack by over 150 U.S. warplanes on Libya, on April 14, 1986, which caused great destruction and over 40 civilian deaths including that of Col. Qaddafi's adopted daughter, was carried out only after Mossad field agents entered Libya in February of 1986 and placed a "Trojan" radio transmitter there to broadcast false signals, according to former Mossad field officer Victor Ostrovsky writing in The Other Side of Deception: A Rogue Agent Exposes the Mossad's Secret Agenda in 1994. The spurious signals duped American intelligence officials monitoring the broadcasts causing them to believe the Libyan government was sponsoring terrorism in Europe and was responsible for the deadly April 5, 1986, terror-bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin which took the lives of two American soldiers and a Turkish woman. Reports that Spanish and French intelligence agencies were not fooled by the Israeli "Trojan" transmitter broadcasts lend credence to suggestions that American intelligence officials may have been unable to resist political pressure for retaliation or perhaps exercised judgment that was influenced by Israeli sympathies. If, as it appears, Libya was not responsible for the bombing of the Berlin night spot and the loss of three lives, the question of who was remains unanswered, as does another obvious question: Was it the Mossad? Ostrovsky also revealed Israeli espionage that occurred on American soil, in Washington, DC. in 1979. In his scathing 1990 expose, By Way of Deception: A Devastating Insiders Portrait of the Mossad,

Ostrovsky reported that Mossad agents bugged the home of a Middle Eastern diplomat during the administration of Jimmy Carter in order to embarrass the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, after Young sought to establish informal talks with PLO representatives. When Young met with the unofficial United Nations PLO representative Zehdi Labib Terzi "accidentally" in the home of a friendly diplomat, Kuwaiti Ambassador Abdalla Yaccoub Bishara, listening devices planted surreptitiously and without Terzi's knowledge by Mossad field officers recorded every word of the diplomats conversation. The incident soon became front-page news in the Zionists' most prominent U.S. propaganda organ, The New York Times, and President Carter caved in to public pressure and asked for Young's resignation. Thus, that early effort to establish relations between the U.S. government and the PLO became a footnote in history when, on September 23, 1979, Young resigned from his position. Young, an African American, has never since served in the upper levels of government.

Quite apparently, the Mossad and other Israeli intelligence organizations have long enjoyed the ability to operate more or less freely in the United States and around the world. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) attempted to rein in Israel's intelligence organizations activities in the USA with an investigation of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the early 1990s. The ADL, which is nothing less than the Mossad's right arm in the U.S.A. disguised as a civil rights monitoring organization, was forced to curtail its operations for a period of time during the 1990s following the limited success of the investigation, which the FBI, bowing to political pressures, passed on to the Office of the San Francisco District Attorney. Press accounts of the FBI/SFDA investigation were limited relative to the obvious importance of the story, and some major American news organizations simply ignored the ADL spy scandal altogether.

The remarkable effectiveness of Israel's current propaganda campaign against Palestinians makes it abundantly clear that Israel's intelligence assets in mainstream broadcast news organizations, most of which are subsidiaries of Zionist-owned or managed entertainment industry conglomerates, are able to exert consistent and heavy influence on, if not absolute control over, the public discussion here in the USA and abroad about almost all matters related to Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East.

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Qaeda threatens Europe attacks after July 15 expiry of truce offer

July 2, 2004

DUBAI (AFP) - A purported Al-Qaeda statement has threatened attacks in Europe if there is no response to a truce offer by Osama bin Laden that expires on July 15.

"To the European people... you only have a few more days to accept bin Laden's peace offer or you will only have yourselves to blame," said the statement carried by the London-based Asharq al-Awsat and attributed to the "Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades".

The statement, whose authenticity could not be immediately verified, also told Muslims in the West to move to Muslim countries or avoid non-Muslim neighbourhoods in their host countries.

"To those Muslims living in the West... If you can migrate to Muslim countries, do so. He who does not have the means to leave should take precautions by living in Muslim neighbourhoods", the statement said.

On April 15, the terror chief offered peace to European countries that refrain from aggression towards Muslims and those that pulled their troops out of the Muslim world within three months from its announcement.

Bin Laden's taped message, broadcast by the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television, said that for all European countries that accept the offer, "peace will come into force with the departure of (their) last soldier from our countries."

"I present a reconciliation initiative... whose essence is our commitment to stop operations against all (European) countries if they promise not to be aggressive towards Muslims or interfere in their affairs, like the American plot against the big Islamic world," said the voice on the tape.

"For those who want peace, we offer it to them. Stop spilling our blood to protect yours," said the voice. "The solution is in your hands!"

European leaders promptly dismissed the apparent offer, saying the idea of negotiating with bin Laden was absurd.

Friday's statement also advised Muslims staying in Western countries to stockpile food and be prepared to defend themselves.

"(He who stays) should store food for himself and his family, enough for a month, and should have the means to defend himself and his family... (He) should keep money at home enough for a month or longer", it added.

The statement, a copy of which was later sent to AFP by Asharq al-Awsat, also warned that Yemen would become a "third swamp" for the United States.

It said the terror network aims to widen its conflict with the United States and lead it "into a third swamp, after Iraq and Afghanistan".

"We say to the Brigades of Abu Ali al-Harithi that the leadership has chosen Yemen to be the third swamp for this era's tyrant, the US", the statement added.

It also said Al-Qaeda's "leadership decided to discipline the blasphemous and puppet government (of Yemen)".

"To the tyrant (President) Ali Abdulah Salah, did you understand the messages from Saada and al-Huthi?" the statement said, in reference to ongoing clashes in Yemen's northern Saada province between supporters of extremist preacher Hussein Badr Eddin al-Huthi and the army.

Fighting since June 19 in the area, which lies near the border with Saudi Arabia, has left at least 81 dead, including 12 soldiers, according to an AFP count.

Huthi is a preacher from the Zaidi community, a moderate Shiite Muslim sect dominant in northwestern Yemen but in the minority in the mainly Sunni country.

Yemeni authorities accuse him of stirring trouble by organising anti-US demonstrations.

Comment: In the past, when a new audio or video message allegedly from Osama bin Laden surfaced, the CIA was quick to perform a complicated and technologically advanced analysis of the message. Usually, the conclusion was that the CIA was sort of certain that the message was indeed genuine. After countless years of development, we at Signs of the Times have developed our own highly advanced terrorist message analysis hardware and software. We call it: Our Brains.

After powering up our hardware by eating lunch, we fed this latest "al-Qaeda" message into our super-whiz-bang device and allowed its multiple neural network processors to work their magic. Seven seconds and zero tax dollars later, we received the following output:

Mossad threatens Europe attacks after July 15 expiry of truce offer

July 2, 2004

ISRAEL - A message from Mossad posing as Al-Qaeda has threatened attacks in Europe if there is no response to a truce offer made by Mossad posing as Osama bin Laden that expires on July 15.

On April 15, Mossad offered "peace" to European countries that refrain from aggression towards Muslims and those that pulled their troops out of the Muslim world within three months from its announcement.

Friday's new message begins, "To the European people... you only have a few more days to continue to reject our 'peace offer' or you will only have yourselves to blame," said the statement carried by the London-based Asharq al-Awsat and attributed to Mossad - although the cooperation of the CIA and the Bush family's desire to rule the world were certainly a factor in spreading the statement.

The message continues:

"As expected, European leaders promptly dismissed our bogus offer back in April, saying the idea of negotiating with bin Laden was absurd. Obviously, we never expected you to negotiate with terrorists. This whole 'threat' thing is just a ruse to pull all of you into 'George Bush's' war on terror. Hey, we've got a tiny little country here, and even the US can't kill ALL the Arabs for us. So, you are going to help us out whether you like it or not."

"To those Muslims living in the West... If you can migrate to Muslim countries, do so. This will make it far easier for us to kill all of you off. We can't very well have the US and Europe spending a lot of energy weeding you out. He who does not have the means to leave should paint a target on his forehead by living in Muslim neighbourhoods. That way, the US and Europe will have a much easier time converting your neighbourhoods into concentration camps - kinda like we're doing with the Palestinians right now", the statement said.

Friday's statement also advised Muslims staying in Western countries to stockpile food and be prepared to defend themselves.

"(He who stays) should store food for himself and his family, enough for a month, and should have the means to defend himself and his family... (He) should keep money at home enough for a month or longer", it added.

"Given that we intend to turn all Muslim neighborhoods into concentration camps, our suggestion to stockpile food, money, and weapons may seem kind of stupid. It's actually a rather brilliant move on our part. You see, when Europe and the US decide to crack down on their Arab populations, it will look like the filthy dogs are all terrorists who have prepared for war with their respective governments. It's similar to the whole militia movement in the US."

The statement, a copy of which was later sent to AFP by a Mossad operative, also warned that Yemen would become a "third swamp" for the United States.

It said the Zionists and the Neocons aim to steer the United States, "into a third swamp, after Iraq and Afghanistan".

"We say to the Brigades of Abu Ali al-Harithi (we made that name up - teehee!) that the Zionist/Neocon leadership has chosen Yemen to be the third swamp for this era's tyrant, the US", the statement added.

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Palestinians Execute 'Collaborator' in Town Square

Fri Jul 2
By Wael al-Ahmad

QABATIYA, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian militants publicly executed an accused collaborator with Israel with machineguns in a West Bank town square on Friday after a throng of Palestinian onlookers called for him to die.

Wild celebrations broke out among the hundreds of spectators after four gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, shot father-of-two Muhammad Rafiq Daraghmeh, 45, in Qabatiya.

Militants had hustled Daraghmeh into the square before assembled townsfolk and told them: "This man, as you know ... gave information to Israel on the whereabouts of our fighters. What should his sentence be?"

"Execution!" roared the crowd.

The militants gunned down Daraghmeh seconds later and residents both young and old cheered and chanted around his prone, bloodied corpse. A Reuters correspondent witnessed the execution.

Militant groups have killed at least 30 compatriots accused of being informers for Israeli forces fighting an almost four-year-old revolt in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Qabatiya residents said Daraghmeh had guided soldiers to hideouts of militants where they were captured or killed.

"It was necessary to make (Daraghmeh) an example for others to deter them from collaborating," said Jamal Abu Rab, local commander of the Brigades and regarded as the town's strongman.

A relative of Daraghmeh said he had been disowned by his clan. "What he did was shameful. We considered him no longer one of us. We don't know if we will even retrieve his body for burial," said the cousin, who asked not to be named.

But some residents were quietly critical of the execution. "Daraghmeh should have been tried in a Palestinian court so he could defend himself. Only a judge can pass sentence, to avoid random killing," said a town worker.

Palestinian Authority officials also voiced dismay.

"We want every act to be carried out via legal channels and oppose anyone who behaves otherwise. However, we are incapable of enforcing law and order in Palestinian areas (subject to) occupation," said Local Government Minister Jamal al-Shobaki.

Comment: Given the evidence that Israel has itself established and funded some so-called Palestinian groups, we have to wonder just who these members of "al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades" that carried out the killing really were. We note that their actions were condemned by the PA, and also the comments of the PA minister that they are powerless to do anything about these executions while the IDF controls the area. It is certainly in Israel's interest that Palestinians are portrayed to the world as "bloodthirsty animals".

Speaking of bloodthirsty animals....

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Israeli forces shoot Palestinian boy dead as he plays football

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
02 July 2004

A nine-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli forces yesterday as he played football, local residents said after armoured vehicles once again entered the southern Gaza town of Rafah. [...]

The boy killed in Rafah, named as Omar Za'ran, was pronounced dead by medics at the local hospital, after he was brought in from the Brazil section of the town's refugee camp. Bashir Abu Jlidan, 18, said: "We were playing football when Israeli tanks ... started firing inside the camp and towards us." He said that the boy had fallen to the ground, bleeding.

Palestinian sources said a force of 15 armoured vehicles backed by Apache helicopters had entered the town. The army said it was a mission to find and destroy tunnels used by militants to smuggle weapons. It added that it was still checking reports of the boy's death.

The army, which was still operating in Rafah last night, said it had discovered the shaft of a tunnel under abandoned stores near the Brazil camp. Palestinian sources said the force had begun to destroy houses in the area.

Meanwhile, witnesses said Israeli helicopters had fired two missiles into Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, injuring several people, one critically. Israeli military bulldozers began destroying olive groves and orchards in Beit Hanoun to strip militants of cover.

And in a third Gaza incident, the sources said last night that at least one Palestinian gunman had been shot dead by an army patrol protecting the Jewish settlement of Netzarim.

Earlier yesterday Israeli forces launched a raid into the normally quiet West Bank town of Jericho. The army said it had arrested 30 wanted Palestinians and had found weapons, including rifles and grenades.

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Masked gunmen show mercy as Turkish hostages vow not to work for US in Iraq

July 2, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Masked gunmen in Iraq said they set two Turkish hostages free in a rare show of mercy after relatives pleaded for their release and the cowering pair promised never to work for the "filthy" Americans again.

The latest release capped a good week for Ankara and the newly sovereign Iraqi government following the freeing on Tuesday of three other Turks held by an Al-Qaeda-linked extremist group, hours before their threatened beheading.

But it struck a worrying note for the scores of foreign companies working on US-funded reconstruction projects in the violent country. [...]

Murat Kizil, 26, and Soner Sercali, 27, who worked for Turkish firm Kayteks repairing air conditioners in the northern city of Kirkuk before their disappearance in early June, were finally on their way home, the diplomat added.

Video footage released by the hostage-takers showed the terrified-looking pair squatting on the floor at an undisclosed location in front of two armed men apparently promising not to work on US contracts in Iraq.

The two each made a short statement to the camera in Turkish before one of the captors, dressed in a long white robe with his face shrouded in a black and white headscarf read out a statement explaining the group's decision to free them.

"We have warned people against assisting the occupation forces in Iraq, especially the filthy United States forces," the militant said in the video, dropped off anonymously at the Reuters news agency in Baghdad on Friday morning.

But the Turkish government and companies have ignored the warning and in doing so have endangered the lives of anyone working for them, he said.

On this occasion, however, the militants decided to be kind.

In part because of "the pleas of the captives' families, the promises of the two captives not to do such work again and their promise to help the company to withdraw from Iraq we have decided to release them unconditionally," the man said. [...]

Comment: So much for the image of "al-Qaeda" terrorists in Iraq as heartless, cold-blooded killers...

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Is Our President a Whackjob? Does It Matter?

By JOE BAGEANT
July 1, 2004

Supposedly, if you put live frogs in a kettle of cold water on the stove, then raise the temperature very slowly, the frogs will eventually boil to death without trying to escape. I don't know if that is true, but it does seem the perfect, if sometimes overused, analogy for what we see going on around us in America. My guess is that we frogs are about medium done for. Having never cooked frogs or lived in a fascist state, I am not a practiced judge of these things, but I'm quite sure the end result of either is in no way desirable for frogs or human beings.

I do notice however, that some frogs are turning quite red. Here in the States there is now a trend of wearing red on Fridays in silent protest of the Bush junta. Reportedly, this is modeled after a 1940 practice by citizens of Nazi occupied Norway, though it is hard to imagine why oppressed Norwegians would do anything that might make them stand out to their oppressors. Still, urban legend or not, it's all over the Internet and one would suppose quite a few people on the "left-coast" are sporting red. By now, it's probably old hat out there.

Not so here in the Washington D.C. area, where we have always thought twice before expressing dissent with any administration, given that the government dominates employment and many other aspects of our lives, either directly or indirectly. If your employer does not sell something to the government, your spouse may well work in a federal agency, etc. Political views do affect things at work, and it is usually best to keep them to yourself. But these days many of us feel something stranger than normal Washington politics going on---an unseen, mostly unspoken, but surely felt atmosphere of spooky fear.

Is it chilly in here, or is that the leer of a mad man?

Still though, the Eastern Seaboard has always been more repressed than the West. So if you mention in polite company how spooky our current political regime seems, most will look at you like you are crazy, or perhaps even explode into a fanatical defense of George W. Bush, in which case you know you have pressed a neo-con's button. Only a minority here will openly discuss the chilling parallels that informed people see in the Bush junta with the rise of Nazi Germany. This is partly because the more hysterical liberals have abused that analogy to death since the beginning of the administration, before there was much evidence; so it is has been considered off limits in moderate, intelligent circles.

This is slowly changing I believe, because it is now becoming obvious that George W. Bush is not merely dumb---he may well be nuts. Every day his actions look more like a genuinely disordered and dangerous mind at work. Not exactly news to those of us who long ago read the same observation on the Internet, or in recently published books to that effect. But what is news is that ordinary nonpolitical white collar working puds, the dreary commuter tribes, in the suburbs and outlying towns are starting to whisper it among themselves. So maybe are beginning to more openly address the question of whether our commander in chief is a certifiable loopjob---and if he is, just what kind of nuts he may be---and do so in language average literate folks can understand without covering the entire Jungian cosmology or diving into Freud's turgid depths. In calling numerous psychiatrist friends, I learned it is considered unethical for licensed psychiatrists to comment publicly on the mental state of an American president, and I can't say I disagree with that. But the mind of the guy who now has one finger on the red nuclear button and the other up his nose is a matter that should be talked about and is being talked about and I'll be damned if I'm going to avoid it. So we will have to punt and hope for the best.

Let's keep it simple: Stupidity alone cannot account for George Bush's behavior---especially when his behavior so well matches known pathologies. For example, if an ordinary citizen believed he was being directed by God to attack "the governments where the Bible happened," as he once described the Middle East, or thought that ordering the execution of a criminal was funny as hell, or saw everyone who disagreed with him as an agent of the Devil, he or she would be put on some heavy meds at the very least. Hell, I've been medicated for a lot less.

A fellow named Paul Levy in Florida has circulated an email calling Bush's condition "malignant narcissism." As an off-again-on-again enthusiast of Jung and Freud, I was naturally interested in this, and after dredging up what I remember from psychology classes, a few books (and yes, a long stint in therapy myself) his observations seem at least a little insightful. If nothing else, he has given us some terms and contexts in which to consider what is going on. Contexts we will certainly never hear or see in the media.

According to Levy, Bush's behavior would be normal behavior for a malignant narcissist who finds himself with the kind of power a US president has. The narcissist would conclude that he is divinely inspired by God and see his command of the world's mightiest army and its wealthiest nation as proof God blesses his efforts. In some ways that makes him an average American. Thanks to our Puritan beginnings, we have long believed that power and wealth are manifestations of God's preference for an individual or a nation, and unfortunately tend to act on to this mystical assumption. Whether we are saving the world from communism by killing Southeast Asians or covertly assassinating the democratically elected leftist president of a Latin American nation, it is viewed as liberating the planet from the evil boogers Americans see everywhere, but which emanate from our own national psyche. The world being imperfect, America's quest to make it perfect it by destroying all it considers impure can only lead to much world destruction, of course. It also bears a nasty resemblance to the Nazi obsession with purification.

Another characteristic of malign narcissism is said to be a near or absolute lack of compassion. So when George Bush laughed and mocked the last-minute pleading of Carla Faye Tucker, whom he sent to the death chamber in Texas, ("Ohhh, pleeeeze don't kill me!" he mimicked in a scornful whine on a conservative talk show) he had no idea saner people do not find this funny. I am told it is characteristic of malignant narcissists not to feel any remorse whatsoever. We might also assume that the deaths of American GIs have little effect on him either, though he must pretend so on camera.

Comment: See our Special Report on Psychopathy.

Ass-scratchers God = strange times indeed

Bush doesn't fit our image of the hysterical madman exhorting a nation down a megalomaniacal path toward horror. In fact, most Americans, and quite understandably, would rather have a beer and watch a game with George Bush than, say, with Al Gore. Meaning that George Bush has what campaign strategists call "ass-scratcher appeal" with the average guy. He also seems to have a mesmerizing effect on conservative Americans that is totally inexplicable to the rest of us. He can lie, then lie about the lie, then all but admit he lied and they still come running and falling like wheat before the sickle.

Personally, I think it is the power of delusion (having deluded some ex-wives, bosses and the IRS a few times myself,) Bush's own and our national one. In his personal delusion Bush is so convinced of his own words that he comes off as very convincing to others. He is very seductive to most Americans' concept of themselves as a nation. To them he looks like the first president in a long time to assert what is "right about America," and especially so following a president who was deemed "slick" and kept a woman under his desk (Which strikes some of us coarser types as pretty damned slick if you can get away with it.) Bush has charisma to those who believe the world is a mean place and that subtler considerations only get in the way. Especially fearful conservatives, always operating from the politics of scarcity, fearful of losing what they have gained materially, those being the core operating values of standard conservatism. Neo-conservatives, of course, are willing to kill you to get it in the first place.

If Bush has given conservatives cause for joy, he has given fundamentalist Christians an absolute hard-on. With tears of joy and praise, they have embraced him as their long-awaited national savior, and if the concept of malign narcissism is right, about the only thing a narcissist finds more appealing than being president is being the Messiah. So, hand-in-hand Bush and these Christian soldiers, clothed in the infallible rightness of their agenda---an ultra-fundamentalist Christian America with dominion over a world hammered (bombed if need be) into a likeness of itself, they stomp forward in close hoplite ranks.

Bush poses against backdrops that make halos of the presidential seal appearing as Christ-like as possible. The adoring throng does not fail to be properly inspired, despite his congenital close-eyed squint. Even without psychological theories of narcissism, the whole idea of ecstatic Christian masses spotting a halo around Bush's head in Newsweek seems a little nuts at face value, though it must make Karl Rove pee his pants with glee in that campaign headquarters known as the White House.

Now comes the Hitler analogy, and I'll be damned if I am going to apologize for it: Just as Hitler struck a chord deep in the German unconscious, Bush is touching something within the American unconscious. Whether he is a manifestation of our national mental state, or whether we are unwitting agents of his could be argued. It certainly seems symbiotic. We did elect him for a reason, and history will probably record that reason as not being a very pretty one, the similarities in our national behavior being unnervingly similar to those of pre-war Germany. Why do so many assumedly decent, normal Americans support insane actions such as the Iraq War, strange off-shore wire cage prisons in Cuba, the government's own admission of a dozen secret prisons around the world, or stubborn opposition to the world tribunal for war criminals and ethnic cleansers? Doesn't anyone find these things strange?

In fact, doesn't anyone find it strange that two Bushes were elected president so closely together, the father being less than gifted, and the son as useless as tits on a boar hog? (Except at escaping his many failed businesses with loads of cash, rather like the gambler who shoots out the lights and grabs the pot.) If that's not strange I don't know what is. When Fidel Castro offered to monitor the 2000 presidential election count in Florida, we probably could not have done any worse by taking him up on it. Yet most Americans, including their media, did not seem to find all this one bit odd, and pretended that the Brownshirts torching black votes on down in Florida (despite the Brownshirts being orchestrated by yet a third Bush!) was just another zany little election fracas. Since then, the ACLU has won a lawsuit proving that it was indeed a mugging going on in Florida, and the courts have ordered those tens of thousands of black voters restored to the rolls. The Republican dominated state's reply has been an unspoken but clear as hell, "fuck you!" Those black voters are still off the rolls as I write. [...]

When push comes to shove

[...] Meanwhile, it is hard not to notice that the administration polarized around Bush displays the same meanness. They see the same spooks, enemies and demons to be eliminated in every corner of the world and at home. The whole crew gives international law, the Geneva Conventions and civil liberties the same sneer. Are they as sick as he is? Or are they just one big happy dysfunctional family in which they play the role of enablers? Or did they simply end up there because of the twisted trajectory of their own career passage through the bowels of the military-industrial-political monolith? But when you stand back, and look at where they all came from, look at the entire interconnected apparatus of the military industrial war machine, the gutless complicity of big corporate media, our numbed, engorged culture of destruction and consumptionit all becomes too much to bear.

Too much to bear. Well, if push comes to shove and shove comes to worse, some of us seem not about to bear it at all. One can get a dual passport as a safety precaution, as an escape option. Scarcely a week goes by that I do not meet a person who confides that he or she is considering just that, because of our present political condition (Let's be honest here in these lefty communications masquerading as Internet essays. How many readers have considered the idea?) I cannot verify it with immigration application figures, but I would suspect there is at least some increase in the number of Americans seeking to emigrate to places such as Great Britain, or New Zealand or Canada.

A New Zealand newspaper recently ran an editorial welcoming liberal Americans, called them asylum seekers and opining that New Zealand should ease its strict immigration standards for them because those fleeing tend to be educated, creative people with high ideals. They must be observing something from down there. Speaking for myself, I cannot decide about emigrating. Is it best to agree with Greg Palast and Gore Vidal that it is safer to shoot at the bastards from across the waters? Fighting from within is beginning to look like a lesser option every day. Or should one take the stance of Marine Corps hero Chesty Puller, who said: "The enemy is in front of us. The enemy is behind us. He is to our right and to our left. We can't miss'em now, boys!" That sounds good, but one person never beats a mob.

A whiff of hopelessness hangs in the air. After all, we live in a country in which nearly a million citizens marched for women's lives last April in Washington D.C., yet barely made the local news, and then only because of the traffic congestion, not the issue. We are talking about a country whose non-elected leader called the largest global demonstrations in human history---the worldwide demonstrations against the then-impending war in Iraq---a "focus group." Most Americans do not even know that it took place.

Is it truly possible to be heard in such a nation? If it is impossible for sane dissent, (real dissent, not just the corporate-sponsored stage-prop Democratic Party opposition), to have a national voice, then all our frogs are already cooked. In which case it has ceased to matter that we may have another of history's full blown wackjobs as our leader.

As you can see, at the moment I am in a grim quandary. So are many others, I am sure. But given the vicissitudes of the human spirit, we can take comfort in that tomorrow is yet another summer day, one that can be traversed on the smooth plank of gin and tonic.

Pour'em!

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Bush Seeks to Mobilize Religious Conservatives

By David Morgan
Jul 1, 8:03 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush, seeking to mobilize religious conservatives for his reelection campaign, has asked church-going volunteers to turn over church membership directories, campaign officials said on Thursday.

In a move sharply criticized both by religious leaders and civil libertarians, the Bush-Cheney campaign has issued a guide listing about two-dozen "duties" and a series of deadlines for organizing support among conservative church congregations.

A copy of the guide obtained by Reuters directs religious volunteers to send church directories to state campaign committees, identify new churches that can be organized by the Bush campaign and talk to clergy about holding voter registration drives.

The document, distributed to campaign coordinators across the country earlier this year, also recommends that volunteers distribute voter guides in church and use Sunday service programs for get-out-the-vote drives.

"We expect this election to be potentially as close as 2000, so every vote counts and it's important to reach out to every single supporter of President Bush," campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

But the Rev. Richard Land, who deals with ethics and religious liberty issues for the Southern Baptist Convention, a key Bush constituency, said he was "appalled."

"First of all, I would not want my church directories being used that way," he told Reuters in an interview, predicting failure for the Bush plan.

The conservative Protestant denomination, whose 16 million members strongly backed Bush in 2000, held regular drives that encouraged church-goers to "vote their values," said Land.

"But it's one thing for us to do that. It's a totally different thing for a partisan campaign to come in and try to organize a church. A lot of pastors are going to say: 'Wait a minute, bub'," he added. [...]

"Any coordination between the Bush campaign and church leaders would clearly be illegal," said a statement from the activist group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

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Florida Must Release List of Ineligible Voters

Thu Jul 1, 2004
By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida must release a list of suspected felons it wants purged from voter registration rolls so the names can be checked to avoid errors that wrongly disenfranchised voters in the state's disputed 2000 election, a state judge ruled on Thursday.

CNN, ABC and other news and civil rights groups sued to get copies of the list in order to check its accuracy before November's presidential election.

A similar purge list used in 2000 contained hundreds and possibly thousands of errors, barring some eligible Florida voters from the state's presidential balloting. Republican George W. Bush gained the White House after winning Florida by 537 votes after a recount battle.

"This is good news for voters because now these records will be open and available for public inspection to help protect the right of every eligible voter in Florida," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, one of the plaintiffs.

In 2000, many of the barred voters were blacks, who skew Democratic, and who charged they were deliberately disenfranchised to influence the outcome. The errors also enabled some ineligible voters such as felons to obtain ballots.

Florida permanently bars convicted felons from voting unless they have undergone an administrative process to have their civil rights restored after serving their sentences.

In May, the state Department of Elections identified 47,763 people who may not be eligible to vote because of felony convictions and urged county election supervisors to verify the lists and purge the voter registration rolls accordingly.

News organizations wanted to review the new list to check for errors and sued when the state refused to release copies.

Election officials cited a 2001 law that made copies of the list available only to candidates, political parties and government officials. The law allowed others to view it but prohibited them from receiving copies or even copying down notes from the list.

State Circuit Judge Nikki Clark ruled on Thursday the 2001 law was unconstitutional because it did not articulate any "public necessity" to limit access.

Clark also said the right to inspect the list without the right to copy it was "valueless." She ordered election supervisors to make the list public immediately.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood said she would comply, and acknowledged some on the list might not be felons.

"We caution all those who view this information that this is a list of potential matches, not a final list," Hood said in a prepared statement.

The purge list was compiled from state criminal records and other databases. Some errors in 2000 involved people with identical or similar names and those charged with felonies but convicted only of misdemeanors and therefore still eligible to vote.

Comment: The above Reuters report is an example of the complete lack of investigative or objective reporting in the mainstream media. Notice that no actual figures are given for the number of people disenfranchised in Florida in the 2000 elections. Notice also that this disenfranchisement that lead to Bush winning the election is called an "error". Are we to expect that it was a mere stroke of luck that this happened and Bush won as a result? The truth, clearly, is that this was done deliberately. The facts are that in 2000, some 8,000 ex felons were scrubbed from the lists. Katherine Harris, Bush's campaign manager, ordered that the list be expanded to include all people sharing the same name and birth date as the ex-felons. The final list totaled over 58,000 people.

An independent investigation found that 55,100 people in total were wrongfully denied their vote, most would have voted for Gore.

Bush won the Florida count by 537 votes.

That's democracy in the "land of the free" for ya...

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Abducted Marine Had Reportedly Deserted

New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 29 The American marine who is being threatened by his kidnappers with beheading had deserted the military because he was emotionally traumatized, and was abducted by his captors while trying to make his way home to his native Lebanon, a Marine officer said Tuesday.

The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he believed that Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun was betrayed by Iraqis he befriended on his base and ended up in the hands of Islamic extremists.

The officer said Corporal Hassoun, a 24-year-old Marine linguist who was born in Lebanon, was shaken up after he saw one of his sergeants blown apart by a mortar shell.

"It was very disturbing to him," the officer said. "He wanted to go home and quit the game, but since he was relatively early in his deployment, that was not going to happen anytime soon. So he talked to some folks on base he befriended, because they were all fellow Muslims, and they helped sneak him off. Once off, instead of helping him get home, they turned him over to the bad guys."

"It's all we know right now," the officer added.

Comment: Is it possible that the "Iraqi insurgents", who are very likely in Mossad's pay, could have befriended this disgruntled marine and kidnapped him, to later use him in the continuing psychological operation that is the entire "beheadings" fiasco?

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US Army report blames training, policy for Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse

Fri Jul 2, 4:24 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A report by a US Army general into prisoner abuse by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan says bad training, organization and policy on military detention are to blame, The New York Times said.

The report by Lieutenant General Paul Mikolashek, which is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks, said inadequate training for military jailers and interrogators, poor leadership, overcrowded cells and poor medical care for the prisoners also contributed to the abuse and torture.

However, the report found no systemic abuse at US-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and will probably not assign any blame to senior US officers in Iraq, defense officials familiar with the report, told the daily. [...]

Comment: Somehow we fail to see how overcrowding and poor medical care contributed to US personnel torturing the prisoners. As for inadequate training and poor leadership, it seems that Rumsfeld and the Bush administration knew exactly what they were doing when they ordered US forces to torture and humiliate the prisoners - and obviously, the American interrogators were more than willing to comply.

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Pentagon Might Release Some Detainees

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
July 2, 2004

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon might release some Guantanamo Bay detainees deemed not to pose a security threat without first giving them access to civilian courts, a spokesman said Thursday.

Larry Di Rita, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, told a news conference that no final decisions have been made about how the government will respond to Supreme Court decisions this week requiring that detainees be given a way to challenge their incarceration.

But he said it was possible that if it could be determined some people need not be held then they also "need not necessarily be part of a judicial process."

Di Rita referred to the Pentagon's newly adopted system for annually reviewing each of the nearly 600 detention cases at Guantanamo Bay. Under that system, a panel of three military officers would assess each case, but the detainees would not be represented by lawyers.

"If there are people who can be released after some due process of review that we've established, it's worth considering whether that's the right next thing to do," Di Rita said. [...]

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Billions Swiped from Iraq. Occupation Authorities Stash Oil Funds as Iraqi Health Care Dies

Christopher Bollyn

June 28, 2004 - Iraqi children perish for want of medicines and equipment in Iraq’s under-funded hospitals while U.S. Treasury officials have billions of dollars of Iraqi oil revenues stashed away in secondary "slush funds" and U.S. Treasury bills.

President George W. Bush has repeatedly said that Iraqi oil revenues are to be used solely for the benefit of the Iraqi people. At a White House press conference on April 13, Bush said:

"Well, the oil revenues are—they’re bigger than we thought they would be at this point in time. . . . And that money is—it will benefit the Iraqi people. It’s their oil, and they’ll use it to reconstruct the country."

In May, as oil prices soared and Iraqi oil production reached 2.4 million barrels per day, nearly $70 million per day flowed into the coffers of the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI). The DFI funds, administered until June 30 by L. Paul Bremer III and the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), are managed in accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

With the approach of the June 30 handover, however, reports suggest that Iraq’s oil revenues have been mismanaged and that untold millions have been siphoned off into unregulated "slush funds."

According to CPA accounting, a total cash inflow of more than $20.24 billion filled the DFI since it was created on May 28, 2003. Although nearly all of the "development" funds came from Iraqi oil exports, the Central Bank of Iraq had only $216 million in its DFI account on June 20. [...]

DYING FOR FUNDS

While $7.3 billion from the DFI money is invested in U.S. Treasury Bills and another $1.3 in Overnight Deposits at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the citizens of that occupied nation are dying for want of basic medical supplies. The U.S. occupation and windfall profits from the oil sales have done nothing to improve the miserable conditions at Iraqi hospitals.

The Associated Press reported on June 4: "At Baghdad’s General Teaching Hospital for Children, children die each week from diarrhea because of poor sanitation, shortages of medical equipment and poorly trained staff. . . . Even though improved medical care is a stated priority of U.S. occupation authorities, medicine is still costly and in short supply."

The hospital’s sewage system has largely collapsed and is working at 10 to 20 percent of capacity. The hospital also lacks air conditioning.

Most hospital deaths—between 15 and 20 a month—are from secondary infection, mainly because of the unsanitary hospital conditions.

On June 19, a three-month old Iraqi boy, known as "Baby Ali," died of septicemia, a bacterial blood infection that could have been treated if advanced medical care had been available, said Dr. Haidar Hadi of Baghdad’s General Teaching Hospital for Children.

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Media blocked from Saddam hearing

Claire Cozens, press and publishing correspondent
Thursday July 1, 2004


Much of the world's press has been excluded from Saddam Hussein's court appearance today following an extraordinary decision by the Iraqi judge hearing the case to allow just one western newspaper to attend.

John Burns of the New York Times will be the only journalist from the western print media to witness today's historic hearing, which is being held in top secret - with even the judge's identity remaining confidential.

Bizarrely, his copy will not be made available to other newspapers under the usual pooling arrangements.

Instead, Burns plans to hold a press conference in Baghdad immediately after the hearing where newspaper correspondents from around the world will be given the chance to ask questions.

CNN and al-Jazeera were the only two broadcasters at the hearing, with CNN's Christiane Amanpour one of only a handful of journalists allowed into the courtroom.

But plans for broadcast media seemed equally confused, with the BBC apparently unaware of the arrangements as the hearing began in Baghdad this morning. Even those who were present were unsure when they would be able to use their footage. [...]

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Saddam court coverage was 'shambolic'

Claire Cozens, press and publishing correspondent
Friday July 2, 2004


The world's media descended on Baghdad this week to witness the historic court appearance of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But for journalists covering the hearing it was an exercise in enormous frustration, with only a handful of media organisations allowed in to the court room.

Broadcasters and press alike were furious with the arrangements, which left print journalists struggling to obtain any information on the day that one of the most hated men in the world was finally brought to court.

"We were told the night before what the arrangements would be - but by the morning of the hearing they had changed completely," said a staff member of one international broadcaster. "It's been a bit of a shambles, no one had a clue what was going on."

CNN and the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera were the only two TV stations to be allowed into the court room, while only one print journalist - the New York Times' chief foreign correspondent John Burns - was given access.

Although CNN made its footage available to other broadcasters, it was yesterday insisting its star reporter Christiane Amanpour was there in a "unilateral" capacity after she was granted access by the director of the Iraqi special tribunal, Salem Chalabi, and her reports were branded exclusive.

Mr Chalabi's involvement in the trial - which was expected to take two years to come to court - is already undermining the credibility of the proceedings.

He is the nephew of Ahmed Chalabi, one of Saddam's most vociferous opponents and the man America once backed as would-be leader of Iraq, now accused of treachery against the US and of peddling disinformation about non-existent weapons of mass destruction. [...]

No audio recording of the proceedings was available, although Burns provided a short tape recording in which he described the appearance of the court before the hearing began, but only a single quote from Saddam - "I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq".

But no local media organisations were present, and the only Iraqi journalist there was asked to leave before the proceedings began fully.

Comment: So the US military are only releasing 7 words from the alleged Saddam Hussein. Ask yourself, why? Why would they do this? Clearly they have something to hide. See yesterday's Signs of the Times page for full analysis.

Note in the above that the nephew of Ahmad Chalabi, the man who provided the bogus intelligence that lead to the Iraq invasion, is the director of the "Iraqi special tribunal" that is trying Saddam. "Special" tribunal indeed. Others might call it corrupt and illegal. Director of the tribunal, Salem Chalabi, is a business associate of Douglas Feith, the U.S. Undersecretary of Defense, the man who dismissed the dictates of the Geneva convention, enabling the Abu Gharib tortures, and now the phony trial of the phony Saddam. Feith was one of the most vocal proponents of the Iraq was, largely, it seems, because he wanted to fill his own coffers, and those of his adopted country, Israel, with the spoils of war.

Chalabi, Feith and Company: A Sordid Tale

Dr. James J. Zogby
Arab American Institute

There's a story behind the story. And it is a messy tale of deceit, cronyism and corruption.

Ahmad Chalabi's apparent falling out with the U.S., and some recent reports indicating that U.S. Undersecretary of Defense, Douglas Feith may be losing influence in the Administration, represent only the latest chapter in their sordid histories and relationship. [...]

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FBI Urges Increased Vigilance for July 4

By CURT ANDERSON
Associated Press
July 2, 2004

WASHINGTON - A constant stream of intelligence indicating that al-Qaida wants to strike the United States this summer or fall has led federal officials to urge increased vigilance during the Independence Day weekend, but there is no specific threat of an attack timed to the holiday.

In a bulletin sent to law enforcement agencies nationwide Thursday, the FBI said police should step up patrols and watch for signs of terrorist activity, including surveillance of potential targets. The FBI also listed advice on how to spot possible suicide bombers. [...]

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the warnings were not issued because of a specific threat.

"The information that the FBI put out is just a reminder," he said Friday on NBC's "Today" show. "There are some lessons we've learned from observing the al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations conduct their attacks around the world."

Comment: Yeah America, don't forget to be completely terrified and suspicious of everyone!

The FBI said police should increase patrols this holiday weekend, vary the timing, size and routes of the patrols, and make sure all vehicles illegally parked in key areas are approached and their drivers questioned.

The Homeland Security Department had no plans to raise the nation's color-coded terror alert level above its current midpoint status of yellow, or elevated. Last week, the agency sent a bulletin urging tighter security to state and local officials and those that operate power and chemical plants and key transportation facilities. [...]

The FBI bulletin repeated for local authorities a previously released list of indicators often associated with suicide bomber attacks overseas. These include:

  • Irregular, loose-fitting clothing not appropriate for warm weather, possibly with "protruding bulges or exposed wires" or a noticeable chemical odor.
  • "Sweating, mumbling (prayers) or unusually calm and detached behavior." In addition, people who refuse to show their hands, possibly to conceal a detonator.
  • Disguises, including military, police, medical or firefighter uniforms or someone posing as a pregnant woman.
  • Large or heavy baggage not appropriate for the location, such as a big duffel bag carried into a restaurant.

Law enforcement officials also were asked to be wary of possible terrorist surveillance, which the FBI said nearly always occurs prior to any attack "to determine suitability, security and probability of success."

Terrorists may also make anonymous threats to observe how security reacts and may attempt surveillance disguised as homeless people, shoe shiners, street vendors or street sweepers, the FBI said.

Comment: Americans should be on the lookout for anyone who is sweating, mumbling, or unusually calm or detached. Obviously, anyone who is not living in constant fear must be a terrorist! And if you have to pray while watching fireworks, don't just mumble them - scream them out as loud as you can! Not only will you prevent yourself from being mistakenly identified as a terrorist, but you just may inspire some bystanders to bring Jesus back into their lives.

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U.S. Official: Ports Vulnerable to Attack

By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press Writer
July 2, 2004

WASHINGTON - U.S. ports remain vulnerable to the kind of speedboat attack that crippled the USS Cole and killed 17 sailors, Coast Guard Commandant Tom Collins said Thursday.

Special precautions will be taken to protect the ports in Boston and New York during the upcoming political conventions, but the ports will stay open, Collins said in an Associated Press interview.

The Cole was in port in Yemen when a speedboat loaded with explosives rammed it and blew a hole in its side in October 2000. U.S. officials have warned al-Qaida favors such attacks. Also, a recent FBI bulletin warned that terrorist organizations may try to plant waterborne mines in inner tubes along America's coast.

Collins said port security has improved vastly since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But he said it would be "very, very difficult" to intercept a small boat loaded with explosives and on a suicide mission.

He said there are about 58 million to 70 million recreational boats in the United States, in addition to pleasure boats and fishing vessels that come from foreign ports. International security standards that took effect Thursday do not cover any of them.

"Our net doesn't cover those right now," he said. [...]

Comment: Sometimes we just have to laugh at the US government's handling of the so-called "war on terror". If Arab terrorists were actually trying to blow up the US, what coast guard commandant in his right mind would announce to the world that it would be really hard to intercept a small explosive-laden boat? Would it not be more effective to keep such details secret? If "al-Qaeda" didn't know about this particular vulnerability, they do now!

It is amazing that few Americans actually stop to think that in a real security situation, officials would not disclose such details. Does the Secret Service go on TV and announce any potential weaknesses in their plans to secure a public function that Bush is attending? Of course not. One is then left to conclude that stories like this one are scare tactics, plain and simple.

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Defense bill could stifle computer trade

By Robert Lemos
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
July 1, 2004, 4:00 AM PDT

In a move that has re-energized the debate over export controls on high-performance computers, the latest version of a defense-spending bill would require companies to seek licenses to export even underpowered desktop computers.

The dramatic tightening of export regulations is included in the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual military funding bill that has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Though the proposed rules are only a tiny portion of the 630-page bill, they could have a devastating impact on the computer industry.

"It would bring exports to a grinding halt," said Dan Hoydish, director of trade, public policy and government affairs for Unisys and chairman of the Computer Coalition for Responsible Exports, a trade group that counts many major technology companies as members. "We wouldn't be asking for 20 export licenses in a year, we would be asking for 20,000 in a day."

Today, computer sellers are required to get a license to export any computer with performance equal to or greater than a system with 32 Intel Itanium processors. The current version of the defense authorization act would lower that limit to systems deemed "militarily critical" by the Department of Defense. That level is currently set to the equivalent of a computer using a Pentium 3 processor running at 650MHz, state of the art in 1999 but considered feeble today.

Moreover, the proposed rules would apply to exports destined for any country, including U.S. allies.

The controversial section is not included in a U.S. Senate version of the bill that passed last week. That means the fate of the proposed rules, known as Section 1404, will be determined by negotiations between the House and the Senate, currently slated for later this month.

A congressional staff member familiar with the House and Senate bills said it's likely Section 1404 will be changed or dropped. Still, just the specter of passage has rekindled the debate over whether to control the export of computer technologies to other countries. The issue pits the interests of a key U.S. industry against the needs of national security. [...]

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The Prices Aren't Right

Bush's Drug Card Lottery

By CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI
July 2, 2004

"The desire to take medicine is perhaps the greatest feature which distinguishes man from animals."
- Sir William Osler, Science and Immortality

Just when you think it couldn't get any better, it got better. The month of June brought us not only the Approved Prescription Drug Discount Cards program but a lottery.

Drug discount cards are almost as exciting as the 52 playing cards the administration issued at the beginning of the Iraq war in which the most wanted Iraqis found their likenesses on a deck of playing cards and the game was to see how many of the faces on those cards could be captured. It was a clever device and an easy way to keep track of who'd been arrested. (At last count all but 12 have been captured and the game is almost over, except for the violence.) The drug cards are, of course, different and the game has just begun. They offer seniors savings on drug purchases. They have only a couple of drawbacks.

According to the House Government Reform Committee, in many instances seniors will pay more for the drugs with the cards than buying drugs retail. The committee discovered that a one month supply of the ten best selling brand name drugs would cost more if purchased with a card offered by Pharmacy Care Alliance than if the same drugs were simply bought retail at Drugstore.com.

The other drawback is that there are 72 cards from which to choose and each covers a different group of drugs. Once a participant has bought a card because of the selection of drugs and prices offered by that card, the purchaser is locked into that card until fall of the following year.

The card issuer has slightly more flexibility. It can raise the price on those drugs in order to increase its profit. It cannot, of course, raise its prices willy nilly. Price increases can only occur once each week. That protects the consumer. [...]

As if the excitement of trying to buy a lucky card weren't enough for the elderly, on June 24 the administration announced a lottery. Between 500,000 and 600,000 people will be eligible to participate and 10 percent of them will be selected. To be eligible to enter the lottery entrants must have cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and some other diseases. Congress appropriated $500 million for this program and the lucky winners will be selected at random. Forty percent of the funds will go to those taking oral drugs for cancer treatments and 60 percent will go to those with other illnesses. It is a preview of the benefits that will be available to all medicare participants in 2006.

Tommy Thompson, secretary of health and human services, explains that lottery winners "will save thousands of dollars on essential medicines that they can take home" and everyone who meets the eligibility criteria has an equal chance to win the lottery. The 450,000 to 550,000 people who need the drugs but don't win the lottery will have to wait until 2006, assuming they live that long.

The losers may wonder what kind of a wealthy country establishes a program under which medicines to prolong life are only dispensed to the poor who win a lottery. Instead of carping they should be grateful that they don't live in a third world country where there aren't any lotteries to enter for medical care. As my mother used to say: "Eat your peas. Think of the poor people in Africa who don't have any peas to eat."

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Dollar Falls Broadly After U.S. Jobs Data

By Gertrude Chavez
July 2, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar dropped steeply against major currencies on Friday, after a much weaker-than-expected employment report reinforced belief that the Federal Reserve can continue to raise interest rates at a measured pace.

More aggressive tightening from the Fed would enhance the attractiveness of U.S. dollar-based assets for global investors.

The U.S. economy created 112,000 non-farm jobs in June, compared with a revised 235,000 in May. Markets were expecting new jobs of 250,000. The unemployment rate was steady from May at 5.6 percent.

"Undoubtedly it's a dollar-negative report. This pace of job creation shows there is still slack in the labor markets," said Alex Beuzelin, foreign exchange market analyst with Ruesch International in Washington DC. [...]

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Terror searches of Asians up threefold

02/07/2004

Police stop and searches under the anti-terrorism law have dramatically increased, with searches on Asians rising by 302 per cent.

Reflecting increasing fears of a major terrorist attack in the wake of September 11, Home Office statistics show stop and searches under terror legislation more than doubled in 2002-03 compared with the previous year.

And while figures on the total number of stops and searches carried out by officers in 2002-2003 increased significantly on the previous year, a racial breakdown shows the number performed on ethnic minorities also rose.

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Moderate earthquake shakes northern Philippines

2004/7/2
MANILA, Philippines, AP

A moderate earthquake shook the northern Philippines early Friday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, seismologists said.

The 4.1 magnitude quake was centered 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of the northern town of Tabuk. It was felt in the northern provinces of Kalinga and Cayagan, which were reeling from destruction brought by Typhoon Mindulle earlier this week.

Romy Tabanlar of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said residents in the area reported seeing their house fixtures swing, but no damage has been reported so far.

It was the second earthquake to hit the Philippines in as many days.

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At least 18 dead in Turkey quake

Friday, July 2, 2004 Posted: 6:42 AM EDT (1042 GMT)

(CNN) -- A moderate earthquake has hit villages in northeastern Turkey, reportedly killing at least 18 people and injuring 50, 20 of them seriously.

The quake struck about 1:30 a.m. Friday (6:30 p.m. ET) and was centered near the town of Dogu Beyazit, local officials said.

The cities of Agri and Igdir were also affected by the earthquake, with the village of Yigimcal hardest hit.

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Man dies in Spanish heatwave

Wed Jun 30, 1:07 PM ET

MADRID (AFP) - A 48 year-old man has been found dead, apparently the first victim of a heat wave in southern Spain, and six people have been hospitalised with heat exhaustion, health authorities said.

The man, said to have been suffering from a chronic ailment, was found at Ciudad Real in the centre of the country. His body had registered a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) at the time of its discovery.

Health Minister Elena Salgado said six people had been hospitalised in Andalusia due to the effects of heat.

Meanwhile electricity consumption in Spain has soared to new summer records due to increased use of air conditioning and refrigerators, the utility operators Red Electrica de Espana (REE), announced.

By Wednesday consumption had reached a peak of 36,800 megawatts, overtaking a Tuesday record of 36,700 megawatts, they said.

A power supply breakdown in Seville Tuesday temporarily deprived tens of thousands of the use of electric fans and air conditioning. [...]

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Typhoon Toll Rises to 23 as Philippines Mops Up

Fri Jul 2, 7:38 AM ET

MANILA (Reuters) - The death toll from the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year rose to 23 on Friday, as rescue workers rushed to clear landslides and send food and medicine to isolated areas, disaster officials said.

Thousands of people were displaced by typhoon Mindulle, which packed winds of 118 miles per hour and gusts of up to 140 miles per hour as it swept past the northern region of the main Luzon island.

Crop and infrastructure damage was estimated at $9.8 million, mostly in rice- and corn-growing areas in Cagayan Valley region, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said. [...]

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Typhoon Mindulle leaves two people dead in Taiwan

Fri Jul 2, 7:09 AM ET

TAIPEI (AFP) - At least two people were killed as Typhoon Mindulle swept through Taiwan, triggering floods and landslides, the national rescue center said.

Two men died after their pickup truck, parked on a path on Mountain Ali in central Taiwan, was smashed by a huge rock when a landslide occurred, the rescue center said Friday.

The victims were identified as Tsai Cheng-lun, 26, and Ho Chang-chin, 61. Tsai's father Tsai Jui-lin, 51, who was out of truck checking the path, survived with minor injuries.

Mindulle, which was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday, uprooted trees in eastern Taiwan and dumped heavy rains, swelling rivers.

It claimed at least 24 lives and left 19 missing in the Philippines before hitting Taiwan. [...]

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North Texas Reports Record Rainfall

By SHEILA FLYNN, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jun 30, 5:43 PM ET

DALLAS - Rain swept across northern Texas for a record 18th consecutive day on Wednesday following flooding that chased people out of their homes and a major amusement park.

Up to 7 inches of rain fell in a three-hour period early Wednesday in southern Texas and the San Antonio area, the National Weather Service said. The 18 consecutive days of rain in northern Texas was a record for June. [...]

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Police: Teens watched rape at party

Associated Press
June 30, 2004, 12:45PM

BEDFORD -- A 15-year-old girl was raped while fellow students watched after being drugged at a weekend party, police said.

The alleged sexual assault occurred after the teenager and a friend went to a home in Bedford early Friday, police said. No parents were home at the time of the party and the teen was given alcohol.

"She began not feeling well and started passing out," Bedford police Lt. Biff Schuessler said in a story in today's editions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Her friend took her to a bed and told her to sleep for a while."

Another teenager was allegedly assaulting the girl when she awoke, police said. She fell to the floor and he continued to assault her.

"She was still groggy when this happened," Schuessler said. "She looks around and sees other students from her school watching."

The girl passed out again after the assault and when she woke up someone had put her clothes back on, police said. She went home but did not report the rape until Monday.

No one has been arrested, police said.

Police think some current and former students of Euless Trinity High School, where the girl is a student, may have been at the party. They plan to interview those students.

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Speed of light may have changed recently

New Scientist
19:00 30 June 04


The speed of light, one of the most sacrosanct of the universal physical constants, may have been lower as recently as two billion years ago - and not in some far corner of the universe, but right here on Earth.

The controversial finding is turning up the heat on an already simmering debate, especially since it is based on re-analysis of old data that has long been used to argue for exactly the opposite: the constancy of the speed of light and other constants.

A varying speed of light contradicts Einstein's theory of relativity, and would undermine much of traditional physics. But some physicists believe it would elegantly explain puzzling cosmological phenomena such as the nearly uniform temperature of the universe. It might also support string theories that predict extra spatial dimensions.

The threat to the idea of an invariable speed of light comes from measurements of another parameter called the fine structure constant, or alpha, which dictates the strength of the electromagnetic force. The speed of light is inversely proportional to alpha, and though alpha also depends on two other constants (see graphic), many physicists tend to interpret a change in alpha as a change in the speed of light. It is a valid simplification, says Victor Flambaum of the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

It was Flambaum, along with John Webb and colleagues, who first seriously challenged alpha's status as a constant in 1998. Then, after exhaustively analysing how the light from distant quasars was absorbed by intervening gas clouds, they claimed in 2001 that alpha had increased by a few parts in 105 in the past 12 billion years.

Natural nuclear reactor

But then German researchers studying photons emitted by caesium and hydrogen atoms reported earlier in June that they had seen no change in alpha to within a few parts in 1015 over the period from 1999 to 2003 (New Scientist, 26 June) though the result does not rule out that alpha was changing billions of years ago.

Throughout the debate, physicists who argued against any change in alpha have had one set of data to fall back on. It comes from the world's only known natural nuclear reactor, found at Oklo in Gabon, West Africa.

The Oklo reactor started up nearly two billion years ago when groundwater filtered through crevices in the rocks and mixed with uranium ore to trigger a fission reaction that was sustained for hundreds of thousands of years. Several studies that have analysed the relative concentrations of radioactive isotopes left behind at Oklo have concluded that nuclear reactions then were much the same as they are today, which implies alpha was the same too. [...]

Energy spectrum

Now, Lamoreaux, along with LANL colleague Justin Torgerson, has re-analysed the Oklo data using what he says are more realistic figures for the energy spectrum of the neutrons present in the reactor. The results have surprised him. Alpha, it seems, has decreased by more than 4.5 parts in 108 since Oklo was live (Physical Review D, vol 69, p121701).

That translates into a very small increase in the speed of light (assuming no change in the other constants that alpha depends on), but Lamoreaux's new analysis is so precise that he can rule out the possibility of zero change in the speed of light. "It's pretty exciting," he says.

So far the re-examination of the Oklo data has not drawn any fire. "The analysis is fine," says Thibault Damour of the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies (IHES) in Bures-sur-Yvette in France, who co-authored a 1996 Oklo study that found no change in alpha. Peter Moller of LANL, who, along with Japanese researchers, published a paper in 2000 about the Oklo reactor that also found no change in alpha, says that Lamoreaux's assumptions are reasonable.

The analysis might be sound, and the assumptions reasonable, but some physicists are reluctant to accept the conclusions. "I can't see a particular mistake," says Flambaum. "However, the claim is so revolutionary there should be many independent confirmations." [...]

Variable "constants" would also open the door to theories that used to be off limits, such as those which break the laws of conservation of energy. And it would be a boost to versions of string theory in which extra dimensions change the constants of nature at some places in space-time.

But "there is no accepted varying-alpha theory", warns Flambaum. Instead, there are competing theories, from those that predict a linear rate of change in alpha, to those that predict rapid oscillations. John Barrow, who has pioneered varying-alpha theories at the University of Cambridge, says that the latest Oklo result does not favour any of the current theories. "You would expect alpha to stop [changing] five to six billion years ago," he says. [...]

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Using virus-prone IE 'like playing the lottery'

Associated Press

New York — It's been a bad week for many users of Microsoft Corp.'s nearly ubiquitous Internet Explorer browser.

A pair of virus attacks exploiting its vulnerabilities has led security experts to recommend that Web surfers consider such alternatives as Mozilla and Opera.

Continuing to use Internet Explorer is "like playing the lottery," said Johannes Ullrich, chief technology officer of the non-profit SANS Internet Security Centre.

The respected research centre is among security groups recommending other browsers as long as a key vulnerability in IE remains unfixed, leaving it capable of running malicious code that's been hidden at a number of popular Web sites.

Switching browsers may cause problems, but less so than following Microsoft's temporary prescription of cranking up security settings, which may cripple the ability to access multimedia content or fill out Web forms, Mr. Ullrich said.

Last week, a computer virus designed to steal valuable information as Web users typed it into their computers — passwords and the like — spread through a new technique that converted popular Web sites into virus transmitters.

And this week, researchers discovered another password-stealing program hidden behind pop-up ads.

Microsoft was still working to fix a lingering vulnerability from last week's virus, and while a repair for the flaw enabling this week's Trojan infection was issued in April, many users had yet to patch their systems.

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Prickly feeling makes sense

By Anil Dawarin London
July 2, 2004

IF you have ever felt that someone is watching you, sending prickles up your neck, it might not have been just your imagination.

Scientists have found evidence to suggest we do have a sixth sense and can tell when we are being watched, even through CCTV.

This shows humans could have paranormal powers, say researchers at Germany's Freiberg University.

Dr Stefan Schmidt and his team carried out two experiments a thousand times and believe they have finally proved the reality of the sixth sense.

The first, called "remote staring", consisted of a volunteer in a sealed room watching a second volunteer in another room via CCTV.

The second volunteer was hooked up to electrodes which recorded the "prickle" or electrical activity of the skin. This was compared when the volunteer was or was not being watched.

In the second experiment, called "direct mental interaction", the first volunteer concentrated on making the second feel uncomfortable or relaxed from within the sealed cell.

The German team used a complex statistical scale to grade the studies according to reliability and paranormal effect recorded.

In other experiments, the starer tried to make the other feel either uncomfortable or relaxed. Again, the electronic monitor proved repeatedly that it could be done.

In the British Journal of Psychology, Dr Schmidt noted that the data was ambiguous but found that "for both data sets there is a small but significant effect".

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