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©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

On this day in 1945...

The most common opening words of sentences written in Hiroshima, a city of memorials: "At 8:15 AM on August 6, 1945 . . ."

From A Visit to the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, written June 14, 1995:

Those who survived called the A-bomb 'pika don'. 'Pika' referred to the flash of light. 'Don' was an onomatopoeic reference to the tremendous sound.

On a charred wall at Fukuromachi Elementary school, about 500 meters from the hypocentre, people scrawled news and messages in chalk. In addition, small message boards were setup at the ruins of burnt houses telling of family members who had died or where survivors were taking refuge.

On or about August 8, a Japanese study team discovered that film in a hospital x-ray room had been exposed. From this evidence, the Japanese government deduced that the new bomb was atomic.

During September and October of the year, another team of Japanese scientists surveyed residual radiation. The documentary film they produced during their study was confiscated by the occupation forces and taken to the US. It was finally returned to Hiroshima in 1973.

In October 1945, US soldiers and scientists surveyed and measured what was called the A-bomb effect. The complete results of that study have yet to be made public.

The atomic bomb that exploded 580 meters above Hiroshima was powered by splitting 855 grams of uranium. The energy released was equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT.

The splitting of uranium nuclei generated both initial radiation (gamma rays and neutrons) and residual radiation. The neutron radiation lasted a brief instant. The initial gamma rays remained at dangerous levels for approximately 20 seconds. Residual radiation consisted of gamma and beta rays emitted over an extended period.

The bomb created a high-temperature, high-pressure fireball which grew to a diameter of approximately 410 meters one second after detonation. The fireball emitted intense thermal rays for up to three seconds and continued to glow for approximately ten seconds. The shock wave at the leading edge of the blast traveled eleven kilometers in 30 seconds.

The super-hot fireball (several million degrees in the center) emitted thermal rays primarily as ultraviolet and visible light radiation. The temperature on the ground near the hypocenter reached 3,000 to 11,000 degrees Celsius.

The fireball created a super-sonic shockwave and pressures of several hundred thousand atmospheres. On the ground near the hypocenter this pressure reached 35 tons per square meter. The intial shockwave was followed by winds blowing 440 meters per second.

The following is a verse from "Flower of Summer" (Natsu no Hana), a collection of short stories by Tamik Hara (1905-1951), writer and A-bomb survivor.

This is a human being?
Look how the atom bomb changed it.
Flesh swells fearfully.
All men and women take one shape.
The voice that trickles from swollen lips
On the festering charred-black face
Whispers the thin words,
"Please, help me."
This, this is a human being.
This is the face of a human being.

There were two types of residual radiation. Induced radiation resulted from the interaction of initial radiation neutrons with the materials in the ground and buildings. Fallout ("Ashes of Death") derived from fission fragments produced when the uranium atoms were split. Levels of induced radiation remained high for approximately 100 hours within 11 kilometers of the hypocenter. Radiation from fallout and fission fragments was weaker but lasted longer. Furthermore, large amounts of radioactive material fell in the "Black Rain."

The damage done to human bodies by radiation has been referred to generally as A-bomb disease, or radiation sickness.

Acute damage refers to symptoms that appear within four months. In addition to complications associated with burns and external injuries, common symptoms of radiation sickness include hair loss, bleeding, lowered levels of white blood cells.

The symptoms known as after-effects began with keloids, which appeared the year after the bombing. Later, radiation produced high rates of cataracts, leukemia and various cancers. It also produced high rates of birth defects among those exposed in-utero.

Some victims who entered the city after the bombing became sick or died from what is believed to be exposure to residual radiation.

In and around what was known as the genbaku sebaku (A-bomb desert) the city struggled to gather enough manpower to dispose of the corpses, but many remained in view nearly two weeks after the bombing.

Some symptoms of A-bomb disease imitate dysentary. Thus, many health care providers were surprised by what seemed to be an epidemic of dysentery spreading throughout the city and surrounding areas. Only later was the cause found to be radiation.

After the bombing violent fires raged throughout the city, and a giant windstorm broke out. Heavy rain fell over the north-west of Hiroshima. For the first hour or two the rain fell black, discoloured by mud, dust blown up at the time of the explosion. The soot too was strongly radioactive. It killed many fish in the rivers and ponds and people who drank well water suffered from terrible diarrhea for up to three months aftwerward.

After the A-bomb sickness had passed, healed scar tissue became thick and contracted, toughening and wrinkling the skin to form growths known as keloids. This symptom was most common during 1946-1947. Keloids developed on fifty to sixty percent of those who suffered first-degree burns within about 2 kilometers of the hypocenter. Being grotesque, painful and itchy they caused people both physical and mental suffering.

Huge numbers of people unable to endure their injuries or burns, jumped into the river that runs in front of the A-bomb dome. Thousands of corpses were seen floating in all Hiroshimas rivers. The once majestic dome of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall will be preserved in perpetuity on the bank of the Motoyatsu River as a mute reminder of the tragedy and concrete appeal for world peace.

Several days after the A-bombing, many children could be seen wandering alone, or in groups, through the burnt ruins of the city. Thousands had been evacuated prior to the bombing and returned later to find that their guardians had perished. THese "A-bomb orphans" were housed in camps, but many died from the effects of radiation or acute malnutrition.

At noon on August 15, 1945, those who had survived the war heard the Emperor's voice on the radio. "...the enemy used a cruel new bomb..." The voice, distorted by static, faded in and out, but the message was clear. Japan had surrendered unconditionally to Allied forces.

The people of Hiroshima greeted the news with mixed emotions. Bitter at the defeat, dazed by disaster, and mourning the relatives they had lost to the atomic bomb, they were also relieved that the threat of further bombing was gone. They had been assured for years of Japan's certain victory. Now they were facing a turbulent, uncertain future.

Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the use of nuclear weapons in war has been prevented but there have been consistent outbreaks of crisis in which their use was a possibility. The following list summarizes past incidents in which the United States contemplated the possibility of using nuclear weapons.

1946, March Deployment of Soviet Army to Iran
1946, November Shooting down of US plane by Yugoslavia
1948, January Inauguration of a new Uraguayan President
1948, Apr-Jun Sealing off of West Berlin by Soviet Union
1950, June Break-out of war in Korea
1953, August Deterioration of Korean War
1954, Apr-May Offer to supply French in Vietnam w/ A-bomb
1954, May Guatemala chooses pro-Soviet policy
1945, August China's liberation of Taiwan
1958, July Iraq military coup and Taiwan Strait crisis
1959, May Berlin issue
1961, June Berlin issue
1962, October Cuban missile crisis
1968, January Seizure of USS Pueblo by North Korea
1968, February Vietnam War (Battle of Quesan)
1969, November Intensification of Vietnam War
1970, September Invasion of Jorday by Syria
1973, October Desire to halt 4th Middle-East War
1980, January Desire to halt Iran Crisis
1991, January Anticipation of chemical weapons use by Iraq in Persian Gulf War

Hibakusha [survivors of the A-bombs] say simply, "I met with the A-bomb." Perhaps they use this expressioni because the event they "met with" defies description, an instant of massive destruction, mind-numbing death and injuries and grief of watching helplessly as family members, relatives, friends and neigbours died in agony. They also say, "It's painful even to remember." The A-bomb witnesses have overcome that pain and are passing on their experiences of that day. They feel duty bound to tell the world why nuclear weapons must never be used again.

(holders of Hibakusha health book)
(As of March 31, 1993 -- 48 years after the bomb)

The number of hibakusha in Japan 339,034
Hibakusha living in Hiroshima 101,939
Total population of Hiroshima 1,086,536

Sadako Sasaki, exposed to the A-bomb in Hiroshima at the age of two contracted leukemia a decade later, and in 1955 died at the age of 12. Believing that folding 1,000 paper cranes would cure her disease, Sadako folded one after another in her hospital bed. After her death, her classmates at the Nabori-machi elementary school conducted prayer meetings to console the souls of many children who were killed by the A-bomb. They also initiated a movement that lead to the Children's Peace Monument.

Sadako's story has spread throughout the world and through it, folded paper cranes have become a symbol of peace. At the foot of the Children's Peace Monument lies a continuously replenished pile of folded cranes sent from all over the world.

Successive mayors of Hiroshima have sent telegrams protesting every nuclear weapons test since 1968. The telegrams are sent to the countries responsible for the tests, and each expresses the fervent hope that it will be the last such telegram.

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Hiroshima mayor blasts U.S. nuclear policy on 59th anniversary of bombing

11:46 PM EDT Aug 05

HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) - The mayor of Hiroshima marked the anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack Friday by lashing out at the United States for its pursuit of next-generation nuclear weapons and called for a global ban on all nuclear arms by 2020.

Denouncing U.S. President George W. Bush's administration for its "egocentric" view of the world, Tadatoshi Akiba said the United States has turned its back on other countries.

"Ignoring the United Nations and international law, the United States has resumed research to make nuclear weapons smaller and more 'usable,"' he said at the 59th annual ceremony in the western city's Peace Memorial Park.

In June, the U.S. Senate approved spending for the Bush administration's research into - but not development of - new nuclear "bunker-buster" and "mini-nuke" warheads.

The nuclear bunker-buster would be designed to hit targets deep underground, such as subterranean military command centres that are beyond the reach of conventional arms. The mini-nukes would have the explosive power of less than 5,000 tons of TNT - one-fourth the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Supporters of the new weapons said they would cause less damage and fewer deaths in the area around a target.

The United States has had a self-imposed ban on nuclear testing since 1992.

But Akiba said the world needs to dismantle and ban all weapons like the U.S. atomic bomb that killed or injured 160,000 people Aug. 6, 1945.

He called on countries to attend a nuclear non-proliferation meeting, to be held in May 2005 in New York City, and sign a treaty that would eventually abolish nuclear arms by 2020.

He also branded North Korea's development of nuclear weapons a "worthless policy of 'nuclear insurance."' Japan, the United States and four other countries have been engaged in recent talks to put pressure on North Korea to scrap its weapons program.

Before Akiba spoke, a bell pealed at 8:15 a.m. local time - marking the time when the U.S. A-bomb levelled the city, 687 kilometres southwest of Tokyo. Tens of thousands of survivors, residents, visitors and officials from around the world remembered the bombing victims by observing a minute of silence.

Afterward, 1,000 doves were released. [...]

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59 Years After Hiroshima

Two Traditions: WMD and Disinformation

August 4, 2004

"It is an atomic bomb. It is the greatest thing in history."
-President Harry S. Truman, August 6, 1945

"Congress should endorse the use of all necessary means to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction."
-John Edwards, September 2002

We are approaching August 6, 2004, the 59th anniversary of the U.S. terror bombing of Hiroshima, and it's apparent that the history and use of WMD is still not fully understood.

With "Good War" references and rhetoric bandied about by politicians and pundits of all stripes, it's instructive to consider how the U.S. and its allies, 60 years ago, allegedly engaged in a life-and-death battle to prevent a tyrant from wielding WMD. "Working at Los Alamos, New Mexico," writes historian Kenneth C. Davis, "atomic scientists, many of them refugees from Hitler's Europe, thought they were racing against Germans developing a 'Nazi bomb.'"

Surely, if it were possible for the epitome of evil to produce such a weapon, it would be the responsibility of the good guys to beat der Führer to the plutonium punch. While such a desperate race makes for excellent melodrama, the German bomb effort, it appears, fell far short of success.

Thanks to the declassification of key documents, we now have access to "unassailable proof that the race with the Nazis was a fiction," says Stewart Udall, who cites the work of McGeorge Bundy and Thomas Powers before adding that, "According to the official history of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), those agents maintained 'contacts with scientists in neutral countries.'" These contacts, by mid-1943, provided enough evidence to convince the SIS that the German bomb program simply did not exist.

Despite such findings, U.S. General Leslie Groves, military commander of the Manhattan Project, got permission in the fall of 1943 to begin a secret espionage mission known as Alsos (Greek for "grove"). The mission saw Groves' men following the Allies' armies throughout Europe with the goal of capturing German scientists involved in the manufacture of atomic weapons.

While the data uncovered by Alsos only served to reinforce the prior reports that the Third Reich was not pursuing a nuclear program, Groves was able to maintain enough of a cover-up to keep his pet project alive. In the no-holds-barred religion of anti-communism, the "Good War" enemy was never fascism. Truman's daughter, Margaret, remarked about her dad's early presidential efforts after the death of FDR in April 1945, "My father's overriding concern in these first weeks was our policy towards Russia."

What will Bush daughters be confessing about their Dad one day?

* * * *

The most commonly evoked justification for the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan was to save lives, but was it true? Would such an invasion even have been necessary? Finally, were the actions of the United States motivated by an escalating Cold War with the Soviet Union? Here are the facts that don't mesh with the long-accepted storyline:

Although hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives were lost in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the bombings are often explained away as a "life-saving" measure-American lives. Exactly how many lives saved is, however, up for grabs. (We do know of a few U.S. soldiers who fell between the cracks About a dozen or more American POWs were killed in Hiroshima, a truth that remained hidden for some 30 years.) In defense of the U.S. action, it is usually claimed that the bombs saved lives. The hypothetical body count ranges from 20,000 to "millions." In an August 9, 1945 statement to "the men and women of the Manhattan Project," President Truman declared the hope that "this new weapon will result in saving thousands of American lives."

"The president's initial formulation of 'thousands," however, was clearly not his final statement on the matter to say the least," remarks historian Gar Alperovitz. In his book, "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth," Alperovitz documents but a few of Truman's public estimates throughout the years:

*December 15, 1945: "It occurred to me that a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities . . ."

*Late 1946: "A year less of war will mean life for three hundred thousand-maybe half a million-of America's finest youth."

*October 1948: "In the long run we could save a quarter of a million young Americans from being killed, and would save an equal number of Japanese young men from being killed."

*April 6, 1949: "I thought 200,000 of our young men would be saved."

*November 1949: Truman quotes Army Chief of Staff George S. Marshall as estimating the cost of an Allied invasion of Japan to be "half a million casualties."

*January 12, 1953: Still quoting Marshall, Truman raises the estimate to "a minimum one quarter of a million" and maybe "as much as a million, on the American side alone, with an equal number of the enemy."

*Finally, on April 28, 1959, Truman concluded: "the dropping of the bombs . . . saved millions of lives."

Fortunately, we are not operating without the benefit of official estimates.

In June 1945, Truman ordered the U.S. military to calculate the cost in American lives for a planned assault on Japan. Consequently, the Joint War Plans Committee prepared a report for the Chiefs of Staff, dated June 15, 1945, thus providing the closest thing anyone has to "accurate": 40,000 U.S. soldiers killed, 150,000 wounded, and 3,500 missing.

While the actual casualty count remains unknowable, it was widely known at the time that Japan had been trying to surrender for months prior to the atomic bombing. A May 5, 1945 cable, intercepted and decoded by the U.S., "dispelled any possible doubt that the Japanese were eager to sue for peace." In fact, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey reported shortly after the war, that Japan "in all probability" would have surrendered before the much-discussed November 1, 1945 Allied invasion of the homeland.

Truman himself eloquently noted in his diary that Stalin would "be in the Jap War on August 15th. Fini (sic) Japs when that comes about."

Many post-Hiroshima/Nagasaki sentiments questioned the use of the bombs.

"I thought our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives," said General Dwight D. Eisenhower while, not long after the Japanese surrender, New York Times military analyst Hanson Baldwin wrote, "The enemy, in a military sense, was in a hopeless strategic position. Such then, was the situation when we wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Need we have done it? No one can, of course, be positive, but the answer is almost certainly negative."

Was it the cold logic of capitalism that motivated the nuking of civilians? As far back as May 1945, a Venezuelan diplomat was reporting how Assistant Secretary of State Nelson Rockefeller "communicated to us the anxiety of the United States government about the Russian attitude." U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes seemed to agree when he turned the anxiety up a notch by explaining how "our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable in the East . . . The demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia with America's military might."

General Leslie Groves was less cryptic: "There was never, from about two weeks from the time I took charge of this Project, any illusion on my part but that Russia was our enemy, and the Project was conducted on that basis."

During the same time period, President Truman noted that Secretary of War Henry Stimson was "at least as much concerned with the role of the atomic bomb in the shaping of history as in its capacity to shorten the war." What sort of shaping Stimson had in mind might be discerned from his Sept. 11, 1945 comment to the president: "I consider the problem of our satisfactory relations with Russia as not merely connected but as virtually dominated by the problem of the atomic bomb."

Stimson called the bomb a "diplomatic weapon," and duly explained: "American statesmen were eager for their country to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip."

"The psychological effect [of Hiroshima and Nagasaki] on Stalin was twofold," proposes historian Charles L. Mee, Jr. "The Americans had not only used a doomsday machine; they had used it when, as Stalin knew, it was not militarily necessary. It was this last chilling fact that doubtless made the greatest impression on the Russians."

It also made an impression on J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director at Los Alamos. After learning of the carnage wrought upon Japan, he began to harbor second thoughts and he resigned in October 1945.

In March of the following year, Oppenheimer told Truman:

"Mr. President, I have blood on my hands."

Truman's reply: "It'll come out in the wash."

Later, the president told an aide, "Don't bring that fellow around again."

"Why did we drop [the bomb]?" pondered Studs Terkel at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

"So little Harry could show Molotov and Stalin we've got the cards," he explained. "That was the phrase Truman used. We showed the goddamned Russians we've got something and they'd better behave themselves in Europe. That's why it was dropped. The evidence is overwhelming. And yet you tell that to 99 percent of Americans and they'll spit in your eye."

They'll also spit in your eye if you point out that the U.S. has waged several nuclear wars...against Japan in 1945, against Iraq from 1991 to present, in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, and on military bases like Vieques. Or if you point out that the US and Britain did not call for a military strike after Saddam's infamous gassing of Kurds* at Halabja in March fact, both nations continued support for Hussein. Some will still spit in your eye if you mention the absence of WMD in Iraq today.

Americans are rather fussy about their WMD. We, of course, can have them, a few allies can openly possess such weapons, and we'll deftly look the other way when Israel's plutonium slip shows. Russia? Well, as long as they stay away from that communist stuff.

As for tyrants like Hitler and Hussein: no way. The world simply can't risk having WMD in the hands of those likely to use them, right?

(*Commonly referred to as the gassing of his own people, it's essential to clarify that if the Kurds were Hussein's people, then the Palestinians are Sharon's people, the Zapatistas are Vicente Fox's people, the Tibetans are Hu Jintao's people, the Chechens are Putin's people, the Seminoles were Andrew Jackson's people, and the Puerto Ricans who were bombed and radiated with depleted uranium are Bush's people.)

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An American Debate: How Severe the Threat?


KENOSHA, Wis., Aug. 4 - If the United States was in danger of a terrorist attack and faraway financial institutions were supposed to be on high alert, there was no evidence of it at Franks Diner, a 78-year-old Kenosha institution where senators mix with regular folk and the prospect of another attack seemed just part of the background noise of daily life.

"I don't know who on earth to believe anymore," said Michael Schumacher, a 54-year-old writer who was eating a bratwurst for breakfast. "You feel you're being manipulated all the time."

Some version of that view was echoed at almost every table here as many patrons questioned whether the Bush administration was trying to manipulate the terrorist threat for political advantage.

Some, like John Gilmore, who owned Franks until a few years ago and still comes back to eat, said they had lost faith in the administration after American troops failed to find unconventional weapons in Iraq.

"They messed that thing up so badly that at this point, I don't believe anything they tell us," Mr. Gilmore said. "There's always an ulterior motive somewhere."

Others, like Chris De Santis, 55, a registered Democrat who is development director for a nature sanctuary, said the timing of the latest warning raised suspicions.

"You hear that they found plans and computer discs, so you think maybe there's something to it,'' Mr. De Santis said. "Then a day later, it turns out that a lot of the information is three years old, five years old. So I get suspicious. Isn't it a convenient time to have a terror alert, right after the convention?"

But Doug Thorne, a high school chemistry teacher from Kenosha, summed up another reaction that was heard in interviews in shopping malls, restaurants and street corners in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Philadelphia, Cleveland and San Francisco.

"In light of 9/11, you have to take it seriously," Mr. Thorne said. "I don't think it's a political play for votes. If they're going to do that, they'll do it in September or October."

Versions of this debate flared across the country this week as people sought to digest what was by far the most explicit warning by government officials of a potential terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001.

With polls showing public doubts on topics like President Bush's veracity on the war in Iraq and whether the country is safer from terrorism as a result of that invasion, people of diverse ages, income and political persuasion interviewed in eight states expressed a wary mix of skepticism and resignation about the orange alert that has dominated headlines, newscasts and talk radio for three days.

Lauren Bakunas, a 23-year-old graduate student from Parsippany, N.J., gave voice to a powerlessness that seemed to be common. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen," she said. "I'm not going to change my life because someone wants to threaten the country."

But with the election only a few months away, much of the conversation focused on politics.

In Cleveland, Bryan Kupetz, a registered independent who operates a hot dog stand, echoed a view that might have seemed outlandish only a short time ago.

"So much of the counterterrorism thing is political," Mr. Kupetz said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they caught Osama bin Laden two days before the election. Absolutely I think Bush is using the war on terrorism to his advantage.''

A few blocks away, Ron Greenspan, a lawyer who was taking a cigarette break in front of his office building, utterly rejected that view.

"I think he has the greater good of the American people at heart," Mr. Greenspan said of President Bush. "The thought of a president using this for political gain is just disgusting, and I have a hard time believing that a man of his political stature would do that."

People in Pensacola, Fla., a bastion of Bible Belt conservatism where President Bush crushed Al Gore by nearly 2 to 1 in the 2000 election, argued in similar terms.

"I'm sure there's 10 terrorists willing to give up their lives to hit some of our huge churches or malls and really put fear and terror in the psyche of the public," Norm Hughes, a retired civil servant and a Republican, said as he waited for a friend outside the Coffee Cup, a popular restaurant. "I'm hoping George Bush and his people are doing their jobs to keep them from hitting here again. The Democrats want to say Bush is drumming this up for political reasons, but I don't think he would do that."

While Mr. Bush has long benefited from his image as a straight talker, polls have shown an undercurrent of doubt about his veracity, beginning with his answers on the Enron scandal two years ago and continuing through to the Iraq war and the prisoner abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

When the public was asked in late June in a New York Times/CBS News poll whether or not Mr. Bush was telling the truth about the war in Iraq, only 18 percent of Americans said he was telling the entire truth, 59 percent said he was mostly telling the truth but was hiding something and 20 percent said he was mostly lying.

Interviews around the country reflected those mixed views - and a relatively higher level of concern in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., the places covered by the latest warning, than in the rest of the country.

James Cooper, 51, a chemical company manager from Kingsport, Tenn., who was visiting Washington, said he believed the heightened threat level was justified, but he acknowledged that much of his reasoning was based on faith.

"I don't think any of us have seen all of the pertinent documents that would support the elevated threat level," he said. "They're just not out there for the public. You just have to have a certain amount of trust in the government.''

Some New Yorkers who live or work near the financial buildings terrorists are said to have targeted were uncertain how seriously to take the latest warnings. "I can't imagine any politician playing with public safety to get votes, but it doesn't hurt their image either," said Teasha Duckworth, who works on the 19th floor of Citigroup Center, one of the buildings that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge mentioned as a possible target.

"You have to hope it's true," Keith Kirlew, a broker assistant who also works in Citigroup Center, said of the warning. "If this is political, it's pretty sick, so I have to assume there's some truth to it."

In Fort Lauderdale, Scott LaFortune, a model, said he believed government officials gather realistic intelligence, "but they can report it to us whenever they think it's necessary, or when they feel like hyping it."

"As time goes on, it's like crying wolf," Mr. LaFortune said. "They say something's going to happen, but nothing happens. Eventually we're going to ignore it and go on with our life."

In interviews this week, many people said they believed there was little they could do to prepare for an attack, and that they were resolved to carry on their lives as before. "To tell you the truth, I don't worry about these things," Sister Anna Cosgrave, 59, said as she waited for a train at the Amtrak station in Philadelphia. "What will be, will be."

Not everyone in the terminal was so calm. Tammy Glass, a 35-year-old credit researcher from Lynchburg, Va., was visibly upset by the prospect of another attack.

"I do worry about alerts, big time," Ms. Glass said. "I am scared to death to take trips. They didn't check my bags. When you board a train, you hand them a ticket and that's it. The terrorists are just waiting. They have it easy."

In San Francisco, the same doubts troubled Edward Ross, a 37-year-old lawyer who is a registered independent. "As much as I believe the warning was not politically based, I do have a shadow of a doubt regarding the credibility of the administration," Mr. Ross said. "It comes down to credibility. You lose some faith in taking their statements at face value."

Augustus Williams, a 38-year-old Seattle Democrat, said he had no doubt the terror warning was timed to help President Bush. "This is part of his campaign, I think," Mr. Williams said. "He's trying to get us to say, 'We still need Bush.' " [...]

Comment: It appears that at least some of the people are less hoodwinkable than the government might think. From our point of view it really is amazing to see people agonising over whether or not to believe Bush. To us, such a dilemma could be quickly and easily solved by simply looking at Bush's track record. Consider the invasion of Iraq for example. Most are now aware, or should be, that Bush and the chickenhawks in the Pentagon were more than willing to seize on any evidence, however weak, to support their rush to war. When political or monetary gain is at stake, Bush and Co have shown themselves to lack even a hint of scruples, so why continue to attempt to project upon them qualities that they neither posesses nor value?

The answer, as can be seen from the above comments of the good citizens of America, lies not in any objective analysis of 'what is', but in a sincere desire on the part of many to believe that their government has their best interests at heart. Note, it is a, "desire to believe" aka "wishful thinking" - a rejection of objective truth in favour of the subjective "truth" of one's own making. This concept goes to the heart of the matter and pervades all of our work which we present here on the Signs of The Times page and the Quantum Future Site as a whole.

Consider the words of one loyal US citizen in the above article, referring to the latest terror warnings:

"The thought of a president using this for political gain is just disgusting, and I have a hard time believing that a man of his political stature would do that."

Political stature? Bush?? We have to wonder just what reality this particular citizen lives in, yet, at the same time, we have to realise that he is not the exception but the rule. How can it be that his views diverge so radically from ours? Is he really living in the same reality as us? But before we get too self-righteous, we should remember that, in all likelihood, a majority of people on this planet share his view, or similarly subjective views of reality - views that are completely unsupported by any semblance of objectivity, of "What Is".

We would do well to understand then that, considering the number of people on the planet, we are in the extreme minority. Subjectivity rules the day on the BBM. Billions of people, who might otherwise awaken to some approximation of the truth, are kept ignorant and enslaved, partly because of our human nature which dictates that all must be made to conform to the personal view of reality, and if that involves shutting out and denying that which is in front of our faces, then so be it.

But what of chance? Surely after thousands of years the actual truth must have begun to seep through? Indeed it has, but that is where "governments" and, on a broader level, the "control system" comes in. As we have said in the past, those that control us must, as part of their job description, know us better than we know ourselves. We are like drug addicts, and "they" our dealers. We crave the "drug" that provides the high that is belief in a happy, comfortable, yet illusory perception of our lives, our reality and our place in it, and our leaders are only too happy to provide the illusion for us.

For drug addicts like these, the "leaders" are above reproach, because, after all, they supply the "drug", so of course they are "working in our best interests." They protect us from harsh reality, keeping us in a drugged-up stupor of illusory and fantastical beliefs. What right thinking junkie would question such a sweet deal?

Well, perhaps a junkie with an inclination, or more correctly, an ability for some form of individuality, the ability to differentiate between the "i" that is the junkie and the "I" that yearns to be free of addiction. From long and careful observation we have come to the conclusion that not all have such an ability or a such an "I", even in potential. The choice is ours.

Given the present climate and outlook for the future, we can state with some conviction that, if the already extensive chasm that has opened between truth and lies, and those that embrace those two opposites, widens much further, at some point the disparity will be so great that we may wake up one day and find that we have all received exactly that which we have truly asked for.

LeVine on new thinking in an all-orange world

No 9/11 Commission is necessary; no Senate Intelligence Committee need be convened. On Sunday of this week, the Bush administration raised the terror alert level from Code Yellow to Code Orange for the sixth time since the system was created in March 2002. It claimed major American and global financial institutions in New York and Washington were in dire danger of attack; announced al-Qaeda arrests in Pakistan; spoke of captured "master" computer geniuses, the chilling discovery of the stored floor plans of the buildings in which those financial institutions are housed, and even counts of how many people passed certain key sidewalk spots in front of them per minute; ensured that New York City's heavily armed "Hercules Teams" would be sent into the streets, a key tunnel closed to commercial traffic, the guard-level on buildings raised precipitously; sent tremors through the nation; turned the TV news and the front pages of every major paper into a series of somber-voiced (or toned) security broadcasts; and loosed "terrorism experts" from think-tanks you never knew existed onto the airwaves to talk about breakthroughs in understanding al-Qaeda "tradecraft" and to debate solemnly whether it was better to release information about impending attacks, thus letting the enemy know you knew they knew you knew, or to keep the same information closer to the vest, lest we give away what we knew they didn't know we knew.

Without an investigative commission or Senate committee to back me up I was instantly preparing to issue a rarely proffered Tomdispatch Guarantee that something was sure to be amiss with this tale of terror in this, my next dispatch. But before I could write it -- evidence perhaps that the domestic war on terror has entered the speeded-up realm in which Iraq has long existed ("Vietnam on crack cocaine") -- a second (lesser) wave of news made it to the front pages of our imperial papers. By Tuesday, we were informed, as Dan Eggen and Dana Priest of the Washington Post put it on that paper's front page (Pre-9/11 Acts Led to Alerts) that "most of the al Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert Sunday was conducted before the Sept. 11, 2001." They also quoted "senior law enforcement officials" saying things like, "There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new…Why did we go to this level? . . . I still don't know that."

Douglas Jehl and David Johnston chimed in the same day on the front-page of the New York Times (Reports That Led to Terror Alert Were Years Old, Officials Say) with the same information, adding in paragraph one, "[Intelligence and law enforcement officials] reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terror plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way." The information, all reports now told us, was not only years old, but much of its "masterful" essence may have come from public records or off -- gasp -- the Internet or other "open sources." A Times editorial that day (Mr. Bush's Wrong Solution) suggested deep in its second paragraph as well as a bit circuitously and in the negative that there might even be a tad of political manipulation involved: "This news does nothing to bolster the confidence Americans need that the administration is not using intelligence for political gain."

The administration responded solemnly that, well, yes, the information was indeed old, but it had been updated recently! Today, in a Glenn Kessler piece, labeled "analysis," in the Post this vital revelation had already been reduced to: "One piece of information on one building, which intelligence officials would not name, appears to have been updated in a computer file as recently as January 2004. But officials could not say whether that data resulted from active surveillance by al Qaeda or came from publicly available information."

The administration promptly responded that, as Jehl and Richard Stevenson reported on the front page of the Times today (New Qaeda Activity Is Said to Be Major Factor in Alert), the alert had been raised not just because of that old al-Qaeda information, but because a "separate stream of intelligence, which they had not previously disclosed, reached the White House only late last week and was part of a flow that the officials said had prompted them to act urgently in the last few days." (Given Bush environmental policies, one can only imagine how polluted this particular "stream" must have been.)

By the end of day four of the crisis, you could already find this mournful passage in the Kessler piece: "When Bush held his news conference, reporters knew only that the administration had recently uncovered this information. Bush 'would have faced more difficult questions' if reporters had known how much of the information had been obtained three years after the surveillance, Greenberger said."

If this weren't so serious, it would have the media quality of a Keystone Kops silent comedy. Unfortunately, our media is programmatically like some exceedingly slow, brain-damaged acquaintance. You have this constant urge to stretch out your hand and say, "Here, here, I'll help you along." But you also know that, massive and influential as it may be, on certain crucial matters it is institutionally incapable of learning. I mean, it's almost three years after 9/11 and we know we have an administration that never saw a piece of false intelligence it couldn't run with or accurate intelligence it couldn't mangle or suppress. Having just absorbed The 9/11 Commission Report and the Senate Intelligence Committee report, we also know that we have intelligence agencies that consider a 33% good-guess ratio great work.

This really should be a no-brainer. If you knew someone who was a congenital liar and who had told you something that wasn't so again and again… and then, one day, he told you it yet again, would you really extend him the benefit of the doubt? Would you really draw no negative conclusions? Would you really demand first the kind of smoking gun proof of lying that you know perfectly well will appear, whether on Day 3, 13, or 1,300?

If you're our imperial media, of course you would! On such matters, if the media is exceedingly slow, the Bush administration isn't. They know that first impressions count more than any retractions to follow. By last night, NBC Prime-time News was still leading off with "the tightest security" of our lifetime as its lead line, and ABC News was explaining, deep into its broadcast, that well, yes, administration spokesmen hadn't actually mentioned that a lot of the information was old… really old… not publicly… but they had done so in private media phone conferences, and anyway they were releasing news on 7 additional potential al-Qaeda targets! You see, they hadn't released that information about the age of the information, because they didn't want to tip their hand to al-Qaeda. Ah yes, it all makes sense now. And not only that but ABC News informed us that their "sources" revealed the President to be "very angry," especially with that New York Times editorial mentioned above. As well he should be! And so it goes (as Kurt Vonnegut might say): The initial release of news taken at more than face value, the later predictable retractions overlaid with White House denials, the releases of new "information," general muddiness, and caution.

And, of course, most of any retraction probably doesn't make it through the news net to most Americans, most of whom don't read tomdispatch, don't check out or, or, don't look for comments deep in New York Times' editorials three days after they've been blitzed by fear, or check out that key Washington Post "analysis" on day four which has all the caveats, doubts, and considerations. And you know what's the worst thing of all -- for those of us who can draw conclusions from an avalanche of evidence and just normal everyday experience -- when this happens again, as it surely will, in September or October, sometime certainly before November 2, and the police pour out for those fearsome front-page photo-ops, and the next al-Qaeda plot is revealed (before it's revealed to be some bogus combination of who knows what), the media reaction will be no different.

As one small remedy to this, I want to propose my own investigatory body -- the 3-02 Commission (March 2002 being the moment when the Department of Homeland Security started up its yellow-to-orange, orange-to-yellow alerts). It's natural for us to investigate massive intelligence failures when, as with the 9/11 attacks, obvious catastrophe follows. But what about massive intelligence "failures" when nothing follows (except psychic harm to the American people and so to our already maimed body politic)? Since March 2002, Code Orange after Code Orange has poured out of this administration and nothing has happened. Isn't this, too, a massive intelligence failure, even if massively unnoted by the media? "Two years-plus of terror alerts -- all wrong": Imagine that as a campaign slogan. Imagine for a second that there are indeed organized groups out there who actually wish us great harm -- and our vast intelligence "community," with all its alerts, knows remarkably little about them.

Unfortunately, new thinking is in short supply in our well garrisoned world. We just get the same old, same old, but ever more of it, and our media responds like a Konrad Lorenz imprinted duckling. As the editor of the War in Context website wrote recently of the line of thinking we've been living with these last several years,

"Let's suppose that the next president decides he's going to launch an initiative to protect America from global warming. If the war on terrorism provides a paradigm, the solution should be obvious: As the icecaps melt, build an ocean barrier around every coastal city in America; focus public awareness on the effects but avoid talking about the causes; above all, reassure the nation that the only way to be safe is to be strong. Meanwhile, enjoy the beach but don't forget the sunscreen."

Unfortunately, old and limited thinking applies to more than just this administration. Toss in, for instance, the investigative bodies looking into this administration. The 9/11 Commission recently issued its 500-plus page report and its major suggestion (which the President just couldn't bring himself to embrace yesterday, but did a superb job of seeming to embrace) was the appointment of an intelligence "czar" -- I always love the way such figures in our democracy are invariably called "czars" -- to oversee the fifteen (count 'em 15) intelligence agencies that make up our vast intelligence complex. As former CIA analyst Ray McGovern pointed out recently, this was hardly a brilliant or bold, no less useful suggestion.

It evidently didn't cross the Commission's mind (or the Senate Intelligence Committee's either) to ask why we have at least 15 overlapping, often competitive intelligence agencies -- wouldn't three already be a superfluity? -- or whether it might not make simple, rational sense to "reorganize" not just congressional oversight of the intelligence community with its cumulative budget of $40 billion (considered a very low estimate actually), but the community itself? No, it seems that it's better, as McGovern says, just to plunk a new layer of bureaucracy on top of the old mess. Nor, it seems, did anyone go back into the history of American intelligence to ask what use it's actually been to us, historically speaking. But that's expecting a lot in the era of Orange Alerts.

Mark LeVine, a scholar of Middle Eastern history and culture who has written for Tomdispatch before, has a modest suggestion for our embattled world. How about calling a "truce"? His piece below represents just a tad of new thinking, a modest signpost pointing the way toward one of a number of potential different paths in our world. But be prepared and be careful, he implicitly brings up the most dangerous word around today: "peace."

In fact, I think I just used the word? Uh-oh. Duck! Call out the Hercules Teams! Red alert! Or muster all your courage and read on. Tom

A Truce with the Muslim World:
Can Europe lead the way?
By Mark LeVine

It is time for the United States to declare a truce with the Muslim world, and radical Islam in particular.

This may sound like a naïve, even defeatist statement in the context of The 9/11 Commission Report's reminder that America remains very much at war with "Islamist terrorism" and the ideas behind it. Yet a truce -- in Arabic, hudna -- rather than an increasingly dangerous "clash of civilizations," is the only way to avoid a long, ultimately catastrophic conflict. And it's up to Europe to be the good broker.

Indeed, there is no chance for a halt in the war on terror, or any fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy as long as George Bush is President. Even if John Kerry wins this November, the possibility that he might initiate such a transformation is slim. However, there is one major difference -- at least rhetorically -- between the two possible presidencies: Kerry has made a point of saying that he would "listen" to European allies and strive to build a common approach to combating terrorism.

European leaders face the threat of an increasingly bloody conflict with Muslim extremists thanks to the continent's imperial past in the region and, more important today, their perceived support for U.S. policies in Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They would be wise to suggest that President Kerry call a truce so that the U.S., the European Union (E.U.), and more broadly the "West," can have the time collectively and publicly to explore the root causes of the violence against them that emanates from the Muslim world -- something the 9/11 Commission should have, but did not, do. At least there's a chance Kerry might listen, especially if the war in Iraq continues to spiral out of America's control.

There are many kinds of truces, most not relevant to the situation facing America today. Some of the earliest truces, such as the (aborted) Thirty Years Treaty during the Peloponnesian War of the fifth century B.C.E., were made only out of tactical necessity and collapsed as soon as the balance of forces changed. Such a truce -- during which both sides would attempt to gain an advantage before reigniting hostilities -- would surely be a disaster in our world.

Other truces, like those that ended the Korean War in 1953, or the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, became by default unsatisfactory political resolutions to otherwise insoluble conflicts. A truce like this almost certainly will end in renewed violence because the roots of the war on terror go to the core values underlying U.S./Western policies in the Middle East. Decades ago, the U.S. began an affair with a sociopathic form of wahhabi Islam, ultimately giving birth to the bastard child of "Islamist terrorism" that now, as in most lurid, made-for-TV dramas, wants to kill its parents.

Clearly, a different kind of truce is needed; one that signals the first step in a genuine reappraisal of American (and to a lesser extent European) core positions and interests as well as those of Muslims, so that genuine peace and reconciliation become conceivable. There is some historical precedent for this kind of truce in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad agreed to the first Muslim truce in 628. Known as the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, it was between the nascent Muslim community and the Meccan pagans, and lasted for two years before the Meccans broke it by attacking Muslim Bedouin tribes. During the truce, however, the Muslims respected its terms, even though many of them felt it to be unfair.

More important, during the last three decades an increasingly permanent Muslim presence in Europe gradually led most Muslims to consider that region not "dar al-harb" (or the Abode of War, the traditional Muslim categorization of all non-Muslim lands), but "dar al-hudna" -- a land of truce between Muslims and non-Muslims -- or even "dar al-Islam," a land of peace where Muslims can feel at home.

Indeed, however dangerous the presence of a few thousand extremists out of a European Muslim population more than ten million strong, the reality is that Muslims increasingly think of Europe as a "terre de mediation" (a land of mediation) between Muslims and the larger world. A European-initiated hudna might be the first step in allowing Muslims to feel the US has the potential to play a similar role -- but only if major European governments pressed for it, leading the way by reappraising and transforming their own policies toward Muslim lands.

From the US and European side, a meaningful hudna with Islam would include (but not be limited to) the following steps:

First, just as most every mainstream Muslim personality has condemned Muslim extremism, the next President must be prodded by his European counterparts to take the important psychological step of admitting U.S. responsibility for the harm decades of support for dictatorship, corruption, and war have caused ordinary Muslims, especially in the Middle East.

Second, the United States, the E.U., and NATO should halt all offensive military actions in the Muslim world and outline a serious plan for the removal of troops from Muslim countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq. (These could be replaced, where necessary, by robust UN peacekeeping forces or UN-assisted transitional administrations.) The hunt for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and related terror networks would then be transformed from a war of vengeance into what it always should have been: a vigorous international effort led by the U.S,, UN, and where relevant European and other governments, to apprehend, prosecute, and punish people and groups involved in the September 11 assaults and similar attacks.

Third, all military and diplomatic agreements and aid to Middle Eastern countries that aren't democratic or don't respect the rights of the peoples under their control should be suspended. Yes, this means for Israel as well as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other "allies" and "partners." This is crucial to stopping the regional arms race and cycle of violence that makes peace and democratic reform impossible.

Finally, the hundreds of billions of dollars that would have been devoted to the war on terror should be redirected toward the kind of infrastructural, educational, and social projects The 9/11 Commission Report argues are key to winning the war on terror.

A truce does not equal capitulation to terrorists or letting Muslims off the hook for crimes committed in the name of their religion. Certainly, European leaders were right to reject the "truce offer" purportedly made by Osama bin Laden last April on the condition that European countries remove their troops from Muslim lands and refuse to support the United States. Criminals can't offer truces, and bin Laden and other groups which use terroristic violence are indeed international criminals whom the world community has an obligation to bring to justice.

Beyond the criminal minority, The 9/11 Report was right to demand that Muslims worldwide confront the violent and intolerant version of their religion that is poisoning their societies and threatening the world at large. Religious leaders and ordinary citizens alike must engage in soul-searching about the toxic tendencies within their own cultures similar to the one they demand of Americans and the West more broadly.

States as well as communities and cultures can make truces, even if criminals can't. And the Report should have added specific policy prescriptions to enable such a process to begin: For their part, Muslim political leaders should begin a process of rapid development of participatory civil societies and hold internationally monitored elections within specified (short) time periods or their regimes will face censure and sanctions by the international community. This is the surest way to build a foundation for defeating terrorism.

While it's hard to imagine the U.S. drafting such a policy, the E.U., most of whose members don't have the deep ties with either Israel or the oil princedoms of the Gulf that anchor the current system, could lead the way. The need for such leadership is illustrated by various recommendations of the 9/11 Commission which demonstrate that the U.S. is institutionally incapable of taking bold policy steps on its own. As someone whose research was cited by the Report -- p. 466, note 16 -- in a manner that completely missed the point of my argument, I find it unsurprising that the Report would go on to position the U.S. as an innocent bystander to a "clash within a civilization" whose solution "must come from within Muslim societies themselves."

Fortunately, leading European countries like France, Germany, and now Spain don't have a powerful financial stake in the "heavy" or militarized globalization that, since 9/11, increasingly skews American and British policy-making. In fact, through the E.U., they have created a "Euro-Med" area whose viability depends on expansive economic and political development, and so on increasing interchange with the Muslim world. Let's only hope they will have the courage to explain to President Kerry (or even Bush) that, without both an acceptance of responsibility for past policy and the transformation of future policy toward the Islamic regions of our planet, there will be no solution to terrorism, only continued violence and war. No matter how "smarter and more effectively" the next American President might hope to prosecute such a war, it would be no more winnable than Vietnam or the war on drugs, with far higher losses likely in the near future.

Mark LeVine is associate professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture and Islamic Studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of the upcoming book, Why They Don't Hate Us

Fabricating Intelligence for Political Gain

by Michel Chossudovsky 3 August 2004

The decision to launch the code orange terror alert in New York City, Washington DC and northern New Jersey was taken on the night of John Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention.

No "specific" intelligence out of Pakistan was reviewed at that Thursday evening meeting on June 29 at CIA Headquarters at Langley.

The supporting intelligence used to justify the terror warning, not only turned out to be "outdated", it was only made available to counterterrorism officials ex post facto, once the decision to increase the "threat level" had already been endorsed by President Bush.

The Administration has put the country on "high risk" terror alert six times since September 11, 2001 including the latest August 1st alert which is limited to New York City, northern New Jersey and Washington. DC. Without exception, Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda has been identified as "a threat to the Homeland".

Since September 11, 2001, disinformation regarding an impending terror attack on the Homeland has been consistently fed into the news chain.

Since last December, following Sec. Tom Ridge's fake Christmas Terror Alert, the US public has been led to believe that a second 9/11 is imminent: "the near-term attacks will either rival or exceed the 9/11 attacks".

"You ask, 'Is it serious?' Yes, you bet your life. People don't do that unless it's a serious situation." (Donald Rumsfeld).

(See Bush's Christmas Terror Alert, by Michel Chossudovsky, 24 December 2003, )

According to official police sources, at least two out of five of the previous high profile code orange terror alerts were based on fabricated intelligence and Sec. Tom Ridge was directly behind these alerts.

(For further details, see: The Criminalization of the State, by Michel Chossudovsky, February 2004,

According to Sec. Tom Ridge, the latest terror alert is "different", because the intelligence, this time round, is said to be far more precise:

"Compared to previous threat reporting, these intelligence reports have provided a level of detail that is very specific."

Sec Tom Ridge in his August 1st statement pointed authoritatively to "specific credible information" from multiple sources:

" ...This afternoon we do have new and unusually specific information about where Al Qaida would like to attack....

The quality of this intelligence, based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen, and it is alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information. Now, while we are providing you with this immediate information, we will also continue to update you as the situation unfolds.

As of now, this is what we know: Reports indicate that Al Qaida is targeting several specific buildings, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the District of Columbia, Prudential Financial in northern New Jersey and Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange in New York.

Let me assure you -- let me reassure you, actions to further strengthen security around these buildings are already under way. Additionally, we're concerned about targets beyond these and are working to get more information about them.

Now, senior leadership across the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the White House, the CIA, the FBI, and other federal agencies, have been in constant contact with the governors, the mayors and the homeland security advisers of the affected locations I've just named.

(For full text of transcript: )

Yet barely two days days later, US officials were obliged to admit that the intelligence referred to by Sec Tom Ridge was not so precise after all. In fact, its even less "specific" than in previous terror alerts.

In an ABC interview, Deputy National Security Adviser Fran Townsend acknowledged that the August 1st alert was based on "outdated intelligence" going back to 2000/2001, in other words prior to 9/11:

"What we have learned about the 9/11 attacks, is that they do them (plan for attacks), years in advance and then update them before they launch the attacks," (ABC Good Morning America, 3 August 2004).

According to Townsend:

"the surveillance actions taken by the plotters were 'originally done between 2000 and 2001, but were updated - some were updated - as recently as January of this year,''' (NBC Today, 3 August 2004, quoted in the Guardian, 3 August 2004).

Townsend is Richard Clarke's successor on the National Security Council. She is Number 2 on the NSC after NS Adviser Condoleeza Rice. She heads the White House Counterterrorism program.

And yet her own statements on the nature of the intelligence, blatantly contradict DHS Sec Tom Ridge. And then she tells us, that the terrorists are, so to speak, involved in some kind of long term planning.

Tom Ridge referred in his August 1st to "the quality of this intelligence, based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations".

Yet in this case, again, the official Homeland Security narrative is contradicted by officials intelligence reports. The latter confirm that the hundreds of photos, sketches and written documents used to justify the "high risk" terror alert, emanated largely from one single source of information, following the arrest in mid July of a 25 year old Pakistani computer engineer, Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan. (AP, 3 August 2004).

Other than a New York Times report (August 2, 2004), which has been quoted extensively by news agencies around the World, we know nothing about this illusive individual. On his computer, Noor Khan, described as a mid-ranking Al Qaeda operative, had information dating back to 2000 and this data, we are told, was the main source of intelligence used by the CIA, with its 30 billion dollar plus budget, to document the threats to financial institutions in DC, NYC and Newark, N.J.

This Pakistani connection focusing on the 25 year old engineer is presented by the media as the missing link. The fact that Pakistan's military intelligence (ISI) has consistently been supporting Al Qaeda, while maintaining close links with the CIA is of course not mentioned. Nor is there any mention of the ISI's role in financing the alleged 9/11 terrorists, which is corroborated by an FBI report published in late September 2001.

Contradictory Timeline: The Thursday July 29 Meeting at Langley

The CIA held a key counterterrorism meeting on Thursday the 29th of July starting at 5 pm. (WP, 3 August 2004). This meeting, which was described as routine, was attended by senior officials from the CIA, the Pentagon and the FBI.

(See )

According to a unnamed senior intelligence official (who in all likelihood attended the meeting), the decision to launch the high risk (code orange) terror alert was taken on Thursday evening, within hours of of John Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention:

"At the daily CIA's 5 p.m. counterterrorism meeting on Thursday, the first information about the detailed al Qaeda surveillance of the five financial buildings was discussed among senior CIA, FBI and military officials. They decided to launch a number of worldwide operations, including the deployment of increased law enforcement around the five [financial] buildings." [World Bank, IMF, NYSE, Citigroup, Prudential] (WP, 3 August 2004, )

On what intelligence was that far-reaching 29 July decision taken? Visibly nothing specific.

On Thursday, 29 July, when the decision was taken to increase the threat level, the "precise" and "specific" information out of Pakistan including "the trove of hundreds of photos and written documents", was not yet available.

The information from the Pakistani computer engineer, Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, was only made available ex post facto on the Friday:

"A senior intelligence official said translations of the computer documents and other intelligence started arriving on Friday [one day after the decision was taken to launch the operation]. (WP, 3 August 2004)

According to a White House aid, President Bush had been "informed of the potential threat Friday morning [July 30] aboard Air Force One". (WP, 2 August 2004). In other words, President Bush's approval to raising "the threat level" was granted in the absence of "specific" supporting intelligence. The latter was made available to counterterrorism officials until Friday evening:

'We worked on it late, and through that night,' [Friday] he [the intelligence official] said. 'We had very specific, credible information, and when we laid it in on the threat environment we're in,' officials decided they had to announce it."

At first, "top administration officials had decided to wait until yesterday [Saturday] to announce the alert, but more intelligence information was coming in -- both new translations of the documents, and analysis of other sources' statements -- that deepened their concern about the information, and persuaded them to move ahead swiftly. 'There was a serious sense of urgency to get it out,' the senior intelligence official said...

"On Saturday, officials from the CIA, the FBI, the Homeland Security and Justice departments, the White House, and other agencies agreed with Ridge to recommend that the financial sectors in New York, Washington and North Jersey be placed on orange, or 'high,' alert. Ridge made the recommendation to Bush on Sunday morning, and Bush signed off on it at 10 a.m.". (WP, 3 August 2003)

Following the DHS's Sunday August 1st advisory that the Bretton Woods institutions were a potential target, the World Bank spokesman Dana Milverton retorted that the information was "largely out of date,'' and "a lot of it was actually public information that anyone from outside the building could have gotten.'' (Guardian, op cit.)

"One federal law enforcement source said his understanding from reviewing the reports was that the material predated Sept. 11 and included photos that can be obtained from brochures and some actual snapshots. There also were some interior diagrams that appear to be publicly available." (WP, 3 August 2*004)

According to the NYT (August 3, 2004) report:

"the information, which officials said was indicative of preparations for a possible truck- or car-bomb attack, left significant gaps. It did not clearly describe the suspected plot, indicate when an attack was to take place nor did it describe the identities of people involved."

Fabricated Intelligence

Not only was "outdated intelligence" used to justify the "high risk" threat level, the actual decision to launch the code orange alert was taken within hours of John Kerry's acceptance speech, prior to receiving the supporting intelligence out of Pakistan.

Tom Ridge was asked "what he would say to skeptical people who see a political motive in the terror alert, he replied: 'I wish I could give them all Top Secret clearances and let them review the information that some of us have the responsibility to review. We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security.'" (WP, 3 August 2004, )

No specific intelligence from the illusive Pakistan engineer's computer was reviewed at that Thursday evening meeting on June 29. (WP, 3 August 2004)

In other words, everything indicates that the decision to increase the threat level had no foundation whatsoever.

The threat of an impending terror attack had been fabricated.

The deployment around the five financial buildings was totally unnecessary.

Public opinion had been deliberately misled.

Fabricating intelligence for political gain or as a pretext for the introduction of emergency measures is a criminal act.

Yet nobody in Washington seems to be concerned that the Bush Cabinet has triggered a campaign of fear and intimidation based on phony intelligence in the months leading up to the November presidential elections.

A Plot, or Not? Why Heathrow Bomb Plan Was a Media Dream

It began with tales of a "terror alert in US and Britain" and culminated in a "plot to bomb Heathrow". In the past few days anyone following the American and British media or listening to US security chiefs would be in little doubt the two countries were facing an imminent attack by al-Qa'ida.

New information is, however, emerging that calls into doubt the level of threat. Senior British counter-terrorist sources yesterday denied they had found any specific plot to attack Heathrow or any other British airport.

Comment: All of the above should tell us clearly that we are being lied to. But don't take our word for it, The Commander in Chief has himself made clear his intentions...

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Bush Misspeak Cites U.S. Readiness to Harm U.S.

Thu Aug 5

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush (news - web sites) told a roomful of top Pentagon (news - web sites) brass on Thursday that his administration would never stop looking for ways to harm the United States.

The latest installment of misspeak from a president long known for his malapropisms came during a signing ceremony for a new $417 billion defense appropriations bill that includes $25 billion in emergency funding for operations in Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites).

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we," Bush said.

The Republican incumbent, who is in a tight race for reelection against Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites), a decorated Vietnam veteran, used the 11-minute presentation to underscore his commitment to U.S. troops.

On hand for the ceremony were Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Comment: The Freudian slip to beat all others, and you can bet that Bush and Co are thinking really hard about how to "harm our people"...

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US opens up Guantanamo tribunals for first time

August 6, 2004

US NAVAL BASE AT GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (AFP) - With their feet shackled and wrists handcuffed, two Afghan "war on terror" detainees made their case for freedom to tribunals opened up to observers for the first time.

The tribunals refused both men the right to call witnesses to back their cases that they had not fought against the United States or had been forced to join the Taliban.

Facing criticism over the detention camp at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba, US military authorities started the tribunals last week to review whether the two Afghans and 583 other inmates were properly classified as "enemy combatants" when captured.

The tribunals are being held in a cramped, prefabricated hut in Camp Delta, which has been the prison for the Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees for more than two and a half years.

Journalists were allowed to watch the proceedings for the first time when the Afghans, both wearing distinctive orange suits and with their feet chained to the floor, appeared before the three-member military panel.

The tribunal was held in a windowless room about 6.2 metres (20 feet) by three metres (10 feet) in a portable hut set up in the camp, which is surrounded by razor wire, with a forest of cactus beyond.

There was just enough space for the detainee, an officer who represents him, an interpreter, a military representative, stenographer and three tribunal members.

Under strict US Defense Department media rules none of the inmates can be identified and only unclassified evidence is heard by reporters and the detainee.

The cases of 10 detainees have now been heard but five of them have refused to attend.

One 31-year-old man admitted Thursday he had been with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 but said he would have been "crazy" to fight US forces.

"I surrendered myself to the Americans because I am believing that Americans are for human rights," he told the tribunal through a translator.

According to the few details given by the US military, the man was a member of the Taliban, was armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and was with a Taliban leader when captured in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz by forces of Northern Alliance warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam in late 2001.

The man said he was hurt in US bombing raids launched in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States by Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s group.

After treatment, he returned to his home region of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan.

"After some time in Kunduz, I heard on the radio that the Americans are coming to get Osama bin Laden.

"There should be a difference between someone who surrenders himself and someone who fights Americans. I surrendered," he said.

The detainee asked that a witness be allowed to testify on his behalf, but was told such testimony would be irrelevant to the tribunal's task which is to determine whether he was an "enemy combatant".

Comment: Given that pretty much no one - not even US officials - have really defined what an "enemy combatant" actually is, how can detainees effectively defend themselves?

The second inmate, a 49-year-old man, asked that three witnesses be called to support his contention he was forced to join the Taliban. The tribunal president again said this was irrelevant to the proceedings.

The man said that in October 2001, the Taliban had forced him to leave his house and join them.

He said he never took part in fighting and did not have a weapon and that the Taliban leaders in the house where he was kept in the city of Kunduz also decided to surrender to Dostam's forces.

The Northern Alliance at first kept the prisoners in a container and several died from suffocation and heat exhaustion, he testified.

If the tribunals go in their favour, the inmates from 40 countries, including Australia, Britain, France, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, could be released.

But Navy Secretary Gordon England warned on Wednesday that not many could expect to return home.

Civilian lawyers have condemned the tribunals as unfair because there is no independent legal representation.

But top US defence officials have insisted the hearings are "fair" and "professionally run".

Comment: Assassins may act very professionally within the confines of their occupation, but they are still just professional murderers. As such, while we do not doubt the "professionally run" part, we are not so sure about calling the hearings "fair". What is most surprising about these hearings is the severe lack of international outrage. Most everyone outside the US can see that something is dreadfully wrong with the America's current course. Yesterday, the Red Cross finally suggested that the incidents at Abu Ghraib could have been classified as torture. Could?? The events in Cuba, the US, Afghanistan, and Iraq might seem far away to most people, especially those living in other countries that are not directly affected at the moment.

What is perhaps most frightening is that many countries around the world are now doing publicly exactly what the US did as Nazi power grew on the other side of the globe - absolutely nothing. The US and Israel are committing war crimes left and right, and no one seems to even blink. Yes, it's an ugly situation. Yes, it's "negative". But guess what, folks? We are right smack in the middle of it, whether we like it or not. We have a choice: ignore it, or learn more about it.

Many people seem to think that the Signs page is too negative, that we have lost our way, that we should strive for "balance". This is an interesting suggestion, since it is impossible to truly know the "positive" if we force ourselves to remain ignorant of the "negative". Sure, from some higher perspective, the dark and light are probably one - but we ain't there yet, and pretending we are will not make it so. Furthermore, if one thinks that all is one in our world, then there is no reason to point out who is being "negative", because they are also being "positive"! At our level of reality, ignoring the dark won't get you much - except maybe labeled an enemy combatant, thrown in a detainment camp, tried in a kangaroo court, and eventually killed. Recognizing the darkness could very well save your life - and if you are like us, you still have a lot of work to do.

Ignoring the darkness is exactly what is occurring among peoples around the planet. Of course, those in power attempt to control what the masses see. It seems that the world may need a huge "warning shock" to wake up. Maybe the shock will take the form of an immense fireball, or a terrorist attack at the upcoming Olympic games. Then again, a shock may not do anything to open our collective eyes - unless we are already working on viewing reality more objectively. It is also possible that there will be no big shocks until it is too late.

Maybe "negative" sites like Signs of the Times are the only warning we'll get... but as always, don't take our word for it - research!

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British Police Arrest Man on U.S. Extradition Warrant

August 6, 2004

LONDON (Reuters) - British police said Thursday they had arrested a 30-year-old Briton on a demand for his extradition by the United States on charges of planning terror acts in Chechnya and Afghanistan using U.S. Web sites.

A police statement said Babar Ahmad was being held in a central London police station after the extradition warrant was issued earlier in the day by Bow Street Magistrates court.

The warrant states that between 1998 and 2003 Ahmad, working through Web sites based and operated in the United States and through e-mail to people there, solicited money for "acts of terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan."

It said that money raised would be "used for the purposes of terrorism, namely actions involving serious violence against a person or serious damage to property or murder for the purpose of advancing a political or religious or ideological cause." [...]

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Proposal Would Fence Independence Square

August 6, 2004

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Independence Square -- the open space where the Declaration of Independence was first proclaimed -- could be divided by an 8-foot fence under a security proposal by the site superintendent.

The proposal also would add a security building in a corner of the square and another next to the Liberty Bell Center north of Independence Hall, where the declaration and the U.S. Constitution were created.

The proposed fence is meant to protect Independence Hall, which the Interior Department has designated a key asset. "I think we've looked at every option available,'' Superintendent Mary Bomar said.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, Chestnut Street, which runs between Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, was closed to vehicles. It reopened after 19 months, and the landmarks are now protected by temporary security barriers.

The fence proposal for Independence Square, south of the Hall, has stunned architects and preservationists.

"The space, to me, is as significant in many ways as the building,'' said John Gallery, executive director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. "It was the place where the Declaration was first read.''

Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration, paced the square while mulling what to write, Gallery said. "So the notion that someone would be actually considering building something there is so mind-boggling,'' he said.

The National Park Service operates Independence National Historical Park under a lease with the city, which owns the land and buildings. About 3 million people visit the park yearly. The square has been open space since 1900, when a county courthouse was removed and the square restored to its Revolutionary-era appearance.

Richard Tyler, executive director of the Philadelphia Historical Commission, said he believed the city's preservation ordinance covered Independence Square and the buildings on it, so any construction would require commission approval.

Bomar said Park Service attorneys were studying whether the Historical Commission had jurisdiction over the site, and she would follow their recommendations.

Bomar said she would seek public discussion of the $7.5 million security plan, which has been released only to state and local officials and select private groups.

Charlene Mires, a Villanova University associate professor of history and author of "Independence Hall in American Memory,'' questioned the impact of construction and fencing on the meaning of the square for the city and the nation.

"What does it mean when you are standing in a place called Independence Square and the fundamental activity is security?'' she asked.

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Mistaken Terrorist Was Actually Department Store Owner

Mohammad Suid, 30, of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, was interrogated and searched for more than four hours July 28 before officials determined he wasn't a terrorist and released him. Riviera Beach police released Suid's identity Thursday after a public records request by The Palm Beach Post.

Authorities had evacuated nearby homes, businesses and a Boys and Girls club, limited road and boat traffic and began searching containers at the port before Suid's real identity was confirmed.

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U.S. Patriot Act used in pot case

WebPosted Aug 5 2004 09:09 AM PDT

VANCOUVER - Five Canadian residents accused of marijuana smuggling face prosecution in Seattle under the controversial U.S. Patriot Act.

They're among 15 people accused of smuggling $3.4 million US across the border to Canada in exchange for marijuana.

They charged with "bulk cash smuggling" – a new offence under the Patriot Act punishable by five years in prison.

The section of the act was designed to stop money laundering – especially by groups funding terrorism.

But the American Civil Liberties Union says it's an example of the U.S. government abusing the Patriot Act.

"Even the government admits that the people charged have nothing to do with terrorism," says Washington State ACLU spokesperson Doug Honig.

"But the government now has powers in the Patriot Act to get around restrictions that it had in the past, and it's now using these new powers."

A lawyer representing one of the accused says the act doesn't just provide for harsher penalties. Jeffrey Steinborn says it also makes it easier for authorities to collect evidence.

"Their wiretaps will be easier to justify, and as a general rule wiretaps are not that easy to justify," he says.

The U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case wasn't available for comment.

Comment: The poor old CIA, they are having a lot of trouble arresting the real terrorists, partly due to the fact that they don't actually exist. But not to be outdone, they are redoubling their efforts and have come up with an excellent way to uncover the plans of the bad guys...

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CIA Using Hollywood Movie Scripts To Find Terrorists

When the plot thickens, the CIA calls in the professionals -- Hollywood screenwriters. Addressing what the Sept. 11 commission said was one of the main failures of government -- imagination -- a senior CIA official said on Wednesday the spy agency was willing to "push beyond the traditional boundaries of intelligence."

"We had our terrorism and counternarcotics analysts meet with Hollywood directors, screenwriters and producers. People who are known for developing the summer blockbusters or the hit TV show that often have a terrorism theme," said Jami Miscik, CIA's deputy director for intelligence. "It was an attempt to see beyond the intelligence report, and into a world of plot development," she told a House Intelligence Committee hearing on the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations about analysis and the need for imagination and creativity [...]

Comment: What a great idea! Why didn't they think of it sooner. It would be just like those crazy Arab terrorists to try and mimic the heroics of all American guys like Arnie and Sylvester.

We have just received a report that the New York Police department have been told to be on the lookout for an Arab terrorist in a Spiderman costume who may be attempting to carry out an attack. When officers asked how they would know the Arab Spider terrorist from the real Spiderman they were informed to look for the turban. We jest of course, we are the first to applaud the fine work that America's finest are doing and we know that their efforts are ensuring that our streets are a much safer place to be...

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With NYC cops stretched thin, crime's rising again

A recent weekend murder spree left 11 people dead around the city. A nun was mugged on Shepherd Ave. in Brooklyn late last month. A monsignor was beaten in his own bedroom about the same time. On a recent Sunday, a South Bronx priest was caught in a struggle with a crazed individual.

These violent incidents are frightening but not surprising. For the past few months, more and more police have been removed from neighborhoods like the South Bronx and East Brooklyn for special training for the upcoming Republican convention.

Drug dealers, gangbangers and thieves have infiltrated areas that determined residents and police fought for years to reclaim. These domestic terrorists openly sell drugs in the lobbies and stairwells of buildings they don't live in. They deny tenants access to elevators so that everyone understands who's really in charge.

They force people like Aura Mata of the South Bronx into her apartment, where she lives almost like a prisoner. Then they try to break in when they see her leave the building. Thugs have battered her front door more than a dozen times.

Recently, Mata was robbed in her lobby by a drug addict. After that robbery and the mugging of a grocery deliveryman, tenants organized a meeting with the local precinct. The police promised to give special attention to the building - but the extra patrols lasted only a week. [...]

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Passport ID Technology Has High Error Rate

By Jonathan Krim
Washington Post
August 6, 2004

The State Department is moving ahead with a plan to implant electronic identification chips in U.S. passports that will allow computer matching of facial characteristics, despite warnings that the technology is prone to a high rate of error.

Federal researchers, academics, industry experts and some privacy advocates say the government should instead use more-reliable fingerprints to help thwart potential terrorists.

The enhanced U.S. passports, scheduled to be issued next spring for people obtaining new or renewed passports, will be the first to include what is known as biometric information. Such data, which can be a fingerprint, a picture of parts of eyes or of facial characteristics, is used to verify identity and help prevent forgery.

Under State Department specifications finalized this month for companies to bid on the new system, a chip woven into the cover of the passport would contain a digital photograph of the traveler's face. That photo could then be compared with an image of the traveler taken at the passport control station, and also matched against photos of people on government watch lists.

The department chose face recognition to be consistent with standards being adopted by other nations, officials said. Those who drafted the standards reasoned that travelers are accustomed to submitting photographs and would find giving fingerprints to be intrusive.

But federal researchers who have tested face-recognition technology say its error rate is unacceptably high -- up to 50 percent if photographs are taken without proper lighting. They say the error rate is far lower for fingerprints, which could be added to the chip without violating the international standard. [...]

But James L. Wayman, director of biometric identification research at San Jose State University in California, said face recognition is not reliable enough to be useful.

"Facial recognition isn't going to do it for us at large scale," Wayman said. "If there's a 10 percent error rate with 300 people on a 747, that's a problem."

According to tests by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, two fingerprints provide an accuracy rate of 99.6 percent. With face recognition, if the pictures are taken under controlled circumstances with proper illumination, angles and facial expression, the accuracy rate was 90 percent.

"The numbers would be better today, but they are not going to be comparable with fingerprints," Wilson said. Even a person's aging can affect results, especially with children. [...]

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Comment: It appears that this technology is slated for widespread use. With a high error rate and numerous drawbacks, it seems that this technology was never intended to permit safe travel and catch terrorists. One might suggest that the whole point is to make it more difficult - and frightening - for US citizens to travel abroad. Their passports may not check out if they try to exit the country, and what happens if they can't get back in? The new system also makes it even less pleasant for citizens of other countries to visit America. Speaking of other countries and passports...

Look miserable to help the war on terrorism

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor

Holidaymakers and other overseas travellers were ordered yesterday to play their part in the war on terrorism - by looking miserable on their passport photographs.

Under new security measures all mugshots must in future "show the full face, with a neutral expression and the mouth closed".

The advice is being sent to all applicants before the introduction next year of "ePassports", which make it harder for terrorists and criminals to get hold of fake passports.

The facial image on the photograph will be incorporated in a chip, which will be read by border control equipment. But the high-tech machines need to match key points on the face - a biometric - and this only works if the lips are closed.

The UK Passport Service (UKPS) said cheery types who flash a full set of teeth will have their applications rejected, though a modest grin may be allowed. [...]

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NATO advance guard to go to Iraq in "two or three days"

Wed Aug 4, 5:44 PM ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The advance guard of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's mission to Iraq will leave this weekend under the command of a Dutch general, an alliance official said.

"An initial group will be leaving in the next two or three days" with the rest of the 40-member team due to follow probably next week, the official said. "They have authority to start training in and outside of Iraq."

The officers, from different nationalities, will be drawn from NATO military headquarters near Mons, Belgium and command centers in Naples and Norfolk, Virgina.

The mission will be commanded by Dutch air force general Carel Hilderink, according to the source, who asked not to be identified.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said earlier that the officers would form "the nucleus of the enlarged training mission" that the alliance agreed to supply at its summit in Istanbul at the end of June.

NATO powers agreed last Friday to send the mission, leaving in abeyance until September a dispute between the United States and France about its command. France agrees with the training role but opposes flying the NATO flag in Iraq.

The mission's tasks include liaising with the Iraqi interim government and US-led coalition forces, helping Iraq establish defense and military headquarters and identifying Iraqi personnel for training outside the country.

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Battling terrorism in Chad

By Martin Plaut
BBC correspondent in Chad

United States troops are in Chad training some of the country's elite forces in how to fight al-Qaeda or any of its allies in the region.

This is the latest battleground in what United States President George W Bush calls the global war on terrorism.

Twenty-five US marines have been stationed at a base 50km south of the capital Ndjamena at a military base, Camp Loumia, working with 170 Chadian soldiers.

It is all part of what the US calls the Pan-Sahel Initiative, with US forces improving military training in Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

[...] "The enemy is anyone who passes illicit arms, goods or people, through the territory of Chad. Predominantly up in the north, where the borders are a little more porous, there is a little more of a threat of terrorism.

Ultimately this company is the anti-terrorism unit for Chad," he said.

The US had almost lost interest in Africa following the end of the Cold War.

But since 11 September 2001, the continent is now firmly back on the Pentagon's agenda as a breeding ground for terrorism.

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ATH-WET-ICS: Olympic stadium to be flooded for opening

By Euan Stretch
Jul 25 2004

THE OLYMPIC stadium in Athens will be flooded with millions of gallons of water for the Games' spectacular opening ceremony.

A lake will fill the arena of the 55,000-seat stadium for a three-hour ceremony featuring state-of-the-art pyrotechnics, puppeteers and hundreds of dancers.

Other highlights will include a huge "comet" striking the lake to form the five Olympic rings in flames, a 50ft Greek sculpture emerging from the lake then exploding and a parade of floats carrying hundreds of Greek mythological figures. [...]

The ceremony starts at 8.45pm on Friday August 13 as 400 drummers make the sound of a human heart-beat across the stadium and a giant video screen counts down from 40 seconds.

As it hits zero there will be an explosion of white light and a flame will race across the stadium's 80-metre high roof. The "comet" will hit the lake and a giant "paper" boat carrying a small child will glide across the lake to a stage in the middle.

There, the child will be greeted by Greek president Constantine Stephanopoulos while the Greek flag is raised and the country's national anthem is played.

Then, in one of the more bizarre parts of the show, a centaur - half-man, half horse - throws a javelin into the centre of the lake.

From the spot where it lands a 50ft high head similar to ancient sculptures found near Greek temples rises - then shatters to reveal two strange figures. The centrepiece of the show will feature more than 400 ancient mythological figures, dancers and puppeteers in boats.

The final figure, a pregnant woman, will step into the water to spark off a cascade of tiny lights throughout the stadium followed by a giant projection of a strand of DNA. [...]

About 40 construction workers have been killed while working on the dozens of Olympic sites throughout Greece. Just one worker died in the run-up to the Sydney games in 2000.

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Rains lash India as death toll nears 1,000

August 6, 2004

AHMEDABAD, India (AFP) - Relentless monsoon rains lashed India as troops and the air force rescued more people marooned by flooding and the nationwide death toll neared 1,000.

The north and west of the agriculture-dependent country had been facing the spectre of drought but have now been inundated by the rains which have wreaked havoc in many parts of South Asia, officials said on Friday.

Eleven construction workers were killed Friday when a landslide triggered by heavy rains crushed the shed in which they were sleeping in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir near an important Hindu pilgrimage route.

Countrywide, the death toll was at least 994.

The rains in India, Bangladesh and Nepal have triggered landslides, devastated crops, washed away roads and homes, left millions homeless and killed at least 1,815 people, according to an AFP tally since July 10 based on official figures. [...]

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Earthquake hits Tokyo

From correspondents in Tokyo, Japan
06 aug 04

AN earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale struck Tokyo and its vicinity today but there were no reports of injuries or damage.

The quake took place at 3.23am (4.23am AEST), with the focus located in Chiba prefecture, east of the capital, and 80km underground, the meteorological agency said.

It said there was no danger of tsunami tidal waves.

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Unprecedented 1,600 small earthquakes deep below Lake Tahoe

Thursday, August 5, 2004

RENO, Nev. - Magma moving deep below Lake Tahoe apparently triggered an unprecedented swarm of 1,600 tiny earthquakes during a seven-month period but they stopped in February and there's no cause for alarm, experts said Thursday.

The migration of the molten rock material 20 miles beneath the surface of the Sierra Nevada also likely caused the mountain beneath the Mt. Rose Ski resort southwest of Reno to rise 8 millimeters, or about 3/8 of an inch, researchers said.

"We've been watching earthquakes for 30 years in the Tahoe area and have never witnessed an earthquake swarm anything like this," said Ken Smith, a research seismologist for the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.

"The magma itself is the force breaking the rock and that's what we see the earthquakes associated with," he told The Associated Press on Thursday.

"This is going to help us better understand how earthquakes develop in the first place," he said.

The deep earthquakes beneath the lake about 25 miles southwest of Reno forced several miles of rock to spread apart by about 1 meter but were of no greater magnitude than 2.2. They occurred from Aug. 12, 2003 to Feb. 19, 2004, then stopped. [...]

Michael Reichle, acting California state geologist, said that as a result of the new information state experts will be "keeping a close eye on future seismic activity in the Tahoe area."

"This is a very interesting scientific discovery, but there's no cause for the public to be alarmed," he said.

The most recent instances of magma reaching the surface in the Lake Tahoe area occurred about 1 million years ago.

"The chances of us seeing a volcanic eruption in the Tahoe region in our lifetime are practically nil," said Darryl Young, director of the California Department of Conservation.

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Canadian skies abuzz with unidentified objects en route to record year

Thu Aug 5

OTTAWA (CP) - From a translucent, saucer-shaped object in British Columbia to mysterious lights buzzing motorists in New Brunswick, Canadians are on their way to reporting a record-high number of UFO sightings this year.

More than 400 stories of curious encounters were filed through the end of July, compared with just over 300 by this time last year, says Ufology Research of Manitoba, a group that tracks reports of unidentified flying objects. At this rate, the total for 2004 will surpass the current record of 673 sightings reported last year, said Chris Rutkowski, research co-ordinator for the Winnipeg-based organization.

The group receives reports directly by telephone and e-mail, from sister agencies that follow the phenomenon, and via federal departments such as Transport and National Defence.

Rutkowski isn't sure why the numbers are rising, but suspects it might be linked to public awareness of recent exploratory missions to intriguing planets such as Mars and Saturn.

"I think there is a resurgence of interest in space," he said Thursday in an interview.

Dazzling mid-air manoeuvres were a feature of some of the more dramatic otherworldly episodes.

At a military base in Beaverbank, N.S., on April 23, three people spotted several lights in the east, including a slow-moving red one bobbing up and down.

Suddenly, a second red light swooped in, prompting the first one to climb upwards and fly over it.

In a July 5 incident, a Rosemont, Que., couple saw a very bright red light moving slowly westward. Travelling much too low to be an airplane or helicopter, the object plunged to the ground and disappeared after about a minute.

Two people sitting on a hill in an Edmonton park on June 23 watched four distinct lights hover above them.

"At first they thought it was some sort of satellite," Rutkowski said.

"But then the lights gathered together, close in the sky, and spread out again. They would travel in one direction for a while and then curve back in a very sharp turn in another direction. And they watched it for 90 minutes."

The Prairies seem to be a hotbed of unexplained activity.

Doctors re-attach woman's dog-chewed lips

August 06 200

Hong Kong - Surgeons in China have re-attached a woman's lips after her pet dog bit them off when she kissed it, a news report said on Friday.

The woman regularly kissed her dog but one night in June the animal turned on her and bit off and swallowed her lips, according to the South China Morning Post.

The woman's family spent 40 minutes getting the dog to cough the lips up and surgeons in Xian, central China, were able to reattach them, the newspaper said. - Sapa-DPA

Thailand bans theme park's orang-utan boxing bouts

By Jan McGirk in Bangkok
05 August 2004

Thai forestry officials have clamped down on ape kick- boxing matches staged at an amusement park in suburban Bangkok. Some 110 orang-utans are dressed up in boxing gloves and silk shorts and forced to spar for tourists at Safari World.

Police banned the fights and threatened to confiscate the apes after Indonesian authorities attended a weekend show and denounced smugglers for supplying the bulk of these fighting orang-utans to Safari World.

Chimpanzees in bikinis announce the kickboxing bouts with placards, and have been performing at the park's zoo stage for at least 20 years. Outraged members of the International Primate Protection League challenge Safari World's claims that the show is harmless and that the animal fights are as choreographed as American wrestling. Last week animal rights activists urged a boycott of the popular act.

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