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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

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New! Film Review: The Manchurian Candidate

Picture of the Day

Lightning - August 2004
©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Woman hurt in 'meteorite' strike

BBC
Wednesday, 18 August, 2004, 10:42 GMT

A woman believes she was struck by a meteorite while hanging out washing.

Pauline Aguss, 76, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, felt a sharp pain in her arm and when she looked down there was a one-inch gash along her forearm.

She blamed a peg bag but the next day husband Jack, 76, spotted a walnut-shaped metallic rock on a garden path.

"We've made inquiries and are pretty certain it was a meteorite fragment. I knew a linen peg bag couldn't have caused a cut like that," he said.

The metallic sheen and shape of the rock gave clues to its true identity.

Mr Aguss said: "It's rusty coloured and you can see a few crystal pieces in it.

'Extremely lucky'

"They mentioned on TV that a meteorite shower was due and that's when I first thought that that is what the piece of rock could be.

"I dread to think what could have happened if it had hit her on the head - she was extremely lucky," he added.

One meteorite makes it through the atmosphere and falls to Earth each week on average, according to David Fagg, secretary of Norfolk Astronomers.

But there is a only one in a billion chance that anyone will be hit by one and there are no records of anyone being struck before, he said.

"This is an extremely rare event. One hit a car in America a few years ago but, as far as anyone knows, that was the closest a meteorite has come to a human," said Mr Fagg.

Scientific tests would have to be carried out on the suspect meteorite before anyone could say for certain that it did fall from the sky, he said.

Meteorites often resembled pieces of rock left over from an industrial smelting process.

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Woman hanging out washing 'hit by meteorite'

By Mark Prigg, Evening Standard
17 August 2004

A woman believes she was hit by a meteorite fragment while hanging out her washing.

Pauline Aguss was in the garden when she felt a searing pain and noticed a cut on her arm. She said: "It looked black and peculiar. I went indoors and put a plaster on."

It was not until the next day that her husband Jack found a walnut-sized rock on the path. Mrs Aguss, 76, of Lowestoft, Suffolk, said: "It was an odd shape and you could see a few small crystals in it.

"That is when we realised it might have been a meteorite and now, after talking to people who know about these things, we are 99 per cent certain." The odds against being hit by a meteorite are billions to one. On average one a week falls to earth but most are burned up as they enter the atmosphere at 40,000mph.

Norfolk Astronomical Society chairman Mark Lawrick-Thompson said: "There is a good chance this is a meteorite. It is very rare indeed to find one."

Comment: Note the "billions to one" comment which has become standard in reports of meteorite sightings or impacts. The real problem is that no one seems to be chronicling these events and looking at them in terms of frequency. Over the past year and half there have been literally dozens of meteorite sightings and impacts, and now someone has actually been hit by one - we mean, what are the odds? While, until now, the chances may have been in the "billions to one", the evidence suggests that those odds are slimming fast. See our Signs Meteorite Supplement for more.

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Remarks by Bush at "Ask President Bush" Event, Okaloosa-Walton College, Niceville, Florida, August 10, 2004:

"But we've got some strong allies, staring with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Prime Minister Allawi. They tell me the story of him. He was in London, England. He was in exile from his country because Saddam hated him. He wakes up one night and an ax-wielding group of men tried to hatchet him to death, or ax him to death. I guess, you don't hatchet somebody with an ax. (Laughter.) And you don't ax them with a hatchet. (Laughter.) He wakes up, the glint of the blade coming at him, and he gets cut badly, escapes. The guy hit his wife who never recovered, really."

Comment: What is it about Bush and death? Every time he speaks of it he cannot avoid expressing either thinly veiled glee, or making a laugh of the matter.

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Flashback: So George, how do you feel about your mom and dad?

Psychologist Oliver James analyses the behaviour of the American president

Tuesday September 2, 2003
The Guardian

As the alcoholic George Bush approached his 40th birthday in 1986, he had achieved nothing he could call his own. He was all too aware that none of his educational and professional accomplishments would have occured without his father. He felt so low that he did not care if he lived or died. Taking a friend out for a flight in a Cessna aeroplane, it only became apparent he had not flown one before when they nearly crashed on take-off. Narrowly avoiding stalling a few times, they crash-landed and the friend breathed a sigh of relief - only for Bush to rev up the engine and take off again.

Not long afterwards, staring at his vomit-spattered face in the mirror, this dangerously self-destructive man fell to his knees and implored God to help him and became a teetotalling, fundamentalist Christian. David Frum, his speechwriter, described the change: "Sigmund Freud imported the Latin pronoun id to describe the impulsive, carnal, unruly elements of the human personality. [In his youth] Bush's id seems to have been every bit as powerful and destructive as Clinton's id. But sometime in Bush's middle years, his id was captured, shackled and manacled, and locked away."

One of the jailers was his father. His grandfather, uncles and many cousins attended both his secondary school, Andover, and his university, Yale, but the longest shadow was cast by his father's exceptional careers there.

On the wall of his school house at Andover, there was a large black-and-white photograph of his father in full sporting regalia. He had been one of the most successful student athletes in the school's 100-year history and was similarly remembered at Yale, where his grandfather was a trustee. His younger brother, Jeb, summed the problem up when he said, "A lot of people who have fathers like this feel a sense that they have failed." Such a titanic figure created mixed feelings. On the one hand, Bush worshipped and aspired to emulate him. Peter Neumann, an Andover roommate, recalls that, "He idolised his father, he was going to be just like his dad." At Yale, a friend remembered a "deep respect" for his father and when he later set up in the oil business, another friend said, "He was focused to prove himself to his dad."

On the other hand, deep down, Bush had a profound loathing for this perfect model of American citizenship whose very success made the son feel a failure. Rebelliousness was an unconscious attack on him and a desperate attempt to carve out something of his own. Far from paternal emulation, Bush described his goal at school as "to instil a sense of frivolity". Contemporaries at Yale say he was like the John Belushi character in the film Animal House, a drink-fuelled funseeker.

He was aggressively anti-intellectual and hostile to east-coast preppy types like his father, sometimes cruelly so. On one occasion he walked up to a matronly woman at a smart cocktail party and asked, "So, what's sex like after 50, anyway?"

A direct and loutish challenge to his father's posh sensibility came aged 25, after he had drunkenly crashed a car. "I hear you're looking for me," he sneered at his father, "do you want to go mano a mano, right here?"

As he grew older, the fury towards his father was increasingly directed against himself in depressive drinking. But it was not all his father's fault. There was also his insensitive and domineering mother.

Barbara Bush is described by her closest intimates as prone to "withering stares" and "sharply crystalline" retorts. She is also extremely tough. When he was seven, Bush's younger sister, Robin, died of leukaemia and several independent witnesses say he was very upset by this loss. Barbara claims its effect was exaggerated but nobody could accuse her of overreacting: the day after the funeral, she and her husband were on the golf course.

She was the main authority-figure in the home. Jeb describes it as having been, "A kind of matriarchy... when we were growing up, dad wasn't at home. Mom was the one to hand out the goodies and the discipline." A childhood friend recalls that,"She was the one who instilled fear", while Bush put it like this: "Every mother has her own style. Mine was a little like an army drill sergeant's... my mother's always been a very outspoken person who vents very well - she'll just let rip if she's got something on her mind." According to his uncle, the "letting rip" often included slaps and hits. Countless studies show that boys with such mothers are at much higher risk of becoming wild, alcoholic or antisocial.

On top of that, Barbara added substantially to the pressure from his father to be a high achiever by creating a highly competitive family culture. All the children's games, be they tiddlywinks or baseball, were intensely competitive - an actual "family league table" was kept of performance in various pursuits. At least this prepared him for life at Andover, where emotional literacy was definitely not part of the curriculum. Soon after arriving, he was asked to write an essay on a soul-stirring experience in his life to date and he chose the death of his sister. His mother had drilled it into him that it was wrong when writing to repeat words already used. Having employed "tears" once in the essay, he sought a substitute from a thesaurus she had given him and wrote "the lacerates ran down my cheeks". The essay received a fail grade, accompanied by derogatory comments such as "disgraceful".

This incident may be an insight into Bush's strange tendency to find the wrong words in making public pronouncements. "Is our children learning?" he once famously asked. On responding to critics of his intellect he claimed that they had "misunderestimated" him. Perhaps these verbal faux-pas are a barely unconscious way of winding up his bullying mother and waving two fingers at his cultured father's sensibility.

The outcome of this childhood was what psychologists call an authoritarian personality. Authoritarianism was identified shortly after the second world war as part of research to discover the causes of fascism. As the name suggests, authoritarians impose the strictest possible discipline on themselves and others - the sort of regime found in today's White House, where prayers precede daily business, appointments are scheduled in five-minute blocks, women's skirts must be below the knee and Bush rises at 5.45am, invariably fitting in a 21-minute, three-mile jog before lunch.

Authoritarian personalities are organised around rabid hostility to "legitimate" targets, often ones nominated by their parents' prejudices. Intensely moralistic, they direct it towards despised social groups. As people, they avoid introspection or loving displays, preferring toughness and cynicism. They regard others with suspicion, attributing ulterior motives to the most innocent behaviour. They are liable to be superstitious. All these traits have been described in Bush many times, by friends or colleagues.

His moralism is all-encompassing and as passionate as can be. He plans to replace state welfare provision with faith-based charitable organisations that would impose Christian family values.

The commonest targets of authoritarians have been Jews, blacks and homosexuals. Bush is anti-abortion and his fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible would mean that gay practices are evil. But perhaps the group he reserves his strongest contempt for are those who have adopted the values of the 60s. He says he loathes "people who felt guilty about their lot in life because others were suffering".

He has always rejected any kind of introspection. Everyone who knows him well says how hard he is to get to know, that he lives behind what one friend calls a "facile, personable" facade. Frum comments that, "He is relentlessly disciplined and very slow to trust. Even when his mouth seems to be smiling at you, you can feel his eyes watching you."

His deepest beliefs amount to superstition. "Life takes its own turns," he says, "writes its own story and along the way we start to realise that we are not the author." God's will, not his own, explains his life.

Most fundamentalist Christians have authoritarian personalities. Two core beliefs separate fundamentalists from mere evangelists ("happy-clappy" Christians) or the mainstream Presbyterians among whom Bush first learned religion every Sunday with his parents: fundamentalists take the Bible absolutely literally as the word of God and believe that human history will come to an end in the near future, preceded by a terrible, apocaplytic battle on Earth between the forces of good and evil, which only the righteous shall survive. According to Frum when Bush talks of an "axis of evil" he is identifying his enemies as literally satanic, possessed by the devil. Whether he specifically sees the battle with Iraq and other "evil" nations as being part of the end-time, the apocalypse preceding the day of judgment, is not known. Nor is it known whether Tony Blair shares these particular religious ideas.

However, it is certain that however much Bush may sometimes seem like a buffoon, he is also powered by massive, suppressed anger towards anyone who challenges the extreme, fanatical beliefs shared by him and a significant slice of his citizens - in surveys, half of them also agree with the statement "the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word".

Bush's deep hatred, as well as love, for both his parents explains how he became a reckless rebel with a death wish. He hated his father for putting his whole life in the shade and for emotionally blackmailing him. He hated his mother for physically and mentally badgering him to fulfil her wishes. But the hatred also explains his radical transformation into an authoritarian fundamentalist. By totally identifying with an extreme version of their strict, religion-fuelled beliefs, he jailed his rebellious self. From now on, his unconscious hatred for them was channelled into a fanatical moral crusade to rid the world of evil.

As Frum put it: "Id-control is the basis of Bush's presidency but Bush is a man of fierce anger." That anger now rules the world.

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Ann Coulter: The blonde assassin

Does Ann Coulter really believe the outrageous things she says? To the pin-up pundit of the American right, liberals are fascists - and all terrorists are Muslims. Sholto Byrnes runs for cover

16 August 2004

Meet Ann Coulter. In her opinion, "liberals are racists", the French are "a bunch of faggots", only property owners should be allowed to vote, and anyone who disagrees with her is a "fatuous idiot" or "evil". In liberal Europe, such propositions are seldom aired, even in the most right-wing salons. In America, however, Coulter - blonde, fortysomething - is a regular guest commentator on news and talk shows such as Good Morning America, Hannity and Colmes, At Large with Geraldo Rivera and The O'Reilly Factor.

Her brand of breathtakingly audacious invective has made her a heroine of US conservatives and propelled her three books - Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism; Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right; and High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton - on to the New York Times bestseller lists. She is thought to be the inspiration for Ainsley Hayes, an extremely right-wing Republican lawyer in The West Wing.

Reactions to her name (which is almost universally recognised in the States) are, unsurprisingly, sharply partisan, and she is cordially detested by the liberals she targets. The US comedian and liberal commentator Al Franken devoted two chapters of his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them to her - "Ann Coulter: Nutcase" and "You Know Who I Don't Like? Ann Coulter".

Not that she would care. Her next book, due out in October, is called How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). And even this relatively emollient title is a concession. "They pushed this title on me," Coulter says when we meet at Orsay, a brasserie on the Upper East Side of New York. "All my titles were much more vicious. What I didn't like about How to Talk to a Liberal is that I really think the best way to talk to one is to hit them in the head with a baseball bat. So I threw in the parenthetical If You Must."

So far, one may be inclined to agree with Franken's description of her as a "nutcase". And that she may well be. But what makes Coulter different and - from a liberal point of view - deeply dangerous is that her remarks are so outrageously off-the-planet that you can't quite believe she is genuine. When this attractive, smartly dressed woman delivers a line like a dash of iced water across the face, the listener gasps and laughs, because she sounds like a comedy caricature of a right-winger. Surely she can't mean that, you think. Her appalling fascination lies in the fact that she does.

Within minutes of our sitting down, the conversation turns to the position of expat Pakistanis in the social hierarchies of the Middle East. "They're never very high in anyone's caste system, are they," Ann volunteers. "Poor little Pakis." The photographer and I look at each other. Did she really say that? But it's just an amuse-bouche to prepare us for what is to come.

We move on to education. "To get into university without achievement or grades, you wanna have a name like Shafiqua, Jeffrika or Leroy," says Ann, who is not a fan of racial quotas. Learning difficulties are a cover for "rich parents with dumb kids". "That's why 'Pinch' Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, is alleged to have dyslexia - because he's retarded. Do you guys even have dyslexia?"

Vigorous argument is something the young Ann ingested at the dining table of her family's home in Connecticut, where her father was a union-busting lawyer. She followed him into the profession, studying at Cornell and Michigan and practising corporate law. After moving to Washington, she was a counsel to Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and helped Paula Jones with her sexual harassment case against Bill Clinton. In the mid-Nineties, a new cable channel, MSNBC, put together a panel of commentators to offer instant opinions on the news. It was the making of Coulter's career as a pundit.

At what age, I ask, did she become aware of her antipathy to liberals? "Four." What was the defining moment? "I was in kindergarten and the teacher was trying to read us the story of Bambi. She was wearing a black armband, and one kid asked why. So she gave this speech against the Vietnam War. I raised my little paw and started arguing what I'd heard at home; that you stand by your allies and that we'd be breaking a promise. We never got to Bambi that day."

There's a surprise. But liberalism, I venture, has an honourable history. I mention John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, quoting: "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." It's an inspiring passage, I say, and it was written by a liberal. "No, he's a conservative." Well, he was the Liberal MP for Westminster. "No, but he is a conservative. This is a nomenclature issue. You might as well call yourself gay when you mean you're happy. That is what 'gay' used to mean and that is what 'liberal' used to mean, but that isn't what it means any more, and you're just playing word games to pretend that it does."

OK, what does it mean to be a liberal today? "Liberals don't want people to have sovereignty over their own mind and body," says Ann. "They take my money, they tell me how many gallons of water I can have in my tank, they define conservative speech as hate speech. They're total fascists, but they're going out and imposing their left-wing fascism on the rest of the country. The beauty of America is that you can have gay-rights parades in New York and you can perform abortions on your dining-room table, but who's flying to Mississippi and suing them to take down their Ten Commandments in a public park?"

Yes, it's those pesky liberals again. "They're not only fascist where they live, they're expanding their fascism to the rest of America." Wouldn't this case be a constitutional issue (to do with the separation of church and state)? "That's what liberals say about everything, including sucking the brains out of little babies."

One thing can be said for Coulter: she does not worry about causing offence. When we talk about the "war on terror", she sounds almost nostalgic for the Cold War. "When we were fighting communism, OK, they had mass murderers and gulags, but they were white men and they were sane. Now we're up against absolutely insane savages." The insouciance with which she drops race into the mix is so astonishing that it's disarming.

How do you begin to argue with someone who operates so far outside the generally accepted confines of political debate? And where does she get her energy from? The painfully thin Ann toys with her salad, eating barely a quarter of it. Perhaps the vehemence of her passions keeps her going.

Next up for discussion are Muslims. She reckons they are going to "take over" France. "It's going to be Morocco in 10 years." Why is she so worried about Muslims? "Er, because they fly planes into our skyscrapers?" But those terrorists are not representative of all Muslims, are they?

"That's not the question. The question is not, 'Are all Muslims terrorists?' The question is, 'Are all terrorists Muslims?' And the answer is yes - every one I have to worry about." So she means al-Qa'ida? "No. We've been under attack by savage, fanatical Muslims for 20 years. It wasn't al-Qa'ida that took our hostages in Iran, it wasn't al-Qa'ida that bombed the West Berlin discotheque, which led to Ronald Reagan bombing Libya." I say that Libya is a socialist rather than a Muslim state. "You can make that argument," says Ann - obviously thinking there's no point in doing so - "but I just keep seeing Muslims killing people."

Why can't she say extremist Muslims rather than just Muslims? "If that'll make you happy. They slaughtered 3,000 people and I'm making unfair generalisations. I think we're even." Well, no, I don't think we're even, I begin to reply - and at this point I see a side of Ann Coulter that goes beyond the ludicrous opinions. I see someone who is not afraid to twist, distort, bully and lie in order to "win" her argument.

Before I can elaborate or finish my sentence, she's off again. "Oh no, you're right, a generalisation is so much worse than slaughtering 3,000 people." I'm not saying that, I say. "I can't go beyond that, an ethnic generalisation is worse than slaughter. That is the essence of liberalism, you really do believe that. You get a glass of wine in you and you spit it out. You heard it. Making an un-PC generalisation is worse than the attack of 9/11." I'm not saying that, I repeat. "Yes, you are, you just said it." Of course I don't think that, I start, before I'm cut off again. "Liar!"

The irony is that she claims to be above this kind of steamrolling. "The country is trapped in a political discourse that resembles professional wrestling," she has written. "Liberals are calling names while conservatives are trying to make arguments." But her view of what constitutes an argument seems to be a distinctly one-sided affair. I try again: "Do you think I have any point at all about..." I begin, but she interrupts again. "No!" She doesn't even know what my point was.

"We are talking about who is most likely to fly planes into our skyscrapers. It's a time-waster to say, 'Well, who's to say, it could be Chinamen next time?'" Why not qualify her terms by saying "extremist Muslim terrorists"? "This is the essence of PC. It's just more syllables." In a last, vain attempt to ask her if she can sympathise with the point of view of those she is maligning, I ask her to imagine what she would feel if she had been brought up a Muslim. "In that case, I would like a steak knife, please, so I can cut your throat and disembowel you. And then I shall kill all the Jews!"

With lines like this, it's not surprising that Coulter occasionally has trouble having her columns published. She was sacked as a contributing editor to the National Review after writing of Muslims who cheered the September 11 attacks: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

Comment: What would she say about the Israelis who wre doing the happy dance when the Twin Towers come down?

And when USA Today hired her to cover the Democratic convention (to match Michael Moore writing on the Republican convention), the editors found her copy so vociferous that the agreement came to an end after one column. "This happens to conservative writers all the time," says Ann. Well, perhaps not all conservative writers. Maybe just the ones who think that George Bush is a little on the soft side, that liberals today are "the devil-worshippers upstairs in Rosemary's Baby", and that the Democratic Party is doomed to extinction.

There's no one like her in Britain, I say, not even on the crazy fringes of the Tory party. "I know," she agrees, "it's horrifying what the Conservatives are in England. You make clear that I'm not one of them."

Is Ann Coulter a nutcase? If she is, she's one listened to and approved of by a frightening number of Americans. Surely, I say, hoping she will concede that she sometimes provokes to amuse, she doesn't believe everything she comes out with. "This is the shocking thing for your readers," she replies. "I believe everything I say."

Comment: What can you say about a society where a woman like Coulter is on the bestseller lists? Coulter is convinced that she knows the truth. There is no reasoning with her. Insults replace argument. But she comes by it honestly, if being the daughter of a union-busting lawyer has anything to do with being honest.

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Terrorizing the Conscience of Men

By Lisa Guliani

"You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." ~ John Morley

According to John Ashcroft, the Bush administration believes in confronting, denouncing, and condemning thoughts and words that can lead to potential "hate crimes". Americans are warned not to criticize good buddy Israel, because such criticisms (however true they may be,) are dangerous. Mere citizens might start poking their noses where citizen-noses don't belong. And since we are one nation under Israel, we must mind our p's and q's, avert our eyes from what is real, and tow the line. So what if Zionists are running America into the ground? So what? The money is worth its weight in soul and the only people who matter are smiling because of it. So what if our impotent politicians have to lick a few boots to assure a comfy lifestyle. So what if they must kiss Zionist ass on a daily basis, betray the people who need them most, break laws and sell us down the river to assure that their golden years are secured as tightly as the choke chains around their necks. Why stand up to the almighty Zionists? That would be extremely bad form in this new age of enlightened tolerance. In the NEW America, David does not sling verbal rocks and arrows at the all-powerful, omnipotent, untouchable Goliath. Why, that would be anti-semitic - an act of terrorism. We dare not question the actions or agendas of today's Goliaths, let alone attempt to challenge or change them Big Brother warns us that if we try any of these things, we will be dealt a mighty blow – and we will fall.

The Stepford-Citizen-Slaves of America, are content to exist in zombie-land, quietly doing as directed, believing what they're told, swallowing their pills, and following the herd. Life is too short to create waves, stick your neck out or re-draw those old lines in the sand. The old days of right and wrong are gone. These days, we're too busy medicating ourselves into altered states of reality to care about a few obscure intangibles like "freedom" or "liberty". The bitter aftertaste of apathy is preferable to rousing ourselves long enough to swallow that horse pill of self-responsibility, isn't it?

We are a subdued nation on a very tight leash, and most of the herd won't even walk to the gate anymore to see what's on the other side. We are content to choose our own perceptions of reality, those which allow us to sleep at night and function in the morning.

In the NEW America, the wolves are far away and we are protected. Reality is whatever Goliath wants it to be. Any version that doesn't sit well in the stomach is not worth eating in the first place. As long as the wolves don't show up in our own backyards, we could care less what happens in the neighbor's pen, right?

The America of today will not tolerate freedom of expression unless you're regurgitating the script of the majority.

Dissent if you insist, but be forewarned that if others begin to listen too closely to the noise you're making, Goliath will have to make an example of you. You will be wrested from your bed and criminalized. You might be imprisoned for such outright defiance. You will be tried in the court of biased opinion and convicted of crimes you never committed. The incriminating evidence used against you will be your own…thoughts and words. Constitutional Law is barred from the courtrooms in this NEW America. Unpopular opinions are not welcome here. Prepare to be re-programmed for "appropriate" speech.

We like to congratulate ourselves for being such a diverse culture. We're so tolerant, so accepting, so enlightened. And we're so incredibly stupid. It's ironic that the same people who try to sell us these bogus illusions of freedom and diversity, are the very same ones trying to silence our thoughts, our words, and our collective conscience. If we're so diverse, why is it we must subscribe to the cultural Marxism of political correctness? If we're so diverse, why is it we cannot bear to listen to a scream of dissent? Why is it a hate crime to express our opinion these days? Why are we so "offended" by words and thoughts that run counter to our own? Now we must filter, sanitize and sterilize every thought before allowing it to pass from our lips, lest we say the WRONG word and be branded with a scarlet letter? We must walk the line of uniformity, Big Brother tells us. But wait a minute…what about diversity? Isn't it okay to be different? Must we all openly agree or face damning consequences? What happened to the first Amendment? It got waylaid en route to the free speech cage. Goliath says you must not ask questions, challenge the group-think, or be….different.

Those who refuse to abandon their principles and cling to their integrity will retain their self-respect but little else under the crushing weight of public pressure to walk the walk, talk the talk – where's the diversity in that? As a nation, we have become so desensitized, we cannot even feel the hand in our back pulling the strings. The majority of thumb-sucking Stepford-slaves probably prefer it this way – it's easier than making your own decisions or deciding between right and wrong. It's just easier to take the path of least resistance than to stray. We are led to believe that THOUGHTS are now harmful. Expressing them is harmful. Writing them down, sharing them or telling others an opposing view is harmful.

Just who is harmed by these things? In what way are they harmed? Sounds like just more of the patterned group-think crapola to me.

What has happened to civil disobedience? What has happened to the emotion we used to call "fury"? Now, if we want to protest, we have to get permission and a piece of paper and then we're relegated to doing it in a cage unfit for an animal.

Just to make sure you comprehend this, a few resistant slaves will have to be removed from the public domain and neutralized. Why? Because such people are dangerous. They might contaminate an otherwise sterile vacuum with a THOUGHT or a WORD and burst the bubble of mass misperception. They might inflict unauthorized trauma upon the rest of the herd. They might create a stampede.

The conditioning of Americans has been so successful, that Goliath now just sits back and lets us eat our own and doesn't have to get his nails dirty. In America, we cage free speech, crush dissent, hurl stones at one another for differences of opinion, imprison patriots, convict the innocent and honor criminals. Follow along, Citizen Duck. You will not bring up your rights, you will not question authority, you will not think or speak or write or breathe against the grain. Your world consists of manipulated dreams and emotions and altered versions of reality.

Goliath pulls the strings of your subconscious and can split your mind into so many pieces, you probably don't even know WHO you really are anymore. You see only what you are supposed to see, and remain blind to all else. Recite your lines accordingly and act like you BELIEVE them, because your mind and soul have been hijacked. Reality is not what is shown to you on your zombie screen. Reality is whatever Big Brother decides it will be. This can change any moment of any day, so buckle up for a never-ending ride on the fairytale float.

The saddest thing is, the people of this once-great nation don't even realize the extent of the damage that's been done to them. We are a paralyzed people with a terrorized conscience. We are a numbed nation, out of tune, out of touch, and out of sync with what's going on all around us. Yet, we're so diverse. It's not diversity you're seeing. It's just the flat-lined brain death of a nation that doesn't know and doesn't want to know what is WRONG with the whole picture. It's not necessary to correct the problems when all we have to do is close our eyes to make them go away, right? Where is our sense of self-respect? What has happened to our backbone, our fighting spirit, our free will?

Someone once said, "they can silence a man and send him to prison. But they cannot imprison his ideas.

They will silence some and imprison some – but they will not convert us all.

"You will not bring up your rights, you will not question authority, you will not think or speak or write or breathe against the grain. Your world consists of manipulated dreams and emotions and altered versions of reality."

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Woman imprisoned for drugs going free--at 75

By Sean Gardiner
Newsday
August 18, 2004

When Martha Weatherspoon walks out of prison Wednesday for the first time in 15 years, she'll need a cane to lean on.

At 75, Weatherspoon, a grandmother of 35 and great-grandmother of more than 50, is believed to be the oldest woman incarcerated in New York State's prison system.

Opponents of the state's strict drug laws say the septuagenarian is the poster-child for doing away with those laws.

Born into an Alabama farming family, Weatherspoon made her way north and eventually settled in Syracuse. By the 1980s, the mother of five was eking out a living picking vegetables and fruit on nearby farms when she fell off a ladder and broke both her legs.

Daughter Alice Weatherspoon said her mother turned to the "easy, fast money" of the drug trade running rampant in their apartment complex.

On Dec. 12, 1988, Weatherspoon, then 60, was arrested after buying 8 ounces of cocaine from an undercover cop.

She turned down a plea deal that would have meant 3 to 6 years in prison, according to Randy Credico, of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Radical Justice, a legal group that has championed Weatherspoon's cause. She was convicted in 1989.

Under the Rockefeller drug laws, enacted in 1973 and named for Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, the punishment for buying 2 or more ounces of narcotics was made more severe than sentences for some murder and rape convictions.

Weatherspoon was sentenced to 20 years to life.

"The woman's been in there for almost 16 years," Credico said. "She's not Ma Barker." Three years ago, the state's Clemency Bureau, which advises the governor, denied her bid, saying clemency is granted "only in the most compelling circumstances."

Weatherspoon's family has decided to put aside any bitterness and members of the family planned to drive to Syracuse on Wednesday for a reunion, her daughters said.

"We were bitter," said Alice Weatherspoon, 53. "But we can't change that, and we can't stay in the past. If you dwell on the past, you can't concentrate on the future. We're going to enjoy the time we have left with her here on this earth."

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US soldier sues Rumsfeld on Iraq policy

Wednesday 18 August 2004, 10:04 Makka Time, 7:04 GMT

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld has been sued by an army reservist over a retention policy that allows the Pentagon to keep troops on active duty in Iraq even after their contracts expire.

As many as 40,000 soldiers have been forced to extend their stay in the US army through the "stop-loss" emergency programme since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to legal experts.

The plaintiff, who filed suit against Rumsfeld, Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee and other top military officials with the Ninth US District Court on Tuesday, alleges a breach of contract and questions the constitutionality of the whole setup.

He has been identified by his attorney simply as John Doe to protect his privacy.

Decorated veteran

Court documents describe him as a decorated veteran who has already completed nine years of active service with the army and the US Marine Corps, including deployments in Somalia and unidentified war zones in the Middle East.

Last year Doe,the father of two daughters aged three and six, performed combat duty in Iraq, which he completed in December.

Upon returning home to the San Francisco Bay Area, he joined the California Army National Guard on a one-year contract that expires on 21 December.

However, his commanders told him in July that because of the "stop-loss" policy, his one-year enlistment had been extended for an additional two years, and that his National Guard unit had been mobilised for service in Iraq, according to the lawsuit.

He is due to leave soon for six months of training at Fort Bliss, Texas, followed by deployment to Iraq immediately after the training is completed.

Emergency policy

The lawsuit asserts that the emergency policy instituted in the wake of the 11 September 2003 attacks was "invalid" because Saddam Hussein's government had been removed from power and "Iraq cannot be considered to pose a threat of terrorist attack upon the United States".

"American citizens cannot constitutionally be required to serve involuntarily and indefinitely at whim"

Statement in lawsuit

While acknowledging that Doe's contract allows the military to retain him in the event of war, the filing notes that "Congress has not declared a war in Iraq or elsewhere", which makes involuntary retentions illegal.

"American citizens cannot constitutionally be required to serve involuntarily and indefinitely at whim," the lawsuit argues.

Attorney Michael Sorgen, who represents Doe, said the case will be certainly closely watched by thousands of military personnel and their families, particularly by the 123,000 US troops currently in Iraq.

"When their period of enlistment ends, they should be entitled to return to their families," Sorgen said.

Hot potato

Marguerite Hiken of the Military Law Task Force, a group that closely monitors enlistment policies, said the US military should not be allowed to create "a new category of indentured servitude".

The controversial Pentagon policy has already turned into a political hot potato this election year, as Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry decried it in his acceptance speech in Boston, Massachusetts, in July as "the backdoor draft".

The comment drew a testy response from Rumsfeld, who insisted in a radio interview that "anyone in the reserve is there voluntarily".

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Najaf clashes as truce talks fail

Wednesday, 18 August, 2004

Gunfire has broken out in Iraq's city of Najaf, a day after an Iraqi mission failed to end the stand-off between Shia militias and US-led forces.

Explosions were heard close to the Imam Ali shrine, controlled by forces loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

The fighting came as the conference to select an interim Iraqi council went into an unscheduled fourth day.

Iraq's defence minister has warned the militiamen to give up within hours or face a full-scale attack. [...]

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Iraqi Stooges Get Ready to Destroy the Iman Ali Shrine

8/18/2004

Nobody is fooled. Well, maybe the somnolent, celebrity-worshipping, TV addicted American public—that is, when they bother to pay attention—but not the Iraqis. “Iraqi forces are giving loyalists of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr hours to lay down their arms before they storm the holy shrine where about 3,000 of al-Sadr’s men are holed up,” reports the Bush Ministry of Truth (Disinformation), Fox News division. “There will be no American intervention in this regard. The only American intervention would be aerial protection and also securing some of the roads that lead to the compound.

As for entering the compound, it will be 100 percent Iraqis,” said Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan, a handpicked stooge for the Bushcons. In other words, the slaughter of Iraqis protecting the shrine—many of them unarmed civilians, denoted as “al-Sadr’s men"—will be carried out by Iraqis at the behest of the Bushcons and the Pentagon. Of course, after the shrine is destroyed, or heavily damaged, and 3,000 people are killed, the Iraqis—in fact, every Shi’ite in the world—will blame Bush and the perfidious neocons. But then this is precisely what the Straussian neocons want—an interminable war against Islam. Destroying their mosques is only the beginning.

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U.S. Troops Training for Iraq in Israel -Paper

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. troops from Iraq are being trained by the Israeli army in urban and guerrilla warfare tactics at a military base in Israel, a local newspaper said on Wednesday.

The Israeli army said that it did not comment on cooperation with foreign armies, but did not deny the report in the Jerusalem Post, an English-language daily in Israel.

The paper said the army units were being trained at the Adam special forces school near Modi'in in central Israel. It did not say what its source was, how many soldiers were involved or how long they would spend there.

"After completing their training, the units will return to Iraq," the newspaper said.

A U.S. embassy official told Reuters: "From time to time the United States and Israel conduct cooperative exercises but as a matter of policy we don't go into the details."

Reuters reported last year that U.S. generals were studying Israel's tactics against a Palestinian uprising for use in Iraq.

Reports of cooperation with the Jewish state are extremely sensitive for U.S. troops fighting Islamist insurgents in Iraq.

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Iran to hit Dimona if Israel attacks

Wednesday 18 August 2004

Iran will strike the Israeli reactor at Dimona if Israel attacks the Islamic republic's nuclear facilities, a commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards has said.

"If Israel fires one missile at Bushehr atomic power plant, it should permanently forget about Dimona nuclear centre, where it produces and keeps its nuclear weapons, and Israel would be responsible for the terrifying consequence of this move," General Muhammad Baqir Zolqadr warned on Wednesday.

The general's comments, reported by the Iranian press, mark an escalation in an exchange of threats between Israel and Iran in recent weeks, leading to speculation that there may be a repeat of Israel's strike against Iraqi nuclear facilities at Osirak in 1981.

Iran's attempt to generate nuclear power at its plant being built at Bushehr is seen by arch-enemies Israel and the United States as a cover for nuclear weapons development.

But Iran insists that its nuclear intentions are peaceful, while pointing at its enemy's alleged nuclear arsenal, which Israel neither confirms nor denies possessing.

Israel within range

Dimona, in the Negev desert, is allegedly where Israel produces weapons-grade plutonium for its estimated 200 nuclear warheads.

Revolutionary Guard chief Yad Allah Javani warned on Sunday that "the entire Zionist territory including its nuclear establishments and atomic munitions are now within the range of Iran's advanced missiles".

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Gaza Ghetto, Gaza Prison

As still more Settlements rise throughout the Occupied Territories

www.MiddleEast.Org - 17 August 2004

Long-known by his nicknames -- 'the bulldozer' and 'the butcher' -- Ariel Sharon has indeed bulldozed and butchered the Palestinians of Gaza most of all. And not just in his years as Prime Minster, there is a long history of Sharon bloodletting, massacres, and war-crimes going back to the 1950s in fact. Many forget these days that even an Israeli government commission twenty years ago now found then defrocked Defense Minister Ariel Sharon complicitous for one of the worst massacres in the history of the modern Middle East and 'recommended' that he never again serve in any high-office in Israel.

But that was then, and this is now.

In recent years, after personally and purposefully igniting Intifada II with his Israeli Army visit to the Dome of the Rock while his fellow General Ehud Barak was PM, Sharon has taken the Gaza ghetto and made it into a virtual prison -- which explains why in fact he wants to pull the 7000 settlers out at this point, shut the gates, and let the Palestinians stew on international hand-outs and Sharon's long legacy of seething hatred.

Sharon has gone even further though and this may be his final legacy -- unless he manages to ignite the whole Middle East by attacking Iran and Syria. He has made the long-promised and once anticipated mini-Palestinian State all but impossible by using the same bulldozing and imprisoning techniques he first brought to the Gaza Strip throughout the rest of the occupied territories of historic Palestine.

These BBC and Guardian articles today look at how the Israelis are even now continuing to expand settlements in the occupied territories, as well as at the current situation in and around Gaza -- realities 'on the ground' that Ariel Sharon is more responsible for than any other single individual on any side of the barricades.

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Sharon rips up 'road-map' with plan for 1,001 new settler homes

By Eric Silver in Jerusalem
18 August 2004

Israel issued tenders yesterday for 1,001 new homes in West Bank settlements, despite its commitment to a building freeze under the international "road-map" for peace. It is expected to publish another 633 within the next few months.

According to the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot daily, Ariel Sharon's government is planning to invest 65 million shekels (£8m) in construction and to subsidise 50 per cent of the infrastructure costs. The programme was approved earlier, but then suspended by the Prime Minister. Israeli sceptics and Western diplomats suspect that Mr Sharon hopes to appease right-wing critics of his plan to evacuate 21 Gaza Strip and West Bank settlements by the end of next year. He faces a crucial meeting tonight of his 3,000-member Likud party convention.

Pinhas Wallerstein, a veteran settler leader, commented: "Sharon has no intention of building even one of these houses. This is ugly manipulation, a fraudulent ploy ahead of the Likud conference."

But Yariv Oppenheimer, director general of the Peace Now campaign, denounced Mr Sharon for "shutting the door in the face of the whole world." There was, he insisted, a clear commitment to freeze all settlement activity. "To issue tenders for more than 1,000 new units," Mr Oppenheimer added, "is very negative."

Peter Carter, number two at the British embassy in Tel Aviv, condemned the announcement as very unhelpful to both the road-map and Mr Sharon's disengagement plan. "We are very disappointed," he said.

Paul Patin, a spokesman for the American embassy in Tel Aviv, said: "Israel has accepted the road-map. We expect Israel to honour its commitments."

Although the road-map, drafted by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, calls for a total building freeze, Israel has its own interpretation. Mr Sharon contends that he is free to build for "natural growth" within the existing settlement boundaries.

A high-level Washington delegation is due to arrive in Israel soon to examine settlement expansion and the failure to evacuate illegal settler outposts, but American diplomacy is hamstrung by the fact that while it has never endorsed the Israeli reading, the Bush administration has acquiesced in it.

Most of the settlements for which new tenders were issued are close to the pre-1967 "green line" border. Israel hopes to keep them even after a final peace agreement. But the locations of some of the new tenders, such as the towns of Ma'aleh Adumim, Ariel and Kiryat Arba, are well inside occupied territory.

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Arafat Admits Palestinians Made Mistakes

By STEVEN GUTKIN, Associated Press Writer
August 18, 2004

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Yasser Arafat acknowledged Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority had made "mistakes," but the rare admission appeared to be aimed more at deflecting criticism about his corrupt government than making real changes.

In a decade at the helm of the Palestinian Authority, Arafat has resisted attempts to get him to fight official corruption, reform the security services and relinquish some of his near-absolute powers. It was difficult to say how sincere he was in the vague comments in a televised speech to parliament, which apparently referred to negligence in the face of graft and not to the authority's role in violence or Mideast peace negotiations.

"There were wrong practices in some institutions, and some misused their positions," he said. "There were not enough efforts to strengthen the rule of law, the independence of the judicial institutions ... Be we have begun measures to solve this."

In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Israel set off an explosion in an olive grove near the house of a senior Hamas activist early Wednesday, killing five Palestinians — at least four of them militants — and wounding seven. The main target of the attack, Hamas activist Ahmed Jabari, escaped with light injuries.

Arafat's speech comes amid growing dissatisfaction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with his rule. Last month, street protests erupted over some of his appointments, and Arafat's prime minister briefly threatened to resign.

Even his harshest critics have not demanded Arafat resign — he is still widely considered as a national symbol and a guarantor of unity — but he was clearly rattled by the complaints.

In response, Arafat promised sweeping government reform and has met with lawmakers who asked him to put his pledges in writing. However, legislators have come away disappointed, saying Arafat has largely been evasive.

In his speech to parliament, Arafat acknowledged there is some official corruption, said those engaged in wrongdoing should be prosecuted and reiterated that he would streamline the security forces. However, he gave no specifics.

One of his harshest critics, former Cabinet minister Abdel Jawad Saleh, shouted that Arafat himself was protecting the corrupt. Arafat got angry, responding with an indignant question: "I'm protecting them?"

Saleh complained after the speech that Arafat is "not serious" about reforms and warned that there could be a nonviolent "Palestinian uprising against this authority very soon."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, who briefly resigned last month in frustration over his lack of authority, sat next to Arafat during the speech. At one point, Arafat turned to Qureia, saying: "My brother, my historical comrade, you have all my support for the work of your government."

The Gaza explosion, meanwhile, remained shrouded in mystery.

Israel said it was responsible for the blast, and that its air force was involved, but did not explain further. In the past four years of fighting, Israel has killed scores of Palestinian militants with missiles fired from helicopters.

However, Palestinians said that in Wednesday's incident, they only saw an Israeli drone, or unmanned aircraft, and that there were no helicopters or warplanes in the sky. Some said they believed the drone had set off a bomb by remote-control.

One witness, Moussa Bakroun, 44, said he was in his garden when he heard the blast. "We heard the sound of screaming from the Jabari olive grove across the street," he said. "We saw human body parts everywhere, and a hole in the ground."

Bakroun said he had heard a drone overhead for some time before the blast.

Palestinian security officials said they did not know what caused the blast.

Hamas said among the dead were three of its members, including Jabari's adult son, as well as a member of the Islamic Jihad group. The fifth man was not immediately identified. Seven people were wounded, two of them critically, hospital officials said. Jabari himself was lightly hurt.

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said Israel was escalating the conflict, both by carrying out attacks such as Wednesday's and by expanding Jewish settlements. "Things may go from bad to worse," Erekat said. [...]

On Tuesday, Sharon approved the construction of 1,000 new housing units in four large West Bank settlements — perhaps with an eye on the Likud convention.

Though the settlement construction violates the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, U.S. reaction was muted compared to earlier statements denouncing settlement building.

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Israeli soldiers kill 9-year-old boy

Aug. 17, 2004. 05:25 PM

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) — Israeli soldiers today shot and killed a 9-year-old Palestinian boy in Nablus as he sat on the front steps of his home eating a sandwich, relatives said.

The troops were enforcing a curfew when they drove by 9-year-old Khaled Usta's home, the boy's aunt, Ferial Usta said. Youths threw stones at the troops, but the group fled when the soldiers got out of the jeep and pointed their guns at a fence just behind the boys, she said.

Khaled was sitting just behind the fence eating a sandwich when one of the soldiers fired his rifle, the aunt said.

"I saw the soldier fire and the boy fell, and immediately I went downstairs. All the neighbors heard the gunshot and ... ran down also," she said.

A military official said soldiers fired at Palestinians throwing concrete blocks, stones and a firebomb in three separate incidents, but was not aware that anyone was killed. The army said it was operating in Nablus to hunt down militants and find their weapons stashes.

Jarir Kanadilo, a Palestinian ambulance driver, said the boy was shot in the chest.

Huloud Usta, Khaled's sister, said about 10 minutes after her brother was taken to a hospital, the soldiers came over to see why neighbors had gathered outside. She said she told them what happened and it appeared they were arguing among themselves.

In a separate incident in Nablus, soldiers shot and injured two Palestinians who had thrown stones at military jeeps, witnesses and rescue officials said.

In house-to-house searches in Nablus' old city, the army discovered two homemade rockets, as well as a booklet on how to prepare homemade rockets, the army said.

Palestinian militants have fired dozens of the homemade rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, but have not yet been able to manufacture and launch them from the West Bank. The Israeli army frequently operates in the West Bank to prevent the production of rockets, which could easily reach major Israeli population centers from the Palestinian territories.

In a Nablus refugee camp, troops today found a weapons cache including two guns, ammunition and equipment used to prepare explosives, the army said.

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Israel Kills 5 in Attempt to Assassinate Hamas Man

By Nidal al-Mughrabi
August 17, 2004

GAZA (Reuters) - A senior Hamas leader survived an Israeli assassination attempt on Wednesday but at least five other Palestinians were killed in the night-time explosion that tore through his Gaza home.

Hamas gunmen said a missile fired by an Israeli drone hit the residence of Ahmed al-Jabari, a top commander in the militant Islamic group's armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades. Doctors said he suffered leg wounds.

"In an Israeli security forces operation in the northern Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces targeted a senior Hamas terrorist," the army said in a terse statement.

The army, which killed Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin in March and his successor, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, a month later in air strikes, did not say how the latest attack was carried out. Residents said they saw no aircraft at the time of the blast.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to pull Israeli settlers and soldiers out of the Gaza Strip by the end of next year and Israeli forces and Palestinian militants have been bent on scoring "victory" in the run-up to the withdrawal.

Medics said five people -- Jabari's son, a brother, a son-in-law, a cousin and one of Rantissi's son-in-laws -- were pronounced dead in hospital and about a dozen others were wounded. At least three of the dead were known militants.

"We heard a loud explosion and ran outside," one neighbor said. "We saw (Jabari's) house was completely on fire."

Jabari, in his 40s, spent 13 years in Israeli prisons before being released in 1995 under interim peace deals. Hamas, dedicated to Israel's destruction, has carried out dozens of suicide attacks during a nearly four-year-old Palestinian uprising. [...]

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Judaeophobia in the service of Israel

By: Shraga Elam

There is an obvious growth of anti-Jewish sentiments worldwide. One cannot disregard anymore the rise in Judaeophobia and consider it always as just propaganda and manipulation. By the way, I prefer the use of the term Judaeophobia to the more common, and in itself racist term "anti Semitism"**.

Judaeophobia has to be confronted and rejected as every other form of racism, and for that purpose we have to understand its present reasons and causes and not just stop at the isolated “treatment” of superficial symptoms as propagated by many Zionist organizations and Israel.

In order not to exploit your patience unnecessarily I’ll tell you in advance that I’m deeply convinced that the main reasons for the increase in Judaeophobia are basically the Israeli criminal policy against the Palestinians and the wrongdoings of the pro-Israel lobbies. These two serious problems are then combined with the existing anti-Jewish prejudices that are rather harmless as such, at least in most cases. It is the mixture of these Jewish offenses with existing prejudices that Jews are something special that might create a very explosive cocktail.

If it was in the past wrong and racist to look for the reasons for aggressions against Jews by Jews themselves, it is now right and necessary to do so!

One of the best methods at the moment to fight Judaeophobia is to stop the Israeli crimes!

It is as simple as that.

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One million people are working beyond retirement age as pensions crisis deepens

By Maxine Frith, Social Affairs Correspondent
17 August 2004

Hundreds of thousands of pensioners are being forced to work into their seventies and eighties to avoid a life of poverty, new figures indicate.

The prospect of "working until you drop" is now a reality for more than one million people in Britain today, as the pensions crisis deepens.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 1,011,000 people over the state pension age were in paid employment last month.

With the Government considering raising the retirement age to 70, campaigners warned that Britain's economy could become dominated by a workforce of reluctant older people who cannot afford to give up their jobs.

Analysts say that the over-60s are working longer and harder because of financial concerns about their pensions and worries about paying for long-term care when they are older.

[...] The number of people working beyond state pension age has risen by 30 per cent in the past 10 years, according to official figures. While many people choose to continue in employment over the age of 60 (65 for men), the TAEN estimates that 60 per cent of pensioner workers do so because of financial hardship rather than out of personal choice.

Comment: The neo-liberal counter-revolution sparked and spearheaded by the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, has bulldozed over the rights of the disenfranchised. We saw yesterday in the speech by Bill Moyers that the same process has happened in the US. 9/11 was the crowning achievement of the neo-liberal, neo-con counter-revolution, the point of no return. 9/11 happened because the pieces were already in place, the battle had already been lost.

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Faith plays minor role in lives of most white Christians

By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent
18 August 2004

Although most white Britons call themselves Christian, most admit religion plays little part in their lives, a government study shows. But a strikingly different picture emerges in black and Asian communities, who say that their faith is a crucial part of their identity.

And in a sign that Britain's religious map is likely to change dramatically over the next decade, the numbers of young Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus who stressed the importance of their religion far outstripped the young Christians who professed a similar strength of faith.

The first detailed Home Office survey of the nation's belief found almost four out of five people expressed a religious affiliation, a result some officials regarded as surprisingly high in an increasingly secular society.

The highest number (74 per cent) called themselves Christian, with Muslims (2 per cent) and Hindus (0.8 per cent) the largest of other faith groups. Almost 22 per cent, nearly all white, said they had no faith.

But there are signs religious affiliation made little difference to the lives of its white adherents. When asked what they considered important to their identity, religion was cited by only 17 per cent of white Christians, behind family, work, age, interests, education, nationality, gender, income and social class. For black people, 70 per cent of whom say they are Christian, religion is third, and Asians placed it second, only behind family. People of mixed race ranked their religion seventh.

Nearly all people who called themselves as Christian (98 per cent) were white, and 2 per cent were black. The majority of respondents who were Muslim were Asian (76 per cent), and most Hindus (83 per cent) and Sikhs (88 per cent) also described themselves as Asian.

Signs of a rapid demographic change in Britain's religious make-up emerged. Just 18 per cent of Christians aged 16 to 24 viewed their religion as important, but 74 per cent of young Muslims, 63 per cent of young Sikhs and 62 per cent of young Hindus said they did.

Followers of Islam, the country's fastest-growing religion, tended to live in more deprived neighbourhoods than other faiths. Muslim respondents were also more likely than any group to never have had a job.

Fewer Christians and Muslims had degree-level qualifications than those of other religions; Hindus and Jews had more higher qualifications than the national average. Highest levels of home ownership were among Sikhs (88 per cent), Hindus (76 per cent), Jews (74 per cent) and Christians (74 per cent), with the lowest among Muslims (52 per cent), nearly one quarter of whom rented local authority accommodation.

Most people believed ministers and employers were doing enough to defend and respect religious rights and customs. But in a sign of growing discontent among ethnic-minority youths, some young Muslims and Sikhs said the Government was doing too little. One-fifth of Christians of all ages accused the Government of doing too much to protect religious freedoms.

More than two-thirds of people surveyed were allowed to take time off work for religious ceremonies and festivals. But most said their employers did not provide prayer facilities. Researchers found no apparent link between religious affiliation and participation in the local community, such as by contacting councillors or signing petitions.

A Home Office spokesman said the research, based on nearly 15,500 interviews, was aimed at ensuring government policy reflected social change and tapped into the talents of the ethnic minorities. He said: "We are committed to building stronger and more cohesive communities and to reach out to people at risk of social exclusion."

Fiona Mactaggart, the Home Office minister, said: "For many people, their religious affiliation is important to their sense of identity. Our job is to take account of this in our policy-making. It is encouraging that most people questioned felt the Government was doing enough to tackle religious discrimination.

"Mutual understanding is important for building strong, active communities in which citizens have the power to shape their future."

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Former Haitian death-squad leader freed

Associated Press

(Port-au-Prince) - A jury acquitted former paramilitary leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain of murder charges on Tuesday after a 14-hour trial that angered human-rights groups who blamed the country's U.S.-backed government.

Mr. Chamblain and co-defendent Jackson Joanis were acquitted in the 1993 killing of Antoine Izmery, a former justice minister and financier of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, according to Stanley Gaston, a lawyer for Mr. Chamblain.

Eight witnesses were called by the prosecution, but only one showed up, saying he knew nothing about the case, according to Viles Alizar, with the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. For the defence, two showed up but offered few details of the case, he said.

"It is really terrible," Mr. Alizar said.

The trial began at 4 p.m. on Monday and stretched through the night, with the verdict around dawn the next day. Journalists were allowed to cover the proceedings.

Both defendants still face further murder trials: Mr. Chamblain for several killings in a pro-Aristide stronghold of northern Gonaïves in 1994, and Mr. Joanis for the killing of a pro-Aristide priest, Rev. Jean-Marie Vincent, the same year.

It could be another month before the pair's next trial, Mr. Gaston said.

The interim justice minister, Bernard Gousse, has said Mr. Chamblain might be pardoned of any convictions because of "his great services to the nation," pointing to his help in ousting Mr. Aristide this year.

Mr. Chamblain led a paramilitary group blamed for killing some 3,000 people from 1991 – when Mr. Aristide was first ousted – to 1994 – when Mr. Aristide was restored by U.S. troops. Mr. Chamblain went into exile in the Dominican Republic at the time.

He returned to help lead the rebellion this year that ousted Mr. Aristide for a second time and sent him into exile. Human-rights groups have criticized Haiti's U.S.-backed interim government for forming alliances with people such as Mr. Chamblain while it arrests Aristide officials and supporters.

"For the defence, this has been a great success," Mr. Gaston said of the acquittal.

Mr. Chamblain was convicted in absentia in 1995 and given two life sentences for his alleged role in the Izmery assassination and the 1994 Gonaïves killings. Haitian law provides that people judged in their absence have a right to a new trial if they return.

Mr. Chamblain led a band of rebels during a bloody revolt that began Feb. 5 in the northern city of Gonaïves. After a three-week rebellion, Mr. Aristide was pushed from power Feb. 29.

Mr. Chamblain contends that Mr. Aristide ordered his henchmen to kill his pregnant wife in 1991 and told the Associated Press during the revolt that he would do the same to Mr. Aristide, given the chance.

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Judge orders Canadian's equipment returned

Associated Press

Albuquerque, N.M. — A U.S. judge has ordered federal officials to return by October information and computers seized from a Canadian counterterrorism expert cleared of stockpiling mini-missile warheads last year.

David Hudak's lawyers say he has been financially hindered because the government will not return his computers and the proprietary business information contained on them.

Mr. Hudak, a Vancouver resident, was arrested in August, 2002, after federal agents found 2,400 missile warhead tips at his Roswell, N.M., counterterrorist training compound.

He was held without bail for 15 months before a federal jury acquitted him last November on nine counts arising from his use of explosives and training of troops from the United Arab Emirates in counterterrorist techniques. [...]

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Torrential rains damage vast areas of crops in Vietnam

August 18, 2004

HANOI (AFP) - Torrential rains and rising river waters have damaged more than 100,000 hectares of rice and subsidiary food crops this month in Vietnam's southern Mekong Delta region.

An Giang province, 150 kilometres (nearly 100 miles) west of the southern business capital of Ho Chi Minh City, was among the worst affected, with 63,000 hectares of rice fields under water, the ruling Communist Party's Nhan Dan newspaper said Wednesday.

Rice is the Southeast Asian nation's top agricultural export earner and the Mekong Delta region is the main source of the staple.

However, the area is also prone to seasonal flooding which often causes widespread devastation and loss of human life. In 2002 around 170 people, the majority of them children, died from severe flooding in the region.

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Summer storms lash Europe, cause deaths in France

August 18, 2004

PARIS (AFP) - Freak storms packing howling winds and heavy rain that lashed Britain and France this week were set to continue, after already causing significant destruction and the deaths of at least four people.

Rescuers in southern France resumed searches for at least five swimmers caught by surprise by the sudden change in the weather that occurred Tuesday, roiling waters into huge waves and pushing out powerful gusts of up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour.

The four people confirmed killed -- a 41-year-old woman on vacation with her family, a 46-year-old man, 36-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman -- drowned as they swam off separate beaches and in a river.

In Britain, residents of Boscastle, a coastal village in north Cornwall, were bracing for more rain two days after flash floods sent a wall of water tearing through the place, collapsing buildings and sweeping more than 50 automobiles into the sea.

Although no deaths were reported from the Boscastle disaster, police continued to search for more than a dozen people who remained unaccounted for.

In western Switzerland, the storms caused property damage but no casualties, according to police. Fallen trees crushed one building, and several houses had their roofs ripped off, while flooding swamped at least eight villages.

Weather forecasts said France could expect more storms later Wednesday with hail, lightning and very strong winds, prompting authorities to issue a warning for Paris just one level below its maximum alert.

In Britain, torrential and thundery rain was also expected. [...]

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Alaska Wildfires Grow to Record 5 Million Acres

By Yereth Rosen
August 18, 2004

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Wildfires have scorched over 5 million acres in Alaska as of Tuesday, forestry officials said, a new record that signals possible changes in climate conditions and the composition of the vast forests.

"We will definitely not have the same kind of forest and landscape that we're familiar with today if this keeps up," Glenn Juday, a forest-sciences professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said.

While it is common for vast sections of Alaska wild lands to ignite and smolder under the extended summer daylight, this year's fires have been driven by unusually hot and parched weather and plentiful lightning strikes.

In a typical summer, 500,000 to 1.5 million Alaska acres burn, according to statistics from past years. And usually, fire is part of the natural cycle that clears black spruce and white spruce, slender, fast-growing conifers with high levels of flammable resin, out of the way for slower-growing hardwood trees like birch and aspen.

Six hundred fires have burned during the summer, topping the 4.94 million acres charred in 1957, the previous record Alaska wildfire season.

As of Tuesday, 103 fires were still burning, including the 1.1 million-acre Taylor Complex fire that was created when several blazes merged. About 50 buildings had been lost, including seven homes, and 1,075 firefighters were on duty, with about $30 million spent fighting the fires so far.

Fire managers were still waiting for the heavy rains that usually douse Alaska's blazes by August.

"We didn't get that ground-soaking, long-duration rain," said Andy Alexandrou, a fire information officer with the federal-state Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

Scientists warned that Alaska's trend is for increased wildfires of this magnitude.

"Most of the explanations trace themselves back to the climate change," Juday said.

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Magnitude 4.7 Earthquake - RAT ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA

Alaska Earthquake Information Center
Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks
2004 August 18 11:30:57 UTC

A light earthquake occurred at 11:30:57 (UTC) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004. The magnitude 4.7 event has been located in the RAT ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA. The hypocentral depth was estimated to be 36 km (22 miles). (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

Comment: According to the USGS web site, there have been 35 small earthquakes in and around Alaska in the last two days.

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Magnitude 5.4 Earthquake in OAXACA, MEXICO

A moderate earthquake occurred at 09:03:11 (UTC) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004. The magnitude 5.4 event has been located in OAXACA, MEXICO.

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Magnitude 5.7 Earthquake SOUTH OF THE FIJI ISLANDS - August 17, 2004

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Magnitude 5.3 Earthquake in HOKKAIDO, JAPAN REGION - August 17, 2004

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Hong Kong issues health alert as air pollution reaches critical levels

August 18, 2004

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong issued a health alert as air pollution reached critical levels for the second consecutive day.

With city air pollution index levels in the "very high" category, the government advised people with heart or respiratory illnesses to avoid outdoor activities.

The city appeared cloaked in dense smog Wednesday as the pollution index reached 111 on a 1-200 scale. On Tuesday it hit 115.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said the high readings were partly the result of calm air subsiding around Typhoon Megi, which is hovering over the northwest Pacific Ocean.

"Pollutants are trapped under the calm wind conditions," the spokesman said.

The pollution resulted from smog forming in the neighbouring heavily industrialised Pearl River Delta region of southern China.

Air quality was expected to improve as Megi moves further north and winds pick up, the spokesman added.

A study by the University of Hong Kong in 2000 found air pollution was responsible for accelerating the deaths of up to 550 people every year in the territory.

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Ancient sea monster discovered in Manitoba

Last Updated Tue, 17 Aug 2004 14:41:38 EDT

MORDEN, MAN. - Scientists working near Morden, Man. have unearthed a prehistoric marine creature – one of the largest fossilized creatures ever uncovered in the province.

Last summer, amateur paleontologist Joe Brown stumbled upon bone fragments in a field near Morden, about 100 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

"It was unexpected out in the middle of a field," said Brown. "I thought that the whole area had been totally dug up and recovered with soil, but those cows are amazing!"

Brown uncovered the breastplate of a plesiosaur, a sea creature that swam about 65 million years ago in a sea that covered most of Manitoba.

Paleontologists from the Morden Musuem are now excavating the site. So far, they have dug about one metre deep, unearthing other large bones including vertebrae, ribs, teeth and jaw fragments making up about half of the creature's skeleton.

The scientists kept the discovery quiet until they knew what they had found and its significance.

Fossil finds are common in the Morden area, but entire skeletons such as this are rare.

The Morden Museum has the biggest collection of ancient marine creatures in Canada. The last big find was a 13-metre mosasaur nicknamed Bruce in 1974.

"It's our first major find since the '80s," said Anita Janzic, a paleontologist with the museum. "It is probably going to be our most complete specimen of a short-neck plesiosaur, and as well the largest we have, so that is also very exciting."

Janzic said this discovery will provide clues about what the marine reptile ate and how it died. She hopes the museum will eventually link up with universities to do more research.

The crew aims to be finished excavating by the end of August. After that, the skeleton will have to be cleaned and prepared, so it likely won't be on display until 2007 at the earliest.

The museum is hopeful the find will help it become an international destination.

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