Wednesday, September 15, 2004
The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity 

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The Willful Sojourn

SOTT Editorial

In a situation whereby you have told the truth only to be disbelieved and treated like a liar, the complete and utter frustration that is felt typically brings about one of two reactions; either a continued effort to convince the disbeliever of the facts surrounding the situation in question, or a confounded retreat. Both reactions are quite often regarded as signs that you should be disbelieved. In the end only corroboration of the facts, by another, or others, can vindicate your assertions of the truth. But is that always the case?

Not necessarily.

There are those who will disregard factual information because facts do not agree with their own personal agenda, or, perhaps they cling to a belief system that even if challenged with logic might negate the illusion of a long held perspective of themselves and the world around them. There are others for whom truth is such a rare commodity in their own lives, that they simply cannot view truth as a concept to even be taken seriously. There is also one more possibility. They simply just don’t care, and that may be the most insidious of all.

Throughout human history there have been countless examples of people following their leaders into an abyss of catastrophe. Sometimes for reasons and philosophies they agreed with, but quite often their indifferent complacency emboldened their megalomaniacal leaders to embark on a journey of calamitous folly.

The reasons for followers and their complacency are many, but satisfaction with the status quo is most probably the ultimate population tranquilizer. Give them bread and circuses. A full belly and trivial diversions will often sedate the masses into believing that all is well and therefore deflect attention away from the true intentions of it’s leaders. This, and an ongoing barrage of disinformation has always been the recipe for swaying the masses into the desired direction of its leaders wishes.

The challenge that awaits us all is not so much the machinations from exterior forces or entities as much as it is the struggle inside ourselves to decide whether or not we choose to follow complacency, subjectivity or objectivity.

Quite often the willful sojourn into objectivity becomes as arduous as it is enlightening, and the decision to remain steadfast in that journey will be constantly tested. The outer façade that masks the inner truth that objectivity reveals will almost simultaneously tempt you, and fill you with revulsion. The lure of following the path of least resistance will, at times, challenge your resolve. For those who persevere, the reward will not be so much as to where you will be further on in the future, but where you are now, inside yourself.

Ultimately, those who seek out and cling to the ideal of objective reality will save themselves from the ultimate descent into an abyss conjured up by self-serving pseudo-messianic leaders.

Complacency and subjectivity are a one way ticket into it.

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Israel will ditch road map, says Sharon
Wednesday September 15, 2004

The Israeli government does not intend to honour the US-backed road map to peace in the Middle East once it has completed a planned pullout from Gaza, an Israeli newspaper reported today.

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, told the Yediot Ahronot daily that there might not be any troop pullbacks after Israel had carried out its so-called unilateral "disengagement" from the Palestinians - withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank settlements - in 2005.

"It is very possible that, after the evacuation, there will be a long period when nothing else happens," Mr Sharon said. He told the paper it was impossible to say whether this could signal decades of stalemate.

Mr Sharon said that, as long as there was no significant shift in the Palestinian leadership and policy, Israel would "continue its war on terrorism, and will stay in the territories [of the West Bank] that will remain after the implementation of disengagement".

The road map to peace was launched last year, envisaging a Palestinian state by 2005. The plan did not specify the borders of that state, but senior US officials said Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza had to come to an end.

The US president, George Bush, has since said it would be "unrealistic" to expect Israel to remove large West Bank settlements - a statement interpreted by Mr Sharon as backing for his plan to keep large settlement blocs in any future deal with the Palestinians.

In the Yediot interview, Mr Sharon was asked how his disengagement plan differed from a proposal by the former Israeli opposition leader Amram Mitzna. Mr Mitzna last year said Israel should restart peace talks with the Palestinians by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, including the isolated settlement of Netzarim.

"Mitzna suggested something different, to start the Netzarim evacuation and to continue dismantling settlements, based on the road map," Mr Sharon said. "This would have brought Israel to a most difficult situation. I didn't agree to this. Today, we are also not following the road map. I am not ready for this."

Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian cabinet minister, said Mr Sharon's comments had confirmed Palestinian fears that the disengagement plan was a ploy to cement Israel's control over large areas of the West Bank.

US and EU officials have assured the Palestinians they only back the disengagement plan as part of the road map.

"I think that those who saw the Gaza disengagement as an opportunity, because they counted that it would be part of the road map, should really understand that their good intentions are one thing and that Sharon's good intentions are another," Mr Erekat told the Associated Press.

"Sharon's intention is to destroy the road map and to dictate his long-term interim solution of Gaza as a prison and 40% of the West Bank within walls."

He today urged US and EU leaders to take action against Israel's continued building in the West Bank, arguing that years of US and European condemnation of illegal Isreali settlements had resulted only in more being built.

· Israeli soldiers today killed five Palestinian fugitives, including a militant leader, during a fierce gunbattle in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

The army surrounded a building in which wanted militants were holed up and a battle erupted, Palestinian witnesses said. Palestinian security officials said five militants from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were killed, and a sixth man injured.

The dead included Nader Aswad, a local leader who was on Israel's most-wanted list. Al-Aqsa is loosely linked to the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Military sources said five wanted Palestinians had been killed, but gave no further details.

Comment: We are not surprised that Sharon would pull out of the famous "Road Map". He did absolutely nothing to implement it, preferring to denounce the Palestinians, saying there was no partner to the negotiations. Israel's continued ignoring of Yassir Arafat is the problem here. Or, rather, is the surface manifestation of the deeper problem that they have no intention of negotiating. Never had, never will. Any appearance of willingness to negotiate was a ploy to gain time while the war against Palestinians continues, killing off the population, stealing their land, encouraging the Jewish settlers to occupy more and more Palestinian land.

Sharon and his fascist cronies are using the election period to announce what has been obvious to objective observers since the beginning. Sharon knows that neither Bush nor Kerry will say a word. The Road Map was the supposed crown jewel in Bush's Mid East policy. Yeah, right. Is anyone in the mainstream US media going to call him on it between now and election day? Dream on.

But it gets worse...

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Sharon hints that Arafat may be killed
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Wednesday September 15, 2004
The Guardian

Ariel Sharon has threatened that Yasser Arafat will meet the same fate as Hamas leaders who were assassinated earlier this year by the Israeli military.

In ambiguous comments to Israeli newspapers to mark the Jewish new year, the prime minister said he intends to force the Palestinian leader into exile. But he also hinted that Mr Arafat might be killed.

Speaking to Ma'ariv newspaper, Mr Sharon made direct reference to the Hamas spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by a missile in Gaza in March, and his successor as the Islamic resistance movement's leader, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, who was killed by the Israelis the following month.

"We operated against Ahmed Yassin and Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi when we thought the time was suitable. On the matter of Arafat we'll operate in the same way, when we find the convenient and suitable time. One needs to find the time and to do what has to be done," said Mr Sharon.

However, the prime minister told other newspapers that he would send Mr Arafat into exile. Sheikh Yassin and Mr al-Rantissi were both exiled from the occupied territories at one time.

A prominent Palestinian minister, Saeb Erekat, said Mr Sharon's comments show that he intends "to kill President Arafat and to push the Palestinian people toward chaos".

But the Israeli prime minister's son, Omri, a member of parliament, said that the possibility of assassination "does not exist" and that Israel should leave Mr Arafat "stuck" in his battered Ramallah compound.

"If we do this foolishness and hit him, will an [alternative Palestinian leader] arise? No, he will be seen as your collaborator," Omri Sharon told members of the ruling Likud's central committee.

In April, Mr Sharon backed away from a personal pledge to President Bush not to harm the Palestinian leader by saying that whoever kills Jews or orders their deaths "is a marked man".

However, it is thought unlikely the prime minister intends to move against Mr Arafat in the near future. The threat may be timed to try to reassure critics on the far right that the government's plan to pull 7,500 Jews out of the Gaza strip, and a small number from a part of the West Bank, does not represent a weakening of its resolve to confront the Palestinian leadership.

Mr Sharon's security cabinet yesterday approved steps to begin the Gaza pullout, including compensation payments to Jewish settlers of up to £280,000. The government is offering bonuses to settlers who agree to leave of their own accord in the hope of defusing resistance to the pullout.

The government expects to spend £350m compensating settlers and a similar amount moving military installations and other infrastructure.

Mr Sharon also rebuffed pressure from his finance minister and chief political rival, Binyamin Netanyahu, for a referendum on the withdrawal.

Mr Netanyahu argues that a ballot would lend legitimacy to the "disengagement plan" and weaken claims by the settlers and the far right that Mr Sharon is acting undemocratically by ignoring a poll within his Likud party that rejected the pullout.

Mr Netanyahu said that without a vote there could be an "explosion" of resistance by the settlers and their supporters. But the prime minister accused him of siding with the settlers.

"The real intention is to delay implementation," said Mr Sharon. "If a minister thinks that we are facing an explosion, he needs to act with all his might to make sure that there is no explosion, so that no one might even contemplate that by means of threats of explosion a cabinet decision can be changed. Instead of stamping a seal of approval on those threats and capitulating to them, I would expect from him and the other ministers to express in the strongest terms possible their opposition to threats."

The police said they were investigating death threats against Mr Sharon and officials responsible for implementing disengagement.

Jerusalem's chief of police, Ilan Franco, said: "We have opened an intensive investigation regarding threats that have been received in recent days. The threats were to murder the prime minister and officials in the administration."

The Israeli news service, YNet, quoted officials from the Shin Bet security service as saying they feared for Mr Sharon's safety and "would prefer for the prime minister to avoid leaving his office".

· Masked gunmen shot dead an accused rapist on his way to court in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday.

The shooting marked the second fatal attack in less than two months on detainees in the custody of Palestinian security forces.

Palestinians have faced internal strife recently, stirred by militants complaining of corruption in the Palestinian security forces. The gunmen attacked the car in which Ramy Yaghmour and other detainees were travelling from the Palestinian special forces headquarters.

Comment: Killing Arafat. It looks like Sharon wants to do whatever possible to provoke the Palestinians in order to have an excuse to wipe them out in one fell swoop. This war of attrition isn't fast or bloody enough for this war criminal. He needs more blood on his hands in order to quell the rising discontent amongst the extreme right in Israel, the settlers who want nothing less than a Greater Israel that stretches from the Mediterranean to Baghdad.

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Iraq: a descent into civil war?
Luke Harding in Baghdad
Wednesday September 15, 2004
The Guardian

Lying amid the debris strewn near Al-Karkh police station was the photo of a young man in a blue T-shirt. The passport snap had been part of his application to join Iraq's police force.

Yesterday, however, he and dozens of other recruits queueing outside the station in central Baghdad were blown to pieces by a car bomb. Near the photo, someone had heaped the shoes of the dead and injured into a neat pile.

The destruction from the suspected suicide blast which killed 47 people and injured 114 was everywhere: bits of metal, glass, a broken billiard table, a dead bird and pools of blood.

There was nothing left of the recruit in the photo.

"The bomb went off at 10am. A lot of people were queueing up to join the police," said Allah Hamas, 31, who owns Allah's Famous Falafel Stand, next to the police station.

"I handed a customer a sandwich. Suddenly there was an explosion and a piece of metal ripped off the top of his head.

"After that I ran out to help. We covered the dead with blankets. I saw at least 30 bodies. Thirteen of them were burnt completely. Some people were scattered into pieces. We found them among their files and photos."

It was the deadliest single incident in the Iraqi capital for six months, but there was nothing unique about the explosion; it took place a few hundred metres from Haifa Street, a well-known centre of resistance to the American occupation and the scene of heavy fighting on Sunday. It was embarrassingly close to the green zone and the US embassy.

But it reveals a grim truth about the nature of Iraq's evolving insurgency: Iraqis are killing Iraqis.

In recent months, and especially since the handover of "power" to the unelected interim government, Iraq's resistance has concentrated its efforts on killing those who collaborate with the Americans - the police officers, would-be police officers, translators, governors and government officials.

It is beginning to look like, and feel like, civil war.

In another incident yesterday, gunmen ambushed a minibus full of policeman in Baquba, north-west of Baghdad, killing 11 of them and a civilian. They were on their way home to their base.

In Ramadi, clashes between US troops and insurgents left eight dead and 18 wounded.

Responsibility for the attacks in Baghdad and Baquba was claimed yesterday by Tawhid and Jihad, Iraq's shadowy and fastest-growing militant group, which is allegedly linked to the Jordanian al-Qaida ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

In reality, though, the real identities of the insurgents remain opaque. They undoubtedly include a handful of foreign fighters, but the majority are Iraqi nationalists violently opposed to the continuing occupation of their country.

"What happened here has really got nothing to do with Islam," said Rafid Ahmed, whose shop in Al-Karkh was destroyed.

Mr Ahmed said his two neighbours in the next-door barber's shop were killed. He survived only because he opened up late.

"Why are these people targeting Iraqi police recruits? They just want to get a salary because they are unemployed," he said. "The people who did this are terrorists."

What would he do now? "Wait and see," he said. "This store provided an income for a whole family."

In the row of ruined neighbouring shops there were bloodstains on the ceilings. A few metres away, beyond a pavement strewn with rubble and bits of tree, the explosion had dug a large crater. The blackened engine of the car had landed 30 metres away.

Mingled with the smell of incinerated metal was something else: burnt flesh.

Another witness, Raad Tawfiq, 40, contradicted the claims of Tawhid and Jihad. "It wasn't a suicide bomb," he said. "They blew the car up by remote control. People in the restaurant spotted them leaving, but it was too late.

"This was a massacre," he said.

In the run-up to the January elections, Iraq's pro-US interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, faces some stark choices. He and the US military can try to reoccupy the towns they have abandoned, or accept that there is little prospect of the polls taking place in much of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland.

Some Sunni groups have dismissed the elections as a "fake", and no one quite knows whether the insurgency will fizzle out after January or, as seems more likely, become more intense.

The interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar, said yesterday that the elections should go ahead. "Unless the UN says it is impossible to hold it, we're going to hold it at that time," he said.

As we drove away from Haifa Street yesterday, gunfire rang out from the nearby houses. Two green US helicopters circled menacingly. At the weekend a helicopter opened fire on unarmed demonstrators dancing round a burning Bradley armoured vehicle. Thirteen were killed, including a TV journalist working for the Arab station Al-Arabiya.

Those wounded in Baghdad yesterday were being treated in Al-Karkh hospital, a short walk from the market where the bomb exploded. American tanks and armoured vehicles had parked nearby, before moving off and leaving behind whirling clouds of dust.

Mr Hamas, the falafel shop owner, said he only survived yesterday by the grace of God. But he added: "I'm dead. I already feel I'm dead."

Comment: So much for democracy in Iraq. The Iraqis want no part of the regime installed by Bush and his friends. But Americans don't know what is going on because their news media lies to them, just like they did prior to the war. A few papers have posted apologies for their pre-war coverage, but how many of them are now reporting the truth about the situation in Iraq?

You have to go to a small city in Wisconsin in order to find out what is really going on in Iraq...

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The Media Drops the Ball: Iraq Situation Worse than Reported
Eau Claire
Sep 13, 2004
An Eau Claire man working in Iraq says the presidential candidates are not taking the war in Iraq seriously and the media is letting that slide. Former Eau Claire City Council President Wallace Rogers says that's the impression he got while home on leave. Rogers is back in the Middle East. He says what is going on there is very different from the picture painted by the American media. He says, while he was in Eau Claire, he heard that the U.S. is winning the war and that we are making progress in establishing a democracy. Rogers says that is not what he sees. He says: "I am surprised and disturbed by what's been happening in Iraq that I didn't see or read about during the fifteen days I was just home. Iraq – Baghdad in particular this time – has spiraled into a state of anarchy: important Iraqi government officials are assassinated every other day; American soldiers and marines have been killed at a rate of more than three a day since I've left."

Comment: This should be no surprise - it's just more of the "Bush Media Management" that Kitty Kelley describes.

The "truth" can slip out in a small city like this because this report will never be picked up by the major news suppliers: AP, UPI, or the television networks. So it dies on the vine so to speak.

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Slippage of control in Iraq makes a mockery of power hand-over
New Scotsman

TWO months ago, amid the kind of secrecy more normally associated with Saddam’s illicit arms deals, the US authorities in Baghdad formally handed over power to the fledgling Iraqi government.

The ceremony, amid the formidable security of the Green Zone, was done two days ahead of schedule in a bid to wrongfoot insurgents - for whom, it was claimed, it would provide the key rallying moment for a final, last-gasp offensive.

Today, with both Ayad Allawi's new government and its coalition backers losing control of the country, it is hard to imagine why anybody bothered with such constitutional conjuring.

No force ever attacks when its foes expect it to: instead, as yesterday’s carnage and that of recent weeks shows, the real post-hand-over violence is only truly under way now.

The fact remains that this is now the second time, after April’s initial insurrection, that Iraq has listed towards total anarchy. Indeed, a two-month-on, two-month-off pattern of violence was predicted by some coalition commanders long ago.

Back in July, I met Col Dana Pittard, one of the US Army’s more highly regarded leaders, whose men had just quelled a major attempt to take over the northern Iraqi town of Baquba.

He was proud of his soldiers’ efforts - in which they suffered fatalities - but under no illusions: "They’ll try it on again in a couple of months," he warned. "Just give them time to regroup."

Worse still, even with what now seem to be periodic lulls and highs, the scale of armed resistance seems to grow.

The fact that US troops regularly give the enemy an easy hiding - killing scores, sometimes hundreds at a time - is no comfort. It merely shows that no matter how high the casualty rates, there is a seemingly bottomless supply of newcomers coming in.

And all the time, as occupying armies have known for centuries, the resistance is learning from its mistakes.

To see how the situation has deteriorated one only needs to be reminded of the bullish confidence of coalition commanders in Iraq a year ago. Back then reporters were admonished if they talked of "no-go zones": the coalition presence, and with it the rule of law, extended to every corner of the country.

Nowadays, by comparison, even British troops in the relatively quiet southern sector have all but conceded certain hostile towns.

The prospect of a "super rogue state", as raised in recent days by Iraq’s new UN ambassador Samir Sum-aida'ie, is no longer a distant nightmare but an approaching possibility.

Alas, it is no use expecting "ordinary Iraqis" - the God-fearing, Saddam-hating, violence-abhorring majority to whom the coalition constantly appeals - to rally round to stop the worst-case scenarios unfolding.

As the falls of Fallujah, Najaf and Samarrah have shown, Iraqis’ popular support - explicit, tacit or otherwise - tends to go to whoever wields the biggest sticks in town.

For the first year after the fall of Saddam, that pretty much meant the United States Army.

Now, however, as the half-way point of year two approaches, it is a role that is increasingly up for grabs.

Comment: This is the true state of affairs in Iraq, a war against an occupying power and its puppet government. The US did not go in to liberate Iraq. It went in to take over. No amount of masking of the truth will change the facts. This is a growing national resistance movement against a fascist occupier.

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Headless bodies add to horror of Iraq's daily bloodshed
September 15, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - US troops found three bodies and their severed heads north of Baghdad while 13 people died in clashes in Ramadi, two more in a car bomb attack and two Iraqis employed by the US Army were shot in the north.

More than 350 people have been killed so far this month alone, spurring the US authorities to switch more than three billion dollars into boosting security at the expense of earmarked reconstruction projects.

The headless, decomposing corpses, thought to be of Iraqi civilians, were discovered on a roadside with inscriptions carved into them, before their remains were put in bags and taken to Balad, police and the US military said.

Authorities believe they had been dead for about five days. [...]

Comment: The article fails to mention the content or language of the inscriptions. From another article on, we learn the following:

Iraqi police said two of the bodies had tattoos written in the Roman alphabet - one saying "HECER", and the other a letter H. The third body had tattoos written in Arabic script but the words were not Arabic. There were no documents on the corpses.

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Violence erupts as two Italian women aid workers seized

UK Guardian

[...] Witnesses described the kidnapping as "extremely professional" and said a well-dressed man wearing a suit and tie had led the operation.

"Four cars pulled up outside our house. About 20 guys suddenly burst inside. They made us sit on the ground and started beating us," one eyewitness Haider Muhammad Ali, 26, said.

"They kidnapped the Italian women and an Iraqi girl. The women didn't scream. They just went quietly with the kidnappers. We were completely terrified. We were 100% convinced we would all die."

Around 15 people were inside the house at the time. The kidnappers took five hostages - but one man, an Iraqi, escaped in the confusion. None of the guards at the house had weapons, Mr Ali said.

"We are a humanitarian organisation and we don't believe in them."

The chief of the Italian intelligence service, SISMI, Nicolo Pollari, recently warned that hostage-takers might target women for extra emotional impact.

Comment: In a report in Italian daily "il Messaggero" the following appears:

"According to Sunni leader Abu Salam Al Kubaisi, the two kidnapped Italian women, victims of an 'anomalous kidnapping', as he puts it, have been taken by foreign 007's"

So explain this to us - who are these "Iraqi militants" that the leader of the real Iraqi militants is disowning and calling "foreign 007s"? Could they possibly be the same people that produced the obviously faked Nick Berg "beheading" video? If so, what is their goal? Clearly it has nothing to do with promoting the cause of Iraqis and Arabs around the world, since their actions result in either the deaths of ordinary Iraqis and/or the demonisation of Iraqis and Arabs in the minds of western citizens.

As we have said many times before, Israel and the US have most to gain from the continuing bloodshed and upheaval in Iraq - do you really believe that the boys in the Pentagon actually wanted to "free Iraq"? A stable and unified Iraq under the direction of truly representative leaders would prevent Israel from achieving its desired unrivaled hegemony in the Middle East and would prevent the US and Israel from getting their dirty hands over ALL of Iraq's oil.

A country like Iraq, which is experiencing the power vacuum that results from violent change of government, is ripe for intelligence agencies like the Mossad and the CIA to do what they do best - further the real agenda of their masters through the use of "false flag" operations while sowing death and destruction throughout the world.

Talking of false flag operations...

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Bashir points finger at Australia and US

By Cynthia Banham
September 15, 2004

Abu Bakar Bashir, the jailed alleged spiritual head of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah, said he suspected Australia and the US were behind last week's embassy bombing in Jakarta.

Bashir, jailed for conspiracy over last year's Marriott hotel bombings in Jakarta, said Australia's "mistake" had been to support the US, which he accused of wanting to destroy Islam.

In an interview with The Bulletin, he said he did not know who was behind the Australian embassy bombing, "whether it has been done by those who hate Australia, or Australia itself which has done this for their particular political purpose".

He suspected it might have been the US or Australia for two reasons. "The US issued a travel warning before the bombing. It means they already knew in advance," he said, and "the bomb was intentionally exploded in front of the embassy gates, making victims of ordinary Muslim people. It means it was aimed at pushing Islam into a corner."

Bashir said he disagreed with bombing in a "peaceful country like Indonesia", but appreciated "the will and the purpose of those who fight those who make war on Islam".

Indonesian and Australian police believe JI is behind last week's bombing, with two key members of the group, Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammed Top, named as suspects.

Bashir said Australia and Indonesia could co-exist peacefully "as long as Australia understands it should not fight a war against Islam".

He said he hoped the Labor leader, Mark Latham, would "fix" the Prime Minister, John Howard, who was "on the slide because he has been cheated and lied to by George Bush".

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September 33rd
Tom Engelhardt
September 13, 2004

Iraq is far away -- on this the Bush administration counts. If your child or spouse or friend has not died there or your friends or relatives aren't billeted there, the war in Iraq is an abstraction and American deaths in Baghdad or Baquba or Najaf at best tiny, abstract tragedies like those "walls" of faces of the dead in periodic newspaper memorials, each no bigger than your littlest fingernail.

To make that war just a little less abstract, for a moment, let's imagine our troops not in Iraq but at the top of some vast tower of a skyscraper from which, every day, two, or three, or four of them are forced in full view to leap to their deaths, as in fact many workers in the Twin Towers did on that fateful day exactly three years ago. Imagine further that the pile of those who have leaped and died, young soldiers, male and female, sent to fight our President's "war on terror" on the battlefields of Iraq, has slowly risen until by the third cycle through the first 11 days of September, this September 33rd you might say, it has already passed the thousand-body height, only several hundred short of the halfway mark to the total of those who died in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that terrible morning.

With our generals and pundits talking about a 5 to 10 year stay in Iraq, with our President unwilling even to put a date on our departure because he considers us in a near eternal war with evil, with his opponent only hoping to pull our troops out by the end of a first term in office (leaving, of course, the young men and women of other lands to fight in their place), imagine further that by September 44th, given the present rising casualty rate, that pile of young bodies may be at, or close to, or just beyond the height of the one created on that very first September morning. Imagine then, on the fourth cycle from now, September 77th, or for that matter on the tenth cycle, September 110th, how high that pile might rise.

If you find this a disturbing image, then welcome to the world of September 33rd.

On that initial September 11th, thousands of people from many countries, all in three buildings, went to their deaths. By this September 33rd, three years later, in addition to those 1000-plus young Americans dead in Iraq; and another 132 in Afghanistan, and many thousands of Afghan civilians dead in our initial bombings and in the chaos as well as civil and guerrilla warfare that followed, the latest guesstimates on Iraqi civilian deaths go as high as 30,000 or more, not counting the thousands of Iraqi soldiers, often conscripts, who died in our several-week long invasion of the country. In the meantime, deaths worldwide from acts of terror, slaughters on trains in Spain, or in banks, hotels, and temples in Turkey, or in buses in Israel, or in the streets and clubs of Indonesia, or on the streets and in mosques in Pakistan, or in a classroom in Beslan -- often thanks to disparate movements, causes, reasons -- are significantly on the rise. And can there be any question that they feed upon one another, each new act of terror since September 11th, making others imaginable, possible, plausible. For all of the victims of these acts (and for the victims, whether in Chechnya, in the Palestinian occupied territories, or elsewhere of acts that made these acts conceivable), and especially for those who suffer directly because of the decisions of the Bush administration, we would have to commandeer many towers from which streams of horrified and often utterly innocent people, young and old, whose main attribute, it often seems, is simply that they are not Americans, would have to leap. [...]

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Row erupts as Spain's Aznar to appear before March 11 inquiry
September 15, 2004

MADRID (AFP) - A row erupted in Spain as members of the parliamentary inquiry into the March 11 Madrid train bombings voted to call former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar as a witness.

Inquiry chairman Paulino Rivero said 13 other people would appear, including experts in Islamic terrorism and senior police figures from the northern Asturias region, the origin of the explosives used in the blasts.

No exact date has been set for Aznar's appearance.

Rivero said the inquiry team had unanimously decided Aznar should testify after fringe parties canvassed the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) and Aznar's rightwing Popular Party (PP).

The PP lost a general election three days after the bombings, which killed 191 and injured 1,900 in Spain's worst terrorist attack.

Wednesday's decision met with a furious reaction from PP spokesman Eduardo Zaplana, who emerged to denounce "a scandal without precedent for a democratic country."

Zaplana slammed the whole affair as "a pantomime" and threatened "consequences".

It swiftly emerged that the PP had asked at the last minute for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero also to be called but the proposal was rejected.

Rivero said that was because the request had not been formally made but Zaplana said it was proof the hearing did not want to cast its investigative net as wide as possible.

Zaplana accused the commission of "wanting to investigate nothing. It's ridiculous.

"They don't want people to know the truth. It's a joke and a lie," he stormed. "There is an agreement among the committee not to know the truth."

He accused the panel of routinely turning down PP requests on who should appear, including Zapatero, adding acceptance of such requests was "essential and fundamental" to the inquiry outcome.

"It's incomprehensible that they are afraid of knowing the truth. It's illogical," Zaplana stormed.

PSOE spokesman Alvaro Cuesta said Wednesday's decision was in itself proof that the inquiry enjoyed a remit "without limits," noting it was under Aznar that "Spain suffered the worst attack in its history."

But Mariano Rajoy, who led the PP to defeat on March 14 having taken over the party leadership from Aznar last year, insisted Zapatero should now himself appear.

Zapatero should "stop hiding himself away," Rajoy told reporters, adding if he did not people would conclude that "the government has something to hide."

The PSOE and the PP had previously said they believed Aznar's appearance was not necessary, having heard from former members of his government, including a marathon, day-long appearance by former interior minister Angel Acebes.

On Monday, however, Zapatero said he was "favourable" to Aznar being called and was himself prepared to appear.

In the days following the bombings the PP and Aznar insisted Basque extremists were responsible, even as evidence emerged pointing the finger at Islamic extremists.

Of 20 suspects now in custody in connection with the attacks, most are Moroccans.

A link to Islamic extremism would have been dangerous for the PP as it would have suggested to Spanish voters that the bombings were in revenge for Aznar's strong support for US policy in Iraq.

Before the blasts, the PP was favoured to win the election but some voters suspected the government was trying to mislead them by pinning the blame on Basque extremists even as they cast their ballots.

In the event the PSOE carried the day.

Many Spaniards are sceptical as to whether Aznar will prove willing or able to shed further light on the attacks.

An opinion poll carried out in late July showed 58.1 percent of those questioned thought the inquiry would find out "little" or "nothing" regarding March 11.

Comment: Given the information in this article, one wonders if the March 11 bombing was intended to dethrone Aznar. But such a move doesn't fit the pattern of world events over the last several years. Why would "al-Qaeda" (aka Mossad) decide to oust Aznar, when he was ready and willing to support the invasion of an Arab country?

Perhaps those responsible for the Spanish bombing assumed that the techniques that work so well in Israel and the US would also work in Spain. After all, there are many Israelis who disagree with the actions of their Zionist-controlled government, yet the government is still able to use the "suicide bombings" to whip up "support". Instead of going along with the plan, Aznar may have panicked and decided instead to declare that the attack was the work of Basque extremists in an attempt to save himself. The people would not be fooled, so they voted Zapatero into office.

There is only one problem with this theory: the Spanish people were not happy with their country's participation in America's invasion of Iraq. As a result, Aznar was in deep trouble politically no matter where the blame fell after the attack, which occurred three days before the election. If he blamed the attack on al-Qaeda, he would be voted out of office for pulling Spain into the mess in Iraq. If he blamed the attack on ETA, he would be voted out of office since the people would think he was lying to them. Since the March 11 attack had the fingerprints of Mossad, the question then remains: why would the Zionists, who have their finger on the military and political pulse of America, want to do anything that would reduce the number of countries in the "Coalition of the Willing"??

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Spain arrests militant suspects
Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 11:16 GMT

Spanish police have arrested at least 10 suspected Islamist militants in a series of pre-dawn raids in Barcelona.

Spanish judicial authorities say that most of the detainees are of Pakistani origin.

Police said they found no arms or explosives in the raids on several premises, including private homes.

Authorities have dampened suggestions that the arrests are linked to al-Qaeda or the 11 March train bombings in Madrid, in which 191 people died.

"An operation was launched against Islamic activists and several people were detained," a spokesman for Catalonia regional police told AFP news agency.

The BBC's Katya Adler in Madrid says the operation was ordered by Ismael Moreno, an investigating judge at the Spanish High Court.

The men are suspected of belonging to a militant Islamist cell based in Barcelona, a spokesman for the court said.

Barcelona's autonomous police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, raided a series of properties in the El Raval and Trinitat Vella districts of the city.

They seized a number of documents now being examined by detectives.

A spokesman for the Mossos d'Esquadra described those arrested as members of an "organised criminal group" with possible links to foreign-based Islamists, Spanish radio reports.

The men are not believed to be operating an al-Qaeda terror cell in Barcelona, the spokesman added.

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French Police Detain Five in 9/11 Probe
Wed Sep 15, 6:13 AM ET

PARIS (Reuters) - Police have detained five suspected Islamic militants as part of a French inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks, French judicial sources said on Wednesday.

The DST domestic intelligence agency arrested the five on Tuesday in Selestat and Colmar, in the eastern Alsace region, as part of an investigation led by anti-terrorist judges Jean-Louis Bruguiere and Jean-Francois Richard, the sources said.

Prosecutors suspect the men of having links with Karim Mehdi, 35, a Moroccan arrested in June 2003 at Paris's main airport and being investigated on a terrorism charge.

Under French anti-terrorism laws the men can be held for up to four days before they must be freed or brought before a judge, who can order them remanded in custody.

Police say Mehdi was planning a bombing on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion. He is being held pending the outcome of an investigation into whether he should be charged with associating with criminals engaged in a terrorist enterprise.

Police suspect Mehdi was in contact with the "Hamburg cell" which included Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah and Marwan al-Shehhi, three of the Arabs who flew the hijacked airliners in the attacks three years ago, killing almost 3,000 people.

He has also been linked by the French authorities to Ramzi bin al-Shaibah, another suspect in the U.S. attacks, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002.

Mehdi is believed to have been in contact with Jarrah, a Lebanese national who piloted the airliner that crashed in a Pennsylvania field short of its target.

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US-EU division resurfaces over Iran
Wednesday 15 September 2004, 8:51 Makka Time, 5:51 GMT

A rift has surfaced between the United States and the European Union over how to deal with Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

Ignoring American suggestions, key members of the EU circulated their own recommendations to other delegates at a crucial meeting of the UN atomic energy agency on Tuesday.

The latest development contradicted earlier claims by some diplomats that the US and the Europeans were making progress in drafting a common language for an International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) resolution that would set a deadline for Iran to dispel fears it was trying to make nuclear arms.

But the latest draft that circulated informally mirrored the one that France, Britain and Germany came up with last week and was already dismissed by the US as not tough enough.

US demands

Washington demands that Iran should grant the IAEA inspectors "complete, immediate and unrestricted access, and provide full information about past illegal nuclear activities".

It also insists Tehran "suspend immediately and fully uranium enrichment and related activities, and meet all agency demands to resolve all outstanding issues nurturing suspicions of possible weapons programme".

Moreover, the US demands the draft should include a 31 October deadline for Iran to comply.

But the EU draft remained vague on both demands and a time frame, asking only that IAEA director general Muhammad al-Baradai submit a comprehensive report before November for evaluation by the agency's board of governors.

Al-Baradai shrugged off the idea of a deadline.

"We cannot just say there is a magic date for an end to the agency's Iran probe," he said. He also repeated that his investigation had not established whether Iran was trying to make nuclear arms, as the US asserts.

"We haven't seen any concrete proof that there is a weapons programme," he said.

Revelations of the rift were expected to prove embarrassing to Washington.

The Americans "introduced amendments that were beyond what the market would bear", said one senior western diplomat who follows the IAEA. "The European draft is right now going to have support."

Comment: Haven't we been here before? Two years ago, maybe? Another country in the region with a very similar name.

Presumable the US figures the strategy worked the last time around so why bother changing. Start a propaganda campaign against Iran, inflame passions, sow fear, and then, wham! Hit 'em with shock and awe with a new army of conscripts drafted after the election.

Israel has nuclear weapons. Israel is never brought before international organisations in order to justify their use of nuclear power and their development of nuclear weapons, but their Arab neighbors have no right to do the same thing.

The famous double standard. One law for the US and Israel and another for the rest of the world. What will happen when it is only the US and Israel left to duke it out?

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Iran faces deadline to comply with demands on nuclear weapons
Associated Press

Berlin — Europe's major powers have agreed to set a November deadline on Iran to meet demands meant to banish concerns that it is secretly trying to make nuclear weapons, in a confidential document made available Saturday to The Associated Press.

The draft resolution was prepared by France, Germany and Britain for Monday's start of a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.

The draft contains a so-called "trigger mechanism," warning of possible "further steps" — which diplomats defined as shorthand for referral of Iran's case to the UN Security Council.

The draft is likely to undergo changes before the three countries submit it at the board meeting of the IAEA. And it still has to be approved by two-thirds of the 35 board members.

But it is significant because it puts the three European countries the closest they have formally been to the United States on what to do about Iran and activities that Washington insists show Tehran is trying build the nuclear bomb.

Up to now, the three European countries have resisted U.S. attempts to have Iran hauled before the Security Council or even hint on a date for such possible action. Iran says its nuclear program is solely for energy production.

Comment: Can you hear the war drums pounding? First Iraq was accused by the U.S of harbouring WMD, and to appease the world community, the U.S. went to the United Nations who agreed to send a team of experts to find them. After months of searching, the number of weapons found was zero. Remember, all along the Iraqi government denied ever having such weapons, but did that stop the U.S. from ignoring the U.N. and acting unilaterally? Look where we are now, years later, tens of thousands dead, two countries in ruins, and still no weapons.

Can you hear the war drums pounding? The exact same routine is now playing out in Iran, this time over nuclear weapons. Notice how in the beginning, the U.S. tries to appease the world community by forcing a showdown at the U.N. and all along Iran claims they have no such weapons program. Will they draft a resolution and send inspectors to Iran, or will the U.S. get impatient and decide to attack first without U.N approval? World opinion obviously doesn't matter to the Shrub and his cronies, and you can be almost guaranteed that come another election steal in November, Tehran will be next up on the axis-of-evil chopping block.

Can you hear the war drums pounding? Syria... North Korea... Indonesia... Venezuela.. China... planet Earth... can you hear?

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Quraya: Israel 'Judaising' Jerusalem
Tuesday 14 September 2004, 17:14 Makka Time, 14:14 GMT

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya has condemned Israel's closure of six voter registration centres in Arab East Jerusalem, accusing Israel of trying to "Judaise" the holy city.

Palestinians opened the offices earlier in September to register East Jerusalem voters for a future Palestinian general election, a step towards meeting international and domestic demands for Palestinian reform.

But Israeli police said they closed the offices on Monday, accusing Palestinians of "illegal polling activities".

"The Israeli decision constitutes a flagrant violation to all signed agreements and international law," Quraya said on Tuesday in a statement issued in the West Bank city of Ram Allah.

"This decision shows Israel's pursuit of its policy to Judaise (Arab East) Jerusalem and strip its people of their rights," he said in reference to the part of the city Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.


Quraya said the Palestinian Authority was determined to carry out plans to register voters in "all Palestinian territories that Israel occupied in 1967 starting with holy Jerusalem".

Israel considers all of Jerusalem, including the Arab eastern sector, as its capital and objects to Palestinian electioneering there. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they seek in Israeli-occupied territories.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it, a move not recognised internationally.

Palestinians living in Jerusalem were permitted to take part in the first Palestinian presidential and legislative elections in 1996, held under interim peace deals with Israel.

Palestinian officials said Israel's refusal this time to allow Palestinians to register to vote showed it was bent on cementing its grip on the Arab east of the city.

Palestinians have set up about 1000 registration centres across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem for presidential and legislative elections that are nearly four years overdue. No date has been set for the elections.

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Russia's Lurch Backward
Published: September 14, 2004

Faced with the most serious crisis of his presidency, Vladimir Putin has yielded to his darkest instincts. Russia's stumbling security services clearly need to be revitalized to fight terrorism. Mr. Putin, however, is using Beslan's tragedy as an excuse for suffocating the last vestiges of Yeltsin-era democracy. Yesterday, evoking Russia's long history of an autocratic concentration of power, Mr. Putin called for legislation to end the popular election of regional governors and voting in parliamentary districts in favor of slates selected by national party leaders, who are more likely to bend to presidential whims.

These chilling proposals have no obvious relevance to the terrorist attacks. By exploiting the nation's grief, they merely advance Mr. Putin's antidemocratic agenda. Well before this crisis began, he had moved to suppress the media, marginalize opposition parties and bring crushing legal charges against business leaders who challenged his dominance. The answer to Russia's problems, including corruption and terrorism, is more democracy, not less. Independent voices can spotlight issues that leaders prefer to keep quiet and pressure officials to perform their jobs more effectively. A country as huge and complex as Russia cannot be run efficiently or accountably by Kremlin nominees.

It has been clear to Russians for some time that all real power flows from Mr. Putin. That is why so much of the public outrage since the slaughter at the Beslan middle school has been directed at him. Over the years, Mr. Putin has made all the other institutions answerable to him in the name of reasserting order. Yet at Beslan there was no order, only the chaos of dysfunctional institutions: government officials who spouted misinformation, armed checkpoints that failed to check anyone, border protection forces that failed to seal borders, elite Army rescue units unable to rescue victims. Many of the most damaging failures were at the federal level, where Mr. Putin's responsibility is already supreme.

Mr. Putin is also responsible for Russia's stubborn refusal to deal with the political dimensions of Chechen separatism, as if punishing military offensives, puppet governments and fraudulent elections could somehow make the problem go away. Predictably, it did not go away. It got worse. Today it is just as easy to see that further narrowing the scope of Russian democracy will not solve Russia's real problems. But like all cornered autocrats, Mr. Putin finds scapegoating easier than change.

Comment: How objective of the New York Times for pointing the finger at Russia for the exact same thing that the U.S. is doing with the 9/11. In both countries, a national tragedy is used as an excuse to increase the power of government to clamp down on it's own citizens. It's what we might expect from a newspaper that serves more as a mouthpiece for the adminstration, rather than an example of fair and balanced reporting.

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What's up with Dick Cheney?
• September 14, 2004 | 2:22 p.m. ET
(David Shuster)

Last week, I blogged about some of Vice President Cheney's more memorable quotes.  Now, the Vice President has given us another incredible quote, even hotter and more controversial than previous offerings. And today, when I called Republicans on capitol hill to read them the quote, several of them suggested, "he (Cheney) couldn't possibly have said that."  Well, we've double checked the transcripts... and he did.

Talking about European nations and the war on terror, Cheney said, and I quote:  "I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Russia now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target. That Russia, of course, didn't support us in Iraq, they didn't get involved in sending troops there, they've gotten hit anyway."

The first two sentences are not the issue... it's the third sentence -- the idea that if Russia had only supported us in Iraq, had only sent troops there, they wouldn't have gotten hit.  That is insane.  Russia got hit because of their conflict in Chechnya.  It had nothing to do with whether they did or did not send troops to Iraq.  Every Republican I've spoken with today has expressed "displeasure" at the vice president's remarks  Furthermore, most of them are feeling awfully "queasy" about Mr. Cheney using the murder of hundreds of children in Russia to make an argument about U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Comment: Is anyone really surprised!!?? It's not as if there isn't enough evidence that Cheney is a cold blooded psychopath. Cheney's message, like Putin's is that there will be no escape, everyone will be forced to accept their version of reality - if you resist they will simply continue the murder until you submit.

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Russia's Putin Asserts Control After School Siege
Mon Sep 13, 2004 03:15 PM ET
by Oleg Shchedrov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin ordered sweeping changes to Russia's political system on Monday to help combat terrorism, but immediately drew accusations of exploiting this month's bloody school siege to boost his power.

The Kremlin leader, speaking in the wake of the hostage crisis in Beslan, told top officials he wanted a new election law to limit the number of political parties and to have full control over nominating regional leaders.

Putin, 51, said the changes were vital to boost state authority after the Beslan tragedy, in which children made up half of the hostages killed when Chechen rebels raided their school in southern Russia.

"The fight against terrorism should become a national task," Putin told ministers and governors from Russia's 89 regions.

The president later issued a decree giving the government two weeks to draft proposals to deal with emergencies and a month to prepare "appropriate measures on foreseeing and preventing terrorism in any form."

It called for proposals to improve the work of security forces, whose performance in Beslan has been widely criticized, and to toughen controls on issuing visas and entering Russia.

Critics said Putin's proposed changes were further proof that the former KGB spy, who has muzzled major independent media and turned parliament and government into rubber stamps of Kremlin policy, was rolling back post-Soviet democracy.

"The last link in the system of checks and balances, which has prevented an excessive concentration of power in one pair of hands, is being abolished," the opposition party Yabloko said in a statement.

Putin, re-elected to the Kremlin by a landslide in March, said reform was required in view of the threat from terrorism.

Comment: Hmmm... powerful world leader uses attack against his country to increase and consolidate state power. Where have we heard this one before? The horror and outrage naturally felt by the people, who in turn demand answers and justice from their elected leaders, serves as the pretext in which stricter controls are then placed upon them, "for their own protection" of course. Question: looking at this article objectively, which world leader appears to have benefitted the most from the tragedy in Beslan?

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US vigilantes jailed in Afghanistan
September 15, 2004

KABUL (AFP) - An Afghan court sentenced three Americans to between eight and 10 years in prison for illegally running a private jail and torturing suspects in a "private war on terror".

Co-defendant Edward Caraballo, 42, who claimed to be a freelance journalist making a documentary on their activities, was handed an eight-year sentence by the special tribunal in Kabul which has been hearing the case since mid-August.

The trio were arrested in July for allegedly running a private prison and counter-terrorism operation in west Kabul and jailing and torturing at least eight Afghans as part of a "private war on terror".

Their four Afghan accomplices were sentenced to between one and five years in prison.

Idema has claimed that he was carrying out genuine anti-terrorist operations in coordination with the US Defense Department and Afghan authorities, a claim denied by both governments.

Comment: Well, sure he was! It was Papa Bush who used mercenaries in Gulf War I, and Junior was just following his lead. The US government has acknowledged the use of hired militants - they just don't call them mercenaries, instead preferring the term "private security contractors".

"I apologize that we saved these people," said Idema, wearing his beige military-style uniform with a US flag on one sleeve.

"We should have left the Taliban murder every goddam one of them - I operated in this country at the highest level," he said before being escorted off by men armed with assault rifles.

Lawyers for the Americans immediately said they would appeal.

"I don't know how the appeal is going to play out. We are in the midst of two different elections, the United States government as well as the Afghan government," said Idema's attorney John Tiffany.

The Americans "don't want to acknowledge what they are doing in Afghanistan, perhaps the same way they did not want to acknowledge what they were doing in Abu Ghraib," said Caraballo's lawyer, Robert Fogelnest, referring to the infamous Iraqi jail where prisoners were abused by US soldiers.

In passing sentence, Judge Abdulbasset Bakhtiari said "they don't have any connection with the American forces and described them as a "private group" of "inexperienced people."

International peacekeeping troops deployed in Afghanistan have confirmed that they assisted Idema on three separate raids, presuming him to be a member of the US special forces.

The group led by Idema, whom US media described as a bounty hunter, had also handed over a suspected terrorist to the US-led coalition in Afghanistan. The man was later released.

The case has illuminated the shadowy world of private security contractors in Afghanistan and strengthened calls by rights groups for the US-led military to open its detention centers to independent inspection.

The trial had been marked by chaotic scenes and was adjourned several times, on one occasion last month when the US Federal Bureau of Investigation handed over key documents to the defence part-way through a hearing.

The final day in court was marked by the viewing of tapes presented by defence as proving the group had taken "terrorists" in for questioning and had links with the Pentagon.

One tape showed the searching of the house of an Afghan supreme court judge, who was questioned by the group in June. A flag was shown of the Hezb-i-Islami group of Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom Washington has declared a wanted terrorist.

On the tape, Idema is accompanied by Afghan police.

Other extracts showed Idema on the telephone. According to him, one of the speakers, whose voice was not easily audible in the court room, was a US defence department official.

For its part, the prosecution presented little in the way of evidence, limiting itself to stating its accusations, some of which were drawn from newspapers.

One of Idema's victims, respected supreme court judge Mohammed Sidiq, did not hesitate during the court hearings to interrupt proceedings to talk with the judge and prosecutor, while guards brought him tea.

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Troops in Iraq to get combined lethal/nonlethal weapons system
Sandra Jontz – Stars & Stripes Wednesday September 15, 2004

The Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation is designing a combined lethal and nonlethal weapons system to be fielded to Army and Marine Corps units in Iraq by summer, 2005, in an experiment called “Project Sheriff.”

The concept is to retrofit ground vehicles already in the services’ inventories with an array of new lethal and nonlethal systems, giving troops working in urban terrain more options, especially when deciding how to deal with potential noncombatants or civilians being used as shields, said program director and transformation strategist Col. Wade Hall, a 23-year veteran of the Marine Corps.
Like a sheriff, Hall says.

“He’s not there to cause destruction. He’s there to keep the peace, but has the option to go to destruction status if he needs it,” Hall said.

The Pentagon hopes to launch the system in Iraq in June or July, equipping four to six Army and Marine Corps vehicles with a combination of off-the-shelf technology and systems being developed.

Vehicles under consideration include the Army’s new Stryker armored personnel carrier or the Armored Security Vehicle, or ASV, and the Marine Corps’ Light Armored Vehicle, or LAV, already proven to work well in cities, said Hall.

A goal of the Office of Force Transformation is to cut through the years and years it used to take the department to introduce a new system, he said, while assuring that the technology employed is well-studied and the office is not sacrificing safety for the sake of speed.

Designers see the systems being used for missions such as armed reconnaissance, raids, crowd control, security patrol and vehicle checkpoints.

While no decisions have been made on which systems will be used, managers have narrowed the field to a few for consideration, Hall said.

Among them is Raytheon Company’s nonlethal Active Denial System, a counter-personnel directed energy weapon that projects a speed-of-light millimeter wave of energy that makes skin feel like it’s on fire.

According to studies done by the Air Force Research Laboratory, which developed the technology in a joint effort with the Marine Corps and Raytheon, the invisible beam penetrates the skin to a depth of less than 1/64 of an inch and produces heat that within seconds becomes intolerable, said lab spokeswoman Eva Hendren.

The sensation stops when the individual moves out of the beam. The beam does not cause injury because its penetration is so shallow, Hendren said.

Vehicles also could be equipped with high-powered lights to aid in searches, and an acoustics system such as the Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, a high-powered bullhorn of sorts that emits an ear-piercing noise.

Marines in Iraq already are using the LRAD system. No decision on LRAD has been made, but the office has no alternative if it is not picked, Hall said. Critics of the LRAD system have said the ear-piercing noise could cause permanent damage and deafness. He said the military still is conducting studies.

The lethal portion of the projects includes a mounted rapid-fire gun that will be able to carry a diversity of medium- and small-caliber machine guns at a high rate of fire. The system under consideration is called Gunslinger and is under development at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va.

An Active Protection System would place an array of sensors that could deploy decoys and detect chemical or biological agents.

While the Pentagon is taking the lead in developing Project Sheriff, other agencies interested in the experiment’s progress include the Justice, Energy, and State departments and the FBI, Hall said.

Comment: First tested on the civilians on Iraq, then coming to an American neighborhood near you - count on it.

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Can It Happen Here?
by Maureen Farrell
September 14, 2004

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis penned the cautionary tale, It Can’t Happen Here, chronicling the fictional rise of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, who becomes President against the protests of Franklin D. Roosevelt and America’s saner citizens.

A charismatic Senator who claims to champion the common man, Windrip is in the pocket of big business (i.e. Corpos), is favored by religious extremists, and though he talks of freedom and prosperity for all, he eventually becomes the ultimate crony capitalist. Boosted by Hearst newspapers (the FOX News of its day), he neuters both Congress and the Supreme Court, before stripping people of their liberties and installing a fascist dictatorship.

One might argue, of course, that since It Can’t Happen Here was written nearly seven decades ago and America has yet to succumb to fascism, the book is the product of a novelist's runaway imagination, with an interesting yet less than probable theme. But then again, the same might have been said of George Orwell's 1984, before most realized that the book is brilliantly prescient -- and merely off by a couple decades.

Like 1984's warnings about perpetual war, doublespeak and Big Brother, It Can’t Happen Here describes conditions for totalitarianism that exist to this day. There is the usual ignorance and apathy ("most of the easy-going descendants of the wise-cracking Benjamin Franklin had not learned that Patrick Henry’s ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ meant anything more than a high school yell or a cigarette slogan."); blind faith in American exceptionalism ("Everyone, including Doremus Jessup, had said in 1935, "If there ever is a Fascist dictatorship here, American humor and pioneer independence are so marked that it will be absolutely different from anything in Europe. . .All that was gone, within a year after the inauguration, and surprised scientists discovered that whips and handcuffs hurt just as sorely in the clear American air as in miasmic fogs of Prussia."); and a sense of the surreal ("It’s not that he was afraid of the authorities. He simply could not believe that this comic tyranny could endure. It can’t happen here, said even Doremus – even now.").

During last spring’s Dixie Chick fiasco, columnist Paul Krugman drew parallels between Sinclair Lewis’ book burnings and modern CD smashings. "One of the most striking [vehement pro-war rallies] took place after Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, criticized President Bush; a crowd gathered in Louisiana to watch a 33,000-pound tractor smash a collection of Dixie Chicks CD's, tapes and other paraphernalia," Krugman explained. "To those familiar with 20th-century European history it seemed eerily reminiscent of. . . . But as Sinclair Lewis said, it can't happen here."

And certainly, the hatred towards treasonous "anti-Buzz" factions could readily be applied to those who believe being "anti-Bush" is somehow anti-American. "Antibuzz. . . was to be used extensively by lady patriots as a term expressing such vicious disloyalty to the State as might call for a firing squad." Lewis wrote. "Today, at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of a Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief," Zell Miller ranted -- though in saner times, a "manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief" was called a "presidential election."

(For more on Mr. Miller and American fascism, Google "Zell Miller, Dominionists".)

And though It Can’t Happen Here is out of print, and surprisingly hard to find, selected quotes remind us that despite its 1935 publication date and antiquated references, the book remains far too relevant:

• "The D.A.R. [Daughters of the American Revolution]. . . is composed of females who spend one half their waking hours boasting of being descended from the seditious American colonists of 1776, and the other more ardent half in attacking all contemporaries who believe in precisely the principles for which such ancestors struggled." – page 5

• "Senator Windrip has got an excellent chance to be elected President, next November, and if he is, probably his gang of buzzards will get us into some war, just to grease their insane vanity and show the world that we’re the huskiest nation going." – page 20

• "Remember our war hysteria, when we called sauerkraut ‘Liberty cabbage’ and somebody actually proposed calling German measles, ‘Liberty measles?’And wartime censorship of honest papers?. . . Remember when the hick legislators in certain states, in obedience to William Jennings Bryan, who learned his biology from his pious old grandma, set up shop as scientific experts and made the whole world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution?" -- page 21

• "[T]he Saturday Evening Post enraged the small shopkeepers by calling Windrip a demagogue, and the New York Times, once Independent Democrat, was anti-Windrip. But most of the religious periodicals announced that with a saint like Bishop Prang for backer, Windrip must have been called of God." -- page 96

• "For the first time in America, except during the Civil War and the World War, people were afraid to say whatever came to their tongues." – page 263

• "December tenth was the birthday of Berzelius Windrip, though in his earlier days as a politician, before he fruitfully realized that lies sometimes get printed and unjustly remembered against you, he had been wont to tell the world that his birthday was on December twenty-fifth, like one whom he admitted to be an even greater leader. . ." - page 260

• "The newspapers everywhere might no longer be so wishily-washily liberal as to print the opinions of non-Corpos; they might give but little news from those old-fashioned and democratic countries, Great Britain, France and the Scandinavian states, might indeed print almost no foreign news, except as regards the triumph of Italy giving Ethiopia good roads, trains on time, freedom from beggars and from men of honor, and all the other spiritual benefactions of Roman civilization." -- Page 342

• "But he saw now that he must remain alone, a "Liberal" scorned by all the nosier prophets for refusing to be a willing cat for the busy monkeys of either side. . . 'More and more, as I think about history,' he pondered, 'I am convinced that everything that is worth while in the world had been accomplished by the free inquiring critical spirit and the that preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.'" – page 433

America is haunted by past sins, to be sure, and Sinclair Lewis craftily presents a series of them as a primer for what the "land of the free" is capable of. "Why, there’s no country in the world that can get more hysterical—yes, or more obsequious!—than America. Look how Huey Long became absolute monarch over Louisiana. . . Listen to Bishop Prang and Father Coughlin on the radio—divine oracles, to millions. Remember how casually most Americans have accepted Tammany grafting and Chicago gangs and the crookedness of so many of President Harding’s appointees?. . . Remember the Kuklux Klan?. . . Remember our Red scares and our Catholic scares. . .and the Republicans campaigning against Al Smith told the Carolina mountaineers that if Al won the Pope would illegitimatize their children?. . .Remember how trainloads of people have gone to enjoy lynchings? Not happen here? Prohibition—shooting down people just because they MIGHT be transporting liquor—no, that couldn’t happen in AMERICA! Where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours!"

Yes, the mindset that allowed for slavery and lynchings and the Scopes monkey trial still produces an unsettling undercurrent, while radioland demagoguery, crooked Presidential appointees and dishonest and prejudicial Carolina political smears are hardly things of the past.

Meanwhile, like "the hick legislators" Lewis described nearly 70 years ago, the President of the United States advocates teaching Creationism in public schools and putting the kibosh on real science. Just as President Windrip told people he was born on Christmas "like one whom he admitted to be an even greater leader," George Bush dubbed Jesus Christ his favorite philosopher. And while all of Lewis' "Corpo Universities were to have the same curriculum," Mrs. Dick Cheney and stealth Bush appointee Daniel Pipes actually made "lists" of academics straying from acceptable parameters of thought.

And it was just three short years ago, you might recall, that voting one's conscience, speaking one's mind or criticizing G.W. Bush (regardless how truthful and pointed the criticism), was enough to get a person fired or bombarded with death threats.

At the start of our recent weirdness, Dave Weissbard, of the Universalist Unitarian Church in Rockville, IL studied It Can't Happen Here alongside They Thought They Were Free (Milton Mayer's nonfiction account of Germans' perceptions during the Third Reich's reign) and related the themes to contemporary America.

"Sinclair Lewis used racism and jealousy of privilege as his motivators for the election of a demagogue. I believe it takes more," he said. "It takes a patriotic frenzy constructed on fear and on feelings of superiority. That’s why I have combined Lewis' novel with Mayer’s nonfictional analysis of the coming of dictatorship. The combination of those two with the current news causes me some terror."

Chronicling a now familiar list of liberties surrendered and endangered, along with increased government secrecy and belligerent nationalism, Weissbard concluded: "The problem, of course, is not in Washington in the hands of two or three. The problem is in America where there are people who are frightened and who have a loose commitment to our freedoms."

And so it goes.

On Sunday, the St. Petersburg Times ran an Op-ed entitled, "Americans in danger are vulnerable to dictatorship," describing the frighteningly simple conventional wisdom the country now seems to embrace. "The 'man on horseback' mentality, the belief that a leader's strength is more important than where it leads them, defines a population that is vulnerable to dictatorship," Martin Dyckman wrote, before adding (else someone jump down his throat) a disclaimer. "This is not to call Bush a dictator or suggest that he wants to be one." (Never mind Bush's thrice-repeated joke about wishing it were so).

"But let no one believe that it couldn't happen here, as has happened so often elsewhere," Dyckman concluded, echoing Lewis' ageless theme.

Of course, now that two wars and two Presidential campaigns are underway, attention has been diverted. But the unease that rippled from post-9/11 aftershocks continues. It's just different now. Somehow.

"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows," one of Mayor's subjects confided. "You speak privately to you colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, "It's not so bad" or "You're seeing things" or "You're an alarmist."

And it's not so bad. For the moment. Or at least until after the election and the return of the draft or until after the next major attack and the triumph of fear over liberty. After all, mainstream papers are free to discuss Americans' vulnerability to dictatorship, while citizens are still permitted to read 70-year-old novels describing conditions that are eerily familiar.

But, still. . .

"Thus had things gone in Germany, exactly thus in Soviet Russia, in Italy and Hungary and Poland, Spain and Cuba and Japan and China. Not very different had it been under the blessings of liberty and fraternity in the French Revolution. All dictators followed the same routine of torture, as if they had all read the same manual of sadistic etiquette," Lewis wrote, long before anyone heard of Abu Ghraib.

Could it happen here? Looking at the past four years, from the bizarre election to the shadow government to secret detentions and pre-planned wars, doesn't it seem naive to think we're immune?

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The Truth About Drug Companies
Marcia Angell
Interviewed By Peter Meredith
September 7, 2004

The high price of prescription drugs has put -- and kept -- U.S. pharmaceutical companies in the news recently, but Dr. Marcia Angell argues that problems with the industry run even deeper. In her new book, The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It (reviewed in the current issue of Mother Jones), the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine contends that the industry has become a marketing machine that produces few innovative drugs and is dependent on monopoly rights and public-sponsored research.

Angell disputes the industry’s reputation as an “engine of innovation,” arguing that the top U.S. drug makers spend 2.5 times as much on marketing and administration as they do on research. At least a third of the drugs marketed by industry leaders were discovered by universities or small biotech companies, writes Angell, but they’re sold to the public at inflated prices. She cites Taxol, the cancer drug discovered by the National Institutes of Health, but sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb for $20,000 a year, reportedly 20 times the manufacturing cost. The company agreed to pay the NIH only 0.5 percent in royalties for the drug.

The majority of the new products the industry puts out, says Angell, are “me-too” drugs, which are almost identical to current treatments but “no better than drugs already on the market to treat the same condition. Around 75 percent of new drugs approved by the FDA are me-too drugs. They can be less effective than current drugs, but as long as they’re more effective than a placebo, they can get the regulatory green light.

Finally, Angell attacks major pharmaceutical industry -- whose top ten companies make more in profits than the rest of the Fortune 500 combined -- for using “free market” rhetoric while opposing competition at all costs. She discusses Prilosec maker Astra-Zeneca, which filed multiple lawsuits against generic drug makers to prevent them from entering the market when the company’s exclusive marketing rights expired. The company “obtained a patent on the idea of combining Prilosec with antibiotics, then argued that a generic drug would infringe on that patent because doctors might prescribe it with an antibiotic.”

Angell, who is a doctor and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, wants to see the industry reformed. She recently sat down with to talk about how to “ensure that we have access to good drugs at reasonable prices and that the reality of this industry is finally brought into line with its rhetoric.” [...]

Comment: Follow this link to read rest of interview.

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Japan confirms mad cow case

TOKYO (AP) - Japan has confirmed a 12th case of mad cow disease, an official said Monday - the third case of the brain-wasting illness in the country this year.

The five-year-old dairy cow tested positive for the disease formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, on Friday at a slaughterhouse in Shisui town, in southern Kumamoto prefecture, about 900 kilometres southwest of Tokyo, prefectural spokesman official Toshinori Takano said.

More precise tests at a state-run infectious disease research institute confirmed the finding Monday, Takano said.

The animal's meat and organs had not gone on the market, and its carcass will be incinerated, he said.

Officials at the agriculture and health ministries said they didn't know how many other dairy cows were at the farm where the infected animal came from. [...]

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New pathogens, mercury threaten Great Lakes, health of millions of residents

(CP) - New antibiotic-resistant pathogens, airborne mercury and urban sprawl are threatening the health of the Great Lakes and millions of people who live around the bodies of fresh water, a report to the Canadian and U.S. governments concludes.

While there has been a general improvement in water quality over the past 30 years, the International Joint Commission report released Monday warns new and emerging threats require urgent attention. "Without adequate safeguards, our health can be threatened by pathogens and disease-bearing micro-organisms," the report states.

"The governments must focus increased attention on protecting the sources of drinking water supplies."

Dennis Schornack, American co-chairman of the commission, said the frequent use of antibiotics in livestock and humans is causing the problem.

Bacteria can develop immunity to the drugs, then end up in drinking water and cause illness, he said.

"We've got to become better at monitoring pathogens in the water and examine whether the waste-water treatment plants that we have in place are successfully killing the organisms," Schornack said.

Herb Gray, the commission's Canadian co-chairman, said the best way to tackle the problem is to curb the use of antibiotics.

The biennial report recommends better management of watersheds to mitigate the impact of agriculture, development, industry and urbanization - a daunting task.

"There are a large number of problems still to be dealt with," Gray said.

"(They) are large-scale. They'll require large amounts of money over an extended period of time."

Another threat identified in the report is airborne methyl-mercury, which ends up in the water. Most comes from regional coal-fired power generators, but some comes from as far as China.

Other chemicals, such as fire retardants commonly used for furniture, are posing new threats.

"Chemical contamination continues to endanger human health and restricts the number of fish we can safely eat," Gray said.

Another area of concern is the ongoing problem posed by alien species brought in by the ballast water of foreign ships.

Currently, about one new invasive species takes hold every eight months.

While there have been some successes in controlling their proliferation, none have ever been eradicated.

Still, Schornack said he believes overall water quality in the lakes has improved in recent decades.

As an example, he noted Lake Erie is now far healthier than it was 30 years ago.

However, the emergence of unexplained dead zones in the lake has raised new worries.

"We're very concerned about Lake Erie, not only for Lake Erie itself but for what it could be a harbinger of for the other lakes," Gray said. [...]

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Crude oil prices climb on fears of Hurricane Ivan's path
2004-09-14 07:35:06

NEW YORK, Sept. 13 (Xinhuanet) --Crude oil rose on Monday in New York as market concerned that the approach of Hurricane Ivan woulddisrupt production and tankers shipments in the Gulf of Mexico.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for October delivery rose 1.06 dollars to close at 43.87 dollars a barrel. Meanwhile, the October Brent crude-oil futures contract climbed 86cents to settle at 41.06 dollars a barrel at London's International Petroleum Exchange.

On Monday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Hurricane Ivan's maximum sustained winds were close to 160 mph (257 kph). The expected path of the storm had been moving west the past three days, approaching oil-producing area in the Gulf of Mexico, where a quarter of US oil and natural gas was pumped. States along the Gulf also received more than half of US oil imports and were home to 50 percent of the nation's refining capacity.

Royal Dutch/Shell Group said it planned to evacuate 750 workersfrom the Gulf of Mexico, which would idle 272,000 barrels of dailyoil output. ChevronTexaco Corp. and Newfield Exploration Co. had also ceased some production. Other companies, including BP PLC andAnadarko Petroleum Corp., had evacuated employees.

Analysts noted that oil tankers had been delayed as a result ofthe rough weather and that some refineries had shut down as a precaution.

The damage induced by Hurricane Ivan would show up in the government's weekly oil-supply report due on Wednesday.

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Earthquake rocks Lombok of Indonesia 2004-09-15 23:07:23
JAKARTA, Sept. 15 (Xinhuanet)-- A strong earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale rocked the Lombok island in the eastern part of Indonesia at around 4:35 pm (local time) on Wednesday.

The chief of the meteorology and geophysics agency in Denpasar, Bali, Budi Sunarso told the national news agency ANTARA that the epicenter of the earthquake was around 80 kilometers deep and about seven kilometers west of Denpasar, the provincial city of Bali.

The tremor felt in Bali, the neighboring island and just west of the Lombok.

There had been no reports of damages or casualties up to 18:00 pm on the same day.

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Strong Earthquake in Algeria
Jeune Afrique

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake hit the region of Ain-Defla, 150 km southwest of Algiers on Monday.

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Earthquake rocks Indonesia's Bali, one dead
15 Sep 2004 10:42:55 GMT
Source: Reuters

BALI, Indonesia, Sept 15 (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake rocked Indonesia's premier tourist island of Bali on Wednesday, killing one person, injuring at least two and triggering some panic, officials said.

The Meteorological and Geophysics Agency in Jakarta said the earthquake measured 5.5 on the Richter scale. Officials said the epicentre was near Denpasar, the island's capital.

"People rushed out of their homes, they panicked. The quake was very strong and lasted a long time," said Jumadi, head of the geophysics agency in Denpasar.

He said there had been no reports of any serious damage.

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Mayon still restive, alert level 2 stays

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Wednesday said the alert level 2 on Mayon Volcano stays as it showed signs of moderate volcanic unrest.

Phivolcs advised the public to strictly observe the 6-kilometer radius "permanent danger zone," especially within the southeast sector where volcanic flows, falling and rolling debris may be triggered by sudden explosions.

An advisory sent to noted that "five low-frequency volcanic earthquakes and four low-frequency short duration harmonic tremors were recorded" in the past 24-hour period. It also said there was an intensity 1 glow in the crater and moderate steaming activity.

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Lava Flows After Mount Etna Eruption
Lava continues to flow from Mount Etna in Sicily after an eruption that could be seen from miles away.

The eruption sent chunks of lava from a fracture in the mountain into the air.

The flow is not near any of the residents surrounding the volcano and was not posing any threat.

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Volcano in east Japan continues small eruptions 2004-09-15 19:40:17

TOKYO, Sept. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- Mt. Asama, a 2,568-meter volcano in east Japan, had five small eruptions Wednesday following eruptions on Tuesday and Sept. 1, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The volcano had three minor eruptions shortly before noon -- 11:53, 11:56 and 11:58 a.m. (0253, 0256, 0258 GMT), billowing smoke about 1,500 meters high, according to the agency.

The volcano, straddling Gunma and Nagano prefectures, also had two minor eruptions around 1:05 and 4:50 a.m. (1605, 1950 GMT). Small amounts of ash were observed.

Mt. Asama is located about 150 km northwest of Tokyo. Its Sept.1 eruption, the first such scale since April 1983, caused forest fires. No one was injured.

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Hurricane Ivan Roars Toward Gulf Coast
By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writer
September 15, 2004

NEW ORLEANS - Some beach towns were deserted Wednesday and highways leading to higher ground were jammed as Hurricane Ivan roared toward the Gulf Coast with 140 mph.

Nearly 200 miles wide, Ivan could cause significant damage no matter where it strikes, as hurricane-force wind extended up to 105 miles out from the center. Hurricane warnings were posted along a 300-mile stretch from Grand Isle, La., across coastal Mississippi and Alabama to Apalachicola, Fla.

"We're leaving today. All this is going under," said a surfer Chuck Myers who was only taking pictures of the waves Wednesday morning at Gulf Shores. "We surfed it all day yesterday. It was glorious."

"This is a bad one and people need to get out," Mobile, Ala., Mayor Mike Dow said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." [...]

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Miss. Residents Flee Hurricane Ivan
By LAUREN FRAYER, Associated Press Writer
September 15, 2004

FLORENCE, Miss. - Fleeing northward from Hurricane Ivan, Angela Zimmerman and her mother and son, evacuees from Mobile, Ala., spent the night in their minivan somewhere in the woods of south Mississippi, then awoke early Wednesday and formed a prayer circle.

"God's going to protect us. We prayed this morning before we left, so we know that's taken care of," Zimmerman, 33, said at a gas station about 20 miles south of Jackson.

Northbound U.S. 49 between the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Jackson was bumper-to-bumper Wednesday with people who had fled coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Hotels were booked solid as far north as Memphis, Tenn., nearly 325 miles northwest of Mobile. [...]

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Direct Hit by Ivan Could Sink New Orleans
By BRETT MARTEL, Associated Press Writer
September 15, 2004

NEW ORLEANS - The worst-case scenario for New Orleans — a direct strike by a full-strength Hurricane Ivan — could submerge much of this historic city treetop-deep in a stew of sewage, industrial chemicals and fire ants, and the inundation could last for weeks, experts say.

If the storm were strong enough, Ivan could drive water over the tops of the levees that protect the city from the Mississippi River and vast Lake Pontchartrain. And with the city sitting in a saucer-shaped depression that dips as much as 9 feet below sea level, there would be nowhere for all that water to drain.

Even in the best of times, New Orleans depends on a network of canals and huge pumps to keep water from accumulating inside the basin. [...]

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Tropical Storm Jeanne Pounds Puerto Rico
By FRANK GRIFFITHS, Associated Press Writer
Sept 15, 2004

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Tropical Storm Jeanne, nearing hurricane strength, slammed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday as rivers rose, roads flowed with torrents of water and frantic residents evacuated low-lying areas.

Lashing rains and wind blew plants off terraces and felled trees as the storm's eye made landfall on the southeastern tip of the island Wednesday afternoon.

"The biggest concern for Puerto Rico is flashflooding and mudslides," said Hector Guerrero, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Streets in the tourist hub of colonial Old San Juan were deserted and most flights had been canceled. The largest mall in the Caribbean — Plaza las Americas — was also shut and Gov. Sila Calderon prohibited alcohol sales for the day to keep citizens alert.

The storm's projected path had it potentially reaching hurricane-weary Florida, Georgia and South Carolina either Sunday or Monday. [...]

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Hurricane Javier causes heavy rain, winds in Mexico's west coast

September 15, 2004

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Western Mexico was pounded by heavy rain and strong winds from the outer reaches of Hurricane Javier, a powerful Category Four system, as the storm hurtling north across the Pacific Ocean.

At 1400 GMT, Javier was some 375 kilometers south-southwest of Manzanillo, a port town in the state of Jalisco, moving at seven kilometers (four miles) per hour with winds of 230 kph (143 mph) and gusts of 285 kph (177 mph), Mexico's Meteorological Service (SMN) said.

"The hurricane is causing rain in Jalisco and the states of Colima and Nayarit, but, in its current course, it is not expected to reach land in the next hours," SMN meteorologist Sonia Castellon said.

Authorities have urged residents in Pacific states to follow news on the storm's path, since hurricanes are "always unpredictable," Castellon said. [...]

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Two dead, thousands cut off by flash floods in northern Thailand
September 15, 2004

BANGKOK (AFP) - Flash floods have killed two people in northern Thailand, leaving thousands either stranded or forced to abandon their homes, media reported, as the capital braced for potential flooding.

Torrential rain in northeastern Chiang Rai province claimed the lives of a 45-year old policeman and 78-year-old farmer Tuesday, and forced more than a dozen villages to be evacuated and some schools closed, said the Nation newspaper.

The daily said flooding had also forced the evacuation of homes in Chiang Mai and Ubon Ratchathani provinces, and Bangkok officials have set up a flood operations centre amid concern that parts of the nation's capital could also be submerged by the deluge.

Forecasters have predicted some of the heaviest rainfall for Thailand in recorded history with flooding already having affected more than half a million people in the past few months.

Adverse weather conditions have caused widespread flooding in much of East and South Asia since June, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported last month.

Among the countries worst hit are Bangladesh, where hundreds have died, China, India, Japan, both Koreas, Nepal, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The WMO said a combination of factors including abnormal monsoons and tropical cyclones were behind the problems.

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Sandstorms likely to affect more places: experts
2004-09-13 23:52:17

BEIJING, Sept. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Experts attending the International Symposium on Sand and Dust Storms (SDS) noted here Monday that the developing trend of the storms is not optimistic, and that they are likely to affect more places in the world.

Beijing has been tortured by horrible sand and dust storms since 1999. However, the spring was much cleaner and windless in 2003, and many optimistically thought that the terrible weather phenomenon would disappear from the capital.

The holders of this opinion may be discouraged by Dr. Tan Jiqing, Director of the Institution of Meteorological Information and Prediction of Disaster Events attached to Zhejiang University, who said analysis and computation on the sand and dust storms should integrate all factors -- including sand content, area coverage and destruction -- not simply count occurrences.

Tan added that sand and dust storm often ebb after several strong years, and last year might have been an example of that.

The severe situation in the northern and northwestern parts of China this year shows the problem is still there, said the expert.

Actually, sand and dust storms are influencing an increasing number of places on the globe year by year, said Tan after his research on the long-term observation results. [...]

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