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New! Signs Supplement: The Suicide Bombing Cycle

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Lightning strike obliterating Dick Cheney's house last night
©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte


Possible Saddam-Al Qaeda Link Seen in U.N. Oil-for-Food Program

Friday, September 17, 2004
Fox News


LUGANO, Switzerland — Did Saddam Hussein use any of his ill-gotten billions filched from the United Nations Oil-for-Food program to help fund Al Qaeda?

Investigations have shown that the former Iraqi dictator grafted and smuggled more than $10 billion from the program that for seven years prior to Saddam's overthrow was meant to bring humanitarian aid to ordinary Iraqis. And the Sept. 11 Commission has shown a tracery of contacts between Saddam and Al Qaeda that continued after billions of Oil-for-Food dollars began pouring into Saddam's coffers and Usama bin Laden declared his infamous war on the U.S.

Now, buried in some of the United Nation's own confidential documents, clues can be seen that underscore the possibility of just such a Saddam-Al Qaeda link — clues leading to a locked door in this Swiss lakeside resort.

Next to that door, a festive sign spells out in gold letters under a green flag that this is the office of MIGA, the Malaysian Swiss Gulf and African Chamber. Registered here 20 years ago as a society to promote business between the Gulf States and Asia, Europe and Africa, MIGA is a company that the United Nations and the U.S. government says has served as a hub of Al Qaeda finance: A terrorist chamber of commerce.

Comment: No, you are not mistaken, we are in fact carrying a story from the "fair and balanced" Fox news. We do so, not due to any truth value in the above report, but in order to highlight the extreme dereliction of duty (some might call it lying) that is all too common at Fox news central. You see, the above Fox reporter is presenting Saddam as the villain in the "oil for food" scandal that broke earlier this year, coincidentally around the same time that the Iraq prison abuse scandal dominated the headlines - coincidence? We think not.

According to Fox, Saddam stole all of the oil money that was generated by the "benevolent" sanctions imposed by the UN, under direction of the US, and which was meant to provide food and medicine to the beleaguered Iraqi people. But was Saddam alone in planning this dastardly scheme? Hardly. You see U.N. "leaders" and US and western companies had to be, by default, directly involved in exchanging the "oil for food and services" with Saddam...

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Flashback: Kojo and Kofi and Oil for Kickbacks

March 10, 2004
By Claudia Rosett

In the growing scandal over the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, which from 1996-2003 supervised relief to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his staff have excused themselves from any responsibility for the massive corruption involving billions in bribes and kickbacks that went on via more than $100 billion in U.N.-approved contracts for Saddam to sell oil and buy humanitarian supplies. U.N. officials have denied that this tidal wave of graft in any way seeped into their own shop, or that they even had time to notice it was out there. They were too busy making the world a better place.

That's fascinating, not least given the ties of Annan's own son, Kojo Annan, to the Switzerland-based firm, Cotecna, which from 1999 onward worked on contract for the U.N. monitoring the shipments of Oil-for-food supplies into Iraq. These were the same supplies sent in under terms of those tens of billions of dollars worth of U.N.-approved contracts in which the U.N. says it failed to notice Saddam Hussein's widespread arrangements to overpay contractors who then shipped overpriced goods to the impoverished people of Iraq and kicked back part of their profits to Saddam's regime.

Cotecna was hired by the U.N. on December 31, 1998. Shortly afterward, press reports surfaced that Kojo was a partner in a private consulting firm doing work for Cotecna, and that just 13 months previously he had occupied a senior slot on Cotecna's own staff. Asked about this in 1999 by the London Telegraph, a U.N. spokesman, John Mills, replied that the U.N. had not been aware of the connection, and that "The tender by Cotecna was the lowest by a significant margin."

It seems there's a lot the U.N. managed not to be aware of. But the information that Cotecna — while employing Kofi's son in any capacity — put in the lowest bid by far for the job of authenticating Saddam's Oil-for-Food imports, is not necessarily reassuring. Cotecna, which got paid roughly $6 million for its services during that first year (the U.N. will not release figures on Cotecna's fees over the following years) was bidding on work that empowered its staff to inspect tens of billions worth of supplies inbound to a regime much interested in smuggling, and evidently accustomed to dealing in bribes and kickbacks as a routine part of business. The issue was never solely whether the monitors were cheap, but whether they were trustworthy.

The whole setup raises disturbing questions. But this is a subject on which neither the U.N. nor Cotecna has been willing to offer illumination. Asked for details, both have stonewalled. The U.N. spokesman Mills, who fielded the question in 1999, is now deceased. A query to the U.N. Oil-for-Food elicits from a spokesman only the information that the five-year-old response by the late Mills "stands, as provided by the U.N." A recent query to Cotecna, asking for at least some detail on ties to Kojo Annan, elicits nothing beyond the reply that: "There is nothing else to add."

It is possible of course, that Kojo Annan had nothing to do with the Iraq program per se, as he told the Telegraph back in 1999: "I would never play any role in anything that involves the United Nations for obvious reasons." Though at the same time, in a comment that suggested at least nodding acquaintance with the Oil-for-Food program, Kojo added: "The decision is made by the contracts committee, not by Kofi Annan."

Then why the reluctance from the U.N., or Cotecna, for that matter, to provide any further details whatsoever? Beyond that, it is disingenuous to suggest Annan had no responsibility for the contracts. Oil-for-Food was run out of the U.N. Secretariat, reporting directly to Annan, who regularly signed off on the six-month phases of the program. Without his approval, the contracts would not have gone forward.

Even if we assume that everyone on the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food staff, as well as Kofi Annan himself, was indeed ignorant of Kojo Annan's involvement with Cotecna, it is hard to buy the argument that Kofi, while signing off regularly on the program's workings, was simply oblivious to the details. Not only was Kofi Annan the boss, but he was directly involved from the beginning. Kofi Annan's official U.N. biography notes that shortly before his promotion to Secretary-General "he led the first United Nations team negotiating with Iraq on the sale of oil to fund purchases of humanitarian aid."

It was Annan, who in October 1997 brought in as Oil-for-Food's executive director Benon Sevan, reporting directly to the Secretary-General, to consolidate Oil-for-Food's operations into the Office of Iraq Program. And it was shortly after Sevan took charge that Oil-for-Food, set up by Kofi Annan's predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, with at least some transparency on individual deals, began treating as confidential such vital information as the names of specific contractors, quantities of goods, and prices paid.

U.N. staff, such as Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor in a letter last month to the Wall Street Journal, have argued that the U.N. was not responsible for Saddam's misdeeds, and that U.N. staff were not concerned with such kickback-relevant matters as business terms of Saddam's contracts. The disturbing implication is that the U.N. — while collecting a commission of more than $1 billion on Saddam's oil sales to cover its own overhead in administering Oil-for-Food — was indifferent to Saddam's short-changing the Iraqi people, whose relief was supposed to be the entire point of the program. [...]

Comment: So the "U.N. says it failed to notice Saddam Hussein's widespread arrangements to overpay contractors who then shipped overpriced goods to the impoverished people of Iraq and kicked back part of their profits to Saddam's regime."

Hmmm... "contractors in Iraq", now where have we heard that term recently...

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Flashback: Cheney's Lies About Halliburton & Iraq

March 19, 2003
By JASON LEOPOLD
Counterpunch


This is my last ditch effort to show the hypocrisy within President Bush's administration regarding its policies toward Iraq and its President, Saddam Hussein, just as the United States and Britain prepares to invade the country.

It was only five years ago when Vice President Dick Cheney, as chief executive of the oil-field supply corporation, Halliburton Co., was engaged in secret business dealings with Saddam's regime by selling Iraq oil production equipment and spare parts to get the Iraqi oil fields up and running, according to confidential United Nations records.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Cheney adamantly denied such dealings. While he acknowledged that his company did business with Libya and Iran through foreign subsidiaries, Cheney said, "Iraq's different." He claimed that he imposed a "firm policy" prohibiting any unit of Halliburton against trading with Iraq.

"I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal," Cheney said on the ABC-TV news program "This Week" on July 30, 2000. "We've not done any business in Iraq since U.N. sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn't do that."

But it turns out that Cheney was lying. It's only through the sale of Iraqi oil that Saddam would be able to afford to obtain such weapons. If Saddam was in fact building nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, which some news reports allege could be used against American and British troops, Cheney is partially responsible.

The Washington Post first reported Halliburton's trade with Iraq in February 2000. But U.N. records obtained by The Post two years ago showed that the dealings were more extensive than originally reported and than Vice President Cheney has acknowledged.

As secretary of defense in the first Bush administration, Cheney helped to lead a multinational coalition against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War and to devise a comprehensive economic embargo to isolate Saddam Hussein's government. After Cheney was named chief executive of Halliburton in 1995, he promised to maintain a hard line against Baghdad.

But his stance changed when it appeared that Halliburton was headed for financial disaster in the mid-1990s.

Cheney said sanctions against countries such as Iraq were hurting corporations such as Halliburton.

"We seem to be sanction-happy as a government," Cheney said at an energy conference in April 1996, reported in the oil industry publication Petroleum Finance Week. "The problem is that the good Lord didn't see fit to always put oil and gas resources where there are democratic governments," he observed during his conference presentation.

Sanctions make U.S. businesses "the bystander who gets hit when a train wreck occurs," Cheney told Petroleum Finance Week. "While virtually every other country sees the need for sanctions against Iraq and Saddam Hussein's regime there, Cheney sees general agreement that the measures have not been very effective despite their having most of the international community's support. An individual country's embargo, such as that of the United States against Iran, has virtually no effect since the target country simply signs a contract with a non- U.S. business," the publication reported

"That's exactly what happened when the government told Conoco Inc. that it could not develop an oil field there," Cheney told Petroleum Finance Week. Total S.A. "simply took it over."

In 1998, Cheney oversaw Halliburton's acquisition of Dresser Industries Inc., the unit that sold oil equipment to Iraq through two subsidiaries of a joint venture with another large U.S. equipment maker, Ingersoll-Rand Co.

The Halliburton subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co., sold water and sewage treatment pumps, spare parts for oil facilities and pipeline equipment to Baghdad through French affiliates from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000, U.N. records show. Ingersoll Dresser Pump also signed contracts -- later blocked by the United States -- to help repair an Iraqi oil terminal that U.S.-led military forces destroyed in the GGulf War, the Post reported in a June 2001 story.

The Halliburton subsidiaries and several other American and foreign oil supply companies helped Iraq increase its crude exports from $4 billion in 1997 to nearly $18 billion in 2000. Since the program began, Iraq has exported oil worth more than $40 billion.

U.S. and European officials have argued that the increase in production also expanded Saddam's ability to use some of that money for weapons, luxury goods and palaces. Security Council diplomats estimate that Iraq may be skimming off as much as 10 percent of the proceeds from the oil-for-food program, according to the Post.

During his tenure as chief executive of Halliburton, Cheney pushed the U.N. Security Council, after he became vice president; to end an 11-year embargo on sales of civilian goods, including oil related equipment, to Iraq. Cheney has said sanctions against countries like Iraq unfairly punish U.S. companies.

Earlier this year, Halliburton was chosen as one of the companies to rebuild Iraq's dilapidated oil fields following a U.S. led attack on the country.

U.N. documents show that Halliburton's affiliates have had controversial, dealings with the Iraqi regime during Cheney's tenure at the company. The Clinton administration blocked one of the deals Halliburton was trying to push through. That deal, between Halliburton subsidiary Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co. and Iraq, included agreements by the firm to sell $760,000 in spare parts, compressors and firefighting equipment to refurbish an offshore oil terminal, Khor al Amaya.

The Clinton administration blocked the sale because it was "not authorized under the oil-for-food deal," according to U.N. documents. Under the oil-for-food program, Iraq is allowed to export crude oil and the money is supposed to be used to help remove some of the hardships on Iraqi civilians affected by the U.N. sanctions.

Comment: So while western nations were purchasing oil from Saddam under the setup (pun intended) known as the "oil for food programme", Cheney, as chief executive of Haliburton, was charging Saddam large fees for providing services that would first of all allow him to produce and sell the oil to western countries. Nice con job eh? Much of the the money to pay those fees came from the proceeds from the oil that Saddam was selling to western countries that the US and the U.N were claiming was being used to provide food and medicines to the Iraqi people. And all without any western leader, or anyone in the UN even knowing about it! That Saddam really was a smart cookie..

But, in the final analysis and according to Fox news, it is all Saddam's fault. And anyway, let's face it, no one knew Saddam was such a bad guy and would do such a thing, that's why there were sanctions against him in the first place, right?

But look, that's all past history now anway...isn' it? Apparently when you are Dick Cheney and on to a good thing, there is no such thing as "enough"...

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Iraq inquiry adds to Halliburton's woes


Mark Tran
Tuesday March 9, 2004


Halliburton, the US engineering company, has warned that the reimbursement of funds to the Pentagon after accusations that it overcharged for work in Iraq could "adversely affect" its liquidity.

In a submission to US watchdog the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday, the Houston-based company revealed the Defence Contract Audit Agency, controlled by the Pentagon, had recently issued a report criticising Halliburton's work in Iraq.

The report dealt with deficiencies over logistics contracts that Halliburton's KBR engineering and construction unit won for work in Iraq, specifically the timely updating and formalising of documentation.

The report is "likely" to result in a formal audit, Halliburton said.

"As a result of an increase in the level of work performed in Iraq or the DCAA's review of additional aspects of our services performed in Iraq, it is possible that we may, or may be required to, withhold additional invoicing or make refunds to our customers, some of which could be substantial, until these matters are resolved," said the company.

"This could materially and adversely affect our liquidity."

The company, once run by the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, is the subject of several federal investigations.

Halliburton agreed last month to withhold billing on $140m (£76m) for food services, pending a Pentagon investigation into how subcontractors charged for meals served to troops in Iraq and Kuwait.

Pentagon auditors have also suspended payment on more than $36m (£19m) in invoices submitted at seven dining facilities.

In addition, the Pentagon has opened a criminal investigation into a possible $61m (£33m) overcharge for the delivery of fuel to Iraq from Kuwait.

Halliburton, which said its revenue from government services in Iraq came to $3.6bn (£1.9bn) in 2003, blamed the problems on a lack of resources, poor telephone and computer systems and a steep increase in customer demand.

The company said the withholding of payments by the government or the reimbursement of funds could force it to borrow more at a time when its credit rating is weak.

Rising debt could be a problem for the company as it prepares to put money into a trust to settle current and future asbestos lawsuits. It also faces payments on a troubled construction project in Brazil.

Halliburton disclosed other investigations in its SEC filing besides those connected to Iraq.

The US justice department is reviewing possible overbilling in logistics work for the army in the Balkans, while the SEC is looking into alleged illegal payments linked to a Nigerian plant.

Comment: It should be clear enough by now that, when considering the characters of the "elite" of this world, we are not dealing with normal human beings, certainly not if we ascribe morality or empathy to "normal human beings". It is time we all faced facts.

If these people knew that their actions would result in the deaths of up to a million Iraqi children, as was the case under the UN sanctions, yet this in no way deterred them from continuing to fill their pockets, can any of us really assume that they would not sanction the deaths of just 3,000 American citizens, especially if they clearly foresaw that those deaths would facilitate their plans to concentrate even more power and wealth into their hands? Get real.

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Iraq suicide blast kills 18, militants threaten to kill hostages

Sat Sep 18,
KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) - At least 18 people were killed in a suicide bombing, capping a week of carnage in Iraq (news - web sites), as Al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to kill two American hostages and a Briton in 48 hours. More than 400 Iraqis have perished in a wave of bombings and fighting since the start of the month, exacerbating fears over the security situation in the run-up to general elections due to be held in January. [...]

Comment: Well, heck. It's just reminding me more and more of things in Israel/Palestine all the time. In fact, the situation in Iraq pretty much reflects what is going on in the Holy Land these days. Both are neo-colonialist governments occupying the territory belonging to another nation. Both are attempting to keep that occupation in place by utilizing total destruction of infrastructure and murder of innocents on a grand scale. Suicide bombings conveniently popping up left and right just around the time when something positive is scheduled to take place. See the Signs Supplement: The Suicide Bombing Cycle In Israel, it's usually right before peace talks. In Iraq now, right before general elections. Who benefits if these democratic elections in Iraq do not take place, I wonder?

[...] A car bomb also hit a US convoy on the main Baghdad airport road, killing an Iraqi and wounding three soldiers -- a scene all too familiar in Iraq, where the health ministry reported 268 killed in the past week alone and another 820 wounded.

Comment: Those are astonishing numbers. 268 killed, 820 wounded. In ONE week....

Meanwhile, loyalists of suspected Al-Qaeda operative Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi threatened to kill two Americans and a Briton unless Iraqi women prisoners are freed within 48 hours, according to a videotape broadcast on Al-Jazeera television.

Comment: Well, here we go again, it seems. "Suspected Al-Qaeda operative". I suppose it's enough that he's suspected. Doesn't really matter if it's true or not. If he is suspected, perhaps all it took was for the president to have a dream one night in which his god told him that Zarqawi was an Al-Qaeda operative. That's good enough for the American media and the rest of the US population. Of course, that's not to say that it isn't possible for Zarqawi to actually be an Al-Qaeda operative, but then, who or what exactly IS Al-Qaeda? If Al-Qaeda = Mossad/CIA, then put the math together and figure out who might really be behind these bombings. Ask yourself who benefits. Ask yourself why there is so much similarity between what is going on in Israel and what is going on in Iraq.

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Iran Denounces Nuclear Demands As Illegal

Sep 19
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI Associated Press Writer


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran on Sunday denounced as "illegal" demands from the U.N. atomic watchdog agency that it freeze all work on uranium enrichment - technology that can be used for nuclear weapons. Hasan Rowhani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, also said his country would limit its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency if the watchdog refers Iran to the U.N Security Council for possible sanctions.

Rowhani spoke a day after the agency's governing board demanded Iran freeze all work on uranium enrichment and said it would judge Tehran's compliance in two months.

Comment: And, of course, if Iran does not comply with these demands, the US and Israel will boldly state that this must be because Iran is "hiding" something - not simply because they do not wish to be bullied into doing anything.

"This demand is not legal and does not put any obligation on Iran. The IAEA board of governors has no right to make such a suspension obligatory for any country," he said at a news conference.

The Iranian official said his country would nonetheless continue with its voluntary suspension of what he described as "actual enrichment" - the injection of uranium gas into centrifuges.

But he indicated that related activities, such as production, assembly and testing of centrifuges, were likely to continue.

"We are committed to the suspension of actual enrichment but we have no decision to expand the suspension," he said.

Iran is not prohibited from enrichment under its obligations to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But it has for months faced international pressure to suspend such activities as a good-faith gesture.

Comment:"Iran is not prohibited from enrichment under its obligations to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty". And yet, the IAEA is attempting to force Iran to do exactly this, so Iran is correct. The demand is illegal. Even so, again, if they do not comply, this will be viewed as the Iranian government's attempt to hide secret nuclear weapons development. It certainly makes one wonder who is running the show in the IAEA.

The United States insists the 35-member board must refer Iran to the Security Council when it meets again on Nov. 25 if Tehran doesn't comply. Iran rejects U.S. accusations it wants nuclear weapons, saying its activities are only in pursuit of energy.

Comment: Well, there's your answer. Surprise, surprise. The US is putting pressure on the IAEA. They are bullying, as psychopaths do, the Iranian government under threat of having the issue taken to the Security Council. And for what reason? It is not because they are so worried about the danger of developing nuclear weapons. In fact, it might serve their agenda rather nicely if Iran should actually develop nuclear warheads, and Iran perhaps realizes this.

No, the pressure seems to be in order to provide the US with some of the "evidence" that they will need to build up a case for going into Iran. I think the Bush regime knows perfectly well that Iran will not comply being that the demand is indeed illegal, and is counting on this, so they can then say, as they did with Iraq, "They must be hiding weapons. They're not doing what they're told. We gotta go in there, find those weapons, and teach those infidels who is really running the show around here."

It is also highly interesting that the US is so insistent in their demands on Iran, while Israel - who is not even a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, who has been working on nuclear weapons development since 1958, and who is rumoured to have stockpiled between 100-200 nuclear warheads - receives not even the slightest bit of pressure to dismantle their weapons, stop development of same, or even SIGN the treaty.

"There is no justification to refer Iran's nuclear dossier to the Security Council," Rowhani said. "If one day they refer Iran's nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council, that day ... Iran will stop implementing the additional protocol and will limit its cooperation with the IAEA ...."

Iran has agreed to unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities under an addition to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Comment: Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran complies to inspections of its nuclear facilities, but it has every single right to NOT comply with ILLEGAL demands made by the IAEA under the political pressure exerted by the US government.

The IAEA board unanimously approved a toughly worded resolution Saturday saying it "considers it necessary" that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment and related programs. It expressed alarm at Iranian plans to convert more than 40 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride - the gas that when spun in centrifuges turns into enriched uranium.

It also said the board "strongly urges" Iran to meet all demands by the agency in its investigation of the country's nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activity, including unrestricted access to sites, information and personnel that can shed light on still-unanswered questions on whether Tehran was interested in the atom for nuclear weapons.

It called on the IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei to provide a review of the findings of the investigation of Iran's nuclear activities.

Suggesting that Iran could have to answer to the Security Council if it defies the demands, the resolution said the next board meeting in November "will decide whether or not further steps are appropriate" in ensuring Iran complies. The last board resolution, in June, had been less insistent on the issue of suspension. Still, Saturday's text appeared to fall far short of what the Americans had wanted when the meeting opened Monday.

Washington had pushed to drop mention of countries' rights to peaceful nuclear technology and fought for an Oct. 31 deadline, with the understanding that if Iran failed to comply, the board would automatically begin deliberations on Security Council referral.

Comment: Why is Bush in such a hurry? Why push to drop the mention of nations' rights to peaceful nuclear technology development?

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High Plains Grifter

Part Six: Bush's Mask of Anarchy

By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
September 19, 2004

And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, or spies.

. . .

And Anarchy, the Skeleton,
Bowed and grinned to every one,
As well as if his education
Had cost ten millions to the nation.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Mask of Anarchy

By the smirk, ye shall know him. It is Bush's identifying mark. The cruel sneer fissures across his face at the oddest moments, like an execution or a spike in the deficit or the news of a light-stick being rammed up the anus of an Iraqi prisoner. It hints at this own sense of inviolateness, like the illicit grin of some 70s porn star--which may not be so far off target if even half of what Kitty Kelley dishes in her delicious book The Family about Bush's peregrinations turns out to be true.

Flash to Bush's most famous moment, the instant when he supposedly redeemed his tottering presidency. There at ground zero, megaphone in hand, using firefighters as props, Bush squeaks out his war cry. It won't be a war of justice, but revenge, cast as a crusade against evil. Then, hands palsied with anxiety, he closes with his signature sneer and gives the game away.

The mask drops, revealing in a flash, like a subliminal cut, the dark sparkle of the real Bush. You get the sense that he detests his own supporters, those who refuse to see through the act. But perhaps that's giving Bush too much credit. He reminds me of one of the early popes or one of the more degenerate emperors, such as Domitian: cruel, imperious, humorless, and psychologically brittle.

Bush and his team turned 9/11 into a kind prime-time political necrophilia, an obscene exploitation of the dead. For example, Flight 93 was transformed into Bush's Masada, where the passengers committed group suicide by bringing the plane down into the remote Pennsylvania field in order to save the White House. Of course, this was a lie.

Bush lied about his actions in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He lied about why the US was attacked. He lied about what his own government knew in advance about impending plans by al-Qaeda to attack targets in the US. He lied about how much the wars would cost. About weapons of mass destruction. About the relationship between Saddam and Bin Laden. About the progress of the war. These daily manipulations of the truth aren't impromptu faux pas. Bush is kept on a tighter leash by his staff than any president in US history. He's not permitted extemporaneous comments. Bush's prevarications roll right off the teleprompter.

In the memorial service at the National Cathedral, Bush announced his mission: "Rid the world of evil." Part of that evil would, naturally, be the burdensome tax rates on the super-rich.

Bush was hot for war without congressional debate. "I'd rather have them [American troops] sacrificing on behalf of our nation than, you know, endless hours of congressional testimony." And they were primed to give him any thing he wanted. Any thing at all. No one rose to stop him. No one would even question him at the precise moment he most needed to be restrained.

The remote-control war on Afghanistan is a shameful chapter in American history. It rode unbridled on the fervor of a kind of national bloodletting against one of the most destitute nation's on earth, which had only the most tangential responsibility for the events of 9/11. More than 3,400 civilians perished, most of whom had never heard of Osama Bin Laden.

The Pentagon drilled Kandahar and other Taliban strongholds with cruise missiles and pulverized convoys of pack mules with unmanned Predator planes armed with Hellfire guns. The ground war was turned over to the Northern Alliance, a CIA-financed band of thugs with a bloodier reputation than the Taliban.

Why do they hate us? Bush proffered the two word cue-card answer: Our freedom. But how could this be? Only a few years ago the Mujahideen, the Taliban and the Chechen separatists were hailed by neo-cons and neo-libs alike as "freedom fighters."

Yes, they knew them very well indeed. They had not only traded with the enemy. They had created them. Bin Laden and Mullah Omar were armed, funded and sheltered by the CIA in its insane proxy war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. A $3 billion war that brought to power the most tyrannical and fundamentalist's sect this side of Falwell's Liberty Baptist College. The Taliban regime was fired by an unquenchable hatred of the West, a political pathology it acted out through the violent suppression of the nation's own women, homosexuals and academics. Then came the first Gulf War, the US bases on Saudi soil, the misguided adventure into Somalia, the blind support of the bloody Israeli suppression of the second Intifada. Al-Qaeda, financed by Saudi millions and sequestered by the Taliban, turned its attention to the great Satan, which was indeed acting like a malevolent titan across the globe. The events of 9/11 have blowback written all over them.

In the end, though, the Taliban weren't toppled. They simply dispersed back into the Pashtun tribal areas from which they arose, where they knew the US and its mercenary army would never come to get them. As recounted in Seymour Hersh's Chain of Command, the few ground engagements were US troops faced off with the Taliban proved embarrassing for the Pentagon. And today the Taliban have reasserted their control over most of Afghanistan. The only city that remains under the uneasy grip of Hamid Karzai and his CIA masters is Kabul, the old British capital which has never been a Taliban stronghold.

So much for the opening act. As Condoleezza Rice put it, Bush, the conquistador in a jogging suit, soon got bored with "swatting flies."

(Torturing flies was, of course, a favorite past time of Domitian. According to Seutonius, "At the beginning of his reign, Domitian used to spend hours in seclusion every day, doing nothing but catching flies and stabbing them with a keenly sharpened stylus. Consequently, when someone once asked if anyone was in there with the Emperor, Vibius Crispus made the witty reply, 'Not even a fly." Domitian, that wanton boy emperor, was also the inspiration for the famous line in Lear.)

Bush wanted to put away such childish things and squash bigger game. Iraq, naturally.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and, with Alexander Cockburn, Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils.

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Press Reports on U.S. Casualties: About 17,000 Short, UPI Says
By Mark Benjamin, UPI
Published: September 15, 2004

NEW YORK (UPI) Nearly 17,000 service members medically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan are absent from public Pentagon casualty reports commonly cited by newspapers, according to military data reviewed by United Press International.

Most don't fit the definition of casualties, according to the Pentagon, but a veterans' advocate said they should all be counted.

The Pentagon has reported 1,019 dead and 7,245 wounded from Iraq.

The military has evacuated 16,765 individual service members from Iraq and Afghanistan for injuries and ailments not directly related to combat, according to the U.S. Transportation Command, which is responsible for the medical evacuations. Most are from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Pentagon's public casualty reports, available at www.defenselink.mil, list only service members who died or were wounded in action. The Pentagon's own definition of a war casualty provided to UPI in December describes a casualty as, "Any person who is lost to the organization by having been declared dead, duty status/whereabouts unknown, missing, ill, or injured."

The casualty reports do list soldiers who died in non-combat-related incidents or died from illness. But service members injured or ailing from the same non-combat causes (the majority that appear to be "lost to the organization") are not reflected in those Pentagon reports.

In a statement Wednesday, the Pentagon gave a different definition that included casualty descriptions by severity and type and said most medical evacuations did not count. "The great majority of service members medically evacuated from Operation Iraqi Freedom are not casualties, by either Department of Defense definitions or the common understanding of the average newspaper reader."

It cited such ailments as "muscle strain, back pain, kidney stones, diarrhea and persistent fever" as non-casualty evacuations. "Casualty reports released to the public are generally confined to fatalities and those wounded in action," the statement said.

A veterans' advocate said the Pentagon should make a full reporting of the casualties, including non-combat ailments and injuries. "They are still casualties of war," said Mike Schlee, director of the National Security and Foreign Relations Division at the American Legion. "I think we have to have an honest disclosure of what the short- and long-term casualties of any conflict are."

A spokesman for the transportation command said that without orders from U.S. Central Command, his unit would not separate the medical evacuation data to show how many came from Iraq and Afghanistan. "We stay in our lane," said Lt. Col. Scott Ross. But most are clearly from Operation Iraqi Freedom where several times as many troops are deployed as in Afghanistan.

Among veterans from Iraq seeking help from the VA, 5,375 have been diagnosed with a mental problem, making it the third-leading diagnosis after bone problems and digestive problems. Among the mental problems were 800 soldiers who became psychotic.

A military study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 16 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq might suffer major depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Around 11 percent of soldiers returning from Afghanistan may have the same problems, according to that study.

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Britain to cut troop levels in Iraq
Jason Burke, chief reporter
The Observer
Sunday September 19, 2004

The British Army is to start pulling troops out of Iraq next month despite the deteriorating security situation in much of the country, The Observer has learnt.

The main British combat force in Iraq, about 5,000-strong, will be reduced by around a third by the end of October during a routine rotation of units.

The news came amid another day of mayhem in Iraq, which saw a suicide bomber kill at least 23 people and injure 53 in the northern city of Kirkuk. The victims were queueing to join Iraq's National Guard.

More than 200 people were killed last week in one of the bloodiest weeks since last year's invasion, strengthening impressions that the country is spinning out of control.

Yesterday grim footage apparently showing a British engineer kidnapped from a house in Baghdad last week along with two American colleagues surfaced in a video released in the Iraqi capital. The group holding the three threatened to execute them unless Iraqi women prisoners are released from jail.

And last night it was reported that 10 more staff working for an American-Turkish company had been seized as hostages.

There are now fears that scheduled Iraqi elections in January will have to be delayed because of the growing instability.

Last week Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, said that more troops could be sent to safeguard the polls if necessary, although Whitehall sources said there was no guarantee that they would be British.

The forthcoming 'drawdown' of British troops in Basra has not been made public and is likely to provoke consternation in both Washington and Baghdad. Many in Iraq argue that more, not fewer, troops are needed. Last week British troops in Basra fought fierce battles with Shia militia groups.

The reduction will take place when the First Mechanised Infantry Brigade is replaced by the Fourth Armoured Division, now based in Germany, in a routine rotation over the next few weeks.

Troop numbers are being finalised, but, military sources in Iraq and in Whitehall say, they are likely to be 'substantially less' than the current total in Basra: the new combat brigade will have five or even four battle groups, against its current strength of six battle groups of around 800 men.

A military spokesman in Basra confirmed the scaling back of the British commitment.

Currently there are 8,000 British troops in the 14,000-strong 'multinational division' in southern Iraq, which has responsibility for about 4.5 million people.

The cuts will occur in the combat elements of the deployment - the 5,000-strong infantry and armoured brigade that is committed to the provinces of Basra and Maysan. Four Royal Navy ships will remain in the Gulf.

However, the incoming force will leave its heavy armour, mainly Challenger tanks, behind, but will be equipped with a unit of Warrior armoured troop carriers.

Senior officers say the scaling back of the British commitment in Iraq is a sign of their success in keeping order and helping reconstruction. But both Basra and Maysan have seen heavy combat recently, with some units sustaining up to 35 per cent casualties, and remains restive. The al-Mahdi army, which was responsible for most of the fighting, remains heavily armed.

'Whatever they say, fewer troops mean less capability,' a military expert told The Observer . 'You need as many boots on the ground as you can get for low-intensity warfare and peace-keeping operations.'

Iyad Allawi, the interim Iraqi Prime Minister, will hold talks with Tony Blair at Chequers tomorrow on security issues, including elections and the strengthening of border patrols.

News of the troop withdrawal comes at a difficult time for Blair, with the publication yesterday of leaked documents suggesting that he was warned a year before the invasion that it could prompt a meltdown.

However Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary and a close ally of Blair, told The Observer that the Prime Minister still believed that Britain's actions would be justified by the restoration of democracy 'however difficult and remote a prospect that seems at the moment, when our headlines are crowded with further attacks by the insurgents'.

In another embarrassment for the Prime Minister, a draft report from the Iraqi Survey Group, set up to investigate Saddam Hussein's weapons programme, has concluded that the former dictator's only chemical or biological armament was a small amount of poison for use in political killings.

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Opponents mum on war's legality
Sat Sep 18 2004

UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary General Kofi Annan's claim that the war in Iraq was illegal drew strong protest from the United States and its allies, but little comment from the war's opponents, who appeared unwilling to revisit the question. The strong response may have had more to do with the timing than with the content of Annan's remarks. Next week is the annual gathering of world leaders at the UN General Assembly, a meeting that also comes in the midst of a U.S. election campaign where the war in Iraq is an issue.

Asked about Annan's comments during an interview with the Washington Times' editorial board, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the coalition's actions in Iraq were "entirely legal and legal in accordance with UN Security Councils of the past."

"I don't think it was a useful statement to make at this point," Powell said in a transcript released by the State Department. "What does it gain anyone? We should all be gathering around the idea and the prospect of helping the Iraqi people, helping the Iraqi government, and not getting into these kinds of side issues which are not relevant any longer."

The United States, Britain, Australia and Poland -- all supporters of the war and part of the coalition still in Iraq -- defended the legality of invading the country and ousting Saddam Hussein.

France, which led the opposition to the war, shied away from commenting, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous saying: "You know our position. We had the opportunity at the time to express ourselves very clearly."

China's UN Ambassador, Wang Guangya, whose country also opposed the war, was also reticent. "I think all of us have views on the Iraqi war. I think definitely the views are different among council members. What is important now is to help achieve peace and stability in that country," he said.

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Groups Decry Muslim Scholar's Visa Denial

Fri Sep 17
By KEN KUSMER, Associated Press Writer


INDIANAPOLIS — Scholars and critics worldwide are demanding that the U.S. government explain why it revoked the work visa of a Muslim scholar hired at the University of Notre Dame, saying the action threatens academic freedoms.

But few answers are forthcoming from the Department of Homeland Security, which cited security concerns when it barred Tariq Ramadan from entering the country.

That silence has sparked protests from at least four U.S. scholars' groups, led a United Nations-sponsored institution to issue an academic freedom alert and inspired appeals from Jewish organizations.

Robert O'Neil, who is chairman of an academic freedom committee for the American Association of University Professors, said Ramadan's case could have a chilling effect on an academic community already facing security measures stemming from the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"It does suggest ... foreign scholars may be scrutinized more carefully and may be denied entry on the basis of something less than overt terrorist activity or association," said O'Neil, whose group has written Secretary of State Colin Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to protest the decision.

The State Department issued Ramadan a work visa in May but revoked it in July. The action came just weeks before the scholar was scheduled to begin a tenured position as professor of religion, conflict and peace-building at Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

Russ Knocke, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said last month that the visa was revoked based on "public safety or national security interests." Knocke has not responded to recent requests for interviews from The Associated Press.

Many who have rallied in Ramadan's support believe the scholar's controversial profile, including sharp criticism of Israel, the war in Iraq and U.S. policy in the Middle East, was the real reason for the revocation.

"We fear that pressures were applied to reverse the granting of the visa by people who disagree with Dr. Ramadan's views as a scholar," two groups, the Middle East Studies Association of North America and the American Academy of Religion, stated in a joint letter to Powell and Ridge.

Scholars at Risk, which normally focuses on rescuing professors who face persecution in their homelands, also has taken up Ramadan's cause because of its ramifications for academic freedom.

"The information we do have does not seem to explain the decision, and if there is more, we'd like to know what it is," said Robert Quinn, director of the group, which is based at New York University.

The Network for Education and Academic Rights issued an academic freedom alert for the United States over the case. It is the fifth alert the London-based, U.N.-sponsored group has issued for the United States since January 2002.

The Jewish Law Students Society at Notre Dame condemned the visa revocation. Chicago's Jewish Council on Urban Affairs said "the barring of Ramadan may represent one more horrific example of government suspicion, intimidation and exaggerated allegations against Muslims and Muslim communities."

Notre Dame spokesman Matt Storin said the university is still seeking answers but has received no specifics about Ramadan's case.

Ramadan remains in Switzerland, defending himself in articles and interviews.

The furor over his visa symbolizes something larger, he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"All these people who don't know me, they may disagree with me, all the academics, but at least they understand something: In Tariq Ramadan there is a very important challenge, a very important issue, which is the freedom for the academics to speak and to be critical, to be free."

Comment: Well, we certainly wouldn't want anyone in the US who could potentially increase understanding with regards to religion, or who knew anything about conflicts and their possible resolutions, now would we? We certainly don't want anyone coming to the US who is actually interested in peace building. Nope. We can't have that. After all, the Bush regime doesn't want to make their job any tougher than it already is. It is going to have a difficult enough time trying to shut up their own intelligentsia without bringing in any more members of this group from abroad. For it is, and always has been, the intelligentsia that has been the severe thorn in the side of any fanatic, imperialistic, dictatorial regime, and they have been eliminated in many cases. Why is this? Because it is these people who are the seers and doers. It is the academics, writers, poets, artists, activists, etc. who have the ability to teach and move the sensibilities of the ordinary citizen. Through their work, and the sharing of their work, they have the ability to educate people, wake them up, and get them to produce the emotions that can fuel action. That is why they are always seen as a most serious threat - one that must be eliminated at all costs.

In 1915, a genocide carried out by the Turkish Ottoman empire, in which approximately 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered, began with the rounding up, torture and execution of 300 intellectuals, writers, poets and civic and political leaders. This lasted until 1923. During WWII, Jewish writers, poets and academics were main targets of the Nazi extermination policy. Today, academics and members of the alternative media and literary communities are facing systematic harassment and shut down. This very website, and others like it who are only attempting to print the truth, are no exception. Every effort is being made to silence those who would speak out.

But the above examples are only a few out of the many that could be given. Further, this type of silencing is extending now well beyond the borders of intellectual communities. It has extended right into our own communities - our own neighborhoods and backyards. How many of you are afraid now to voice your real opinions amongst others? How many of you think that if you do so, you could lose your jobs, your standing in your communities, have your tires slashed, even be arrested? What did we see at the Republican National Convention in New York recently? How many of you are afraid?

Read your history books. Read accounts of Germans who lived under the Third Reich. Read about Russians who lived under Stalin. Read. Read, and as you shake in your fear, nodding your head because it all sounds so familiar, then tell me you are living in a "free country", in a "democracy".

No one is free who lives in fear. If you think you are, then you are lying to yourself - the mother of all sins.

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I See Brain Dead People

by Mike Wasdin
Strike the Root
Sptember 16 2004


I remember years ago, going to the movie theater and watching a movie entitled “The Sixth Sense.” In the movie there was a young boy who was able to see dead people. At the time I remember thinking how eerie that would be, but did not give it much more thought. In the movie, the dead were able to make contact with the boy and it was very frightening for him. Try as he may, he could not escape the voices and visions of the dead.

Lately I have found myself in the same predicament, but instead of the clinically dead, I see the brain dead. I can’t get away from these mindless zombies. Everywhere I go, they are there. The worst part is, they cannot be detected by sight, smell or touch. One way to identify them is to look for the sheepish gaze in their eyes, but the best way that I have found is to listen for the mindless tripe passing over their lips.

I think it would be a lot easier if I had a pair of special eyeglasses, maybe like the ones that were used in the movie “They Live.” At least then I would know when I was in danger of coming into close contact with one of them and hide my wallet from their grasp. As with most vampire-like creatures, they live off the life-blood of others, and would love nothing more than to suck someone dry.

At first observation they seem very ordinary, but upon closer examination the signs will become evident. One of the signs to look for is in the posture of their arm, as it is always in a horizontal position with their palm facing up. If you encounter such a creature, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction, clutching your wallet as tightly as possible. Whatever you do, please do not let them trick you into giving up your life-blood, even if it is under the guise of a really good cause!

If allowed to multiply, these bloodsuckers will breed future generations of parasites, all jockeying to find a place at the Federal trough. Their young taught at an early age to nurse from the government’s enormous teat, they are more than happy to leech off of the productive members of society.

Their mantras are usually the same: It’s for the children; It takes a village; There ought to be a law; I know what’s best for you; People are entitled to basic needs. Of course my first thought being, how is this my problem? They are quick to enlighten me that it is everyone’s problem. Their pathetic dribble is only matched by their shameless welfare state of mind.

I feel at times that I am in a bad horror movie, where all the logical and rational people are being replaced in the middle of the night with mindless pods, as in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I see it everywhere I go, from the endless flag waving idiots who drive down the street with their “vote for Bush” or “vote for Kerry” bumper stickers, to the sheep who hold signs on Election Day telling you who to vote for, as if it matters in the first place.

When will people learn that it does not matter who you vote for, government still gets elected? I have not participated in the sham known as voting for 12 years now, and I am ashamed that I ever did. There is nothing more brain dead than the people who walk around with their “I voted” pins stuck to their clothes on Election Day. To me it resembles a large beacon flashing the word “moron” over and over again.

I must confess that I take pleasure in watching the mindless in action, and I have been known to watch the circus known as the Republican and Democratic conventions (for entertainment value only). I truly enjoy watching the glazed over look the sheep get in their eyes as they wave their campaign sign for their candidate, and think to themselves, “If we could only get our man in office, then all would be right again.”

With every election cycle, I know that the sheep will be too stupid to realize that if voting worked, it would be illegal, and they always manage to live up to my expectations of them as they stumble into the voting booths for another round. The problem seems to be that we just have not found the right man yet.

Looking back, I really envy the little boy in the movie “The Sixth Sense” because his only fear was that of dead people, and dead people don’t vote. I, on the other hand, have to live the rest of my life in fear of Brain Dead People.

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The Knock-Knock of a Sledgehammer

Sequestered in Nablus

By SCOTT HANDLEMAN
September 18 / 19, 2004

On August 21 in Nablus, soldiers imposed a curfew on the Old City and conducted house-to-house manhunts in the garbage-strewn streets. International observers tagged along behind the soldiers, checking up on the inhabitants.

Soldiers on the roof of one house smashed a hole in an antiquated stone wall, purportedly to ease their movement across rooftops. I sat below in a living room adorned with two framed Koran verses, an ornamental clock, and a shelf of knick-knacks. Also present in the living room were the man of the house, several women and children, a sleeping infant, a few Palestinian medics, and a human rights volunteer from Spain. Other persons were sequestered in the bedroom across the staircase.

The soldiers were using a sledgehammer. Downstairs, over thump of hammer and crunch of falling rock, I attempted conversation with Bashir, the man of the house, who spoke little English. An alarming crash and thud interrupted us. Two small girls ran in from across the hall, sobbing in terror. It turned out that a rooftop soldier, standing on the corrugated plastic awning, had crashed through to the floor of the house. The drop was extremely high--I would guess 15 or 20 feet, from later observation. He had broken his leg.

A prisoner in his own living room, Bashir spoke in agitation with Palestinian medics, now in the hall. Soon, one of the medics, a woman named Annan Qadri, was forced into our room. She had seen the soldier fall, and had run to the roof to alert the other soldiers. Qadri told me that the soldiers had not been concerned about their comrade's fate before she alerted them, as they thought he had fallen only a short distance.

She emphasized that the injured soldier's fate had lain in the Palestinans' hands as he writhed on the ground, separated from his gun. Qadri was upset that, despite her manifest goodwill and offer of paramedic assistance, the soldiers had violently shoved her away. She contrasted the medics' peacemaking offer with the Israeli military policy that delays the passage of Palestinian ambulances at checkpoints.

We were not allowed to open the door. We heard the soldier's moans, crackle of walkie-talkies, boots running up and down stairs.

The soldiers were in a foul mood. At first, the living room was palpably fearful. What vengeance might they inflict? A grown woman cried. Later, as it became apparent that no arbitrary punishment was immediately imminent, a widely-felt schadenfreude found expression. A plump woman in a hijab grinned and snapped her fingers at the moans.

Qadri's father was the landlord of the property. Someone produced photos from the previous assaults on this house, coinciding with the military invasions of Nablus in April and June 2002. During one invasion, soldiers broke down the living room wall to open a connection to the neighbor's house. In the other, they made a large hole in the living room floor, opening a passage to the vegetable stall below. In the military invasion of Nablus of April 2002, an 18-day curfew was imposed and the Israeli military killed 105 Palestinians, including three colleagues from Qadri's hospital.

I asked Qadri why she thought the soldiers seemed so determined to wreak destruction on this particular house. She assured me that the house had no military interest. She said that the purpose of the manhunts and searches is "to have input on the psychology of the people. So that in the future, we will accept any solution. We are so tired."

Scott Handleman is a lawyer based in Berkeley, California. He just returned from a month on the West Bank.

Comment: Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe at this point that the Zionists will stop at anything less than a "final solution" in their war against the Palestinians.

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Plight of Palestinian Christians deserves greater world attention
Sat Sep 18 2004

'ISRAEL: You're not alone."

So says a full-page ad in a national evangelical publication aimed at recruiting Christians to go on a tour of that nation. It's one of many organized by North American evangelical churches and organizations to build Christian support for the state of Israel. A video on the tour organizer's website says that their goal is to encourage Christians to "give full and unconditional support" for Israel and to show that "we stand for your (Israel's) right to possess the land given to you by God." The fact that there are so many tours of Israel being offered for evangelical Christians isn't surprising-after all, Christianity was born in that country. But it's more than just that. Many evangelicals, as well as other Christians, subscribe to a way of reading the Bible called Dispensationalism. According to this view, the existence of the modern state of Israel is the key piece of the Bible's prophetic puzzle about how the future will unfold, including the end times and the second coming of Jesus.

For this reason, a lot of evangelical Christians in North America show support for Israel not just by visiting it, but also by donating millions of dollars every year to help Jews from around the world resettle in Palestine so that it will continue to exist and play its important role in prophecy.

The Israeli government welcomes their support, and actively encourages it -- Benjamin Netanyahu, presently Israel's minister of finance and a former prime minister -- appears in the tour video praising the efforts of early "Christian Zionists" and he encourages "lovers of Israel" to come to his country. But it makes some Israeli rabbis nervous. In May they expressed their fear that the real motive behind evangelical Christian interest in Israel is a desire to convert Jews; they also spoke disapprovingly of the way that some evangelicals view Israel as simply a piece of the Christian apocalyptic puzzle. Two former chief rabbis of Israel, Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliahu, went so far as to urge followers not to accept money from one prominent pro-Israel evangelical group, accusing it of being involved "missionary activity."

But all this evangelical Christian activity on behalf of Israel doesn't trouble Henry Balser, rabbi of Winnipeg's Etz Chayim synagogue. "Everybody has agendas," he says, admitting that some groups that support Israel have "conversion (of Jews) at the front of their agenda." But, he says, "we welcome their support. Israel has a lot of enemies, and it needs all the friends it can get."

Rabbi Alan Green of Shaarey Zedek agrees, adding that while he has "serious disagreements" with how some evangelical Christians view the role Jews play in the end-time scenarios, "I thank God that they read and interpret the end of days in the way they do since, on the practical level of action, that reading expresses itself in the form of the most powerful, broad-based non-Jewish support for the State of Israel in the world." While many evangelical Christians are unabashedly pro-Israel, not as many show a similar interest in and support for the Palestinians -- which is curious, since there is a historic Christian community in Palestine that could really use their help. Today the Palestinian church numbers only about 170,000 people, down from an estimated 750,000 in 1948, when Israel was created. The decrease is due mainly to emigration, as Palestinian Christians flee violence and poverty in the troubled region for new homes and economic opportunity in Europe and North America. The decline has prompted some observers to suggest that one day there may not be a Christian church in the birthplace of Christianity.

This lack of interest in the plight of Palestinian Christians troubles Riah Abu El-Assal, the 13th Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. In an interview published last year in the Anglican Journal, he expressed the hope that western Christians would "learn more about what is going on and support us. Try to discover who we are in our efforts to bring about an end to pain and suffering. And there is no way to bring an end to the suffering but by ending the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."

At least one prominent evangelical leader thinks that evangelical Christians need to devote as much attention to the plight of the Palestinians as they do to Israel. Speaking at last year's Vancouver Missions Fest, Tony Campolo said that "we have to face the facts that the Christian church, in its proper zeal to support the state of Israel, has forgotten that there's a group of people called the Palestinians. And unless we stand up and speak for justice on behalf of the Palestinians, we are going to lose the missionary struggle in the next hundred years."

He admitted that this message won't "go over big" with many of his fellow church members, but that's because "we've forgotten that our God is a God of justice, and loves the Palestinians every bit as much as he loves Jews," he said.

Meanwhile, more North American Christians will go to the Holy Land to show their support for Israel. Maybe a few of them will take time out from visiting Christian ruins -- the ancient stones -- to also go and visit members of the present-day church in Palestine -- the living stones.

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Voting Machines Missing for La. Election
Sep 18, 11:03 AM (ET)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Many New Orleans voters were unable to cast ballots Saturday on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage because voting machines had not been delivered to polling places, a state official said.

At least 35 precincts did not have voting machines because drivers hired to deliver the machines had apparently not shown up for work, said Scott Madere, a spokesman for Secretary of State Fox McKeithen.

Workers in McKeithen's office, including McKeithen, were driving trucks Saturday morning to deliver the machines from a warehouse in east New Orleans, Madere said. He said New Orleans was the only city to experience the problem.

Voters around Louisiana were casting ballots Saturday on an amendment to the state constitution that would ban gay marriage. New Orleans voters were also voting in local races.

Madere said inconvenienced voters would be allowed to vote after polling places officially close at 8 p.m. if they are in line at that time.

Comment: Inconvenienced voters will be allowed to vote only if they submit to the state's even more inconvenient solution...

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More Killers Gaining Parole

Los Angeles Times Sat Sep 18
By Peter Nicholas Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — For all his tough-guy swagger, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (news - web sites) is quietly pursuing one of the most permissive parole policies California has seen in years, freeing convicted murderers in numbers that dwarf those of his two predecessors.

In less than a year in office, Schwarzenegger has approved parole for 48 people serving life terms for murder. Former Gov. Gray Davis (news - web sites) released eight in his five years in office.

The 48, plus 10 inmates serving life terms for other offenses, have been paroled with Schwarzenegger's consent. That's as many as were released in a six-year span in the 1990s covering most of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's tenure.

The governor was not available for comment. But spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh said Schwarzenegger "believes that people can reform and be reformed…. When he sits down with his attorneys to review parole matters, he's not thinking about the political consequences. He's thinking about public safety and the individual at hand." [...]

Comment: Excuse me? Not sure I read that correctly. Was that, "he's thinking about public safety"? By releasing more convicted murderers in less than a year than were previously released in the span of six years in the 1990s? I don't know. Either I'm going crazy, or there is something very wrong with this picture....And speaking of Arnold, this is a little interesting:

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Old-World Arnold Austrian Local Hero’s Dad Was Nazi, But Young Arnold Had Anti-Fascist Mentor

By Colin Woodard The Christian Science Monitor


T H A L, Austria, Sept. 28 — When Arnold Schwarzenegger left this tiny Alpine farming village to chase bodybuilding dreams in America, he retained more of his upbringing than just his trademark accent, people here say.

There's a lot of Europe left in the California gubernatorial candidate, says Werner Kopacka, who has known Schwarzenegger for 20 years.

"Even the most conservative European is more concerned with the social issues of ordinary people than the most social[ist] American," says Kopacka, a reporter with the newspaper Kronen Zeitung. "He is a politician of a different type for America — a conservative who would really protect the small guy."

Not a Nazi

But it's another part of Schwarzenegger's background that has drawn much of the attention since he announced his candidacy.

Schwarzenegger was born in 1947 to a father who belonged to the Nazi party and served as the village's police chief. Yet, while he is the son of a Nazi, Schwarzenegger was mentored in his youth by a man who had been active in the anti-Nazi resistance.

"Arnold isn't a Nazi and he never was one," says the mentor, Alfred Gerstl, whose office walls include a large signed photograph of Schwarzenegger as The Terminator. Schwarzenegger's childhood unfolded amid a national culture that denied Austria's part in Hitler's atrocities. After World War II, many Austrians chose to believe their country had been an innocent victim of Adolf Hitler, who annexed Austria into the Third Reich in 1938. This overlooked that Hitler and many of his closest associates were Austrians, and that Nazi policies had considerable support here before and after the annexation.

Schwarzenegger has said that he did not know what his father did during the war and that he found out about the Nazi party membership only after asking the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles to investigate in 1990.

After a more recent investigation, Wiesenthal Center officials said this month that they had found no evidence linking Gustav Schwarzenegger or his Sturmabteilungen (SA) paramilitary unit to Nazi war crimes.

Sibling Rivalry

Gustav is said to have been a very strict parent who regularly pitted Arnold against his older brother, Meinhard, in various sports competitions.

"Arnold always tried to do better than his brother to get the favor of his father because he knew that his father liked the kid who was physically better," Kopacka says. "He knew he had to fight hard to beat his brother and please his father."

Comment: So, another one who grew up very concerned about pleasing his father. Hmmm. And what if the law is made such that Arnie can actually run for president and becomes the first foreign-born president of the US, who was raised in a household run by a Nazi father? Well, the folks in California didn't seem to care much about this when they elected him as governor. The idea that Germany in WWII was just a trial run for what is to come keeps going through my mind, and due to the apathy of the American public and it's habit of believing the illusion of film and making genuine heroes out of the tough guys on the screen, it seems as though the US is doomed to repeat history in a major way.

As a teenager, Arnold began hanging around the nearby Thalersee Restaurant, a lakeside retreat that was at the time a hangout and training site for local weight lifters. Gustav disapproved of the future Mr. Universe's interest in bodybuilding — an activity the father regarded as the pursuit of homosexuals.

It was through body building that Arnold met Gerstl. The father of one of Arnold's body building friends, Gerstl was a half-Jewish opera singer and fitness enthusiast who later served as president of the Austrian Senate.

By many accounts, Gerstl became a second father to the ambitious teenager, taking him to anti-fascist demonstrations and introducing him to opera and literature. And it is this legacy — and not Gustav's — that Arnold carried into adulthood, friends say.

"[Arnold's] father was an old Nazi — there were many of them around then — but Arnold was completely the opposite," says Gerstl, interviewed at his home in nearby Graz, where Schwarzenegger attended high school. "He's a committed anti-fascist."

"Normally when you are the son of your father, you have your father's ways, but not in this case," agrees Kurt David Bruhl, the president of Graz's Jewish community for more than two decades. "I've known him since he was a young man, and he never had any Nazi ideas."

Schwarzenegger's friendship with Gerstl continues to this day. Four years ago, the movie star was best man when Gerstl remarried after two decades as a widower. Schwarzenegger has raised eyebrows abroad, however, for his public association with Kurt Waldheim, the former U.N. secretary-general. Waldheim was elected president of Austria despite the revelation that he had concealed his service in a Nazi army intelligence unit that committed atrocities in the Balkans. Schwarzenegger invited Waldheim to his 1986 wedding to Maria Shriver, a niece of John F. Kennedy.

Pumping Up to Stardom

In nearby Graz, however, where he continued his bodybuilding career until moving to the United States in his early 20s, Schwarzenegger is a hero. He is known as the man who bench-pressed his way from humble beginnings in an 18th-century country house to a spot on the roster of the world's wealthiest entertainers. His photos adorn restaurants and cafes, particularly ones the actor frequents on his visits here. And Austrians are following their native son's political aspirations in California. Graz's popular soccer franchise competes in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium, a modern facility seating more than 15,000 near the cobblestone streets of the centuries-old city center. Toward the back of the stadium, body builders train at the Fitness Paradise gym, which houses a small Arnold Schwarzenegger museum. The latter is adorned with vintage photographs of the young bodybuilding champion and features weight-lifting gear he used in the 1950s, including a set of 15-kilogram barbells he made himself at a local metalworking shop.

"Since he decided to run for governor, we've had visitors from all over the world coming to see these things," says gym manager Hans Neumayer. "People here in Graz are very proud of him."

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Moscow police find car wired with explosives
Sep. 18, 2004. 09:02 AM

MOSCOW — Russian security officials said police stopped a man driving a car wired with land mines and explosives in downtown Moscow early Saturday.

A duty officer at the Federal Security Service said the man was stopped by Moscow police around 1 a.m., local time. Police questioned him and found two land mines in the car, along with 200 grams of TNT under the driver's seat. The mines were connected with wires and had an antenna attached to them.

The man, who appeared to be intoxicated, told police he had been paid $1,000 US to park two cars with explosives in them along a Moscow street frequently used by top government officials, said the duty officer, who refused to give his name.

The ITAR-Tass news agency identified the man as 38-year-old Alexander Pumane.

Police later located a second car in a residential neighbourhood in central Moscow and used a water cannon to open it. No explosives were found but residents of nearby buildings were evacuated as a precaution, the officer said.

The duty officer confirmed that the man later suffered a heart attack and died while in police custody, but the officer refused to elaborate.

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Kerry Sees Plan to Call Up New Reserves After Nov. 2
By ELISABETH BUMILLER and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: September 18, 2004

ALBUQUERQUE, Sept. 17 - Senator John Kerry on Friday accused the Bush administration of secretly planning a mobilization of Army Reserve and National Guard units immediately after the election.

At the same time, Mr. Kerry harshly attacked Vice President Dick Cheney for his financial ties to Halliburton, which has billions of dollars of government contracts in Iraq.

Mr. Kerry made his attacks as President Bush said for the first time that he planned to pull American troops out of Iraq as soon as Iraqi forces were trained to defend themselves and the country was "on the path to stability."

Officials of the Kerry campaign cited Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, as their source for information on the call-up plan.

"Hide it from the people, then make the move," Mr. Kerry told a town hall forum here.

In a statement and a telephone interview, Mr. Murtha, the top Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said that he had learned of the plan through conversations with Pentagon officials and that there was a "handshake deal" between officials at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the administration to delay the call-ups until after Nov. 2.

A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, denied any such secret plans, adding that the coming deployment of thousands of Reserve and National Guard troops was part of a normal rotation of forces to Iraq and Afghanistan, and that units were given enough notice. [...]

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Reports: NKorea attempted to import toxic chemical
September 18, 2004 

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea was stopped by South Korea last year from acquiring 70 tonnes of sodium cyanide, a toxic chemical used to make sarin nerve gas, officials and news reports said Saturday.

North Korea attempted to import the chemical from Thailand in September 2003 before South Korea persuaded Bangkok to stop the shipment, the mass-circulation daily Chosun Ilbo quoted Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon as telling a National Assembly hearing on Friday.
Thai officials confirmed the incident.

Sodium cyanide is normally used to make fertilizers and in industrial plating. But treated with acids, it can turn into sarin, a nerve agent that can cause loss of consciousness, paralysis and death.

An unidentified South Korean company sold around 338 tonnes of sodium cyanide to a Thai company in February 2002, Chosun said. The unidentified Thai firm then arranged to ship 70 tonnes of the chemical to North Korea.

South Korea eventually persuaded the Thai government to intervene, Chosun and other South Korean news reports said. [...]

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Indonesia: Editor's jail sentence threatens press freedom
17 September 2004

Handing down a jail sentence for a libel case has serious implications for press freedom in Indonesia, said Natalie Hill, deputy Asia director at Amnesty International, commenting on the jail sentence imposed on the chief editor of leading news magazine, Tempo.

"It is only since 1998 that media restrictions have been lifted in Indonesia," said Ms Hill. "This sentence is a move back in time to a situation where journalists are forced to censor themselves to avoid offending powerful political or economic interests."

Two other Tempo journalists were acquitted of libel in the same case. But Tempo's chief editor, Bambang Harymurti, was sentenced to one year in prison for an article that alleged that one of Indonesia’s most powerful businessmen, Tommy Wintata, stood to profit from a fire that had destroyed part of a textile market. The same article included a statement from Tommy Winata denying the allegation.

Bambang Harymurti is free pending appeal. Amnesty International hopes his prison sentence will be overturned by the high court. If imprisoned, Bambang Harymurti will be a prisoner of conscience.

The sentence against Bambang Harymurti contrasts with the court’s treatment of alleged supporters of Tommy Winata who physically attacked staff in Tempo’s office in protest at the article. One person was given a five months suspended prison sentence for the attack.

There are a growing number of cases in which criminal charges, including for defamation, are brought against journalists and others for exposing corruption, human rights abuses and other politically sensitive issues. Amnesty International believes that such cases are being used as a means to suppress freedom of expression.

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Convoy for Homeland Security
By Ryan Singel
02:00 AM Sep. 18, 2004 PT

Truck drivers across the country will soon be keeping their eyes peeled for more than just the right exit sign: They'll be looking for signs of terrorism which they can report to Homeland Security officials through a national hotline, thanks to a $21 million dollar federal grant announced on Tuesday.

The American Trucking Association, which runs Highway Watch, says the program's main focus is making sure no commercial truck is used as a weapon of mass destruction.

"You don't need to look any further than Oklahoma City to see what a truck full of explosives can do," ATA spokesman John Willard said.

The program has been around since 1998 in various states, but prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, it focused on creating a way for truckers to report accidents to police more quickly.

In 2002, the ATA instituted a national program with an increased focus on antiterrorism, and the Department of Homeland Security got involved in 2003 by giving the industry group a $19.3 million grant for 2004.

Somewhere between several thousand and 10,000 truckers have signed up for the program and been trained using the ATA's two-and-a-half-hour PowerPoint presentation already, according to Willard.

The group hopes to register 300,000 transportation workers by March of next year. Enrollees who spot an accident or a suspicious individual at a rest stop call a toll-free number answered by a national call center in Tennessee. Operators there then patch routine calls about unsafe traffic conditions or an accident directly to local authorities and dispatchers.

Ninety-nine percent of the hotline's calls are routine, safety-related incidents, according to Willard. But when a trucker calls in about suspicious behavior, such as someone taking pictures of vulnerable transportation infrastructure, the call center operator transfers the call to the Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center, co-run by the ATA and the Transportation Security Administration.

Officials there can then ask the driver for more information, pass along the information for further investigation and use the information to issue alerts. ATA is using the second round of grant money to upgrade its call center, publicize the program and update its training.

Highway Watch is also expanding under the new grant to include other transportation workers, including tollbooth agents, school bus drivers and highway maintenance workers.

Some civil libertarians are more than wary of the idea. Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the program "TIPS for Truckers," referring to the widely maligned Operation TIPS program that was proposed by the Justice Department in 2002.

That proposal would have created "a national system for concerned workers to report suspicious activity," which privacy advocates denounced as reminiscent of snitch brigades in Eastern Europe.

"I'm curious whether it is worth it and what kind of limits there are," Tien said. "These type(s) of programs are susceptible to abuse. So, if someone wants to make trouble for someone else, they call in a tip that makes a problem for that person."

Willard says comparing Highway Watch to TIPS is "irrelevant." "Drivers are in sole possession of their load the vast majority of the (time) so there is really no way of addressing terrorism and trucking without the participation of the truck driver," Willard said. "Our training focuses specifically on (the) transportation industry and we ask our drivers to focus on what is going on around them when they are on the road."

Willard noted that truckers using the system have already saved lives and improved emergency crews' response times.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

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Derailed train sets village on fire
Saturday, 18 September 2004

DHAKA: Firefighters struggled to put out a blaze on a train transporting petrol that derailed in northeastern Bangladesh yesterday, officials said.

The accident, near the industrial town of Fenchuganj in Sylhet province, set ablaze dozens of dwellings in a village close to the railroad. A spokesman for the state-run railways said the train was transporting 400,000 litres of petrol when the accident happened 340km northeast of Dhaka. At least two people suffered severe burns.

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'It was like the head of a dragon'; Continuing reports of mysterious creature swimming in North America's deepest lake
Nathan VanderKlippe
CanWest News Service
September 18, 2004

YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. - Somewhere in the murky depths of the continent's deepest lake, a monster lurks.

Jim Lynn is sure of it.

This week, the Roman Catholic priest was looking out from his home on the shores of Great Slave Lake near Yellowknife when he saw an object trailing a small boat across the water.

"I got the goggles because it was moving fast and I was kind of curious as to what it was," said Lynn, 66. "It was high, six to eight feet above the water and moving at an incredulous speed.

"It was like the head of a dragon -- just coming out of the water at just a ferocious speed, just moving like crazy."

Lynn watched as the creature, which looked green, hurtle behind an island, then disappear. He quickly called the Yellowknifer, a local newspaper, to place a advertisement asking the person on the lake that day to call him.

"I would think they would have felt the waves (from the creature)," he said.

Step aside, Nessie and Ogopogo, there's a new mystery leviathan on the block. And according to Chris Woodall, it's called Ol'Slavey.

Woodall, a Yellowknifer columnist, wrote earlier this summer that Great Slave Lake, with a maximum depth of 614 metres, hides some weird and wonderful creature.

To his surprise, his phone soon started ringing with calls from people who claimed to have seen just such a thing. He gave the creature the name Ol'Slavey, after one of the aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories.

It's a fitting name, since the Dene have many stories about an unknown creature in the waters.

When Antoine Michel was growing up in the traditional community of Lutsel K'e, about 200 kilometres east of Yellowknife, he was taught that a creature lived in the waters off Utsingi Point, about 80 kilometres southwest of the community. To appease the nameless creature, people boating by the point pass in silence and pay respect to the lake with tobacco offerings.

"We usually stop the motor and go around the point, paddle quietly," he said.

Years later, he saw the creature himself, on a calm moonlit night as he and his wife returned by boat from a caribou hunt.

"We seen a rock there. I thought it was a rock first time, there was seagulls around it," he said. "I just turned away from it, I didn't want to hit it, (then) it just went down. I felt the waves, and then I just took off. I didn't take a look back."

Boaters have seen strange creatures suddenly surfacing in the water in front of them. Lutsel K'e is near some of the deepest pockets in Great Slave Lake, a natural habitat for a beast of the depths.

Naysayers will say it's just a big fish, but northern divers who actually swim those waters say differently.

A decade ago, Arctic Divers was on a deep-water body retrieval near Lutsel K'e when one of its divers saw a terrifying beast.

"It looked much like an alligator, but with a head like a pike," said Wayne Gzowski, the company's district manager.

"I really do believe that there's unknown marine life in a lot of these areas," he said, in places that have never before been explored by humans.

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Earthquake swarm shakes remote area along eastern Sierra
The Associated Press
(September 18, 6:00 pm ADT)

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - A swarm of earthquakes - one a magnitude-5.5 - jolted a remote, sparsely populated area along the eastern Sierra Nevada on Saturday, authorities said.

A Mono County sheriff's dispatcher said there were no immediate reports of any injuries or damage from the temblors centered along the California-Nevada line about 30 miles northeast of Mammoth Lakes.

David Oppenheimer, a seismologist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, said most of the 70 quakes in the sequence that began 12:02 a.m. Saturday were magnitude-2 or less.

The magnitude-5.5 temblor that struck at 4:02 p.m. was followed by a magnitude-5.4 quake at 4:43 p.m., he said. The moderate quakes were the biggest in the swarm and the biggest on the fault in more than a decade.

"It's been quite a robust sequence," Oppenheimer said. "It's not clear how it'll play out. There could be more magnitude-5s or it could die off in an hour or two."

Some of the quakes were felt 35 miles away in Hawthorne, Nev.

"They (quakes) just felt like a hit and a rolling sensation," said Mineral County sheriff's dispatcher Lorraine Haight. "Of course, it's scary when you don't expect it."

Dennis Bauer of Lake Forest, Calif., was inside a small Mono Lake information center near Lee Vining when one of the temblors shook.

"It was like someone was leaning on the building and pushing it back and forth," he said.

The eastern Sierra has been a seismically active area. A similar sequence was centered in the same area over a one-week period in 1980, Oppenheimer said. The activity died down in 1984 before picking up again in 1992.

"For whatever reasons this fault seems to make a lot of noise," Oppenheimer said. "It pops off every once in a while."

The Great Basin that covers most of Nevada and Utah is pulling part, causing the quakes, he said.

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Japanese volcano calmer after five straight day of eruptions
September 18, 2004

TOKYO (AP) - One of Japan's most active volcanoes appears to be quieter after nearly a week of eruptions, the Meteorological Agency said Saturday.

Mount Asama, about 150 kilometres west of Tokyo, has been rumbling for five straight days -since Tuesday -and continues to blow gray smoke and volcanic ash some 1,200 metres into the air, the agency said.

But its eruptions and tremors have become less frequent, with only about 11 tiny eruptions and some five dozen tremors recorded by gauges on the mountain Saturday morning, the agency said.

Until now, the volcanic eruptions had been nearly continuous and the tremors, too small for people to feel, had been as frequent as 1,000 a day.

On Friday, volcanic ash dusted downtown Tokyo, scattered by winds across a wide area southeast of the 2,568-metre mountain. Small amounts were detected in the capital for the first time since an April 26, 1982, eruption.

The agency maintained its activity rating for Mount Asama at three on a scale of five, meaning more small-to-medium eruptions could occur.
In the mountain's biggest eruption in 21 years, on Sept. 1, it poured molten rock, ash and smoke down its slopes.

No injuries have been reported.

Japan has 108 active volcanoes and lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire -a string of volcanoes and fault lines outlining the Pacific Ocean.

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Deaths of seabirds in Alaska baffling to biologists
Associated Press
Sept. 17, 2004 12:05 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Biologists remain baffled by the death of hundreds of seabirds in early July at False Pass in the eastern Aleutian Islands.

The die-off of more than 250 puffins, cormorants, kittiwakes, seagulls and eiders may have been caused by bacteria, parasites, marine biotoxins or unusual virus, said Dr. Rex Sohn, wildlife disease specialist for the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. Tests have shown no evidence of West Nile virus, Sohn told the Anchorage Daily News.

Other test results are still to come in, but it is possible the cause will not be found, he said.

"That's not uncommon in wildlife diseases," Sohn said. "We don't have people out there that can tell us what the birds were doing in the two, three, five days before they died. Were they at False Pass or somewhere else? What were they eating? ... We don't have the histories on these birds."

On the July Fourth weekend, False Pass residents found dead birds washed up on the beach and floating in the strait beyond the village.

Tammy Shellikoff, assistant administrator of the False Pass Tribal Council, said she counted "over 250, but that didn't cover all of the birds floating in the water."

More tufted puffins died than other species.

"That caused a lot of heartache because the puffins normally survive well," Shellikoff said. "We just didn't know what was going on. Was this something we were going to have as a longtime problem?"

The die-off appeared to end as suddenly as it began.

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Magnitude 5.0 Earthquake - BRISTOL BAY [Alaska]
USGS
2004 September 19 10:44:10 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 10:44:10 (UTC) on Sunday, September 19, 2004. The magnitude 5.0 event has been located in BRISTOL BAY.

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Magnitude 5.5 Quake - NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN
USGS
2004 September 18 07:07:48 UTC
A moderate earthquake occurred at 07:07:48 (UTC) on Saturday, September 18, 2004. The magnitude 5.5 event has been located in the NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN, 536 km (333 miles) NNW (344°) from SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico.

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Multiple Earthquakes in Central California
USGS
2004 September 18
Magnitude 5.5 - CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

A moderate earthquake occurred at 23:02:17 (UTC) on Saturday, September 18, 2004. The magnitude 5.5 event has been located in CENTRAL CALIFORNIA. The hypocentral depth was estimated to be 8 km ( 5 miles).

Magnitude 5.4 - CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

A moderate earthquake occurred at 23:43:31 (UTC) on Saturday, September 18, 2004. The magnitude 5.4 event has been located in CENTRAL CALIFORNIA. The hypocentral depth was estimated to be 11 km ( 7 miles).

In the past two days, the same general area in central California has been struck by about 60 more earthquakes, ranging in magnitude from 2.0 to 4.8.

Southern and central Alaska and Nevada have also been struck by a few small earthquakes during this same period of time.

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Magnitude 4.8 Quake - PYRENEES
USGS
2004 September 18 12:52:16 UTC

A light earthquake occurred at 12:52:16 (UTC) on Saturday, September 18, 2004. The magnitude 4.8 event has been located in PYRENEES. The hypocentral depth was poorly constrained.

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Ivan's Flooding Forces New Evacuations
By LAWRENCE MESSINA, Associated Press Writer
September 19, 2004

WHEELING, W.Va. - Hundreds of people evacuated their homes Sunday in parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania as rivers and small streams were swollen beyond their banks by the torrential rain dumped by remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

The Ohio River inundated parts of Wheeling and other West Virginia river towns, as well as communities on Ohio's shore, and the Delaware River flooded parts of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

In addition to flooding, more than 1.2 million homes and businesses were still without electricity early Sunday from Florida to Pennsylvania because of Ivan, utilities estimated.

The hurricane and its remnants had been blamed for at least 50 deaths in the United States, 19 of them in Florida, and 70 deaths in the Caribbean.

West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise asked President Bush on Sunday to declare eight northern counties federal disaster areas. "The Northern Panhandle clearly has been devastated and meets the threshold," Wise said after flying over the region.

The Ohio River crested Sunday at Wheeling at about 8.5 feet above flood stage, more than 2 feet below the forecast, but it had already submerged the city's riverfront park and amphitheater, and mostly covered the city's midriver Wheeling Island, which holds residential neighborhoods and Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming.

Wise spent the night with evacuees on the gym floor at Wheeling Park High, one of several Red Cross shelter sites, after a brief tour of the area by road.

"I saw mobile homes uprooted and tossed downstream," he said. "I saw human lives uprooted."

Downriver, residents had been urged to evacuate parts of Moundsville, and big flood gates were closed at Parkersburg.

All around West Virginia, flooding and mudslides had blocked 207 roads and damaged hundreds of houses, authorities said.

About 1,700 people were out of their homes Sunday in eastern Ohio, where the Ohio River was rising to at least 6 feet above flood level, authorities said.

In Ohio's Jefferson County, mudslides and flooding closed a section of highway along the river, said a deputy who would not give his name. And in the southeastern Ohio city of Marietta, streets were underwater near the river, but no details were available Sunday morning, an emergency dispatcher said.

Hundreds of New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents fled their homes along the Delaware River on Sunday. Several bridges that cross the Delaware between the two states were blocked by high water, and emergency officials said the river was not expected to crest until evening.

At Phillipsburg, N.J., state police helicopters were used to monitor a propane tank and a house that were floating down the river, authorities said.

"It was one of the most amazing things I've seen," said Sgt. Gerald Lewis.

The central Pennsylvania city of Williamsport collected 6.5 inches of rain in 24 hours Friday, and Pittsburgh got a record 5.95 inches. Some areas of Pennsylvania reported up to 9 inches, state officials said.

The Susquehanna River was nearly 8 feet above flood stage Sunday morning at Bloomsburg, Pa., the National Weather Service said. Dozens of homes in Scranton and Old Forge were evacuated as well as the western tip of Bloomsburg. The Susquehanna had forced hundreds from their homes in Jersey Shore, between Williamsport and Lock Haven.

In western Pennsylvania, the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers crested Saturday night at 6 feet above flood stage at Pittsburgh, where they join to form the Ohio River. That was a half-foot lower and two hours sooner than forecast.

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Ivan Spawns Twisters
Saturday, Sep. 18, 2004 - 4:45 PM
Officials spread out across Maryland and Virginia on Saturday to survey damage done by Tropical Depression Ivan, which spawned tornadoes and dumped rain on an already-saturated area.

Despite the damage, the area seemed to escape much of the severe precipitation, flash flooding, and mudslides that Friday's storms were predicted to bring. But plenty of people lost power.

Virginia-Dominion Power spokeswoman Leha Anderson says winds have been blowing steadily at speeds of about 25 miles per hour with occasional higher wind gusts since early Saturday morning. That's knocking down tree limbs and disrupting service from Arlington to Springfield. Anderson says there are also outages in Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church and Leesburg.

Anderson says although service was restored to most areas that suffered outages because of tornadoes last night, there are still about 20,000 customers without service because of the relatively high winds today. As crews restore service in some areas, additional calls about outages and downed lines continue to come in.

More than 40 tornadoes were reported in Virginia during the storms, but were yet to be confirmed officially, said Dawn Eischen, spokeswoman for the state Department of Emergency Management. The National Weather Service was investigating, she said.

"They're doing damage assessments in different localities that have had tornadoes and damage, and are sending reports to us," Eischen said.

The National Weather Service is sorting through three more in Maryland. Despite a large amount of property damage, only a few people were injured. Fauquier County reported two injuries, Frederick County reported two and Fairfax County one, Eischen said.

National Guard units have been mobilized in Virginia, where Governor Mark Warner declared the third weather-related state of emergency in almost five weeks. [...]

Lightning from Ivan may be responsible for a hangar fire at Leesburg Municipal Airport. The blaze heavily damaged one hangar and spread to a second building, while destroying one private plane and damaging another. Despite the loss of planes and hangar buildings, Leesburg airport officials reported no injuries to staff. The damage estimate is expected to go well over a quarter of a million dollars. [...]

Heavy rain fell in many parts of already waterlogged Virginia with more forecast through Saturday. The National Weather Service posted flood watches for 42 localities in the state. [...]

Tornados also struck Western Maryland. A tornado tore the roofs off two houses in Frederick County Friday, and at least two more confirmed twisters struck the area. No injuries were reported.

Trees and power lines were downed, and the entire state was under a flood watch through Saturday. [...]

In Washington County, funnel clouds were reported near the state prison complex south of Hagerstown. A tree landed on a house in the area, causing a partial collapse, said Verna Brown of the county's emergency management coordinator.

He said any flash flooding of smaller streams appeared to be most likely in the western mountains, where up to 6 inches of rain were expected to fall through Saturday.

The weather threat prompted the National Park Service to cancel two Civil War re-enactor encampments planned for Saturday night near Sharpsburg. One was to have been held at the Ferry Hill Plantation on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The other was planned in conjunction with a scrapped torchlight tour of the Antietam National Battlefield. [...]

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And Finally...

Minneapolis Man Is World's First Astral Travel Agent

Wireless Flash
September 17, 2004
MINNEAPOLIS -- A travel agent in Minneapolis is a real trip himself.

Jack Dunamis claims to be the world's only "astral travel agent" and helps tourists select appropriate vacation spots by reading their energy fields and then mentally transporting himself to the location they want to go, before they go.

For instance, Dunamis had one client planning to visit the Hawaiian island of Kauai but convinced him to go to the big island instead "because he wouldn't have a good time because [Kauai is] where the kahunas practice black magic."

Dunamis says he can also determine which vacation spots are most conducive to fun, adventure and romantic encounters.

Each astral consultation costs about $60 an hour, but Danamis considers it money well-spent, especially since he's able to figure out if a client had a past life in a proposed vacation spot and help them avoid negative reincarnation experiences while on holiday.

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