Signs Supplement: The Suicide Bombing Cycle
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
The Green Fields of France
Iraqi kidnapping has the mark of an undercover police operation
When Simona Torretta returned to Baghdad in March 2003, in the
midst of the "shock and awe" aerial bombardment, her Iraqi
friends greeted her by telling her she was nuts. "They were
just so surprised to see me. They said, 'Why are you coming here?
Go back to Italy. Are you crazy?'"
But Torretta didn't go back. She stayed throughout the invasion,
continuing the humanitarian work she began in 1996, when she first
visited Iraq with her anti-sanctions NGO, A Bridge to Baghdad. When
Baghdad fell, Torretta again opted to stay, this time to bring medicine
and water to Iraqis suffering under occupation. Even after resistance
fighters began targeting foreigners, and most foreign journalists
and aid workers fled, Torretta again returned. "I cannot stay
in Italy," the 29-year-old told a documentary film-maker.
Today, Torretta's life is in danger, along with the lives of her
fellow Italian aid worker Simona Pari, and their Iraqi colleagues
Raad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnouz Bassam. Eight days ago, the four
were snatched at gunpoint from their home/office in Baghdad and
have not been heard from since. In the absence of direct communication
from their abductors, political controversy swirls round the incident.
Proponents of the war are using it to paint peaceniks as naive,
blithely supporting a resistance that answers international solidarity
with kidnappings and beheadings. Meanwhile,
a growing number of Islamic leaders are hinting that the raid on
A Bridge to Baghdad was not the work of mujahideen, but of foreign
intelligence agencies out to discredit the resistance.
Nothing about this kidnapping fits the pattern
of other abductions. Most are opportunistic attacks on treacherous
stretches of road. Torretta and her colleagues were coldly hunted
down in their home. And while mujahideen in Iraq scrupulously hide
their identities, making sure to wrap their faces in scarves, these
kidnappers were bare-faced and clean-shaven, some in business suits.
One assailant was addressed by the others as "sir".
Kidnap victims have overwhelmingly been men, yet three of these
four are women. Witnesses say the gunmen questioned staff in the
building until the Simonas were identified by name, and that Mahnouz
Bassam, an Iraqi woman, was dragged screaming by her headscarf,
a shocking religious transgression for an attack supposedly carried
out in the name of Islam.
Most extraordinary was the size of the operation: rather than the
usual three or four fighters, 20 armed men
pulled up to the house in broad daylight, seemingly unconcerned
about being caught. Only blocks from the heavily patrolled Green
Zone, the whole operation went off
with no interference from Iraqi police or US military - although
Newsweek reported that "about 15 minutes afterwards, an American
Humvee convoy passed hardly a block away".
And then there were the weapons. The attackers were armed with
AK-47s, shotguns, pistols with silencers and stun guns - hardly
the mujahideen's standard-issue rusty Kalashnikovs. Strangest
of all is this detail: witnesses said that several attackers wore
Iraqi National Guard uniforms and identified themselves as working
for Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister.
An Iraqi government spokesperson denied that Allawi's
office was involved. But Sabah Kadhim, a spokesperson for the interior
ministry, conceded that the kidnappers "were wearing military
uniforms and flak jackets". So was this a kidnapping by the
resistance or a covert police operation? Or was it something worse:
a revival of Saddam's mukhabarat disappearances, when agents would
arrest enemies of the regime, never to be heard from again? Who
could have pulled off such a coordinated operation - and who stands
to benefit from an attack on this anti-war NGO?
On Monday, the Italian press began reporting on one possible answer.
Sheikh Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, from Iraq's leading Sunni cleric
organisation, told reporters in Baghdad that he received a visit
from Torretta and Pari the day before the kidnap. "They were
scared," the cleric said. "They told me that someone threatened
them." Asked who was behind the threats, al-Kubaisi replied:
"We suspect some foreign intelligence."
Blaming unpopular resistance attacks on CIA or
Mossad conspiracies is idle chatter in Baghdad, but coming from
Kubaisi, the claim carries unusual weight; he has ties with a range
of resistance groups and has brokered the release of several hostages.
Kubaisi's allegations have been widely reported
in Arab media, as well as in Italy, but have been absent from the
Western journalists are loath to talk about spies for fear of being
labelled conspiracy theorists. But spies
and covert operations are not a conspiracy in Iraq; they are a daily
reality. According to CIA deputy director James L Pavitt,
"Baghdad is home to the largest CIA
station since the Vietnam war", with 500 to 600 agents
on the ground. Allawi himself is a lifelong
spook who has worked with MI6, the CIA and the mukhabarat, specialising
in removing enemies of the regime.
A Bridge to Baghdad has been unapologetic in its opposition to
the occupation regime. During the siege of Falluja in April, it
coordinated risky humanitarian missions. US forces had sealed the
road to Falluja and banished the press as they prepared to punish
the entire city for the gruesome killings of four Blackwater mercenaries.
In August, when US marines laid siege to Najaf, A Bridge to Baghdad
again went where the occupation forces wanted no witnesses. And
the day before their kidnapping, Torretta and Pari told Kubaisi
that they were planning yet another high-risk mission to Falluja.
In the eight days since their abduction, pleas for their release
have crossed all geographical, religious and cultural lines. The
Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, the International Association
of Islamic Scholars and several Iraqi resistance groups have all
voiced outrage. A resistance group in Falluja said the kidnap suggests
collaboration with foreign forces. Yet some
voices are conspicuous by their absence: the White House and the
office of Allawi. Neither has said a word.
What we do know is this: if this hostage-taking ends in bloodshed,
Washington, Rome and their Iraqi surrogates will be quick to use
the tragedy to justify the brutal occupation - an occupation that
Simona Torretta, Simona Pari, Raad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnouz Bassam
risked their lives to oppose. And we will be left wondering whether
that was the plan all along.
Nobody has actually
seen Zarqawi since late 2001; everything we know since then has
been from prisoner confessions and statements issued by different
people claiming to be Zarqawi.
Neither the CIA, the FBI, nor the Defense Department have certified,
on the record, that any of these statements are likely from Zarqawi.
The horrible things being done in Iraq under the name of Zarqawi
are no laughing matter. The Iraq Intelligence Service is after him,
the followers of al Sadr are after him, the residents of Fallujah
are after him, the Shi’ite majority in Iraq are after him,
ten million Iraqis who could use the big US reward money are after
him, and two Iraqi resistance groups have pronounced a death sentence
on him. But nobody can find him. Why not? There are three possibilities:
1) The one-legged Jordanian thug who is semi-literate, threatens
Shi’ites, and is a squat fellow with tattoos on his arms,
is the most elusive super-villain ever -- an inspiration to the
next generation of thugs.
2) The real Zarqawi is long dead, but a composite Zarqawi who is
literate, urbane, has been created by Iraqi resistance groups who
seek to terrorize the United States and the puppet government they
have set up in Iraq -- an inspiration to the next generation of
3) The real Zarqawi is long dead, but a literate, tall fellow with
two legs and no tattoos on his arms has been created by US military
intelligence as a straw man to justify everything about the Iraq
war. However, a rogue group has hijacked the US Zarqawi identity
and is responsible for the beheadings -- an inspiration to copycats
and future groups to do the same.
An analysis of the audio messages delivered by the four different
“Zarqawis” indicates the third scenario to be the most
likely, given the distinctly American and non-Arabic expressions
and themes in the various statements.
The strange case of Marine Corporal Hassoun, who went missing June
21 between Baghdad and Fallujah, then appeared in a hostage video
with a sword at his head, adds to the mystery of the Zarqawis. The
Marines intensified their efforts to bomb the hell out of Zarqawi
“safe houses” in Fallujah, not caring if the missing
marine was held in one of the houses. That bizarre behavior on the
part of the USMC makes it seem as though they wanted Hassoun dead.
When Hassoun disappeared, so did the voice of one of the Zarqawis
– Zarqawi of the Nick Berg and Kim Sun-il videos (same voice,
same person in both videos). A different Zarqawi released a 16-minute
statement on the same day the Kim Sun video was released (June 22).
Different voice, no mention of Kim Sun or of a marine hostage.
If the Berg & Kim Sun Zarqawi makes another statement (same
voice) in a way that can be proven to be from Iraq (rather than,
say, North Carolina), that would really clear suspicion from Hassoun.
Or, here’s an idea with no chance of happening: if the real
Zarqawi were found (or made a video statement of himself, unmasked)
we could determine which, if any, of the 4 Iraq Zarqawis is the
real Zark without the CIA’s white smoke/black smoke method
of authenticating statements.
- "These are not weapons, which can be used at the Palestinian
front. Security sources report that Israel could use the "Bunker
Breakers" against Iran or possibly Syria, thereby confirming
a report in the newspaper "Haaretz". Neither the US Embassy
in Israel nor the Israeli Ministry of Defense were willing to comment.
"Bunker Breakers" are bombs which weight about one ton,
are able to penetrate deep into the ground and to pierce up to two
meter thick concrete walls. These could possibly enable Israel to
destroy Iranian underground atomic plants.
According to "Haaretz" the pentagon justification for
the sales of the weapons to the US congress was the necessity for
the Israeli military to preserve its "Qualitative Advantage"
in the region. This also serves the strategic and tactical interests
of the United States.
From Israeli government circles it was reported that the arms deal
went through without any political difficulties, although Israel
had already been strongly criticized internationally for the use
of precision bombs in the liquidation of Hamas leaders.
According to the newspaper report, the transaction, worth a total
of $139 million, will not be finalized before the US presidential
election on November 2nd. According to the newspaper report, Israel
wants to buy 4500 more guided weapons in addition to the 500 bunker
In 1981 Israel had destroyed the building site of the Iraqi atomic
reactor "Osirak" with a surprise air raid in order to
prevent Iraq from building nuclear weapons. The USA now accuses
Iran of hiding the building of nuclear weapons behind its civilian
atomic program. Iran denies this and has continuously insisted that
its program only serves the generation of electric power.
On Sunday Iran rejected the demand of the International Atomic
Energy Authority (IAEA) to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
Today the work began for the enrichment of uranium. Vice-president
Resa Aghasadeh explained that the first successful tests for the
transformation of natural uranium to the gaseous uranium hexafluoride
had been completed.
This material can be concentrated in centrifuges so much that it
can used as fuel for atomic power plants but also for the building
of explosive atomic devices. Some of the more than 40 tons of available
natural uranium had already been used for the transformation, Aghasadeh
told journalists in Vienna. The Iranian government insists that
it needs the uranium enrichment technology for the generation of
WASHINGTON — Federal officials are increasingly
concerned that a terrorist attack is being planned for the weeks prior
to the Nov. 2 presidential election.
"Every day there
is new information that raises the level of anxiety," said
one law enforcement official who declined to be identified. The
concern, based on intelligence reporting of multiple sources, is
that the plots or plot may be in the final stages of planning —
and ready to be executed at any time, the official said.
On Sept. 13, Attorney General John Ashcroft held a conference call
with U.S. attorneys throughout the nation, according to senior federal
law enforcement officials.
During that call, Ashcroft warned them of the possibility of a
major terror attack on U.S. soil in upcoming weeks. Law enforcement
throughout the country were to be made aware of this concern.
Law enforcement officials are drastically increasing their efforts
to track down potential terrorists, and have been ordered to press
their sources and conduct interviews with anyone who may be potentially
connected to terrorism.
"We're asking law enforcement officers to vigorously find
any legitimate reason to arrest people we believe could be involved
in terrorist activity, such as go after them for visa violations
and deport them," one official said, who described the overall
effort as one of "shaking the trees."
Senior officials said they "absolutely believe"
someone will attempt a terror attack inside the United States within
the next four to six weeks. One official described this time "as
a very, very serious period."
"I have not seen people in our intelligence communities this
nervous since 9/11," one official said, referring to the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks on the United States that killed almost 3,000
Officials said they believe they "disrupted" at least
one major plot by some recent arrests, but fear they may not have
"derailed" this plot and possibly two others.
"We will need some luck and the grace
of God to prevent this one," one official said, explaining
that again they have no specifics as to the exact time and place
or clear method. They have some intelligence suggesting a
truck bomb or some type of bomb may be used.
U.S. officials said they are getting intelligence from a variety
of sources, including some people who've been arrested but are now
talking. The information will lead to some visible activity in the
next 10 days to two weeks, such as a rounding up of individuals
who may be tied to terrorism.
Undercover government investigators smuggled
explosives and weapons past security staff at 15 airports in the
US, it emerged today.
A Department of Homeland Security official described the performance
of security screeners as “poor” in the report obtained
by the newspaper, USA Today.
Clark Kent Ervin, the department’s inspector general, said
the tests were done during the second half of 2003.
Explosives-detectors were installed at US airports in the wake
of September 11, to screen checked baggage.
But hand luggage is rarely checked.
Republican congressman John Mica, chairman of a House aviation
subcommittee, said the number of times inspectors
were able to evade bomb-detectors in the tests was “absolutely
The performance of screeners at spotting weapons was “bad
enough”, he added.
Another government investigation last year found
that undercover agents were able to get guns, knives and box cutters
past security staff.
“Unfortunately, it may take some horrific wake-up call to
get attention,” Mr Mica said.
Mr Ervin blamed poor training, management and technology within
the Transportations Security Administration for the failures.
WASHINGTON - U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft
has urged federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials to keep
up efforts to thwart a possible attack by al Qaeda in the weeks
leading up to the November election.
Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General James Comey took the unusual
step of holding a conference call with all 93 U.S. Attorneys last
week for a "pep talk" to urge them not to let down their
guard in light of a potential terror threat, a senior Justice Department
official said on Thursday.
The official, who took part in the call, said Ashcroft and Comey
reiterated concerns that top U.S. officials have been voicing since
the spring -- that al Qaeda may try to attack the United States
in the run up to the November election.
"Given that the intelligence was pegged to an attack between
now and the election, the closer we get to the election, obviously
the smaller the window gets and the greater our concern gets,"
said the official.
"We are engaged in a full-court press in
every corner of the country to try to detect and disrupt the attack
that we're worried about. And this is part of that -- enlisting
the U.S. attorneys."
The official said Ashcroft was concerned that some prosecutors
and law enforcement officials may have let their guard down because
there had been so many terror alerts.
"It was a pep talk," he said. "We're pushing energy
into the system."
He said state and local police were also urged to stay alert and
be on the lookout for any possible terror suspects.
"We need to make sure everybody understands
that this is not a New York or a (Washington) D.C. thing, this is
an everywhere thing," he said.
Arizona Democrats raked in more than $1 million
Wednesday night at a fund-raiser headlined by Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Heinz Kerry criticized the Bush administration on tax cuts, Iraq
and the war on terrorism at the event, which was held at the Arizona
Biltmore Resort & Spa.
In regard to the hunt for terror leader Osama Bin Laden, Heinz
Kerry said she could see the al-Qaida chief being caught before
the November election.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared
in the next month," said Heinz Kerry, alluding to a possible
capture by United States and allied forces before election day.
LOS ANGELES - The head of the Police Department's
counterterrorism bureau was detained by federal authorities Thursday
after trying to board a flight at Los Angeles International Airport
with a loaded handgun in his carryon luggage.
John Miller, an ABC-TV reporter before he was hired for the security
job, was off duty and heading to New York with his family when Transportation
Security Administration officials discovered the .38-caliber handgun
in his bag, TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said.
Miller is authorized to carry the weapon, but failed to disclose
he was traveling with the gun.
Police Chief William Bratton said he spoke with Miller, who was
"extraordinarily embarrassed" by the incident.
"It's a human mistake that was made," Bratton said. "John
is certainly wishing it didn't happen.
Miller was briefly detained before he and his family were permitted
to board their scheduled flight. The gun was confiscated.
"He knows the airport procedures. ... He didn't realize he
had it," said Lt. Horace Frank, an aide to Miller. "It
was an oversight."
Miller was on his way to New York to tape a farewell
message to ABC's Barbara Walters, who is retiring. Before joining
the LAPD, Miller co-anchored the network's "20/20" news
magazine with Walters.
Bratton, who hired Miller as his spokesman
when he was New York City police commissioner, then recruited him
to come to Los Angeles, ordered an administrative investigation.
He said he had no doubt that Miller made a simple mistake.
Under federal rules, Miller could be fined up to $3,000.
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Two brothers serving in
the military and a third man exploded a small bomb inside a McDonald's
because they were angry over a bad milkshake, officials said. No
one was hurt and damage to the restaurant was minor.
Pedro Garza, 19; Joshua Hackey, 19; and Nathaniel Hackey, 21;
were arrested Saturday on felony charges of making and discharging
a destructive device. The older Hackey is
in the Army and his brother is in the Coast Guard, the Polk County
Sheriff's Office said.
"One of the guys said they got a bad milkshake, and they played
a prank on them," sheriff's Maj. Sammy Taylor said.
Investigators say the men mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum
foil in a plastic soda bottle as they sat at a table Friday evening
near the restaurant's restrooms. They then capped the bottle, put
it on the table and left before it exploded at 10:45 p.m. Friday.
A customer sitting 10 feet away wasn't hit by the splashing chemicals.
"It's a stupid prank, and they weren't thinking," she
said. "I've had calls from them already, and they said they
wish they could turn back the hands of time."
Baine said her brothers are "two good kids," who had
never been in trouble with the law. [...]
The 2004 Republican National Convention, recently
held in New York City, painted a picture of America with which I
am totally unfamiliar. It reminded me of a Picasso, where some parts
seem normal, but the painting as a whole, with its multiple eyes,
breasts, and disjointed arrangements, bears little resemblance to
reality. It was much more like what I see in my dreams after one
too many trips to the Mexican buffet.
A plethora of moderate GOP speakers extolled the dubious ‘virtues’
of extending BushCo’s Presidency four more years and turncoat
Democrat Zell Miller provided the hate in a rant I’m still
trying to figure out. John McCain, Rudy Guiliani, and Ah-nold must
have all either sold their collective souls to the Devil or gotten
a very deep group discount at Lobotomies R’ Us. How else to
explain the fact that these guys display only the slightest ideological
similarity to the neo-conservative cabal in the White House and
that the GOP’s rosy vision of America is a cherry-picked patchwork
of misleading statistics, gross distortions, ludicrous projections,
pie-eyed naiveté, and bald-faced lies?
Bush didn’t want to go to war?! Who’re they kidding?
That screaming cat clawed its way out of the burlap many months
ago when Paul O’Neill confirmed that BushCo pushed to invade
Iraq minutes after they were illegally installed. Unless you’re
so deluded you’re still buying into ‘Saddam left us
no choice but to attack him’, this is a real country knee-slapper.
The economy is ‘strong and getting stronger’?! Outsourcing
is good for Americans?! Yeah, the economy boomed in the 80’s,
too, thanks to Reagan’s misguided ‘trickle on’
economic philosophy. His massive deficit spending and total fiscal
irresponsibility are being reenacted again for all to see –
only this time it’s worse. Just as it took a Democratic President
to rein in Reagan/Bush’s runaway debt, only a prompt ousting
of these corporate-loving warmongers can save us from either total
economic ruin or morphing into a feudal state where a huge menially
employed lower class obediently, compliantly, and thankfully serves
the teeny portion of super-wealthy mostly white FORs (Friends of
We’re winning the ‘war on terror’?! Just another
cruel right-wing joke the over 1,030 American dead soldiers and
Marines aren’t laughing at. Recently, on HBO’s ‘Real
Time with Bill Maher’, some nitwit GOP Congressman literally
scoffed at the claim Bush’s illegal invasion has not only
encouraged terrorism, but filled terrorist rosters to popping. Anyone
with functioning brain cells knows that Al-Qaeda’s beating
wannabe suicide bombers off with a stick. Where this Congressman
gets his misinformation is anybody’s guess (I’m thinking
FOX). All you hand-wringers and peaceniks are just plain wrong –
so there. Nyah!! Can’t say Republicans don’t love living
The sad part is the rank-and-file Republicans who support balanced
budgets, wars that end, don’t want to amend the Constitution,
care about the environment, ensuring healthcare to everyone, and
honestly think about the hazardous direction America is taking are
yet again being hood-winked into believing that the murderers in
the White House have suddenly had a change of heart and are gravitating
toward political moderation. The right-wing party flacks inundating
the ‘news’ and ‘talk’ shows are now saying
we don’t need an amendment defining marriage, that they give
a rat’s ass about the disappearing middle class, job outsourcing,
corporate welfare, and tax havens for millionaires.
Bush himself has since said that ‘the war on terror cannot
be won’, but that nevertheless ‘we will prevail’.
I didn’t hear a single charge of flip-flopping, incompetence,
or lying. Maybe his supporters in the right-wing conservative media
machine figure he’s such a huge moron, he’s entitled
to hugely moronic mistakes. Probably, he just misread the teleprompter.
Whatever the case, similar stories routinely vanish down the Orwellian
memory hole, while faux-news people strengthen their viewers’
ignorance and once-respectable public servants like John McCain
tightly hold their noses and back Bush with a hug.
Sadder still is the ‘bounce’ BushCo got after the
Convention. The RNC changed no facts about the world. Things were
every bit as bad after as before (probably worse), but according
to polls, a significant number of people now believe that Bush is
better for the country than Kerry. Yes, Iraq is still a quagmire.
Yes, we’ve left the 1,000 dead soldier mark far behind. Yes,
the economy sucks and is getting suck-ier. Yes, jobs are still speedily
running overseas. Yes, corporations are still making more than ever.
Yes, our international relations are still their weakest ever.
Yes, the Republicans are still controlled by right-wing fascists.
Yes, they still pander to our basest instincts. Yes, they still
lie every time they open their mouths.
Their convention’s huge success is a testament to both the
power of self-righteous propaganda and the malleability of not-too-bright
Republicans. Thanks to their nationally televised hate-and-lie-fest,
more people are more deluded than ever before.
Today, President Bush and interim Prime Minister
Ayad Allawi present the Fantasyland version of Iraq to Congress
and the American people. Intelligence analysts, top military
officials, international observers and leading GOP senators all
agree that Iraq sits on the precipice of disaster unless the president
takes immediate action. Yet President Bush and the American-installed
Allawi keep on smiling as the ship sinks beneath them. Everyone
wants to see Iraq succeed and become a functioning democracy. The
question remains, how do you get there – by recognizing reality
or denying it?
• Iraq remains dangerously unstable
and risks falling into greater chaos. The number of
Iraqi insurgents has quadrupled over the past year. Insurgent attacks
on U.S. forces are up 20 percent since the spring and 100 percent
since last winter. Entire Iraqi cities, such as Fallujah and parts
of the Sunni Triangle, have fallen to insurgent control. Even the
highly fortified Green Zone in Baghdad is no longer fully secured.
• Reconstruction efforts have virtually
stalled. Iraqi elections scheduled for January may have
to be postponed due to the deteriorating security situation. Iraq's
main power plant produces less than half the electricity it did
before the start of the war. The administration recently announced
that 20 percent of reconstruction funds would have to be shifted
to basic security measures, and probably more in order for elections
to take place next January.
• American troops and the Iraqi people
deserve better. Iraq will never succeed as a nation
unless President Bush and Iraqi leaders come clean about mounting
security failures. Pretending the situation in Iraq is getting
better – when the facts show the exact opposite – will
only make matters worse moving forward.
Daily Talking Points is a product of the American Progress Action
BAGHDAD A virulent form of hepatitis that
is especially lethal for pregnant women has broken out in two of
Iraq's most troubled districts, Iraqi Health Ministry officials
said in interviews here this week, and they warned that a collapse
of water and sewage systems in the country is probably at the root
of the illnesses.
The disease, called Hepatitis E, is caused by a virus that is often
spread by sewage-contaminated drinking water.
The officials said that their limited ability to test for the virus
had already been overwhelmed by the hepatitis outbreaks, suggesting
that only a fraction of the actual cases have been diagnosed.
But in Sadr City, a Baghdad slum that for months has been convulsed
by gun battles between a local militia and American troops, as many
as 155 cases have turned up.
The second outbreak is in Mahmudiya, a town 56 kilometers, or 35
miles, south of Baghdad that is known as much for its kidnappings
and drive-by shootings as for its poverty, where 60 suspected cases
have been seen. At least nine pregnant women are believed to have
been infected, and one has died. There have been five reported deaths
overall. "We are saying that the real
number is greatly more than this, because the area is greatly underreported,"
said Dr. Atta-alla Mekhlif al-Salmani, head of the viral hepatitis
section at the Health Ministry's Center of Disease Control.
The World Health Organization is rushing Hepatitis E testing kits,
water purification tablets, informational brochures and other materials
to Iraq to help with the outbreaks, said Dr. Naeema al-Gasseer,
the health agency representative for Iraq and a UN health official,
who is now based in Amman, Jordan.
But viral hepatitis comes in numerous forms, and
another ominous set of statistics suggests that the quality of water
supplies around the country has deteriorated since the American-led
invasion last year, Salmani said. In 2003, there were 70 percent
more cases of hepatitis of all types reported across Iraq than in
the year before, he said.
During the first six months of 2004, there were
as many cases as in all of 2002.
In yet another indication of the deteriorating
safety of both water and food in Iraq, the number of reported cases
of typhoid fever is up sharply this year, said Dr. Nima S. Abid,
the ministry's director general of public health and primary health.
Hospitals across the country are also full of children with severe
forms of diarrhea, Abid said.
The reports have come just as the Bush administration has proposed
shifting $3.46 billion in reconstruction money for Iraq to programs
that would train and equip tens of thousands of additional security
forces. The training would include police officers, border guards
and national guardsmen in hopes of regaining control of a security
situation that has spiraled out of control. The shift would have
to be approved by Congress.
The financing transfer would gut what had
been an ambitious program to rebuild Iraq's crumbling water and
sewage systems, forcing the cancellation or delay of most of the
projects that had been planned. Last autumn, Congress approved
$18.4 billion for Iraq's reconstruction. So far, only about $1 billion
has been spent.
"The problem is the whole infrastructure," Abid said
of the mounting health problems. Abid added that many of them stemmed
from neglect that began long before last year's invasion. But he
said: "Definitely no major intervention has been done in this
last one and a half years to repair the problem."
Viral hepatitis comes in numerous forms and with a variety of different
consequences, from benign to fatal. The most common type, Hepatitis
A, can be spread from person to person or through contaminated water.
Like all forms of the disease, it infects liver cells and can cause
jaundice and other symptoms, but once a recovery is made there is
often no permanent damage, said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman
of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University
Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
Hepatitis E is most dangerous for pregnant
women, who can lose their unborn children and die from the disease,
Schaffner said. The World Health Organization and other health
agencies are currently battling large outbreaks of Hepatitis E among
thousands of displaced people in the Darfur region of Sudan and
among refugees across the border in Chad.
The immediate reason for the outbreaks in Sadr City and Mahmudiya
appear to be easy to pin down, Abid said. The lack of infrastructure
induces families to tap into water mains with improvised hoses,
he said, citing his own visits to the communities. They then use
small electric pumps to bring water into their homes.
But in these same communities, sewage either seeps
from damaged pipes into the ground or runs freely in the streets.
So, through cracks and holes in people's hoses, sewage is sucked
in too, becoming mixed with the drinking water and spreading the
"The problem is that there is a leakage in the sewer system
of Sadr," said an assistant to the director general for water
in the Baghdad municipality. "Our treatment plant produces
water with WHO specifications," said the assistant, who asked
to be identified only as Khalid, "and our test records are
The assistant said that there had been a major
water project under way for Sadr City, but that the dangerous security
situation had made it impossible to proceed.
BAGHDAD - Eight telecom employees became the
latest victims of Iraq's kidnapping epidemic, as Iraqi Prime Minister
Iyad Allawi was adamant January polls remained on target although
US officials warned that violence could exclude some provinces.
The life of British engineer Kenneth Bigley, meanwhile, was still
hanging in the balance Friday, as London stood firm and refused
to negotiate with his Islamist captors despite heart-rending pleas
from the hostage's family.
Two Egyptian engineers named as Mustafa Abdel Latif and Mahmud
Turki, working for Egypt's telecom giant Orascom, were snatched
at gunpoint from their central Baghdad office on Thursday night,
an interior ministry spokesman said.
"Last night at 10:00 pm (1800 GMT), armed men in a BMW drove
up to their offices in the Harithiya district and kidnapped them,"
the spokesman said Friday.
A foreign employee with Orascom said it was possible they were
taken from their home.
The employee told AFP that another six technicians working for
the local Iraqna operator licensed by Orascom were snatched on Wednesday
near the restive city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad. [...]
The abductions were the latest of close to
150 kidnappings of foreigners reported in Iraq since April 2004.
At least two Egyptians have been executed in recent weeks and two
others captured and released.
Meanwhile, there was no word on the whereabouts of Bigley since
the Al-Qaeda-linked group holding him released a video of the 62-year-old
Englishman begging British Prime Minister Tony Blair to meet the
demands of his captors. [...]
According to an Iraqi government report quoted in the Iraqi press
on Thursday, the extremist Islamist organisation is headquartered
in Fallujah, a theocratic enclave west of Baghdad that has become
a no-go zone for US troops.
The city poses the most serious obstacle to the
holding of nationwide elections, but Allawi was adamant during his
meetings with US officials in Washington on Thursday that the vote
would go ahead as scheduled in January.
"I know that some have speculated, even doubted whether this
(January election) date can be met," Allawi told US lawmakers.
"So let me be absolutely clear. Elections will occur in Iraq
on time in January because Iraqis want elections on time."
US President George W. Bush acknowledged that "terrorist violence
may well escalate as the January elections draw near" and cautioned
the Iraqi government and its allies against lowering their guard.
But US defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was more explicit in formulating
reservations over the likelihood of a full-fledged ballot in four
"Let's say you tried to have an election and
you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country,
but some places you couldn't, because the violence was too great,"
"Well, so be it," Rumsfeld told the Senate
Armed Services Committee, stressing more US troops may have to be
sent to Iraq to provide security for the elections.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell made a similar
American officials in Baghdad have said that contingency plans
exist which could effectively jettison the ballot in the restive
Al-Anbar province west of Baghdad, which includes Fallujah and the
hotspot of Ramadi.
The lawless pockets which have burgeoned
across Iraq could also jeopardise the vote in several other provinces,
including those with the unstable cities of Mosul, Kirkuk, Samarra,
Baquba and Najaf. [...]
DONALD Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary,
yesterday raised the possibility that Iraq might conduct only limited
elections in January, excluding areas where violence was too severe
for people to go to polls.
"Let’s say you tried to have an election and you could
have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in
some places you couldn’t because the violence was too great,"
Mr Rumsfeld said at a Senate armed services committee hearing.
"Well, so be it. Nothing’s perfect in life, so you
have an election that’s not quite perfect. Is it better than
not having an election? You bet."
His comments cast a shadow over attempts by the US president,
George Bush, and Iraq’s prime minister, Ayad Allawi, to put
a positive spin on the situation in Iraq.
In a speech to Congress yesterday, Mr Allawi said: "We are
succeeding in Iraq" and elections will occur "on time
in January, because Iraqis want elections on time".
Saying "thank you, America" for the invasion, he added:
"There would be no greater success for the terrorists if we
delay and no greater blow when the elections take place, as they
will, on schedule."
With a script that could have been written
by the White House, Mr Allawi gained several standing ovations.
Mr Bush’s advisers had hoped the speech would ease US voters’
doubts about the problems in Iraq. Mr Allawi said "the values
of liberty and democracy" are taking hold in Iraq, adding:
"We could hold elections tomorrow" in 15 of 18 provinces.
Despite the violence and recent polls suggesting
most Iraqis want US-led forces to leave, Mr Allawi insisted his
country was grateful for the US-led invasion. Later, Mr Bush
declared that insurgents could plot attacks "in America and
other free nations", if the US took its troops out of Iraq.
Last night, addressing the UN General Assembly, Jack Straw, the
Foreign Secretary, said there was an "urgent need to combat
global terrorism", which he described as a "menace directed
at us all".
He said: "If we have learnt anything in the three years since
11 September, 2001, it is that international terrorism is indiscriminate
in its targets and merciless in its hatred."
OTTAWA - The proposed U.S. ballistic missile
defence program does not involve putting weapons in space, and Canada
must consider joining for the good of North America, said the minister
of national defence.
Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Thursday,
Bill Graham called the missile defence negotiations an important
part of Canadian-American relations.
"I'm in favour of pursuing those negotiations," said
Graham. "It's important to keep in mind we are partners in
While Graham acknowledged he doesn't know what the U.S. is planning
to do over the next 50 years, he said the ballistic missile program
"has nothing to do with putting weapons in space,". He
said the weapons would be based on land or possibly sea.
Graham repeated comments he made a night earlier in an address
to Toronto's Royal Canadian Military Institute.
"We will not, for example, join any system that involves
the weaponization of space," Graham told his audience.
But Canada must be open to talks with the U.S. about its ballistic
missile defence plan since "our American colleagues are determined
to pursue it and it will become a part of the defence architecture
of North America whether we participate or not," said Graham.
He praised the Canadian-American co-operation he witnessed during
a visit to the headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defence
Command last year.
"This is exactly the seamless co-operation that is required
to address today's security challenges," said Graham.
The prime minister has made it clear to U.S. President George
W. Bush that Canada does not support putting weapons in space, added
Earlier on Wednesday, in his address to the united Nations General
Assembly, Prime Minister Paul Martin called for a UN ban on weapons
A MASSIVE security sweep of the Palace of Holyroodhouse
was ordered yesterday after an intruder made
his way to within yards of the Royal Apartments.
The intruder succeeded in bypassing the palace’s security
system and entering a private area adjacent to the Royal Apartments
just before noon.
But he managed to escape while being escorted
away from the second floor of the historic building - forcing police
and Special Branch to mount a search with sniffer dogs for him,
just 72 hours before a visit to the palace
by Prince Charles.
The man, disguised as a workman, was challenged by a palace official
on the second floor and was being escorted to security at the main
door when he broke free.
The palace uses in-house security personnel, with police only
being drafted in during official Royal visits.
The incident comes two weeks before the Queen is due to stay at
Holyrood during a visit to officially open the Scottish Parliament.
Prince Charles is also due to have a meal on Sunday at the palace
before he travels to Skye on an official engagement.
Lothian and Borders Police launched an investigation into the
latest breach. Detectives and Special Branch officers are keen to
determine why the man entered the private area and who he is.
It is unclear whether the man entered the palace through a main
door used by the public or by a workman’s entrance. However,
it is known that he managed to access a private area being renovated
next to the Royal Apartments.
The break-in is the latest security scandal in an embarrassing
catalogue of breaches across the country, including last week when
a fathers’ rights activist dressed as Batman climbed on to
a ledge at the front of Buckingham Palace.
In another incident highlighting serious security lapses at key
public buildings, protesters against a ban on fox hunting triggered
a crisis in Westminster making it to the floor of the House of Commons
as MPs debated the issue last week.
It follows exposure of the lax security
surrounding the Scottish Parliament by The Scotsman, including three
separate occasions when our non-accredited journalists were able
to gain access unchallenged.
The Scotsman also revealed last week how thieves
stole £10,000 from an office in the parliament after an instruction
manual and security code were left lying on top of the safe containing
A spokesman for the palace last night said they always refused
to comment on security issues.
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "We have had
a report of an intruder which we are investigating."
Margo MacDonald, the independent MSP, said she was resigned to
the inevitability of another security breach at a high-profile building
in the capital.
"Holyrood has become a very high-profile area. I suppose
it was inevitable that copycat escapades resulted from the breaches
in security at the new parliament building.
"I am now seriously concerned that the relaxed attitude we
had towards this sort of behaviour has been overtaken by these events.
"I still want to be assured that the security officials at
Holyrood Palace and the parliament are taking advice from the Lothian
and Borders Police to make sure there are no gaps in the overall
Clive Fairweather, a former chief inspector of the Scottish Prison
Service and a former SAS officer, said he was disappointed to hear
that an intruder had gained access to the palace.
"No security system is foolproof, there
is always a way round. Whichever system
you use it comes down to freedom of movement versus cost. It is
a balancing act between convenience and cost. If you vet everyone
to the extreme then the cost is high and it restricts freedom.
"When there is a breach like this it makes everyone suddenly
realise that they have erred on the wrong side of the balance. What
you need the most of all is to invest in high-quality security staff
who have a lot of training and who are paid enough to stay long
enough in the job to learn all the dodges."
A gap in the airline passenger-check system
permitted Yusuf Islam – former pop star Cat Stevens whom the
US suspects of having terrorist ties – to board a transatlantic
flight despite being on a no-fly list, a Bush administration official
The incident dramatises a need for changes to tighten the system,
said Asa Hutchinson, Under-secretary for Homeland Security.
“Right now, under the rules we get
the information (about passenger boardings) at Homeland Security,
I believe it’s 15 minutes after the
plane takes off,” Hutchinson said.
“There’s a gap there, so obviously the rules have
to be changed” governing the comparison of passenger names
with a watch list of people suspected of terrorist links, Hutchinson
He said the rules need to be changed to permit federal authorities
to review passenger lists, particularly for international flights,
at least an hour before a plane takes off and said US officials
will be working with their counterparts internationally to get that
The Homeland Security Department had said the incident involving
Islam – in which his plane from London was diverted to Bangor,
Maine and he was intercepted by federal agents – demonstrates
why the government should take over the screening responsibility
from the airlines.
“This is a good example of the need for the government to
manage the lists, as recommended in the 9-11 commission report,”
said Homeland Security spokesman Dennis Murphy.
In July, the September 11 commission issued a report that said
airlines can only check names against “no fly” lists
– people the government believes “pose a direct threat
The government maintains a much larger set of watch lists, but
those aren’t used because of concerns about sharing information
with private companies and foreign countries.
Still, Yusuf’s name was on the no-fly list that United Airlines
employees were supposed to check.
United spokesman Jeff Green said the airline followed procedures
in checking Islam’s name, and it wasn’t on the list.
“The information did not match,” Green said. [...]
Moscow police have detained more than 10,000
people in the past few days as part of a get-tough policy in the
wake of the Chechen terrorist attack on a school.
Just under half of those detained are citizens of former Soviet
republics who have come to the Russian capital to work illegally.
A total of 840 have been deported, police said. Others are Russians
without proper documents.
The announcement came as the Russian Duma began debating more
than 40 anti-terrorism initiatives yesterday, setting aside all
Proposals include the re-imposition of the
death penalty, toughening resident registration laws and
making it harder to buy, sell and borrow cars.
The Duma is also to discuss raising the
salary of security agents involved in fighting terrorism - in an
attempt to cut down on endemic bribe-taking. Officials have
said that a failure to penetrate rebel groups coupled with widespread
corruption in the security forces has left the country vulnerable
to further terrorist attacks.
As if to underline the problem, authorities announced the arrest
of a police captain, who is thought to have released two women last
month at a Moscow airport. They went on to board flights before
blowing themselves up killing 89 people.
Rounding up illegal workers in Moscow - who are thought to number
about a million - is the standard response by Russian police after
an act of terrorism. But many detainees pay
a bribe to be released or return to Moscow from their home country
with a fresh passport.
Other measures due to be proposed by Duma deputies include making
an inventory of all weapons in Russia. Officials
admit that tens of thousands of small arms are missing from stores
across the country.
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Crude oil prices touched
$49 a barrel on Thursday on supply worries with the push back near
record highs in oil pressuring Wall Street stocks and also boosting
demand for gold from investors seeking a safer haven.
In other commodity markets, orange juice prices closed nervously
higher with more tropical storms presenting potential problems for
battered Florida citrus growers. But grains and cotton closed lower
as harvest of bumper crops continued.
At the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil
rose for the sixth day in a row as traders saw a possible loan of
oil to refiners from the U.S. strategic stockpile as too small to
make up for supply disruptions caused by Hurricane Ivan last week.
Late on Wednesday, two U.S. refiners asked the Bush administration
to borrow crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to make
up for supply delays due to last week's storm.
The White House said the Energy Department was reviewing the requests.
Later, a source told Reuters the government was set to approve the
oil loans. [...]
The last time Washington loaned oil from the SPR was late 2002,
when Hurricane Lili disrupted oil shipments. [...]
At the COMEX, gold rose to its highest in a month as oil's rally
fueled more institutional investor interest in the metal, a hard
asset that can cushion portfolios against inflation. [...]
COMEX December gold closed up $3.60 at $412.60 an ounce. Gold bullion
rose to $409.35/0.10 from Wednesday's late level of $406.75/7.50.
London's afternoon fix was $411.50. [...]
Not long ago, it seemed as though the economy
was fueled entirely by bits and bytes, juiced up with a little irrational
exuberance. But as oil prices spiked to a near-record $49 a barrel
Thursday - up from $33 in spring - Americans' reliance on the sticky
stuff is being felt more acutely than at any time since the early
The lack of a long-term plan in the past three decades has put
the U.S. over a barrel. The consequences have been dramatic: Since
1975, domestic oil production has fallen by nearly a fifth, to 8.7
million barrels per day, while demand has surged 23%, driven in
part by Americans' infatuation with bigger, fuel-hungry vehicles.
This failure has once again left the U.S. vulnerable to price spikes
and hostage to the whims of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
While the very different plans offered by Republicans and Democrats
suggest some useful production and conservation policies, they are
far from enough:
Republicans. Their $18 billion plan is little more than a grab
bag of tax breaks and subsidies to boost production. But
even if they could achieve their long-sought goal of tapping the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, they would barely alter the energy
equation. The 1 million barrels per day it could produce are less
than 5% of current consumption, and equals the amount that consumption
has grown just in the past five years.
Democrats. Kerry would increase fuel-efficiency standards and offer
tax incentives for people to buy more fuel-efficient cars, among
other things. These might achieve some savings. But
he relies on consumers' willingness to buy smaller cars, something
they have been loath to do in an affluent era. [...]
As long as both parties avoid a real, long-term
solution, the nation will face more oil-price spikes, and consumers
may one day wax nostalgic about $49-a-barrel oil. Today's
debate: U.S. oil prices Bush, Kerry focus on short-term fixes. Much
more is needed.
More than 100 tonnes of a toxic chemical that
can be used to make deadly nerve gas were exported to North Korea
by a South Korean businessman via China, the government said.
The ministry of commerce said the businessman exported 107 tonnes
of sodium cyanide between June and September last year to an importer
in Dandong, China, on the border with North Korea, without government
The unidentified Chinese company re-exported the shipment to a
North Korean trading firm, the ministry said in a statement.
Sodium cyanide is widely used to produce herbicides
and in metal industries, but can also be used to make deadly nerve
Because of the dual use, the chemical is subject
to multilateral export control regimes to which South Korea is a
The commerce ministry said it first learned about the illegal shipments
and reported the South Korean businessman to prosecutors in October
Consequently, the unidentified South Korean businessman received
a jail sentence of 18 months suspended for two years in January.
The ministry said authorities were checking a report that a Malaysian
company exported 40 tonnes of the same chemical, 15 tonnes of which
it had bought from South Korea, to North Korea last month.
North Korea has one of the world's biggest stockpiles of chemical
weapons, according to US intelligence sources, and is believed to
have biological weapons. The Stalinist state also boasts of its
nuclear deterrent force, and Washington believes it has developed
a small number of nuclear devices.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) say a teenager is responsible
for the suspect device found on a Virgin airlines plane this week
on a flight from Maroochydore to Sydney.
However, they will not be laying any charges.
The parents of the young teenage boy came forward after publicity
about the discovery.
A baggage handler had come across a plastic bag in the hold of
the Virgin Blue plane, which turned out to contain a cardboard roll
filled with a flammable powder and a sparkler for a fuse.
The find sparked questions about security at domestic airports
and whether or not an airport worker with a grudge was responsible.
An AFP spokeswoman says the device was a homemade firecracker,
which the teenager was carrying in his hold luggage.
It is believed to have fallen out.
No action is to be taken as the firecracker did not pose a threat
to the plane and police are satisfied there was no malicious intent.
Federal Transport Minister John Anderson has refused to apologise
for linking the device to airport workers. [...]
GONAIVES, Haiti - Survivors who were left
with almost nothing after Tropical Storm Jeanne devastated this
tiny town buried unclaimed corpses in mud-clogged backyards and
attacked aid trucks and even neighbors bringing them food.
"You don't want to make me use this!" one man screamed
as he waved a wrench at people carrying cauldrons of food to distribute
at a church. The volunteers had come from the port of St. Marc to
Gonaives, where flooding from the storm killed at least 1,100 people.
Hungry and thirsty survivors — some of whom have lost entire
families and everything they own — were losing patience at
the slow pace of relief.
Knee-deep mud sucked up animal carcasses and sharp
pieces of torn-off zinc roofs, as well as human excrement after
the sanitation system was destroyed. Limes have become a hot item
in the devastated city of 250,000 because people hold them to their
noses to relieve the stench.
Still, some presented opposition when officials tried to continue
with the mass burials that began when more than 100 bodies were
dumped into a pit at sunset Wednesday.
An Associated Press reporter watched people stop the burial of
a truckload of bodies. Some, presumably cemetery workers, demanded
money. Others objected that no religious rites accompanied the burials
— many Haitians believe a corpse interred without ceremony
will wander and commit evil acts.
Other protesters wanted officials to recover bodies in waterlogged
surrounding fields and to help search for the missing.
The U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti put the
number of missing at 1,251. Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, a spokesman
for the mission, said 1,113 bodies had been recovered and nearly
300,000 were homeless in Haiti's northwest province — with
the vast majority of victims in Gonaives.
In Gonaives' seaside slum of Carenage, people were burying bodies
of unidentified victims in shallow graves of waterlogged yards —
an area from which they could easily be forced up.
Earlier, scores of people jumped on a dump truck
carrying relief supplies collected by Rotary Club members from Port-au-Prince,
the capital to the south. The truck tried to drive away but the
crowd emptied it of food, water, surgical gloves and matches in
about 10 minutes.
One man hit people with a metal bar to force his
way to the front.
"We collected all these supplies ... But at least it will
find its way to people in need," said Rotarian Gaetan Mentor.
This week's floods were made far worse by massive deforestation
that left surrounding valleys unable to hold the rain unleashed
by some 30 hours of pounding by Jeanne.
The crisis was only the latest in long-suffering Haiti, a country
of 8 million people has suffered 30 coups d'etats. In February,
rebels forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power, prompting
the United States to send troops who later turned over responsibility
to a U.N. peacekeeping force.
The rebels' refusal to disarm has meant ongoing instability.
Rebel leader Wynter Etienne said some in Gonaives
were getting "angry and aggressive" because the same people
were getting relief each day while others starved.
Etienne's Cannibal Army street gang spearheaded a February rebellion
and were soon joined by soldiers from Haiti's disbanded army. They
Poorly maintained roads disintegrated and utilities failed, compounding
problems for relief workers.
"Trucking in clean water to Gonaives is a logistical nightmare,"
said Abby Maxman, local director of the international humanitarian
Chilean-led peacekeepers were ferrying in aid by helicopter. Relief
agencies got through what they could over damaged roads. But many
people, howling in hunger and anger, were turned away when supplies
The government's civil protection agency said more than 900 people
have been treated for injuries.
Thursday morning, hundreds of people pushed through a wooden barrier
to get into Gonaives' sole working clinic, but only one doctor was
there to treat them.
It was unclear how many others might be untreated
since the main hospital was still buried in mud believed to hold
many bodies, and medical supplies were running out.
The leader of Haiti's U.S.-backed government, interim President
Boniface Alexandre, appealed this week for urgent aid, and numerous
On Thursday, the U.S. government said it would
provide more than $2 million — an increase from $60,000 that
some criticized for its paucity.
Health workers feared an outbreak of waterborne diseases.
"It's a critical situation in terms of epidemics, because
of the bodies still in the streets, because people are drinking
dirty water and scores are getting injuries from debris —
huge cuts that are getting infected," said Francoise Gruloos,
Haiti director for the U.N. Children's Fund.
CHICAGO - At a time when restaurants typically
put away their patio furniture, sweaters replace T-shirts and sailboats
are plucked from the water, Midwesterners are out enjoying activities
usually reserved for July and August — not weeks past Labor
Day. Summer is here. Finally. [...]
It's the same story in other parts of the Midwest. [...]
In Minnesota's Twin Cities, September is well on its way to being
the sixth warmest on record, following an August that was the sixth
coldest, said Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist. It was
84 degrees on Wednesday afternoon. On Aug. 10, the high was 59 degrees.
HOUSTON - Ivan's second foray into the United
States came with little wind but plenty of the rain that became
the 3-week-old system's calling card as it raked the Caribbean and
eastern United States, while Floridians braced for another possible
pounding as Hurricane Jeanne appeared to be gearing up for a weekend
After looping into the Atlantic and back into the Gulf of Mexico
following its initial strike on the Alabama-Florida coast as a hurricane
last week, Tropical Storm Ivan washed ashore near the Texas-Louisiana
line Thursday night, bringing heavy rain to both sides of the border.
While the storm was expected to dissipate as it drifts into Texas
this weekend, its rains are expected to persist and cause problems,
and flood-prone Houston is in its projected path.
"Friday night through Saturday morning, if you run a line
through Galveston, Houston and College Station, that area probably
is really going to get pounded," said National Weather Service
meteorologist Kent Prochazka. [...]
Florida residents also had that oh-no-not-again
feeling as 105-mph Hurricane Jeanne appeared to be zeroing in this
weekend for what would be the state's fourth thrashing this season.
Jeanne has already been blamed for 1,070 flooding deaths in Haiti.
At 8 a.m. EDT, Jeanne was about 315 miles east of Great Abaco Island
in the northwestern Bahamas and moving west at 8 mph. It was expected
to reach Florida by Sunday, according to the National Hurricane
Center in Miami. It had top sustained winds of 100 mph, down about
5 mph from a day earlier.
Some projections showed the storm hitting
central Florida and then moving up the coast to North Carolina by
A moderate earthquake occurred at 14:43:11
(UTC) on Friday, September 24, 2004. The magnitude 5.8 event has
been located in the GULF OF CALIFORNIA. (This event has been reviewed
by a seismologist.)
A moderate earthquake occurred at 10:34:54
(UTC) on Friday, September 24, 2004. The magnitude 5.8 event has
been located near the CENTRAL MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE. (This event has
been reviewed by a seismologist.)
China's glacier research warns of deserts and floods due to warming
The world's highest ice fields are melting so quickly that they
are on course to disappear within 100 years, driving up sea levels,
increasing floods and turning verdant mountain slopes into deserts,
Chinese scientists warned yesterday.
After the most detailed study ever undertaken of China's glaciers,
which are said to account for 15% of the planet's ice, researchers
from the Academy of Science said that urgent measures were needed
to prepare for the impact of climate change at high altitude.
Their study, the Glacier Inventory, was approved for publication
last week after a quarter of a century of exploration in China and
Tibet. It will heighten alarm at global warming.
Until now, most research on the subject has looked at the melting
of the polar ice-caps. Evidence from the inventory suggests that
the impact is as bad, if not worse, on the world's highest mountain
ranges - many of which are in China.
In the past 24 years, the scientists have measured a 5.5% shrinkage
by volume in China's 46,298 glaciers, a loss equivalent to more
than 3,000 sq km (1,158 sq miles) of ice; there has been a noticeable
acceleration in recent years.
Among the most marked changes has been the 500metre retreat of
the glacier at the source of the Yangtze on the Tibet-Qinghai plateau.
The huge volumes of water from the glacier's melted ice, estimated
at 587bn cubic metres since the 1950s, are thought to have been
a factor in flooding that has devastated many downstream areas in
Shrinkages were observed at almost every ice-field in the Karakorum
range, including the Purugangri glaciers, which are said to be the
world's third largest body of ice after the Arctic and Antarctica.
According to Yao Tandong, who led the 50 scientists in the project,
the decline of the Himalayan glaciers would be a disaster for the
ecosystem of China and neighbouring states.
If the climate continued to change at the current pace, he predicted
that two-thirds of China's glaciers would disappear by the end of
the 2050s, and almost all would have melted by 2100.
"Within 20 to 30 years, we will see the collapse of many of
the smaller glaciers," he said. "Within 60 years, we can
predict a very significant reduction in the volume of high-altitude
In the short term, he said, the water from the ice would fill reservoirs
and lead to more flooding - as was already the case in Nepal and
downstream areas of China.
In the future, he predicted, the end of the glaciers would deprive
the mountain ecology of its main life source and hasten the desertification
that threatens western China, particularly in Gansu and Xinjiang
Once the mountain ice was gone, rivers would start to dry up and
ocean levels would rise, threatening coastal cities.
The inventory confirms earlier studies of Everest, which showed
the world's tallest peak more than 1.3 meters shorter than in 1953,
when it was first scaled by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
To ease the impact of the glacial melt, the scientists plan to
advise China's government to build more reservoirs and hydro-electric
dams to improve downstream flood control.
But they said that there were limits to what could be achieved.
"No one can reverse the changes to a glacier," said Shi
Yafeng, head of China's environmental and engineering research institute
for the cold and arid regions.
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