Signs Supplement: The Suicide Bombing Cycle
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
On Wednesday, Earth will get its closest known
shave this century from a major asteroid, a monster big enough to
extinguish billions of lives were it ever to hit.
But, in contrast to the warnings of a handful of doomsayers, scientists
say the peril from this rock is beyond negligible.
In fact, they say this particular risk is zero and will remain
so for several centuries, thanks to an increasingly successful effort
to spot asteroids and calculate their future orbits around the Sun.
The asteroid in question is 4179 Toutatis, a behemoth some 4.6
kilometres long by 2.4 kilometres across.
It will be at its closest to Earth at 1337 GMT on Wednesday, when
it will be 1,549,719 kilometres away, according to the Near-Earth
Object (NEO) Program run by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
That may seem comfortingly far, but in galactic terms it is narrower
than a whisker: just four times the gap between Earth and the Moon.
Discovered in 1989, Toutatis is probably one of
the most studied asteroids of all because its most recent circuits
have brought it so close to Earth. It takes four years to loop around
the Sun, although it has a very odd, almost chaotic spin quite unseen
in any other asteroid.
It has not been so close to Earth since 1353 and will not be this
close again until 2562, says the specialist website space.com.
Toutatis owes its name to a trio of French astronomers, who baptised
it after a Celtic god well-known in France for the comic book hero
Protected by Toutatis, Asterix and his friends fear nothing except
the idea of the sky falling on their heads.
SKY IS ALWAYS FALLING
As the world awaits the passing—or crashing—of planetoid
Toutalis, thoughts on the doomsday tradition and our own end-times
| By David Ritchie
New York Press
DURING A TAXI ride one day in February, a
driver in Baltimore asked how I was doing. I told him my plans for
the near future.
He turned around, gave me a very strange look and said: "I
don't want to scare you, but the world is gonna end in seven months."
Hundreds of taxis, and I get this guy. But nothing about him seemed
dangerous, so I engaged him in conversation. Apparently a disciple
of a certain radio preacher, this cabbie could expound at length
on why the world was expected to end that September. Drawing on
my meager knowledge of eschatology, I asked, "Isn't the antichrist
supposed to reign for several years before the world ends?"
"Oh, he's already here!" the driver assured me. "People
just don't know it!" At my destination, he left me marveling
at the vagaries of belief.
That was in 1994. Ten years later, the world is still here. How
that driver explained its survival, I have no idea. If he truly
trusted that seven-month countdown, then he must have been disappointed
at the dawn of October 1.
The human brain appears to have a receptor for such stories, as
for opiates, because the neo-doomsday crowd never lacks an audience.
Just now, a lot of people again imagine the world ending very soon.
As I write, fears focus on the asteroid Toutatis, a mountain-sized
planetoid that is expected to pass very close to Earth on Wednesday,
September 29, 2004. For months, the internet has been abuzz with
woeful speculation that Toutatis will hit us rather than miss by
a few Earth radii. Depending on where such an object landed, it
might devastate a hemisphere—or worse. An impact at sea might
send colossal waves, or tsunamis, roaring around the globe to smash
and drown coastal cities from New York to Singapore.
Yes, for some, for us, this could be scheduled for next Wednesday.
Well, relax. Not everyone anticipates "the end" tomorrow
or next week. We might survive 2004, and maybe even 2005. But thereafter,
doomsayers are having a field day. According to one Canadian website,
the much-publicized "Bible code," which supposedly reveals
future events as encoded in portions of the Bible, has been cited
as warning of a global nuclear war in 2006.
But the big time for doomsday lovers is six years later. The other
day, a friend who monitors end-times chatter told me, "They're
predicting 'the end' for 2012 now." Specifically, "they"
- The Bible-code set, who also imagine the Pentateuch points
to a comet striking Earth that year;
- Exegetes of the Mayan calendar, who appear to think it indicates
something really horrible (conceivably the end of the universe)
on December 21, 2012;
- An exponent of "novelty theory," according to which
some unspecified but unpleasant "trans-dimensional"
event is due on that same date, as the "center" of the
- An unnamed doomsayer who puts the big event three days later,
on December 24, when one-third of the Oort cloud, a giant swarm
of comets circling the sun, supposedly will crash into our planet;
- Another seer who suggests the sun and Earth both will undergo
reversals of their magnetic fields in 2012, leading to tremendous
geophysical upheavals on Earth.
The online literature about "earth changes"—from
mammoth tsunamis to a runaway greenhouse effect—is extensive
and lurid. At one representative website, a visionary who practices
"dousing" [sic] presents maps depicting vast but vaguely
defined changes affecting the U.S. Pacific coast, Georgia, South
Carolina, and southern Japan by the year 2005. Even greater changes
are projected to reach inland as far as the western borders of Kansas
and Nebraska by 2010.
Depending on whose imaginings you sample, there is a terrifying
risk that rising sea levels caused by global warming will put present-day
seacoasts under water…North America soon will look like a
tattered croissant…the San Andreas fault will give, with calamitous
results for California…Antarctica and the Arctic will wind
up on the equator…the Yellowstone caldera will erupt again…a
huge undersea landslide will send monster waves crashing into shores
around the Atlantic basin…we will freeze and/or starve in
darkness as global oil supplies are exhausted during the coming
That is, if the sun doesn't go out, the arrival of a mystery planet
in our solar system doesn't devastate the world and we somehow avoid
extinction from pandemics or pollution or a great cosmic shift in
something or other.
Yet no one I know is buying oceanfront property in Omaha. After
all, we have heard such talk time and again before, without any
of it coming true.
MY MEMORIES OF middle school in the early 60s include an end-of-the-world
scare. Some would-be prophet had caused a stir by predicting the
world would end at a particular date and time in, I think, 1964
(the year after singer Skeeter Davis, by coincidence, released her
tearful song "The End of the World"). When the dread hour
arrived, during a volleyball game or whatever, someone near me looked
at the clock and screamed, "Aaaaah! We're gonna die in our
gym class!" Nervous laughter ensued.
The game finished, the bell rang and school continued
So did dire anticipations. In 1968,
a cult assembled its followers atop a mountain in Colorado to flee
a perceived threat from the asteroid Icarus, which passed Earth
at a distance of four million miles on June 14 that year. Icarus'
visit, they feared, would coincide with California sliding into
the Pacific Ocean.
Actually, no danger existed. Four million miles is 1000 times Earth's
radius. That was a very comfortable margin of safety. Still, the
cultists were not alone in their apprehension, groundless though
it was. Harvard University astronomer Brian Marsden, for example,
reported later that he had to spend time on the telephone reassuring
a woman whose mother was afraid the world was about to end.
Warnings about another close encounter with Icarus in 2006 have
been circulating online. One newsgroup posting about "Doomsday
Icarus" cited an article in a Costa Rican newspaper to the
effect that Icarus' next visit to our vicinity might be its last.
The article quoted scientists as saying an impact was all but inevitable
and discussed a proposal to shatter the asteroid with nuclear explosions.
If this plan sounds familiar, then perhaps it
should. Similar schemes were formulated more than 30 years ago and
have been dramatized in science fiction movies including Japanese
director Kenji Fukasaku's The Green Slime (1968), Ronald Neame's
Meteor (1979) and the more recent Deep Impact and Armageddon (1998).
What if Icarus misses us? Then there will still be plenty of "Earth-grazers"
out there, because more than 100 "potentially hazardous asteroids,"
or PHAs, zip past us on a regular basis. Though minuscule by planetary
standards, PHAs still would cause tremendous destruction in the
unlikely event that one of them struck Earth. A PHA discovered in
1997, XF 11, led to a scare the following year when it was projected
to pass within 600,000 miles of us in 2028. One astronomer attributed
that flap in part to "overeager" internet use.
Planetoid impact lore is a particular interest of mine, and tracing
its history can be a colorful exercise. The trail leads back to
1910, when fears about Halley's comet had much of the world cowering.
According to one local report, a 20-pound blade came loose from
a cooling fan at a company on 8th Ave., flew through the air, and
shattered windows in a passing trolley car. "The comet!"
passengers screamed as they ran from the car.
Over the next half-century, works of science fiction such as When
Worlds Collide (both the 1934 novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie
and its 1951 motion-picture adaptation) and the classic 1955 film
This Island Earth capitalized on fears of spectacular impacts. The
latter depicted meteorite impacts used as weapons during an interplanetary
In the factual realm, a projection of a planetoid strike's effects
- everything from tsunamis to severe climate change - appeared in
the March 1966 issue of Analog magazine, supported by maps and figures.
Such serious treatment gave the topic legitimacy.
Soon, it was almost fashionable to imagine giant rocks dropping
from space. Tales of that kind became television fare by 1978, when
the tv movie A Fire in the Sky depicted a comet destroying Phoenix.
Clearly, end-of-the-world scenarios sold.
Sell they still do, especially when linked to prophetic texts.
The Japanese went into a tizzy five years ago after an alleged Nostradamus
prophecy foretold a conqueror descending from the skies in 1999.
This was interpreted as an invasion by space aliens. In Korea at
that time, a tongue-in-cheek magazine illustration showed a monster
with a flying saucer for a mouth that was devouring humans. (Koreans
often enjoy a chuckle at the expense of Japan, as their memories
of the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945 remain bitter. Indeed,
one wonders how much Japanese fears of invasion from space in 1999
may have reflected a guilty conscience, much as H.G. Wells' fantasy
The War of the Worlds a century earlier appeared to be a parable
about the British rape of Tasmania.)
Though the 1999 Nostradamus ruckus in Japan may have owed something
to the 1996 movie Independence Day and its vision of extraterrestrials
devastating Earth, that invaders-from-space scenario was circulating
long before. I recall reading it around 1968. Now I wonder: Had
someone back then watched the 1953 movie adaptation of The War of
the Worlds—or The Mysterians, a 1957 Toho Corporation epic
about invaders from another planet—and based a similar scenario
on Nostradamus' murky quatrains?
Impact scenarios such as the one involving asteroid Icarus have
added to the apocalyptic religious fervor of our day by providing
a plausible mechanism for certain "last days" expectations
among evangelicals. Consider the events mentioned in Luke 21: 25-26:
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in
the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity;
the sea and the waves roaring;
Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those
things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven
shall be shaken.
Read those lines carefully. A planetoid impact in mid-ocean indeed
would set "the sea and the waves roaring." The tsunami
from such an event in the mid- Atlantic might come ashore at New
York as a breaker the height of Manhattan's tallest towers, roll
over Long Island and inundate much of the eastern U.S. coastal plain.
Ejecta from the impact would obscure the sun, moon and stars. So,
one easily might interpret those two verses as describing the aftermath
of a planetoid strike at sea, a prospect to make even the stoutest
heart falter. Is it any wonder then that projections of planetoid
impacts have reinforced the apocalypticism of recent years?
AS IMPRESSIVE AS the scope of world-enders' thinking these days
is its overwhelming detail. Everything from events in the Middle
East to the technology of cloning has been worked into one end-times
commentary or another.
As one might expect, 9/11 has acquired apocalyptic dimensions of
its own, explained at Boston University's Center for Millennial
Studies website. In that specific context, the level of detail may
extend even to the frequency of individual words in the book of
Revelation. A pious acquaintance, apparently aware of Manhattan's
equation with mystery Babylon, tried to relate the fall of the WTC's
two towers to the repetition of the two words "is fallen"
in Revelation 14:8:
"And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen,
is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink
of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."
Being no biblical scholar, and certainly no eschatologist, I can
only make a guess (albeit uninformed) that the words are repeated
for emphasis and not to represent a specific number of buildings
The detail of these scenarios reflects more than just zeal and
fascination. It also serves two important purposes. One, to overwhelm
the reader or listener with information. Presented with countless
particulars and tiny specifics, one simply cannot investigate, much
less evaluate, all of them one by one. Potential critics are swamped.
That effect accounts, at least in part, for the success of many
end-times models. Doomsday artists are well aware of this principle:
The more detail, the better, for the same reason that a hurricane
is more powerful than a single raindrop.
Now for the second, less evident but equally important
purpose of abundant detail: It provides a doomsday scenario such
as a conspiracy hypothesis about the "last days" with
countless points of attachment to other scenarios. Together, they
support and reinforce one another in the same manner as the interconnected
girders of a building.
A well-built steel-frame structure can survive even a nuclear blast,
as happened at Hiroshima. In like fashion, a conjoined set of end-of-the-world
scenarios, attached by countless shared details, may resist even
the strongest factual rebuttal. The techno-paranoid culture of our
time, with its innumerable high-tech conspiracy scenarios, illustrates
this principle. Paranoia about the "face on Mars" reinforces
UFO paranoia, which in turn reinforces "black helicopter"
paranoia. And so on.
A similar interdependency helps make the neo-doomsday movement
so powerful. No one can break all its countless links or disprove
all its little particulars. No one has the time or energy. Ergo,
the movement both survives and thrives. Like a tsunami, it just
If we cannot stop it, can we at least, then, understand it? How
is one to interpret such neo-doomsday enthusiasm?
Doomsday scares are diversions meant to take our
attention away from things that we are not meant to contemplate.
When something sinister and shadowy is happening of which alert
minds might become aware and warn others, excitement and fear about
another issue or event (scary prophecies, killer asteroids, invaders
from space) are effective distractions.
Preferably, the threat should be something recurrent, so that frequent
scares can be manufactured. Toutatis and other "hazardous"
asteroids serve this purpose well. They return every few years.
Better yet, their putative menace can be emphasized with eye-catching
graphics such as computer-generated images of a tumbling rock the
size of Ellis Island, or a miles-wide crater where Manhattan used
to be. And when that particular scare turns out to have been unjustified,
no problem. There's always another Earth-grazing asteroid on the
way—the sky is, almost literally, never far from falling.
A scare from space makes a great diversion from
dark doings on Earth, doesn't it? "Look! Up there!"
WHAT IF FORECASTS of imminent doom are, as techno-paranoids
call them, "psy- ops"? That is, psychological operations
designed to redirect popular thinking in certain ways? What if we
are being conditioned to live in fear of some world- ending super-menace—from
outer space or wherever—that could be simulated and then seemingly
averted at the last moment by a "miraculous" rescue? Whoever
"saved" the world through such global stagecraft would
acquire unprecedented influence. Dictators have risen to power and
even claimed divinity for themselves using much more modest ruses.
Fantastic though such a scenario sounds, something like it probably
could be done with technologies of the very near future, if not
the present. One easily can imagine a tyrant with worldwide ambitions
and high-tech capabilities scheming even now to pull off the greatest
hoax of all time, after years of conditioning the public to anticipate
precisely such a crisis. This may sound like the ultimate techno-paranoid
nightmare, yet it's consistent with the high volume of current warnings
that the end is nigh. Quite a large number of people around the
globe believe that the world is in its sunset years.
It would be a mistake to underestimate the appeal and distribution
of such a belief. Note how often it turns up in everyday conversation.
At a cookout I attended some years ago in Maryland, a young woman
startled me when she said about the world in general, in a glib
evangelical manner, "It's all going to burn up anyway!"
Even modern legends are changing to reflect belief in an imminent
apocalypse. The old tale of the "phantom hitchhiker" who
vanishes from a motorist's vehicle now includes accounts of mysterious
travelers, sometimes identified as "angels," who say something
like "Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ is coming soon?"—and
Hoaxes or not, on both the secular and religious
levels, someone is successfully inciting fears about "the end"
arriving very soon. Even in the years before 2000, and accounting
for religious and non-religious prophecies (Y2K), the neo-doomsday
chorus has never been louder than right now. Is it all the buildup
to some contrived mega-fright?
Proof is lacking. But so many scaremongers are screaming at once
about a planetary upheaval within the next several years that even
taxi drivers, famed for their skepticism, can be persuaded that
the world has only a few months left.
Early morning motorists driving through Norfolk
and Cambridge-shire yesterday could hold the key to finding out
more about the meteorite or fireball sighted over the region.
Around 20 motorists driving along the area's roads
from around 6.30am reported seeing the fireball, which many described
as having a bright glow followed by a long trail of light.
They reported their findings to Graham Barnard on his Today in
Norfolk early morning programme on BBC Radio Norfolk.
Mr Barnard told the EDP that around 20 callers rang in from around
6.30am to report initially to presenter Wally Webb seeing the fireball
mainly in the sky above the west and south of the county.
"Callers had their own theories as to what it was, ranging
from a fireball, firework or, in the case of a caller from the Thetford
area, an aircraft on fire, but we quickly
put listeners' minds at rest that it wasn't an aircraft,"
said Mr Barnard.
Comment: Wouldn't an aircraft
in distress be the least disturbing possibility? Although it would
certainly be distressing to witness an airplane crash, it seems
that witnessing one of the many recent fireballs that have been
raining down upon the planet would cause more concern than an airplane
malfunction or even another possible terrorist incident...
Yesterday, the mystery sighting was confirmed as
being a fireball or meteorite by Mark Lawick-Thompson, chairman
of the Norwich Astronomical Society.
He said the fireball could have broken up while in the atmosphere
and the fragments might have landed but, until more detailed information
about the sightings was available, it was not possible to say if
fragments had landed.
The last reported sighting of a fireball in East Anglia was in
Peterborough in 1991.
He appealed to people who had seen the fireball to contact with
their detailed descriptions via his e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
His view was shared by research scientist Vicky
Pearson who said the sighting had been reported early yesterday
morning in locations mainly in Southern England, including Oxford
and Poole in Dorset, but there had also been sightings in the Midlands.
Miss Pearson, who is based at the Planetary and Space Science Research
Institute at the Open University at Milton Keynes, said she had
not received any of the reported sightings in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.
She said that, until more information was available, it would not
be possible to say if fragments had landed.
Miss Pearson asked people who saw it to call her on 01908 652814
during weekday office hours.
A mysterious fire tornado that ripped through
the jungles had torn out trees in some areas, while leaving the
At night of 14 September 2004 many people got a chance to witness
the fall of a fire object near the southern Argentinean town of
Ushuaia. Further searches in the region yielded fascinating results:
the area of approximately 150 sq meters had
absolutely no trees. At first sight, it appeared as though the trees
were chopped down; however, all the vegetation remained untouched.
More so, according to the Argentinean media, scientists were unable
to find any traces of the mysterious fire object that had "melted
down" the woods. The next day, on September 15th, another fire
object was spotted in that same region.
Currently, researchers are trying to determine the nature of such
mysterious phenomenon. It is likely that it has got something to
do with the kind of research work many scientists from all over
the world have been preoccupied with for ages. In
particular, Sandia National Laboratories hosted a workshop in August
of this year which was dedicated specifically to such kind of unexplained
phenomena involving descending burning objects.
One Russian scientist, candidate of physic-mathematical sciences
Andrei Ol"khovatov was one of the participants of the workshop.
In his exclusive interview to "PRAVDA.RU", Mr. Ol"khovatov
noted that due to the lack of evidences regarding recent events
in Argentina, it is rather difficult to draw any conclusions at
this point. However, if our analysis of the eyewitnesses" words
will be confirmed concerning the fact that the fire object had in
fact landed in the area with major tree-anomaly and the date of
the anomaly will correspond to that of the fall, then this occurrence
could be classified as something of a mystic origin. In that case,
it will be referred to as a "geophysical meteors."
Scientists have yet been unable to determine physical mechanism
of geophysical meteors. All that is known today is the fact that
geophysical meteors somewhat resemble high-voltage ball lightning
and has a tendency to remain in certain geophysical environment.
According to Ol"khovatov, geophysical meteors
are far from harmless. In January of this year, a fire ball has
nearly completely destroyed a house in the Iranian town of Babol.
However, there were plenty of far worse cases. In 1935 for instance,
hundreds of kilometers of jungles have been completely burnt down
in South America, in British Guiana.
elements were recovered by members of the Special Services Division
of the Police, who took photographs of the Valle de Andora region.
Experts from CADIC shall try to ascertain their origin.
USHUAIA -- Objects of unknown origin were found in the forested
area located behind the Le Martial Glacier, where the luminous objects
reported late Tuesday and Wednesday allegedly fell.
The objects were recovered by personnel of the Special Services
Division of the provincial police, who scoured the area. The objects
and some photos taken in the area shall be submitted for analysis
by experts of the Centro Austral de Investigaciones Cientificas
No details on the items found were put forth,
but it was learned that they did not correspond to the characteristics
of the area.
The survey in Valle Andorra and the Le Martial Grlacier - indicated
as the sites of the fireball impacts - will continue today, weather
permitting. Strong winds are forecasted for today, according to
the weather report issued by official agencies.
The new projected expedition may include scientists from CADIC
interested in discovering "in situ" the conditions under
which the strange elements were found, and which drew the attention
of police researchers. It is worth noting
that Dr. Acevedo, a member of this research center, was one of the
witnesses to the fall of strange luminous bodies over the skies
Acevedo suspects that the objects could be the remains of a meteorite
or otherwise of a satellite tha burned out upon reentry into Earth's
Readers will remember that on Tuesday night, almost at the same
time -- between 20:30 and 21:00, over a hundred
residents of Ushuaia alerted the Civil Defense and the Police about
"fireballs" falling behind the Martial Glacier.
The phenomenon was also seen on Wednesday by residents of the city
of Rio Grande. There were even rumors yesterday
that new luminous objects had fallen from the sky around 9:00 o'clock
CADILLAC - The skies
around Sherman and the village of Clam Lake undoubtedly turned from
blue to black.
In Chicago, flames were racing through the city and in Peshtigo,
Wis., people were running for their lives. Flames from the woods
near Manistee invaded the town on a quiet Sunday - and people fought
for their homes.
Within three days of the fires, thousands were homeless, hundreds
from Chicago, Wisconsin and Michigan dead, and many pioneers faced
the winter without a home or crops to eat.
In the month of the Perseid Meteor shower, it is interesting to
ponder - could a disintegrated comet be the cause of the fires?
An Upper Peninsula systems design engineer thinks so, as does a
former physicist with McDonnell Douglas Corp.
Consider a statement by the Detroit Post on Oct.
10, 1871: "In all parts of the state, as will be noticed by
our correspondence during the past few days and also today, there
are numerous fires in the wood, in many places approaching so near
to towns as to endanger the towns themselves."
In Holland, fire destroyed the city, in Lansing flames threatened
the agricultural college and in the Thumb, farmers trying to establish
homesteads soon would be diving into shallow wells to escape an
inferno some newspapers dubbed: "The Fiery Fiend." Many
did not escape.
Fires threatened Muskegon, South Haven, Grand Rapids, Wayland and
reached the outskirts of Big Rapids. A steamship passing the Manitou
Islands reported they were on fire.
A horror story? Yes. And so real that historic markers to the event
can be found at Manistee and in the Thumb. Lots has been written
about the storm of fire that killed 2,000 in Peshtigo, Wis., and
the Great Chicago Fire and the fires that devastated the Lower Peninsula
Theories for the fires are many - but one thing is certain, the
devouring flames showed up at the same time.
Most historians point to the dry weather of the summer and the
poor logging practices of the day for creating conditions ripe for
a hot dry wind from the southwest that blew into the area whipping
up small fires already smoldering and carrying destruction through
Theories for the Chicago and Michigan fires include Mrs. O'Leary's
cow knocking over the lantern and then firebrands from Chicago being
driven across the lake to ignite Michigan. But there is another
interesting theory that continues to make the rounds on the Web
and in at least one presentation by a retired physicist who worked
for McDonnell Douglas Corp.
In 1871, fire erupted in Chicago, Wisconsin and
northern Michigan at the same time. Some believe a meteorite or
comet was to blame.
The Discovery Channel reported on its Web site in March a presentation
by Robert Wood, a retired McDonnell-Douglas physicist, who theorizes
fragments of a comet discovered in the early 1820s possibly caused
Wood theorized that small pieces of frozen methane, acetylene or
other high combustive materials hit the earth sparking the flames.
That theory also resounds with Munising's Ken Rieli who believes
he found a chunk of meteorite in the waters off the Port Sanilac
shore a few years ago.
"We started doing an investigation on where the meteorite
came from," he said. His investigation also took him back to
the Comet Biela that was discovered in 1821 and returned every six
years and nine months. It was last seen in 1866 and never showed
up in 1872.
"It was supposed to recycle and it wasn't there," Rieli
said. He questions how fires could start simultaneously in Chicago,
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario. He also notes how dry
summers and strong winds since have never produced a similar result
in America's history.
"If these are coming down like buckshot with real dry conditions
..." Rieli theorizes how flaming space rocks could have ignited
fires in many places. He said he's been contacted by relatives of
survivors of the Peshtigo fire who shared stories from their ancestors
about seeing fire falling from the sky.
Physicist Wood in his report cited eyewitness reports of spontaneous
ignition and "fire balloons."
Rieli said Canadian geologists found a huge
impact crater 200 feet below Lake Huron in the Port Huron area in
the early 1990s. He said he has a relative who participated
in drilling for a water pipeline to serve the Detroit in the same
area at the same depth. He said crews discovered meteorite-like
rock as they bored a hole for the pipeline.
"They were bringing it out and piling it up," he said.
He said the rock was reformulated and either was volcanic or a meteorite.
"It's another piece of evidence that the Michigan area and
parts of Canada, Illinois are ground zero for an active meteor strike
Michigan State University's David Batch, director of the Abram's
Planetarium, said he had not heard the theory before and is skeptical
that a comet or meteorite could have caused the fires.
Batch said meteorites that have come through the atmosphere and
hit the ground are never hot when people have had the opportunity
to run over to the piece of space rock immediately.
"When they run over to them, there is a frost
to them," he said. "There's no known evidence of a comet
or a meteorite causing a fire in history."
Batch said comet particles are mostly ice and would not survive
to hit the ground while the meteorite only glows hot in the very
outer surface as it passes through atmosphere.
"It's only heated to those temperatures for a very short time,"
he said. "It's like the outer millimeter that is heated up.
The rest of it stays cold."
Rieli counters that if the meteorite chunk exceeds one pound and
has enough mass, it will not cool by the time it hits the ground.
"That's only true under a certain mass of rock," he said.
He said the Comet Biela had to have hit an asteroid belt when it
broke up around Jupiter and likely the debris carried a mixture
of rock and ice when the Earth plowed through the field in October
1871. The result was hundreds of hot rocks flying through the atmosphere
and in many cases striking tinder-dry woods.
While residents around the state battled flames, information about
the area around Cadillac, then Clam Lake, is fuzzy. The first newspaper
did not start until 1872.
The village began the same year as the firestorm and by October
of that year there was a sawmill, hotels, a general store some boarding
houses, along with other buildings, according to Judge William Peterson's
"The View from Courthouse Hill."
Peterson recounts near Sherman, the area between Mesick and Sherman
Hill, there were numerous fires at the same time Manistee and Chicago
were burning down.
"It was said sparks from the fires in Wisconsin that summer
or the great Chicago fire in October or the conflagration that destroyed
Manistee at the same time, started a large number of fires in the
Sherman area," Peterson wrote.
Among the losses were a sawmill and the prosecutor's house.
Rieli acknowledges his theory is controversial. His Web site is
meant to spark conversation - but he believes his chunk of carbonaceous
chondrite meteorite bolsters his theory. Any certainty would require
"It's just a present thing we are doing,"
he said. "People need to expand their minds."
FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) - Floridians were again
settling into the discomforts of a post-hurricane reality: lines
for bags of ice or a hot meal, damaged homes that will take months
to repair, and stifling heat and darkness amid widespread power
The havoc caused by hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne
have prompted the largest relief effort ever undertaken by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency.
Jeanne, downgraded from a hurricane after cutting a swath of destruction
through Florida over the weekend, steered north Monday evening as
a tropical depression, spawning tornadoes and flash floods across
the Deep South. Two deaths were blamed on the storm in South Carolina.
The weakened weather system was expected to move into the mid-Atlantic
Hurricane Jeanne, the fourth storm to hammer Florida in six weeks,
has left behind a trail of death, destruction and frustration.
"We're weary. We're tired. We have been doing this for more
than 30 days," said Jay Clark, the owner of CYS Yacht Management
and Sales in Fort Pierce, on Monday. "Preparation, then cleanup.
Preparation, then cleanup."
Jeanne killed at least six people in Florida during the weekend,
bearing down upon the state with winds of 120 mph.
The storm weakened on Monday after plowing across Florida, but
brought heavy rain and fierce wind to the already-soggy South.
In Georgia, the storm's remnants toppled trees, washed out dozens
of roads and left more than 76,000 residents without power. Tornadoes
spawned by the storm also destroyed buildings in South Carolina.
Flooding remained a concern along the Peace River in west-central
Florida. Officials ordered evacuations for about 400 families living
in low-lying areas near the river. Many of the families had not
yet returned to their homes because of damage from Charley and Frances.
President Bush asked Congress late Monday for
more than $7.1 billion to help Florida and other Southeastern states
recover from their lashing by four hurricanes. His third request
for additional storm aid brings total possible funding to at least
Patience was in demand at staging areas along the state's central
Atlantic coast, where volunteers from the Salvation Army and the
American Red Cross passed out bags of ice and containers of water
to help residents keep cool under temperatures in the high 80s and
massive power outages.
In Indialantic, a line of 40 cars waited in the parking lot of
a strip mall where volunteers loaded bags of ice from a semitrailer
that had arrived from St. Louis. Residents left behind homes without
electricity to dine on hot plates of ravioli and corn and bottles
"It hasn't been a fun month," said Louann Dowling, 40,
of Satellite Beach, who picked up food and ice for her four children.
Florida is the first state to get pounded by four
hurricanes in one season since Texas in 1886. Two months remain
in the 2004 hurricane season.
Dowling said the combination of the storms have caused financial
hardships; her husband lost his job in the telecommunications industry
after Frances and she has had her hours cut back at the hospital.
Down the line, Jeff Sermon, 46, a car dealer, and Ann Yates, 43,
sat in their red pickup truck in search of a hot meal, ice and water
to bring back to their house in Melbourne Beach that lacks power.
"I have an awful headache," Yates said, reclining in
the passenger seat, perspiring in the hot, humid weather.
At the only Home Depot in nearby Vero Beach, 75 people waited for
tarps, gas cans and other supplies to begin repairing their homes.
In a separate line, 25 people waited for generators on the promise
that a shipment of 300 was on the way.
In Fort Pierce, Gladys Caldwell knew exactly how long she had waited
for water and ice at a distribution station - "two hours and
18 minutes" - but could keep it all in perspective. The city's
historic downtown area was marked by dangling power lines and flooded
"I thank God that at least I have part of my house,"
Caldwell said. "Some people lost everything."
The unprecedented relief
effort includes more than 5,000 FEMA workers spread over 15 states.
Nearly 3,800 National Guardsmen were providing security, directing
traffic, distributing supplies and keeping gas lines orderly.
In Florida alone, relief workers have passed out at least 16 million
meals, 9 million gallons of water and nearly 59 million pounds of
ice over the course of the four storms, state officials said.
Jeanne also caused more problems to two key industries in Florida:
citrus and tourism.
Florida citrus growers lost about half of their grapefruit crop
during Frances. And with the ground soaked from previous storms,
trees toppled more easily this time. Fruit was scattered throughout
Orlando's theme parks closed for the third time this season during
Jeanne, and many hotels along the Atlantic coast were heavily damaged.
Earlier, Jeanne caused flooding in Haiti that killed
more than 1,500 people.
Insured losses from Jeanne were estimated at $5
billion to $9 billion, insurance experts said.
Nearly 1.9 million homes and businesses were still without power
from Jeanne. About 40,000 people in the Panhandle were still without
power in the area hit by Ivan.
Charley hammered Florida's southwest coast Aug. 13; Frances blanketed
much of the peninsula as it crawled through Labor Day weekend; and
Ivan blasted the Panhandle when it hit Sept. 16. The three storms
caused billions of dollars in damage and killed 73 people in Florida
(Seattle, Wash.) - The recent rash of record-breaking
blizzards, record-breaking hurricanes, and record-breaking floods
- the greatest in more than 500 years (since before Christopher
Columbus) - is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, says science
writer Robert W. Felix. The worst is yet to come, says Felix, author
of NOT BY FIRE BUT BY ICE: Discover What Killed the Dinosaurs .
. . and Why it Could Soon Kill Us.
The next ice age could begin any day. Ice ages begin or end abruptly
every 11,500 years. They alternate. It's a
naturally recurring cycle, a dependable, predictable, natural cycle.
(See Pacemaker of the Ice Ages chart.) This little-known - but undeniable
- cycle has struck like clockwork for millions of years. And it's
about to strike again, says the Seattle researcher. The
last ice age ended almost exactly 11,500 years ago, which means
that the next ice age could begin any day. And when it begins, it
will begin with a bang.
Until recently, scientists assumed that ice ages began slowly.
New studies show, however, that all previous ice ages began abruptly.
Many ice ages began catastrophically, with the climate shifting
from periods of warmth such as today's to full-blown glacial severity
in less than 20 years. The next ice age should begin just as quickly.
But what about global warming? Global warming
(which is really ocean warming)
is caused by the same natural cycle that causes ice ages, says Felix.
Indeed, many ice ages began when temperatures
were warmer than today.
Conditions are perfect - right now - to cause an ice age. All we
need is more moisture. And we're getting it. The number of what
scientists call extreme precipitation events - major blizzards and
heavy rainstorms - has increased almost 20 percent just since 1970.
The next ice age may have already begun . . . and we don't even
Most of the studies and debates on potential
climate change have focused on the ongoing buildup of industrial
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and a gradual increase in global
But recent and rapidly advancing evidence demonstrates that Earth's
climate repeatedly has shifted dramatically and in time spans as
short as a decade. And abrupt climate change may be more likely
in the future.
Climate experts agree that the average global
air temperature has risen 0.3 to 0.6 Celcius over the past century.
This finding is substantiated by other indicators - accelerated
melting of alpine glaciers, a sea-level rise of 10 to 25 cm over
the past 100 years, and coral bleaching caused by anomalously high
sea-surface temperatures - that are all consistent with the increase
in global air temperatures. [...]
These experts identify a number of other changes that have occurred
in global and U.S. climate, some or all of which can be attributed
to global warming. [...]
This temperature range results from varied economic and population
projections as well as climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases.
Even with a change of 1 Celsius, the global rate of warming would
be greater than it has been at any time in the past 10,000 years.
Only a few experts expect the atmosphere to warm less than 1 Celsius
by 2100, and virtually no scientist who has studied the issue expects
global temperatures to decline during the next century.
Moreover, the warming is predicted to continue, reaching much more
elevated temperatures over the next several centuries, unless bold
measures are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even a 1
Celsius change would be significant. During the so-called Little
Ice Age, a period lasting from 1500 to 1850 that was marked by extensive
glacial advances in almost all alpine regions, the global temperature
was only about 0.5 Celcius lower than it was in 1900. [...]
There has been a lot of speculation recently about
whether more frequent hurricanes and more intense and longer lasting
El Nios are related to global warming. "Until our models become
a little more certain, it's difficult to conjecture whether hurricanes
would increase or decrease with global warming," Karl says. "On
a theoretical basis, there has been some work suggesting stronger
hurricanes," he adds.
A warmer sea surface is the primary feature of
global warming that might cause more significant hurricanes, he
explains, but ocean circulation changes may counter the effects
of this added warmth.
What can be learned from all of this? [...]
Sudden warming can melt glaciers and produce a freshwater layer
in the oceans, re-enforced by a warm-water layer. This makes for
stable stratification in the high-latitude ocean. In
turn, this changes circulation and the associated heat transport
in ways that are hard to predict. [...]
Threshold effects are rarely predictable. Well-known examples
in the earth sciences are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, El Niņo
events, toxic algal blooms, and hurricanes. These things happen
unannounced or in any case with but little warning. Abrupt climate
change, as exemplified in the deglaciation period, differ in scale
but not in principle.
When it comes to weather news, it's been all-hurricane-all-the-time
-- and under the pressure of storm after storm, news language has
escalated. "Bizarre" and "strange" have been
two recent words of choice in describing Florida's weather disasters.
Yesterday, I heard a CBS radio announcer complain that "Mother
Nature's piling on"; while the "chief meteorologist"
for a local Florida TV station recently wrote, "But I think
I echo the sentiment of many when I say, 'Come on, Mother Nature,
you are out of control!'"
When "Ivan the Terrible" threatened New Orleans, correspondents
there had a field day discussing whether the city might literally
disappear beneath the waves -- this was referred to as the "Atlantis
scenario." Then there were those dramatic shots of gridlocked
highways filled with fleeing refugees -- whether from New Orleans
or the Florida Keys; there were the pans of massive post-storm destruction;
the close-ups of weeping survivors; the dramatic tales of rescue;
the interviews with people who had "lost everything";
the discussions of President Bush's trips to "comfort"
the survivors; and above all, the endless shots of correspondents
in rain slickers in front of dripping camera lenses trying to keep
their balance in the pelting rain and swirling wind, shots which
have become the sine qua non of hurricane coverage in recent years.
And yet something was missing. For the first time in history, four
hurricanes -- Charley, Frances, Ivan (the Terrible), and now Jeanne
-- have smacked into Florida's long coastline one after another
in a single hurricane season (not yet over), and here's the strangest
thing of all:
Forget that in March Brazil experienced the South
Atlantic's first hurricane ever -- Brazilian meteorologists didn't
even know what to name it; or that the Atlantic coast of Canada
got whacked by Hurricane Juan, "the storm of the century,"
late last year (and the Canadian government suspects a link to global
warming); or that the United States has already experienced a record
number of tornados in 2004; or that Japan has had the worst season
of typhoons in memory; or that Xtreme weather events have increased
in recent years across the planet, including massive flooding in
Europe, Bangladesh, and China, and a deathly summer heat wave that
struck Europe in 2003. Forget the rising sea levels and the increased
melt-off toward the poles.
Forget that the head of at least one (hated) country in the path
of Hurricane Ivan -- Fidel Castro -- was ready to warn his people
about global warning and hurricanes, or that the Bush administration's
closest ally, Tony Blair of Britain, made a major speech, widely
ignored in the American press, labeling global warming a danger
"What is now plain is that the emission of greenhouse gases...is
causing global warming at a rate that began as significant, has
become alarming and is simply unsustainable in the long-term.
And by long-term I do not mean centuries
ahead. I mean within the lifetime of my children certainly; and
possibly within my own. And by unsustainable, I do not
mean a phenomenon causing problems of adjustment. I
mean a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible
in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence."
Forget all that, and just focus for a moment
on the fact that it took almost to the moment Jeanne hit Florida
for our media to produce a spate of pieces that even speculated
in passing about possible links between the hurricanes in Florida
and global warming -- and almost all of those articles denied that
there were any connections at all. [...]
SEATTLE - Small earthquakes rattled Mount St.
Helens at the rate of one or two a minute Monday, and seismologists
were working to determine the significance of some of the most intense
seismic activity in nearly 20 years.
Carbon dioxide and sulfur gas samples collected above the volcano
- which erupted to devastating effect in 1980 - will help scientists
figure out what is going on beneath the 925-foot-high dome of hardened
lava within the mountain's gaping crater. They want to know whether
the quakes are the result of water seeping into the mountain or
magma moving under its crater.
In either case, scientists will continue to watch it from the Cascade
Volcano Observatory operated by the U.S. Geological Survey in Vancouver,
Wash., about 50 miles away.
"But if it's magma, we'll be a lot more nervous," said
the observatory's chief scientist Jeff Winn.
A helicopter was to carry scientists and instruments over the crater
Monday afternoon, to assess the gases and ground deformation that
would indicate pressure building below the dome.
Measurements of ground movement "will tell us whether there's
any new magma coming into the system," said Seth Moran, a seismologist
at the observatory. That data will not be immediately available.
Swarms of small earthquakes began Thursday and
increased in frequency and magnitude until Sunday, when there were
more than 10 events with a magnitude of 2 to 2.8. The quakes are
at depths less than one mile below the lava dome.
By Monday, the pace was unchanged but the magnitude had lessened,
Moran said there was potential for explosions within the crater
that could throw rocks as far as the rim.
The USGS issued a notice of volcanic unrest on Sunday, citing
"an increased likelihood of a hazardous event." U.S. Forest
Service officials closed hiking trails above the tree line at 4,800
feet on the 8,364-foot mountain, though the visitor's center and
most other trails at the Mount St. Helens National Monument remained
St. Helens' May 18, 1980, eruption killed 57 people, leveled hundreds
of square miles of forests and dumped volcanic ash across the Northwest.
In October 1980, the lava dome began building in the crater. The
last dome-building eruption was in October 1986, but there have
been periodic steam explosions.
Sunday's activity was the most in a 24-hour period since the 1986
eruption, said survey geologist Willie Scott. Earthquake swarms
in 1998 and 2001 did not result in any surface activity.
If there is an explosion, Scott said concern would be focused within
the crater and on the upper flanks of the volcano. A five-mile area,
primarily north of the volcano, could receive flows of mud and rock
On Monday, a helicopter lowered a geophysicist onto the lava dome
to replace a failed instrument used to measure tiny movements that
indicate whether the dome is swelling, Winn said.
While the chopper was near the dome, the pilot was in radio contact
with Bobbie Myers, another geophysicist who during the 1980 blast
learned to detect subtle changes in seismic monitors.
"She's known to be able to predict explosive events up to
a couple of minutes ahead of time," Winn said.
BIRMENSDORF, Switzerland - Swiss scientists
have discovered what they think may be the biggest mushroom in Europe,
a monster fungus the length of eight football pitches and mostly
lurking underground. The mushroom, which covers a whopping 35 hectares
(86 acres) area in a Swiss national park near the eastern town of
Ofenpass is thought to be more than 1,000 years old, forestry experts
The mushroom, which is 800 metres (yards) long and 500 metres wide,
is of the armillaria type, according to the Swiss Federal Institute
Forest, Snow and Countryside Research (WSL).
It consists of a vast network of sometimes very thick filaments
which reach out along the path of tree roots in the mountainous,
The visible parts of the mushroom that poke out above the ground
or on the boughs of trees are the tip of the iceberg, representing
a tiny part of the vast undersoil organism.
Some species within the family are formidable parasites which invade
trees, gradually strangling them. They have been blamed for the
widespread destruction of pines within the national park, a WSL
One reason why the fungus may have survived for so long undetected
and untroubled is that it is only edible when young, and even then
is not a favourite with lovers of mushrooms.
JERUSALEM - The collapse
of major sections of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is inevitable,
and will likely occur during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which
begins in just three weeks, archeological and defense officials
Israel is fervently trying to convince the Muslim authorities atop
the Mount of the danger of allowing thousands of worshippers to
enter potentially unstable sections of the compound, knowing that
any collapse would be blamed on the Jews.
Their warnings have fallen on deaf ears, with the PA-appointed
Islamic clerics insisting the entire episode is merely an Israeli
ploy to regain control over Judaism’s holiest site.
Unilateral action by Israel to head off a catastrophe by denying
access to the Temple Mount would likely result in widespread Arab
riots, while the death of thousands of Muslims in the compound’s
collapse could spark regional war.
Israel Radio quoted defense establishment sources as saying ongoing
illegal Muslim construction atop the Temple Mount, coupled with
recent earthquakes, had severely weakened the area known as Solomon’s
Stables at the southern end of the compound.
Officials with the Antiquities Authority concurred, saying a “collapse
of the building’s roof and walls is almost certain,”
according to Ha’aretz .
The start of Ramadan typically sees up to 300,000 Arab Muslims
ascend the Temple Mount to pray to their god, Allah.
Officials fear the weight of the gathering will result in a catastrophic
collapse, killing thousands and possibly doing great damage to the
Al Aqsa Mosque, which sits atop the massive underground corridors
that make up Solomon’s Stables.
Israel has warned the Islamic Trust (Waqf) that oversees the Temple
Mount of the impending danger and insisted that access to potentially
unstable areas be denied.
Jerusalem is also urging Jordan, which administered the site until
the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, to help pressure the current
PA-appointed Muslim authorities.
Waqf officials, however, accused Israel of plotting to grab control
of the Temple Mount and dismissed the warnings as unfounded.
Many believe the Waqf in fact wants a collapse to occur in order
to use it as a catalyst for a unified Muslim front against the Jewish
Waqf clerics typically use their Friday sermons to demonize Israel
and urge Arab violence against its citizens.
What to do?
Israel’s leaders have found themselves in a tricky situation,
knowing that a deadly collapse of the Temple Mount could potentially
spark a regional war.
They also know, however, that taking unilateral action to prevent
such a catastrophe by limiting access to the Temple Mount during
Ramadan would lead to widespread Muslim riots.
For those who think Israel is a non-invasive
entity in the Middle East, Sunday's assassination of Hamas official
Izzeddine Sobhi Sheikh Khalil in Damascus proves, once again, that
it is. Israeli security sources have been quoted on Israeli television
as saying they were behind the killing, and deputy Defense Minister
Zeev Boim has threatened Syria with further pre-emptive strikes
for "directing terrorism" against the Jewish state. If
Israel were not a colonial-settler entity founded on Palestinian
land, if it did not continue to occupy Arab territory seized in
wars of conquest, if it did not continue to oppress the Palestinian
people and deny them their own state with consistent belligerence
and racist policies, then one could concede it had a right to defend
itself against unprovoked aggression. Even
so, striking inside another sovereign state is an act of war.
By this latest act of war, Israel has introduced a new element of
instability in the region that will persist at least until after
November's U.S. elections when that defacto Middle Eastern power
can exert its influence once again to ease yet another brewing crisis
This crisis situation in the making is a measure of the chaos that
results when serious issues are put on the backburner. The second
Palestinian intifada is now four years old, hard-line Israeli Prime
Minister and accused war criminal Ariel Sharon has virtually
been given a free hand for nearly as long, Palestinian infrastructure
has been destroyed and futile Palestinian "resistance"
such as wild bombings against Israeli civilians are the whirlwinds
now being harvested from the seeds of neglect.
Arab governments are as guilty of this neglect as anyone else,
probably even more so. More than this, the duplicity displayed by
paying lip service to the Palestinian cause while secretly cooperating
with Israel has only made the region an open target range for Israeli
military might. This duplicity will remain until there is more focus
in the Arab world and greater will to meet the relevant challenges
with appropriate diplomacy
BEIRUT: Syria accused Israel on Monday of
worsening the U.S. situation in Iraq by blocking the Middle East
peace process with the Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians.
Speaking to the UN General Assembly in its 59th session in New
York, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Sharaa lashed out at "extremist
and intolerant policies."
"We refer to the arguments promoted by Israel that the situation
in Iraq and its repercussions is more dangerous and complicated
than that prevailing in the occupied Arab territories," he
"Israel bears an important share of
the responsibility for intensifying and worsening the American predicament
in Iraq by avoiding the resumption of the peace process despite
the hand extended in peace by the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese,"
"This Israeli course of action may come back to haunt it
in the future, because its continued occupation of Arab lands is
a major cause of the rejection of American policies in the broader
Middle East," he said.
Sharaa also criticized Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for
"trying to mislead world public opinion into believing that
he is standing up to Jewish settlers before being able to withdraw
The previous night, after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State
Colin Powell that was described by the latter as "positive"
in a heretofore unprecedented occasion, Sharaa had also spoken out
against Israel, claiming that U.S.-Syrian relations "are complicated,
with Israel being a constant source of negativity, giving false
facts about the region and fabricating Syria's reputation in it."
GAZA CITY - Israel sealed off the Gaza strip
on Monday evening, barring journalists from entering the territory,
after suspected Palestinian militants earlier abducted a CNN television
producer at gunpoint.
The U.S. cable television news network reported from Gaza that men
armed with AK-47 assault rifles and pistols abducted Riyad Ali,
who is believed to work for CNN's Jerusalem bureau.
CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman said the gunmen emerged from a car
and took his colleague out of the CNN van, and then drove away.
Wedeman said he had no idea why Ali was kidnapped.
"These men were not very communicative. They just asked,
`Which one of you is Riyad?' and that was it," he said in a
broadcast. "Their appearance was not unusual. They weren't
dressed in any way different than your average Gazan of their age,
which was somewhere in their early twenties."
Wedeman said CNN was making attempts to secure Ali's release.
Ali's location, however, was unknown and no one claimed responsibility
for the kidnapping.
The CBC's Adrienne Arsenault said the journalist's abduction was
"one hell of a shock, because this is not the sort of thing
journalists have seen in Gaza."
Arsenault explained that since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
had announced plans for a withdrawal from the Palestinian enclave
earlier in 2004, violence had increased as militant groups jockeyed
CNN is believed to have contacted Palestinian President Yasser
Arafat and other senior Palestinians for help with the case.
The Arabic-language satellite television station Al-Jazeera said
the abducted producer was Arab-Israeli. Israeli media, too, said
he was an Israeli citizen.
Jenin, West Bank — Israeli troops hunting
militants raided a West Bank hospital on Monday, searching rooms
and calling on fugitives over loudspeakers to surrender.
In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, three Palestinians were killed by
army fire, including two suspected militants and a civilian at the
gate of as school when he was hit.
In the West Bank raid, dozens of Israeli armoured vehicles raided
the town of Jenin before dawn Monday. Troops took over buildings,
including a school and a government office, and exchanged fire with
gunmen. Eight Palestinians were wounded, hospital officials said.
After dawn, troops entered the private Al Arazi Hospital, the
army said, confirming Palestinian witness reports. Yehiyeh Alan,
who lives near the hospital, said he saw a firefight outside the
Talal Khamad, director of the hospital,
said soldiers were running through hospital hallways and searching
rooms for fugitives. “They have caused a lot of damage to
hospital equipment and cabinets in the rooms,” Mr.
The soldiers subsequently left the hospital without
making any arrests.
In other operations, the army imposed curfews on two refugee camps
adjacent to the West Bank city of Nablus and sealed off all exits,
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers fired machine-guns toward
the Khan Younis refugee camp, Palestinian security officials said.
A 55-year-old civilian was killed as he stood
at the gate of a local school, the officials said.
Military officials said the army was investigating the incident
but said the only shooting in the area was at a Palestinian who
appeared to be planting a bomb. The officials said that soldiers
did not identify hitting anyone when they fired.
In the nearby Rafah refugee camp, five Palestinians,
including four children aged nine to 15, were injured by Israeli
army fire, hospital officials said.
Also in Gaza, troops killed two armed Palestinians near the Jebaliyah
refugee camp, the army said. The militants, who were carrying explosives,
were crawling in a no-go zone near the border fence with Israel
when soldiers opened fire, the army said.
Palestinians fired several rockets at the Israeli border town
of Sderot, and one hit a house, paramedics said. Two people were
treated for shock.
Militants have fired hundreds of rockets and mortars at Israeli
towns and Jewish settlements in Gaza in the past four years of fighting.
Three Israelis have been killed by the rockets in the past three
WASHINGTON (AP) - Beginning Thursday, foreign
visitors from 27 more countries will be fingerprinted and photographed
when they enter the United States, according to the Homeland Security
Until now, citizens of 22 European countries
such as England and France, along with Australia, Brunei, Japan,
New Zealand and Singapore, haven't had to undergo such screening
because they can travel to the United States without a visa. That
Since January, most foreign visitors who travel with a visa have
had to be photographed and fingerprinted under the US-VISIT program
when they arrive at 115 major airports and 14 major seaports. The
information is checked against databases to verify documents and
flag names that appear on terrorist or law enforcement watch lists.
The Homeland Security Department estimates the
new requirement will affect 33,000 people coming to the United States
Homeland Security spokesman Dennis Murphy said the government
wanted to make sure that US-VISIT worked before expanding it.
Canadians can enter the country with little more than a declaration
of their citizenship.
Mexicans with laser visa cards - border crossing cards - who stay
for 30 days or less are exempt from the system for now.
US-VISIT must be up and running in the 50 busiest land ports by
the end of the year.
a chip implanted in your body that carries all your pertinent information
as well as your current body temperature and, of course, your exact
Sounds harmless when applied in commerce to track shipments or
in the livestock industry to monitor animals.
But when the idea is broached of injecting the chip into political
prisoners, as is rumored in China, or into convicted sex offenders,
a proposal in this country, then the name of George Orwell quickly
Matthew Brzezinski explores this high-tech surveillance technology
and other new and often frightening frontiers in a post-9/11 USA
in his riveting Fortress America.
A siege mentality - a maximum security state similar to Israel
- is emerging in the USA, he says.
The manufacture of such sophisticated hardware as the RFID - radio
frequency identification - is easy, but moving it into place and
solving delicate legal issues before another terrorist attack is
the tricky part.
"The technological and legal foundations for blanket surveillance
had already been laid in 2003," Brzezinski writes. "All
that was lacking was the political and social will to bring all
this technological wizardry to bear in the war on terror. It wouldn't
happen overnight or without another catastrophic incident, something
that upped the ante and put America in the same survival mode on
par with Israel: a nuclear detonation, a biological outbreak, a
mass casualty event. But if the stakes were high enough, would we
be more willing to accept life in a maximum security surveillance
As for RFID, the future is here. Brzezinski writes, "Special
Ops forces reportedly had tiny chips injected in their hips on sensitive
missions where they could not wear dog tags."
The former foreign correspondent at The Wall Street Journal and
the nephew of Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser
under President Jimmy Carter, Brzezinski takes readers inside a
mock drill with first responders in Denver, to a simulation of an
emergency session of the National Security Council and to the inner
sanctums of the Department of Homeland Security.
And as the 9/11 Commission reported, Brzezinski confirms that the
USA is vulnerable to attacks on its under-protected chemical and
natural gas depots.
Readers are asked to contemplate the unthinkable. One doctor tells
Brzezinski, "If I were al Qaeda I'd send twenty terrorist martyrs
infected with smallpox or pneumonic plague to crisscross the country
on as many domestic flights as possible." Brzezinski writes
that "75 million people could be infected" within a month's
time from the suicide infectors.
At the heart of Brzezinski's solid reporting and
evenhanded summaries is this question: How much disruption will
the American people tolerate as its government tries to find "the
balance between security and liberty"?
Research into developing
robots must continue despite the risks involved, an artificial intelligence
expert has said.
Rodney Brooks, Director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
at Massachussets Institute of Technology, said: "The benefits
of having robots could vastly outweigh the problems."
And he dismissed fears of robots taking over the world as a "Hollywood
Any new technology - such as a new drug or a new digital TV - could
cause problems, he acknowledged.
But he said it was more important to understand how humans exist
and operate in the world.
The meaning of life
"It is a quest that mankind has had for a long time: what
is our meaning?", Professor Brooks told BBC HARDtalk's Lyce
He went on: "Every technology, every science that tells us
more about ourselves is scary at the time.
It's extraordinarily arrogant to say there are questions we don't
need to ask
"We've so far managed to transcend all that and come to a
better understanding of ourselves.
"I think we're pretty much glad for it - glad that we have
modern medicine, glad that we have technology."
But he conceded that there had been "some terrible things"
along the way to progress which had needed controlling.
He explained: "Nuclear weapons are an example."
"It's reasonable to say that certain things we understand
should perhaps have limits on how they're used and how certain technologies
"That's very much what we should do as a society."
Professor Brooks said the nature of exploratory science meant scientists
had to keep asking questions.
"I think it's impossible and extraordinarily arrogant of us
to say there are questions we don't need to ask."
Human nature also meant that people always wanted to know answers,
"To try to repress answers, repress questions, leads to the
same sort of things that we were all horrified to see going on in
Afghanistan under the Taleban."
Robots will play an increasingly important role in our lives, said
Professor Brooks, and the most sophisticated of them can already
A robot called Kismet, developed in the professor's lab, is programmed
to mimic expressions of emotion.
"If it is happy and you bring out a toy it may respond to
it positively; if it's already annoyed at you and you bring out
a toy and start waving it around, it might make it more annoyed",
said Professor Brooks.
What is unclear however is whether such simulation of emotions
in robots is the same as experiencing them.
Professor Brooks said that this was a "deep question",
but pointed out that humans are programmed in exactly the same way
The main question for him, he said, was: "Can we, as humans,
ever accept such things as real? What does it mean to be really
afraid, what does it mean to be really happy?"
He challenged people to drop the belief that humans
are special, saying we should recognise ourselves as machines.
Although at the moment he treats his children as very special,
he said "it doesn't mean that in the future I might not treat
a machine with equal respect, or a kind of respect which is more
than any of our current machines deserve."
A few hours after George W. Bush dismissed
a pessimistic CIA report on Iraq as ''just guessing,'' the analyst
who identified himself as its author told a private dinner last
week of secret, unheeded warnings years ago about going to war in
Iraq. This exchange leads to the unavoidable
conclusion that the president of the United States and the Central
Intelligence Agency are at war with each other.
Paul R. Pillar, the CIA's national intelligence officer for the
Near East and South Asia, sat down Tuesday night in a large West
Coast city with a select group of private citizens. He was not talking
off the cuff. Relying on a multi-paged, single-spaced memorandum,
Pillar said he and his colleagues concluded early in the Bush administration
that military intervention in Iraq would intensify anti-American
hostility throughout Islam. This was not from a CIA retiree but
an active senior official. (Pillar, no covert operative, is listed
openly in the Federal Staff Directory.)
For President Bush to publicly write off a CIA paper as just guessing
is without precedent. For the agency to go semi-public is not only
unprecedented but shocking. George Tenet's retirement as director
of Central Intelligence removed the buffer between president and
agency. As the new DCI, Porter Goss inherits an extraordinarily
Pillar's Tuesday night presentation was conducted under what used
to be called the Lindley Rule (devised by Newsweek's Ernest K. Lindley):
The identity of the speaker, to whom he spoke, and the fact that
he spoke at all are secret, but the substance of what he said can
be reported. This dinner, however, knocks the Lindley Rule on its
head. The substance was less significant than the forbidden background
The Bush-CIA tension escalated Sept. 15 when the New York Times
reported a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was circulated
in August (not July, as the newspaper reported), spelling out ''a
dark assessment of Iraq'' with civil war as the ''worst case'' outcome.
The NIE was prepared by Pillar, and well-placed sources believe
Pillar leaked it, though he denied that at Tuesday night's dinner.
The immediate White House reaction to the NIE, from spokesman
Scott McClellan, was to associate it with ''pessimists'' and ''hand-wringers.''
With Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at his side at the
United Nations, Bush said of the CIA: ''They were just guessing
as to what the conditions might be like.''
A few hours later, Pillar discussed the Iraqi war in a context
of increased aversion to the United States -- an attitude he said
his East Asia section at the CIA was aware of three years ago and
feared would be exacerbated by U.S. military intervention. When
Pillar was asked why this was not made clear to the president and
other higher authorities, his answer was that nobody asked -- not
The CIA official spokesman said Pillar's West Coast appearance
was approved by his ''management team'' at Langley as part of an
ongoing ''outreach'' program. However, the spokesman said, Pillar
told him that the fact I knew his name meant somebody had violated
the off-the-record nature of his remarks. In other words, the CIA
bureaucracy wants a license to criticize the president and the former
DCI without being held accountable.
Through most of the Bush administration, the CIA high command
has been engaged in a bitter struggle with the Pentagon. CIA officials
refer to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary Douglas
Feith as ''ideologues.'' Nevertheless, it is clear the CIA's wrath
has now extended to the White House. Bush reduced the tensions a
little on Thursday, this time in a joint Washington press conference
with Allawi, by saying his use of the word ''guess'' was ''unfortunate.''
Modern history is filled with intelligence bureaus turning against
their own governments, for good or ill. In the final days of World
War II, the German Abwehr conspired against Hitler. More recently,
Pakistani intelligence was plotting with Muslim terrorists. The
CIA is a long way from those extremes, but it is supposed to be
a resource -- not a critic -- for the president.
FALLUJAH, Iraq : US airstrikes on rebel-held Fallujah left 15 dead
while an insurgent attack in another troubled Sunni Arab town killed
10 more, as Britain and Egypt stepped up efforts to secure the release
of hostages in Iraq.
Children - "Liberated" by Bush and Co. and those that
believed his lies
The arrest of a top national guard commander with links to the
insurgency dealt a blow to a fledgling security apparatus under
pressure to secure Iraq in time for January elections, as Britain
admitted dismantling Sadam Hussein's old army was a mistake.
The latest US air strike on Fallujah targeted what commanders said
was a meeting place for militants of suspected Al-Qaeda operative
Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi's Unity and Holy War group, which is holding
Briton Kenneth Bigley hostage.
But medics in the town, west of Baghdad, said there were again
women and children among the casualties.
"Intelligence sources indicated that approximately 10 terrorists
were meeting at this location to plan operations targeting innocent
Iraqi civilians and multinational forces," the US military
Two hospitals in the city reported receiving eight dead and 22
wounded, including women and children, while residents said many
victims remained under the rubble.
At least two homes in the area were destroyed while others suffered
An earlier US air strike on another alleged hideout of the militants
killed seven Iraqis and wounded 11, again including women and children,
according to medics. [...]
CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - Many of President
Bush's assertions about progress in Iraq -- from police training
and reconstruction to preparations for January elections -- are
in dispute, according to internal Pentagon documents, lawmakers
and key congressional aides on Sunday.
Bush used the visit last week by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad
Allawi to make the case that "steady progress" is being
made in Iraq to counter warnings by his Democratic presidential
rival, Sen. John Kerry, that the situation in reality is deteriorating.
Bush touted preparations for national elections in January, saying
Iraq's electoral commission is up and running and told Americans
on Saturday that "United Nations electoral advisers are on
the ground in Iraq."
He said nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi
soldiers, police officers and other security personnel are already
at work, and that would rise to 125,000 by the end of this year.
And he promised more than $9 billion will be spent on reconstruction
contracts in Iraq over the next several months.
But many of these assertions have met with skepticism
from key lawmakers, congressional aides and experts, and Pentagon
documents, given to lawmakers and obtained by Reuters, paint a more
TROOP, POLICE TRAINING
The documents show that of the nearly 90,000 currently
in the police force, only 8,169 have had the full eight-week academy
training. Another 46,176 are listed as "untrained," and
it will be July 2006 before the administration reaches its new goal
of a 135,000-strong, fully trained police force.
Six Army battalions have had "initial training," while
57 National Guard battalions, 896 soldiers in each, are still being
recruited or "awaiting equipment." Just eight Guard battalions
have reached "initial (operating) capability," and the
Pentagon acknowledged the Guard's performance has been "uneven."
Training has yet to begin for the 4,800-man civil intervention
force, which will help counter a deadly insurgency. And none of
the 18,000 border enforcement guards have received any centralized
training to date, despite earlier claims they had, according to
Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.
They estimated that 22,700 Iraqi
personnel have received enough basic training to make them "minimally
effective at their tasks," in
contrast to the 100,000 figure cited by Bush.
"Let me tell you exactly what the story is. They're saying
they're trying to train them, yet they have not trained," Sen.
Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, said on CNN.
The White House defended its figures, and
a senior administration official defined "fully trained"
as having gone through "initial basic operations training."
Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command that covers Iraq,
told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the number of trained
Iraqi forces "will continue to grow."
Did you catch that? To the White House, "fully trained"
means that an individual has passed basic training. The
other 87% aren't even "minimally effective" at their jobs.
But no matter, because they do know how to kill people, and that
seems to be what is really important...
On CBS "Face the Nation," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham
of South Carolina said Bush needed to deploy more troops to secure
areas of Iraq before the elections.
"We are making progress, but we need to adjust," Graham
ELECTIONS, RECONSTRUCTION DISPUTED
The status of election planning in Iraq is also
in question. Of the $232 million in Iraqi funds set aside for the
Iraqi electoral commission, it has received a mere $7 million, according
to House Appropriations Committee staff.
While Bush said the commission has already hired personnel and
begun setting election procedures, congressional
aides said preparations in other areas were behind schedule.
According to a one-page election planning "time line,"
registration materials are supposed to be distributed in early October
and initial voter lists to go out by the end of October, which is
during the holy month of Ramadan.
So far, the United Nations has been reluctant to send staff back
into the battle zone. It only has 30 to 35 people now in Baghdad,
no more than eight working on the elections.
"The framework for it (free and fair
elections) hasn't even been set up. The voter registration lists
aren't set. There have to be hundreds of polling places, hundreds
of trained monitors and poll watchers. None of that has happened,"
Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State for President Bill
Clinton, a Democrat, told ABC's "This Week."
With the violence expected to intensify in the run-up to the elections,
congressional experts were also skeptical $9 billion could be spent
on reconstruction projects within several months, as Bush asserted.
A top Republican aide briefed by the administration said, "at
best," the $9 billion would be disbursed by late 2005 or early
2006. A top Democratic aide called Bush's projections "laughable."
I fault this president for not knowing what
death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted
to be what they could be. On the eve of D- Day in 1944 General Eisenhower
prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going
to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war
not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was
almost more than Eisenhower could bear.
But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind
for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table
for the weapons of mass destruction he can't seem to find, you see
him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the
roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal,
He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he
should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written
for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young
Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles
an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because
he has no capacity for it. He does not feel
a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women
who wanted to be what they could be.
They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers
or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a
terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable
remembrance of aborted life . . . they come to his desk as a political
liability, which is why the press is not permitted to photograph
the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.
How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express
regret and he regrets nothing. He does not regret that his
reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the
facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath
has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret
that, rather than controlling terrorism, his war in Iraq has licensed
it. So he never mourns for the dead and crippled youngsters who
have fought this war of his choice.
He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive
the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He
did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the
options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want
to but because you have to.
Yet this president knew it would be difficult for Americans not
to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much.
This president and his supporters would seem
to have a mind for only one thing -- to take power, to remain in
power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their
A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader.
The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And
so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not
sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children.
He is the president who does not feel. He does not feel for the
families of the dead, he does not feel for the 35 million of us
who live in poverty, he does not feel for the 40 percent who cannot
afford health insurance, he does not feel for the miners whose lungs
are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the
chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills -
it is amazing for how many people in this country this president
does not feel.
But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he
is relieving the wealthiest 1 percent of the population of their
tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting
the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing
the quality of air in coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs,
and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a-half benefits
for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising
them into the professional class.
And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences
for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party
are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.
But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember
the millions of people here and around the world who marched against
the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneous aroused oversoul
of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did
it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever
seen coming. There are little wars all over he world most of the
But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions
of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope
of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of
democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic
republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its
extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance
of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated
with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine
ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.
The president we get is the country we get. With each president
the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our
malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds
of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The
people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into
and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.
Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather
report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail.
How can we sustain ourselves as the United
States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the
constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics
of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral
vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.
The novelist E.L. Doctorow has a house in Sag Harbor.
the presidential campaign approaches its showdown, the Republicans
in the state run by George Bush's brother are up to their tricks
again. Andrew Gumbel reports from the heart of Florida
In Orlando, the Florida home of Disneyworld and a vital political
battleground, the campaign for the November presidential election
is getting sly, nasty and very, very personal. Normally, at this
stage of the proceedings, Ezzie Thomas, a well-known character on
the predominantly African-American west side of town, would be out
chatting to the people, registering them to vote before the 4 October
deadline and helping them with absentee ballots if they do not think
they will have time to make it to the polls on election day. But
the 73-year- old Mr Thomas, an affable ladies' man, is staying out
of public view for fear of exacerbating what is already a highly
controversial - and highly political - criminal investigation of
his election-related activities.
A similarly low profile is being taken by Steve Clelland, the head
of the local firefighters' union. Last week,
he did not even dare attend a local appearance by John Kerry, the
candidate he is supporting for President, in case it added to the
legal troubles facing his own organisation. The firefighters are
also subject to a criminal investigation, the chief allegation -
for which no evidence has been produced
- being that they colluded with City Hall to set up an illegal slush
fund for political campaigning.
What makes the troubles facing the two men particularly sinister
is that they are declared Kerry supporters, with the power to bring
in hundreds if not thousands of votes for the Democratic Party.
The investigations are being conducted by
the state police, known as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
(FDLE), which reports directly to Governor Jeb Bush, brother of
President George Bush.
The Republicans, naturally, deny the investigations
are politically motivated. But even they acknowledge that a chill
has spread through Orlando's overwhelmingly Democratic black voting
community after a flurry of unannounced visits by armed state police
to at least 52 homes whose mostly elderly residents had signed up
for an absentee ballot with Mr Thomas's help.
The Republicans have been hard put to explain what exactly the
two men have done wrong. The media has aired official allegations
ranging from vote fraud to campaign finance irregularities to racketeering,
but no charges have been brought, despite exhaustive investigations.
A grand jury examining allegations concerning
the firefighters' union concluded that no laws had been broken,
which has not deterred the FDLE from pursuing the case. [...]
Although the FDLE's public statements have been less than transparent,
it appears to have relied on a paragraph in the Florida statute
books which says it is illegal to receive or offer "something
of value" for absentee ballots. Mr Thomas and his organisation,
the Orlando Voters' League, have not been accused of paying for
votes, but they have acknowledged paying the 37-cent postage for
some people's absentee ballots. Mr Thomas, who received $10,000
from the Dyer campaign for his get-out-the-vote efforts, has also
acknowledged paying his volunteers between $100 and $150 for petrol
and other expenses over the campaign season.
The allegations seem particularly absurd
because such practices are absolutely par for the course for both
parties. "A 37-cent postage stamp is a very interesting
definition of racketeering," Mr Egan said. "Now, it's
well known that most absentee ballots come out of the white community
... I seriously doubt the police would behave in the same way in
a white community."
As it happens, Mr Thomas had been been hired before by Republican
candidates to perform exactly the same services he provided for
Mr Dyer, without falling foul of the law. Among his past clients
are two names with particular resonance in the 2004 presidential
race. One is Mel Martinez, the Bush administration's outgoing Housing
Secretary who is now running for the Florida Senate seat being vacated
by the retiring Democrat, Bob Graham. (Mr Thomas helped Mr Martinez
run for chair of the Orange County commission a few years ago.)
And the other is Glenda Hood, who was mayor of Orlando for 12 years
before being appointed Jeb Bush's Secretary of State, the office
responsible for running Florida's elections.
And Mayor Hood, not Mayor Dyer, allowed the firefighters' union
to spend up to $40,000 a year in city funds on political activities.
In those days, the firefighters were considered allies of the Republican
establishment in Orange County and had endorsed George Bush for
President in 2000. But Mr Clelland and his members were deeply disappointed
by the White House's failure to follow through on promises to put
an extra 100,000 firefighters on American streets and update their
equipment. So, in early June, they joined a statewide union vote
endorsing Mr Kerry for President in 2004.
Days later, the FDLE, with television cameras
in tow, raided City Hall, seized several computers and announced
that the union and its so-called "leave bank" were being
investigated. The beefy Mr Clelland
said he was scared to death in his interview with the FDLE supervisor
in Orlando and was told he might be slung into jail if he insisted
on having his lawyer present. He duly asked Mr Egan to leave the
Like the black absentee voters, Mr Clelland
also noticed the officer tapping the 9mm pistol in his ankle holster
as he let loose his barrage of questions. "You would think
these investigators were going after John Gotti [the late Mafia
don]," he said bitterly. "Their actions have gutted this
organisation locally." After the grand jury ruled that
the union leave bank was legal, Mayor Dyer asked Florida's attorney
general for a ruling to get the FDLE off their backs. But Mayor
Dyer's bad luck was that he had run for the office of attorney general
in 2002, and his successful Republican opponent, Charlie Crist,
was not about to cut him any slack. Mr Crist has refused to offer
an opinion either. [...]
With workers from both parties rushing to register as many voters
as possible while there is still time, the race remains nerve-rackingly
close, close enough that the votes controlled by Ezzie Thomas and
the firefighters might just make the crucial difference.
The world's first
human-to-human transmission of a lethal strain of bird flu is suspected
to have taken place in Thailand
The alarm has been raised by the World Health Organisation, as
Peter Lloyd reports from Bangkok.
Suspicion of human to human transmission centers on the case of
a 26 year old woman who traveled from Bangkok to northern Thailand
to visit her daughter in hospital and then attend her funeral. A
week after returning to the capital the woman also died from what
is believed to have been bird flu. It was only then that her child's
fatal illness fell under suspicion of being the deadly strain of
avian influenza. The W.H.O's Thai representative Kumara Rai says
there is no evidence of the mother having had any contact with fowl,
instead suspecting she caught the deadly virus from close physical
contact with her daughter. Her sister is now in hospital with severe
pneumonia. Lab test results are expected as soon as Monday but the
Geneva headquarters of W.H.O has been asked to send experts to Thailand
to help in the investigation.
LONDON (AP) - Crude oil topped the psychological
milestone of $50 per barrel Tuesday for the first time, and a Saudi
Arabian oil official said the world's largest petroleum exporter
would raise its production capacity by nearly 5 percent in a bid
to calm prices.
Analysts said instability in the Middle East, political unrest
in Nigeria, Africa's top oil exporter, and damage to U.S. production
from the Caribbean's hurricanes were keeping traders on edge about
world supplies. Some said the price may not be sustainable and may
In response to the increase, Saudi Arabia announced it will raise
its oil production capacity from 10.5 million barrels a day to 11
million barrels in order to "stabilize" prices. It is
currently producing about 9.5 million barrels a day.
By increasing capacity, Saudi Arabia will be able to raise production
when it wants. A Saudi oil ministry official, speaking on condition
of anonymity, said that the kingdom would increase production "depending
The capacity increase by the world's largest oil exporter will
go into effect within weeks, using new fields where production has
just begun, Oil Minister Ali Naimi said.
"The fields of Abu Safa and al-Qatif, which have just started
production, will be used to increase the kingdom's production capacity
in the coming few weeks to 11 million barrels per day," the
minister said in a statement.
"In light of the recent developments in the oil market and
the increase in prices that exceeded $50 ... Saudi Arabia is closely
monitoring the various developments in the international oil market
and is working on stabilizing that," he said. [...]
The United States has lost more than 11 million barrels of oil
production in the past two weeks, according to U.S. government data,
with Gulf of Mexico output still down nearly 500,000 barrels a day
following the devastation brought by Ivan.
The price of oil is up roughly 75 percent from a year ago and some
analysts predict the latest surge - which is already hurting airlines
and other big consumers - could lead to a global recession.
Although oil is at an all-time high, prices are not at record levels
when inflation is taken into account. Adjusting for inflation, today's
prices are still more than $30 below the level reached in 1981 after
the Iranian revolution.
That hasn't eased the fears gripping the market, however. [...]
Jason Kenny, and oil and gas analyst with ING Financial Markets
in Scotland, said: "There is a lot of supply concern in the
market, I think we'll have a lot of volatility over the next few
weeks, until we get some clarity about U.S. oil inventories, OPEC
output movements, geopolitics."
Kenny said oil prices could conceivably rise to $60 in the near
future, but he said they were more likely to fall, barring another
major terrorist attack. "I personally think the $50 level is
unsustainable," he said, because some oil importing nations
can't afford that price. [...]
JAKARTA - OPEC is powerless to stop the rise
in oil prices at the moment although it has about 1.5 million barrels
per day (bpd) of spare capacity to add to supplies, president Purnomo
Yusgiantoro said on Tuesday. As U.S. crude rose to a record $50.17
a barrel on Tuesday, Purnomo said he had not yet had any contact
with OPEC's 10 other members.
"At the moment there's nothing we can do. OPEC has spare capacity,
however, whatever we do there is no sensitivity in the market,"
Purnomo, who is also Indonesian oil minister, told Reuters.
"OPEC has the ability to add output. There is around 1.5 million
bpd of spare capacity. Saudi Arabia has the capability," he
"We are worried because there is an increase in the price
of goods and services because of high oil prices. We are watching
closely the price movement. If prices continue
to go up, there will be a danger to the global economy,"
"I warn that high oil prices will result in
the start of a recession, there are already some indications in
some industrialised countries."
Al Goodyear is holding his breath in anticipation.
Within days, the affable archaeologist expects to read the results
of lab tests indicating that stone tools he recently found in South
Carolina are 25,000 years old - or older.
Such results would be explosive. They would
imply that humans lived on this continent before the last ice age,
far earlier than previously believed. Even if the dates came
in younger than 25,000 years old, researchers say, the find would
add to the mounting body of evidence that humans trod North and
South America at least 2,000 years before the earliest-known inhabitants,
known as the Clovis culture. Dr. Goodyear's efforts are among the
latest from a growing group of archaeologists and anthropologists
who have become emboldened to buck conventional wisdom and probe
far deeper into the hemisphere's past than many of their predecessors
did. What they are finding not only could rewrite old chapters in
the history of two continents, it could write new ones.
"With all these new discoveries, it's almost a rebirth of
excitement in the field. All sorts of new ideas are coming forward
about migration routes and timing of arrival," says Michael
Waters, a geoarchaeologist at Texas A&M University who is involved
in several pre-Clovis digs around the United States. "You still
have to be careful. Every claim of pre-Clovis occupation needs to
be looked at quite carefully."
And they are. When stunning discoveries surface in North America's
paleolithic past, they can ignite debates conducted with all the
gentility of the Stanley Cup finals - as Goodyear knows.
"When these dates come back, I'll be hiding in a coal mine.
I've already got a little Groucho Marx disguise I'm going to put
on," quips the University of South Carolina scientist, who
along with colleagues is working what's called the Topper site in
Allendale County, S.C., along the Savannah River.
For decades, the Clovis culture has held sway as the oldest in
the New World. Evidence for this group's presence was first unearthed
in 1936 near Clovis, N.M. A second site that emerged in Arizona
in 1959, and others since. A uniquely fluted spear point became
the culture's icon. Radiocarbon dating at Clovis sites so far has
bracketed their presence from roughly 11,200 to around 10,800 radiocarbon
years ago. (Archaeologists prefer expressing dates in radiocarbon
years because converting to modern calendar years becomes tricky
beyond a certain age threshold.)
Searching for Big Foot
As evidence for the Clovis culture's presence cropped up throughout
the continent and the sites became the subject of intense study,
the notion that Clovis people were the oldest immigrants to the
Western Hemisphere became firmly entrenched. Although some research
teams periodically claimed to have found older sites, their evidence
was shaky or later proved to have a less radical explanation. To
claim a pre-Clovis find was akin to claiming to spot Big Foot.
Researchers often hesitated "to dig below the Clovis horizon
for fear of ridicule," Dr. Waters says.
By many accounts, the turning point came seven years ago when anthropologist
Tom Dillehay published the second of two encyclopedic volumes of
results from a site in southern Chile known as Monte Verde. His
team's evidence pointed to a human presence there 13,000 years ago.
Other sites began to appear with evidence for pre-Clovis occupation
that many saw as more credible than evidence from earlier efforts.
One of these sites, known as Mud Lake, sits near Kenosha, Wis.
It was discovered by accident in January 1936, the same year as
the first find of a Clovis point, when a Works Progress Administration
crew was digging a drainage ditch and unearthed most of a foreleg
from a juvenile mammoth. Turned over to the Kenosha Historical Society,
it sat there until 1990, when an amateur archaeologist noted cut
marks on the bones. Bones from nearby sites, known as the Fenske
and Shaefer sites, showed similar markings. In 1992 and 1993, researchers
excavated Shaefer and found bones with cut marks on them and stone
tools underneath a pelvis bone. Radiocarbon dates on the bones and
on plant material at the same level of the dig ranged from 12,500
to 12,300 years ago, nudging them beyond the Clovis time scale.
Dates from the Mud Lake bone were more stunning, says Dan Joyce,
senior curator at the Kenosha Public Museum. Purported hunters slew
the mammoth 13,450 years ago. He remains cautious about the presence
of hunters. Cut marks are suggestive, but not conclusive. This past
August, he and his team searched for the rest of their mammoth.
But so far it has remained elusive enough to earn the beast the
sobriquet Waldo, after the children's "Where's Waldo?"
While Dr. Joyce and his colleagues were planning their hunt for
Waldo, Goodyear was taking a deeper look at Topper, a site he had
been studying for 20 years. An adherent to the Clovis-first idea,
he began to rethink his position after reading a site report from
Cactus Hill, a pre-Clovis site in Virginia, in 1998.
His subsequent work at Topper uncovered what looked to be industrial-scale
toolmaking well below the level at which Clovis artifacts were found.
With no organic material available to radiocarbon-date the level,
the team had to use a different technique that stunned them with
date estimates of 16,000 to 20,000 years ago.
In May, he took his crew back to Topper for another, deeper look.
They found what they interpret as tools in a layer roughly two meters
(6.5 feet) below their earlier pre-Clovis finds. The soils and geology
suggest that the artifacts are several thousand years older, he
says. But nothing beats radiocarbon dates. Fortuitously, they found
a sample of wood charcoal to derive three radiocarbon dates.
"I'd be very surprised if they're less than 25,000 years old,
but I'm preparing myself mentally for the possibility that they
could be a lot older," perhaps as old as 30,000 or 40,000 years,
Such finds raise intriguing questions. Clovis groups were thought
to have crossed a broad land bridge across the Bering Strait, hiking
through breaks in the glaciers to what is now the lower 48. But
if people lived on the continent at least 2,000 years earlier, they
would have arrived at a time when the glaciers were impassable.
This has led some to argue for a sea route along the land bridge
and then the western coastline. Others suggest some may have come
from Australia or the Iberian peninsula.
But is it civilization?
Not everyone is convinced by the evidence so far for pre-Clovis
finds, although some doubters don't rule out the possibility that
some groups where here earlier.
"The tools people find are not self-evidently hunting or butchering
tools" in the way Clovis artifacts are, says Stuart Fiedel,
an archaeologist with the Louis Berger Group in Washington, D.C.
Like Vikings making landfall in North America before any other
modern European group, pre-Clovis sites don't seem to represent
the first long-term colonization of the Western Hemisphere, he says.
Interest in Clovis grew out of their apparent role as a continent-wide
colonizing population and a key to the origins of the native Americans
Europeans encountered after they arrived.
But others see potentially deeper insights coming from pre-Clovis
"This could help us get a better handle on the amount of genetic
variability we see in the descendants of these populations,"
says David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University
in Dallas. It also could reset the clock for the development of
civilizations in the New World.
The scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep have formally applied
for a licence to clone human embryos to find a cure for motor neurone
If granted, Professor Ian Wilmut's team at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute
would clone cells from MND patients to see how the illness develops
in an embryo.
The licensing body, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
granted a similar licence in August.
The application has provoked criticism from pro-life campaigners.
Therapeutic cloning for research has been legal in the UK since
In August this year, scientists at the University of Newcastle
were given permission to perform therapeutic cloning using human
embryos for the first time.
They wanted to duplicate early stage embryos and extract stem cells
from them which can be used for radical new treatments for a host
of diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes.
In comparison, Professor Wilmut wants to create cloned embryos
Professor Wilmut has stressed that his team has
no intention of producing cloned babies, and said the diseased embryos
would be destroyed after experimentation.
Professor Wilmut said: "I would emphasise that, at this time,
our objective is to understand the disease.
"Knowledge often does have two edges to it.
"We owe it to the people who suffer from it (MND) and are
going to suffer from it in the future to try and develop treatments
MND is caused by the death of cells - called motor neurones - that
control movement in the brain and spinal cord.
It affects about 5,000 people in the UK. Half of people with MND
die within 14 months of diagnosis. [...]
GREAT FALLS, Mont. - A 108-year-old man has
taken up smoking again, encouraged by gifts of cigars from as far
away as London. Retired railroad worker Walter Breuning spoke at
his birthday party Tuesday of how he reluctantly quit smoking cigars
at the age of 99 because he couldn't afford them.
After his story was widely distributed, the Great Falls man heard
from people like the English cigar fan who sent two Havanas.
"They were $12 cigars and they were good," Breuning said.
"You can't get good Havana cigars like that out here."
He also got a birthday note and a few more cigars from a former
Great Falls resident now living in Oregon.
"They were pretty good cigars, too," Breuning said.
Fred Aimi, of Lolo, was reading newspaper stories to a group of
blind neighbors when he came across an account of Breuning's birthday.
"That hurt," Aimi said. "I like a good cigar myself."
Aimi said he sent a box of two dozen cigars on Friday to Breuning.
"At 108, they can't do him much harm,"
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