Article - High Strangeness
Article - The Blair Belief Project
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
An Important Note about the
Signs of the Times Page
We can, and very often do, excuse
many readers, old and new, for thinking that Signs of the Times
is just one more alternative news site which aims to point out the
lies and disinformation that governments and other control groups
attempt to foist upon the general public.
Readers of alternative news sites could also be forgiven for thinking
that one such site is as good as another, given that all seem to
find common ground in their attempts to read between the lines and
present a closer approximation to the truth.
This is however not the case.
All alternative news sites are not created equal, and all have
an agenda that underpins and motivates their apparent reporting
of the truth simply for its own sake. Among these agendas, the astute
reader will discern a wide variety of causes being serviced. These
include, but are not limited to, anarchist and patriot militia groups
who wish to overthrow the government, "socialist" groups
who wish to effect a fundamental change in the form of government
in the US, well meaning yet misguided Democrats who see salvation
in the return of a Democrat President, well meaning yet misguided
christian fundamentalist Bush supporters who aim to expose the nefarious
agenda of the left, and many variations on these themes.
It can be argued then that these sites have a very particular and
therefore limited viewpoint and make use of current events on our
planet as a way to make a case for the truth of that viewpoint.
Signs of the Times too has an agenda, but where we differ from
all other alternative news sites is in our perspective. The reader
will notice that each day almost the entire content of this page
to one extent or another revolves around a singular concept - deception.
Unlike other news sites, our reason for repeatedly highlighting
the lies and disinformation being spread by government, the media
and other groups associated with the "control system"
is not to further any subjective belief of ours but rather to highlight
the self-evident fact that deception is and always has been the
modus operandi of the control system on this planet. Indeed, our
research and the perspective it has afforded has lead us to conclude
that this control system is pervasive all-encompassing and ancient
and transcends the boundaries set by any past or present manufactured
political social and geographical constructs.
From this point of view we can deduce that the lies and deception
which we all agree exist on the political and social levels, are
but symptoms of a greater and deeper deception that goes to the
very heart of our existence as human beings. In fact, we might even
say that this overt deception, if seen only from a physical 3D perspective,
can be used as a way to distract us from seeing the most important
point of all - we are being deceived about the very nature and purpose
of human life itself. To wit:
"Life is religion. Life experiences reflect how one interacts
with God. Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms
of their interaction with the creation. Some people think that
the world exists for them to overcome or ignore or shut out. For
those individuals, the worlds will cease. They will become exactly
what they give to life. They will become merely a dream in the
'past.' People who pay strict attention to objective reality right
and left, become the reality of the 'Future.'"
So in reading the Signs page today and every day, remember the
perspective. There can be no "freedom" for those who do
not understand the true nature of their enslavement.
The next bit of information for
your readers concerns Vladimir Putin, the Russians and the CIA.
It is common knowledge that Reagan played high stakes poker with
the Russians, using the completely phony Star Wars project to force
them into an escalating hardware war that they lost. After the fall
of Communism, the economy collapses and US oil interests moved right
in to lay their hands on the potentially vital Russian oil fields.
They operated via the CIA through Moscow street thugs who grabbed
the properties when the state privatized them, looted everything
in sight and got their friends in the US to loan them huge sums
of cash…which they also stole and stashed in Swiss and Israeli
banks. Putin came into power when the CIA's Yeltsin drank himself
into a permanent stupor. Putin, an ex-KGB man, is not stupid and
is not a drunk. He stopped the takeover of Russian oil, broke up
the Russian/US cartels and caused spastic colon in boardrooms all
over the United States and England.
The US could not tolerate well-heeled and generous friends of the
Republicans being deprived of their profits so they embarked on
a clandestine campaign to discredit Putin and get their hands back
on the Russian oil-producing areas. The CIA ran the show. They overthrew
the government of Georgia and put their man in power and moved on
Azerbaidschan and Cechenia (sic). To make a long story short, it
turns out that the CIA supported fully the Chechen leader that was
directly responsible for the Russian school massacre. They have
a lovely habit of doing such things. After all, the CIA killed Allende
in Chile and replaced him with their man, Pinochet, who slaughtered
God knows how many Chileans. The point is here that Putin found
out about our official but clandestine support of this monster and
to say he and his people are angry and determined to put a stop
to any future adventurism of this kind goes without saying.
Vladimir Putin waded into the
American election campaign in support of George Bush yesterday,
declaring that if the president lost, it would lead to the "spread
of terrorism" around the world.
The endorsement was a significant boost for Mr Bush who has been
under fire from John Kerry for failing to maintain international
support for the US "war on terror".
"International terrorists have set as their goal inflicting
the maximum damage to Bush, to prevent his election to a second
term," the Russian president said at a central Asian summit
"If they succeed in doing that, they will celebrate a victory
over America and over the entire anti-terror coalition. In that
case, this would give an additional impulse to international terrorists
and to their activities, and could lead to the spread of terrorism
to other parts of the world." He added he would respect "any
choice by the American people".
It was by far his strongest endorsement of Mr Bush to date, and
the most direct intervention in the race so far by a foreign leader.
The endorsement came as Mr Bush regained a small but significant
lead in the polls after his mediocre performance in the three debates
with Mr Kerry, and on a day when he accused his rival of retreat
in the war on terror, playing on memories of the September 11 2001
terror attacks in the hopes of plucking off the reliably Democratic
state of New Jersey.
New Jersey lost nearly 700 citizens when hijacked planes struck
the World Trade Centre, and the president's visit to the southern
parts of the state was aimed at exploiting strong fears of another
Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly rate terror as their top election
issue, providing an opening for Mr Bush to try to loosen Mr Kerry's
grip on what had once been viewed as solidly Democratic terrain.
Mr Bush hammered home his point, saying Mr Kerry's criticism of
the war on Iraq showed that he could not be relied on to defend
America from attack.
"Senator Kerry's approach would commit a response only after
America is hit. That kind of September 10 attitude is no way to
protect our country," he said.
The president argued that Mr Kerry failed to understand the changed
world after September 11, clinging to the "mirage of security"
that prevailed in the 1990s.
Yesterday's remarks by Mr Putin were timely for Mr Bush. Since
he declared after a first meeting with Mr Putin that he had been
able to look into his soul, relations between them have been close,
and they have portrayed each other as allies in the war on terror.
At a rally in West Palm Beach, Mr Kerry accused Mr Bush of "arrogant
boasting" about doing everything right in Iraq, of diverting
efforts from the war on terror and "cavalierly, ideologically
and arrogantly" dismissing top generals.
His running mate, John Edwards, accused Mr Bush of trying to "con
the American people into believing that he is the only one who can
fight and win the war on terrorism".
The terrorists who took over
1,000 people hostage at a school in southern Russia last month used
more than just heroin, the head of a parliamentary committee investigating
the Beslan siege told journalists.
As MosNews reported on Monday, the results of forensic tests, released
by local prosecutor Nikolai Shepel, showed what would normally have
been deadly doses of heroin and morphine in most of the 32 terrorists.
But Senator Alexander Torshin, who heads the Beslan investigation
committee, told Ekho Moskvy radio Tuesday that heroin was not enough
to produce that kind of behavior in the hostage-takers, and that
they must have used new kinds of drugs.
In particular, Torshin cited the militants' ability to continue
fighting despite being badly wounded and presumably in great pain.
"We got a response from the general prosecutor's office, which
said the substance used was heroin," Torshin told the radio
station. "But I'm not satisfied with the response, because
we know pretty much about the effects of heroin, and about the effects
of other narcotics."
"I think something absolutely new was used there," he
added, speaking of the terrorists who reportedly ingested unknown
substances during the siege.
The parliamentary committee set out once again on Monday for Beslan,
a town in southern Russia's North Ossetia where over 330 people
died in the three-day hostage drama, to gather new information.
Earlier, following last week's trip to the grieving town, Torshin
announced that some of the information they learned was "too
scary to reveal".
Voting has got under way in the
US state of Florida with presidential challenger John Kerry making
a pitch to woo the key battleground's Jewish voters.
Polling stations opened early on Monday, four years after the state
upheld the controversial 2000 election result, where President George
Bush won by a disputed 537 votes.
Within hours a Democrat leader had lodged a complaint
regarding faulty ballot papers.
Queues are said to be more than an hour long in
some areas while other areas faced a computer crash when the touch
screen system failed.
Florida is one of 32 states where voters are allowed to cast their
ballots ahead of election day.
As the battle for votes in this state has intensified Democrat
Kerry has launched a discernible drive to stop Jewish voters straying
over to the opposition.
Courting Jewish voters
In 2000, Jews voted 4-to-1 for Democrats Al Gore and Joe Lieberman,
the first Jewish candidate on a major party's presidential ticket.
But President George Bush has built a reputation as a strong backer
of Israel and has courted Jewish voters in hopes that even a slight
increase in support could make a difference in another tight election.
Kerry told voters on Monday in West Palm Beach
that he will do a better job than Bush of "holding those Arab
countries accountable for funding terrorism."
"We will do a better job than Bush of holding
those Arab countries accountable for funding terrorism. We'll do
a better job of protecting the state of Israel than they are today"
Supporters held signs distributed by the campaign that said "Jewish
Americans for Kerry" and wore stickers and T-shirts that said
"Kerry-Edwards" in Hebrew.
After wooing Jewish voters with a little Hebrew, Kerry tossed out
some French to communicate with Haitian immigrants at a rally later
in Orlando. Kerry speaks fluent French, but usually avoids doing
so in public.
It smells unbelievably bad here. To walk down
any street, if you dare to, you skirt, or sometimes unavoidably
walk through, pools of blood. There are shreds of human flesh, some
of them unrecognizable as human remains -- all over, on rooftops,
plastered to broken windows, on the street. The stench of rotting
blood mixes with the more acrid odor of flesh burnt to black char
by the rockets fired by the Israeli Army's American-made Apache
The sky is full of black smoke, some from the rocket explosions,
but even more, it sometimes seems, from the endless fires of tires
and other debris that people keep stoking. The smoke confuses the
heat-seeking unmanned drone surveillance planes, so setting fires
in any relatively open area may draw fire and let a bomb explode
All this smoke mixed with plaster and cement dust is a blessing
and a curse. The stench of burning flesh and rotting blood masks
to some extent the smell of raw sewage from broken sewer pipes and
the tens of thousands of bodies unwashed for over a week now. Water
to drink is a rare and precious commodity here, baths and showers
have become impossible luxuries.
Your eyes inevitably tear up from all the smoke but then, that
protects you a tiny bit from some of the more harrowing sights,
recognizable body parts, a piece of a leg, an obvious part of a
torso, and fingers -- more scattered, individual, recognizable fingers
than anyone should ever have to see.
Volunteer crews are gathering these human fragments and bringing
them to Jabalya's two hospitals but the ambulances cannot possibly
keep up with the flood of newly dead and injured.
Funeral processions are everywhere, and "houses of mourning"
the tents bereaved families set up in which to receive their families
and friends. In fact, though, every house here, those relatively
intact and those partly or wholly destroyed by the IDF tanks and
bulldozers, is a house of mourning.
And nothing protects you from the sounds, the tears and laments
of the mothers and fathers, husbands, wives and children of the
dead, the screams of the injured, the wail of ambulance sirens,
sniper fire, the thud of tank shells and the too-frequent explosions
as another Apache shell lands.
Time is distorted here, hours feel like days, days like weeks
or months. This is Jabalya Refugee Camp in the Northern Gaza Strip,
one of the most crowded places on earth where 106,000 men, women,
and children, the overwhelming majority of them unarmed civilians,
have been under an all-out attack for over a week now.
Israel's official position is that this carnage is a "response"
to Palestinian militants' firing a homemade Qassam rocket into the
Israeli town of Sderot last week, a rocket which killed two children.
In fact, though, the first tanks rumbled into Jabalya some hours
before the rocket attack on Sderot, and we had all been watching
with alarm as the Israeli forces multiplied in northern Gaza over
the last few weeks, 2000 fresh troops, over a hundred more tanks
It is only when I sit down to write up my notes made here in the
last few days that the cruelty of the IDF name for this attack "Days
of Penitence" hits me. They are not just slaughtering unarmed
civilians, but language itself. "Penitence," as I understand
it, is voluntary remorse for wrongdoing. Is this massacre supposed
to induce remorse in its victims? Are they supposed to mourn the
deaths of four or five Israeli soldiers, and two Israeli children
and accept the death of more than 60 Palestinian civilians as some
kind of justice? To those of us trapped in Jabalya, it seems like
Days of Revenge. It is unquestionably collective punishment, and
illegal under the Geneva Conventions.
Perhaps we should not be surprised. Israel's Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon has announced this attack will last "as long as necessary,"
that is, until there is "no further danger" from the Palestinian
resistance's homemade rockets. Sharon, of course, engineered the
massacres of Sabra and Shatila over twenty years ago. Now, he is
doing much the same, but with vastly improved weaponry.
Of course, the militant factions exist, and have been striking
here and there during this last week but they are vastly outnumbered,
not to mention out-gunned, by the Israelis. Hamas, on its side,
has distributed leaflets in Gaza City vowing to continue the rocket
attacks on the illegal Israeli settlements in Gaza and any Israeli
towns and cities their home-made ordnance can reach as long as the
Israeli incursions continue.
International protests have been muted, and stymied by United
States support for Israel. The lone, feeble voice from the US State
Department urged Israel to keep its "response" "proportional"~after,
of course, the obligatory mantra, "Israel has a right to defend
itself." A strongly worded resolution condemning the attack
brought before the UN at the beginning of the week was defeated
by the US veto.
It is hard to maintain accurate casualty figures, the most recent
count seems to be 80 Palestinians killed (20 of them militants claimed
by Hamas) and over 200 injured. Unquestionably, by the time this
is printed, the figures will be higher.
There is no refuge anywhere in Jabalya. The hospitals are chaotic,
supplies are short and all medical personnel have been working around
the clock for days now.
I saw Abu Nedal, the father of Nedal Al Madhown a 14 year-old
boy, struggle to maintain his composure as he asked the exhausted
doctors and ambulance drivers, "Was my son killed? Has he been
killed?" (In fact, the boy was dead on arrival..) The majority
of the dead and injured have been teens and children, obvious non-combatants.
I interviewed Dr. Mahmoud Al Asali, the director of Kamal Adwan
Hospital, who told me he was forced to assume the Israeli Army has
been deliberately targeting civilians. He said most of those injured
by gunfire were wounded in the upper parts of their bodies, indicating
the Israeli sharpshooters must have orders to shoot to kill. Palestinian
doctors have removed many flechettes from the dead and injured,
indicating the IDF are using illegal fragmentation bombs. These
release razor sharp flechettes as they explode. Dr. Al Asali says
these illegal fragmentation devices greatly increase the number
of deaths and the number and severity of injuries. The IDF has refused
to comment on this.
The hospital staffs and ambulance crews are so overextended that
they are using volunteers for the gruesome task of collecting, sorting,
and attempting to match scattered human remains to return as much
as possible to bereaved families. One of these medical workers,
Ahmed Abu Saall 26, from Kamal Aswan Hospital, told me, "One
enormous difficulty we face is that these powerful bombs can scatter
the parts of a single victim over a wide area. It is quite possible
parts of a person could end up in Al Awda hospital in the east of
the camp, while other parts of the same person end up with us here
on the western side." Sometimes shreds of clothing can help
with the matching.
The Israeli Army has frequently shot at the medical teams and
journalists. So far, two ambulance drivers have been injured, and
a cameraman from Ramatan News Agency has been hurt. Of course, the
ambulance crews and press all wear identifying gear.
Israel has closed all borders into Gaza and has severely restricted
all movement within the Gaza Strip. There are three major "zones"
split off by sealed military checkpoints, but recent days have seen
numerous new checkpoints, and roads closed by cement block and sand
obstructions. People cannot move between cities, not even ambulances
bringing patients to hospitals. Moreover, the main Israel-Gaza crossing
is closed, even to international NGOs, humanitarian relief groups,
and foreign journalists.
Intense as the military attack has been, and continues to be,
it is certainly not the only danger to the people here. Many families
now have been without food and water for days. In Tal Al Zattar,
the eastern part of Jabalya, I interviewed Umm Ramzi, an elderly
lady who spoke to me through the gaping hole a tank shell had left
in her house. "We have been appealing to the Red Cross, to
save our lives and the lives of our children, but nobody has responded."
Most of the NGO workers and relief organizations have logically
enough assumed they cannot get through the Israeli military lines
that completely surround Jabalya, although they are well aware that
the civilians need help. I managed to reach the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC), spokesman Simon Schorno by phone and he
told me: "I'm in my way to Gaza now. We have been talking to
the IDF to get permission to bring food and water, but we were not
able to get an OK for complete food distribution".
Concerning the absence of the Red Cross in the past few days when
many families were in urgent need, Mr. Schorno said, "I feel
terrible. We are trying to do our best to get food and water inside,
but the damaged streets also delay us from reaching the people."
A number of eyewitnesses among the camp residents told me the
Israeli Army has commandeered several high buildings as sniper posts
and basically shoot anything that moves. One of the most recent
victims was Islam Dweidar, 14, who took a chance during an apparent
lull in firing to buy bread for her mother. However, she was shot
in the head by an Israeli sniper.
In the Southern part of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Army has increased
the number of tanks and bulldozers in all parts of Khan Younis and
Rafah. There has been shelling every night, with many injured and
killed. This morning, I spoke by phone to Dr. Ali Mussa, director
of Abu Yousif Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah who announced that 13-year-old
Eman al Hums had been killed by Israeli sniper fire. He said, "the
child arrived at the hospital after being riddled by twenty bullets
in different parts of her body, five of them in her head."
Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that Al Hums was killed while
on her way to school with two other schoolgirls. In early media
reports, the IDF said she was planting a bomb; they later were forced
to admit the accusation was false.
These current attacks are now far worse than the so-called "Operation
Rainbow" of last May, which killed 40 in Rafah and prompted
an international outcry. Now, the silence from America, in particular,
seems to condone this turning the Gaza Strip into a killing field.
Sharon has picked his moment well, when America is preoccupied with
its presidential campaign and its invasion of Iraq, to decimate
the children of Gaza. How many more must die before the world speaks
Given the current escalation
of Israeli depredations in Gaza and the daily US bombings of Falluja,
it is interesting to examine Amnesty International's (AI) statements
on the situation. AI is widely viewed as an authority on human rights
issues, and thus it is of interest to analyze its output on these
recent events. Careful scrutiny of AI's record reveals that, its
typical response to the daily obscene deeds by either Israeli or
US armies is a few barely audible ruminations with an occasional
lame rebuke. The impotence of these responses raises many questions.
Occupation with human rights?
Consider the title of a recent press release: "Israeli army
must respect human rights in its operations" . According
to AI, the Israeli depredations on occupied land are acceptable
as long as they "respect" human rights. This is analogous
to recommending that a rapist should practice safe sex . It is
also difficult to imagine that a military occupation could ever
be imposed while observing "human rights".
Consider the context. During September 2004
the Israeli army killed on average 3.7 Palestinians per day;
it injured an average of 19.3 p/day; it demolished many houses affecting
the lives of thousands; it has transformed vast areas of Gaza into
a denuded moonscape. It is also clear that these gruesome statistics
will be worse in October. The Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
openly states that the Palestinians should be punished, and the
measures advocated entail collective punishment. The entire Palestinian
population is taken hostage; pressure is exerted on them as a whole.
Ethnic Cleansing is on going, and the construction of the grotesque
wall stands as proof of the criminality of this policy.
Given the devastation inflicted by the Israeli army and clear violations
of international law, one would expect at least a tiny condemnation.
However, this is the extent of AI's reaction:
"[AI] is concerned that the Israeli army's use of excessive
force in this latest incursion in the Gaza Strip will result in
further loss of lives and wanton destruction of Palestinian homes
and property. Reprisals against protected persons and property are
prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention and Israel is obliged
to ensure that any measures taken to protect the lives of Israeli
civilians are consistent with its obligations to respect human rights
and international humanitarian law.
Israel should immediately allow international human rights and
humanitarian organizations to enter the Gaza Strip. At present [AI]
delegates and staff members of other international organizations
are denied access to the Gaza Strip."
Note that this lame statement was uttered in reaction to the attack
on Jabalya, an onslaught which Dr. Mustafa Barghouti described as
follows: "Sharon's tanks are rampaging through Jabalia and
Beit Lahia, just as they did in Khan Yunis, Rafah and Beit Hanun.
The simple fact is that Sharon is doing to Gaza what he did to the
West Bank in 2002."  AI's hypocrisy in issuing this limp
statement is evident when it is compared with the press release
In May 2004 AI issued a press release headed "AI condemns
murder of woman and her four daughters by Palestinian gunmen."
The body of the text contains the following condemnation:
"Such deliberate attacks against civilians, which have been
widespread, systematic and in furtherance of a stated policy to
attack the civilian population, constitute crimes against humanity,
as defined by Article 7 (1) and (2)(a) of the 1998 Rome Statute
of the International Criminal."
So, when Palestinians kill some civilians, then
it constitutes a "crime against humanity" -- one of the
most serious crimes under international law, and a precursor to
genocide. But, when Israel kills far more civilians "in furtherance
of a stated policy" (the phrasing AI used against Palestinians)
to "exact a price" (to use the words of Israeli Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz ), all that AI can do is to wring its hands
and worry about "the Israeli army's use of excessive force".
Thus, we see that AI does not hesitate to use against Palestinians
terms, such as "crime against humanity", which it has
never unambiguously leveled against Israel.
Note that the Israeli woman killed by Palestinians in the above
episode was a settler. Thus, AI was stretching a point a to call
her a civilian -- settlers are armed and they consider themselves,
when they feel like it, the shock troops of an expansionist zionism
whose stated goal is to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from,
at least, all the land west of the River Jordan.
Regarding the Palestinian attack, AI also states: "deliberate
attacks against civilians, which have been widespread, systematic
and in furtherance of a stated policy to attack the civilian population."
Whoa! It is astonishing that such a description was added to its
accusation pertaining a Palestinian attack, but at the same time,
it is not willing to classify any Israeli actions as "systematic,
deliberate and widespread [etc.]". AI portrays Palestinian
violence as worse than Israeli violence, and this amounts to a clear
Neglecting settler violence?
On Sept. 27, 2004 a settler from the Itamar settlement killed a
Palestinian in cold blood, and the Israeli authorities even sought
to exempt the settler from house arrest; at most -- though not likely
-- he will be charged with manslaughter . While AI was willing
to issue a press release about the settler woman and her kids who
were killed, it was not willing to issue any statement about this
incident. What makes this neglect curious is that around the same
time it issued a press release regarding an abducted CNN stringer
-- someone who was eventually released unharmed .
Researching AI's public record reveals an odd sense of proportion
in selecting which events it chooses to discuss.
It seems that AI regards settlements as mere misplaced suburbs,
and its residents as just some Western suburbanites. For some settlements,
this may be the case, but several settlements are home to racist
zionist fanatics. Jeff Halper, the director of the Israel Committee
Against House Demolitions, observes that there is now a second generation
of settlers, those born in the settlements; he calls them the "clockwork
orange" settlers who are more extreme, racist and violent than
their predecessors . The clockwork orange settlers frequently
violently harass Palestinians, demolish homes, and occasionally
kill with impunity. This context raises questions about AI's repeated
calls to exempt settlers from Palestinian retribution.
During the second intifada, AI has not issued
any statement about settler violence.
What happened to the supreme crime?
AI is not an anti-war organization, and
this stance creates numerous contradictions. With the onset of the
US war against Iraq, it issued statements about the means the US
would employ in warfare, but curiously, AI didn't condemn the war!
This is particularly curious given that the war was one of aggression
and thus constitutes a supreme international crime. This
is what Prof. Michael Mandel (Prof. of Law at York Univ., Toronto)
had to say about the matter:
When the attack was launched, stern warnings were issued to all
the 'belligerents' by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International
[...], reminding them of their duties under the laws and customs
of war. But neither said a single word about the illegality of the
war itself or the supreme criminal responsibility under international
law of the countries that had started it. 
And pertaining to the press releases AI issued during this period:
Amnesty also questioned whether the required precautions were
being taken to protect civilians, and called for investigations
into civilian deaths like those at the Karbala checkpoint, and the
shooting of demonstrators in Falluja. But never once did Amnesty
International [...] mention the fundamental reason why none of the
incidents really had to be investigated at all -- namely that all
of this death and destruction was legally, as well as morally, on
the heads of the invaders, whatever precautions they claimed to
take, because it was due to an illegal, aggressive war. Every death
was a crime for which the leaders of the invading coalition were
personally, criminally responsible. 
Again, AI ruminations amount to recommending the "rapist to
engage in safe sex" -- no mention of the crime! Even though
AI often refers to international law to issue its statements, when
it comes to US depredations, then even supreme crimes are not mentioned.
Another double standard?
Consider AI's statement issued regarding the situation in Darfur:
"The United Nations Security Council should stop the transfer
of arms being used to commit mass human rights violations in Darfur
[AI] urged today while releasing a report based on satellite images
showing large-scale destruction of villages in Darfur over the past
The situation may be awful in Darfur, and the measure suggested
may be warranted. However, the curious aspect of this statement
is that AI has never called on the UN or any other body to impose
an arms embargo on Israel, although there are ample grounds for
such a recommendation.
An American academic inquired about this double standard, and she
received the following answer from Donatella Rovera, AI's principal
researcher on Israel-Palestine:
"The situations in Sudan and in Israel-Occupied Territories
are quite different and different norms of international law apply,
which do not make it possible to call for an arms embargos on either
the Israeli or the Palestinian side. The West Bank and Gaza Strip
are under Israeli military occupation (not the case for the Darfour
region in Sudan). Hence, certain provisions of international humanitarian
law, known as the laws of war (notably the 1907 Hague Convention
and the Fourth Geneva Convention) apply in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories (and not in the Darfour region)." (email communication
July 5, 2004).
AI is couching its double standards in dubious legalese, but consider
what Prof. Francis Boyle (Professor of International Law at Univ.
of Illinois Champaign) has to say about Rovera's statement:
This is total gibberish. When I was on the Board of Directors
of Amnesty International USA near the end of my second term in 1990-92,
we received the authority to call for an arms embargo against major
human rights violators, which Israel clearly qualified for at the
time and still does -- even under United States domestic law. Of
course no one at AI was going to do so because pro-Israel supporters
were major funders of Amnesty International USA, which in turn was
a major funder of Amnesty International in London. He who pays the
piper calls the tune -- especially at AIUSA Headquarters in New
York and at AI Headquarters in London.
What about the prisoners?
The core of AI's efforts have to do with "prisoners of conscience",
prison conditions, and torture. So, it is of some interest to determine
how this issue is dealt with pertaining Palestinian prisoners and
the Abu Ghraib torture scandal . The table below provides some
context for the Palestinian prisoners.
Number of Palestinian Prisoners
(July 8, 2004)
|Children (age < 18)
|Age > 50
|Violation of accords 
|% of prisoners put on trial
|Administrative detention 
Notes:  All prisoners held prior to the signing of the Oslo
Accords should have been released.  Administrative detention
is illegal under international law. Administrative detention orders
may last for up to six months, with Palestinians held without charges
or trial during this period. Israel routinely renews the detention
orders thereby holding Palestinians without charge or trial indefinitely.
During this period, detainees are often denied legal counsel. Source:
The Palestinian case
Technically, AI doesn't publish the lists of prisoners of conscience
[POC], and one must trawl through its public record to determine
if there are Palestinian POCs. During the second intifada, its record
indicates two POCs and two "possible" POCs, and no other
information on Palestinian prisoners is evident. There are many
Palestinian "administrative detainees" -- those held without
charges, without trial, and for indefinite terms -- yet AI doesn't
deem fit to bestow on them its magic POC label. The contrast with
the treatment of Cuban POCs is stark: here even people paid by the
US embassy for subversive activities earned a POC status, and simple
search of the AI-USA website or some of the right-wing Cuban-American
websites reveal 88 POCs . This implies that a large percentage
of "political" prisoners in Cuba are POCs . While
the Palestinian POC list is not made public, when it comes to Cuba,
a different standard applies .
In the case of Cuba AI issues stern statements and calls to release
the prisoners. Such statements may be justified given that there
are 88 Cuban POCs. However, AI has not issued a similar statement
about the much larger number of political prisoners held by Israel.
Maybe the mere "four" Palestinian POCs do not warrant
Conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israel and the occupied
territories are appalling, and torture of prisoners is common. Earlier
this year, Palestinian political prisoners went on hunger strike
to protest these conditions. Israeli prison authorities engaged
in awful tactics to disrupt the hunger strike, e.g., prison staff
barbecued meat in the prison courtyard to unnerve the hunger strikers,
confiscated salt, etc. . Given AI's interest in prison conditions,
torture, and denial of medical treatment, when it came to the Palestinian
hunger strike there was no statement whatsoever. A request for a
position on this issue revealed a similar unwillingness to utter
a peep. A comparison with the treatment of Cuban POC would be instructive,
but beyond the scope of this article.
The Iraqi case
There is no doubt that US forces in Iraq are engaged in the systematic
use of torture -- contrary to initial US reports aimed to minimize
the damage, it was not a case of "a few rotten apples,"
and the evidence for the most perverse forms of torture --and indications
that responsibility for them goes up the chain of command-- is damning.
Furthermore, it is also clear that many prisoners were killed while
in detention-- several deaths clearly due to torture. So, what does
AI have to say about this?
AI wrote a letter to "His Excellency Mr. John D. Negroponte"
to ask under which legal framework the prisoners would be treated.
First, it is odd to see AI deferring to Negroponte in such an abject
manner. Negroponte has a sinister past and it is odd to refer to
him as "His Excellency". The letter then requests a clarification
of the legal framework applying to the prisoners -- and this in
the face of the torture revelations:
"Recalling reports of torture of Iraqis not only by the occupying
powers but also by the Iraqi police, [AI] would welcome information
about the legal and practical safeguards that will apply to arrest,
detention and internment; what access international and Iraqi organizations
will have to those held; and whether prisons and detention centres
will be placed under Iraqi government or other control. The international
community should know what measures are in place to ensure that
the absolute prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment will be strictly observed by Iraqi, US and
other forces. In this respect, we would appreciate knowing your
views about our recommendation that the United Nations should have
a specific monitoring mandate to supervise all places of detention."
It is curious that AI has to inquire about the rights of prisoners
in Iraq by appealing to a representative of the country that launched
an illegal war of aggression. The abject tone of the letter is disturbing
-- it also means that AI has no desire to confront serious US crimes
in a forceful manner. Whereas in the past AI reports could cause
trepidation among some dictators, today AI's statements hardly make
mass human rights abusers take notice. For this type of preferential
service AI received a Nobel Peace Prize.
All other AI press releases are of a similar nature. For example:
[AI] calls on the MNF to take all necessary precautions to protect
civilians and respect the principles of necessity and proportionality,
and to take measures to ensure that they comply fully with their
obligations under international law. 
It sounds familiar because AI is using the template which they
have used to report on Israeli "abuses".
A right to "defend itself"?
AI, just like the US government, issues ritual statements that
"Israel has a right to defend itself". AI accepts military
intervention in the occupied territories to make sure that Israel
obtains its elusive "security". The only difference between
AI's position and that of the US is that AI urges the military intervention
to "respect human rights" or for it not to be "excessive"
. Both accept Israel's right to build the Apartheid Wall, AI
just urges that it be built on the Green Line .
Prof. Mandel offers an interesting view on this so-called right
"An aggressor has no right to self-defense. If you break
into someone's house and hold them at gunpoint and they try to kill
you but you kill them first, they're guilty of nothing and you're
guilty of murder." 
Israel is the aggressor in the region, and its actions are meant
to hold on to land it conquered by force. Ethnic cleansing has been
on going since 1948 until the present day, and it is irrational
to suggest that Israel has a right to repress those whom it seeks
to dispossess. Today Israel tries to repress Palestinians who happen
to have kept the keys to their houses that were stolen from them
since 1948; so, Mandel's analogy is appropriate.
AI statements about measured violence to obtain "security"
also flies in the face of a history of ethnic cleansing. Israeli
policy has been one of stealing the land and dispossessing the population.
Given this history, it is outrageous to suggest that Israel has
a right to "defend" itself since its actions have amounted
to continued aggression.
AI's position is riven with contradictions. On the one hand, it
seeks to defend "human rights", but on the other, it "understands"
war or weapons of war, or accepts the right of "self-defense"
of an aggressor. AI also attempts to equate the violence of the
oppressor with that of the oppressed; the latter it tries to de-legitimize,
while the former it tries to contain so that it "respects human
rights". Without addressing the underlying injustice, AI's
position is simply absurd. The implication of AI's stance is that
it does not promote a solution with a modicum of justice; it seems
to accept the status quo, but with "human rights" -- whatever
that means in AI's warped lexicon.
A false beacon
Anyone concerned with justice for the Palestinian cause or seeking
to end the obscene war in Iraq will be disappointed with Amnesty
International's stance. It is no use appreciating the bits of its
reports that are useful; the problem is that its overall position
on key issues is at best contradictory. Many of the well-intentioned
and idealistic volunteers working on AI's campaigns may be wasting
their efforts given that the AI framework adopts a blinkered understanding
of the problems. Donating to AI doesn't translate into effective
action for these causes, and given AI's record, the Palestinians
certainly cannot expect fair coverage or representation. Will AI
ever clearly and categorically condemn Israel for the large number
of killings and the havoc and destruction it has caused in Jabalya
or Beit Hanoun? Don't count on it.
Each Israeli assault on Palestinian refugee camps,
each US bombing of cities in Iraq, and each assassination of yet
more Palestinians or Iraqis reveals AI's dubious stance. Today,
most AI pronouncements range between moral flatulence and moral
JERUSALEM - A New York-based
human rights group says Israel has exaggerated terrorist threats
and is systematically destroying Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.
Human Rights Watch says Israel has targeted homes indiscriminately
and has failed to meet its obligations as an occupying power.
Israel insists the demolitions are necessary to expose weapons-smuggling
tunnels and to create a protective buffer between Israel and Egypt.
The report, "Razing Rafah," examines the destruction
wrought by Israel's efforts to create a buffer zone.
The report says the Israeli military assumes "that every Palestinian
is a potential suicide bomber and every home a potential base for
Israeli officials say as many as 90 weapons-smuggling tunnels have
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, says
Israel has exaggerated that number and that the destruction of Palestinian
homes is gratuitous.
"It is wrong, even in a democracy, to use superfluous military
force against civilians in order to try to influence the military,
I mean, that is Israel's first line of argument for why suicide
bombing is wrong. It is utterly wrong to attack civilians or their
property for military objectives," said Roth at a news conference.
The group, based in New York, says 16,000 people have been made
homeless in southern Gaza over the past four years, regardless of
whether their homes posed a genuine military threat.
Roth acknowledged Israel had a right to try to block the tunnels
to protect its soldiers, but that didn't extend to an absolute military
necessity to destroy homes.
"Part of the rationale here seems to be to punish civilians
for the conduct of militants. The people whose homes are destroyed
are, for the most part, just ordinary civilians."
Roth suggests Israel employ other methods, such as underground
sensors and radar, to locate tunnels.
Also on Monday, Peter Hansen, the commissioner general of the UN
Relief and Works Agency toured parts of the Gaza Strip to see the
damage caused by the Israeli incursion.
"Most of what we have seen here ... over the past two weeks
is in gross violation of international humanitarian law and we will
go on protesting these measures which are not proportionate, which
are not relevant to the targets that Israel has chosen to try to
hit," said Hansen.
The Israeli army was unavailable to comment on the report and the
Foreign Ministry has said it rejects the allegations.
| JERUSALEM, Oct 18 (AFP) - Visiting
Foreign Minister Michel Barnier pledged French help Monday to ensure
the success of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza pullout
plan as he sought to open a new chapter in recently fraught relations.
Barnier, who met with both Sharon and his Israeli counterpart Silvan
Shalom, said that his talks with the premier had increased his understanding
of the scale of the challenge to ensure that the so-called disengagement
plan wins approval.
The minister also pledged his solidarity both for victims of Palestinian
attacks and paid tribute to French Jewish victims of the Holocaust
in a bid to draw a line under recent diplomatic spats.
"I have come here to listen, and to understand, and also to
show solidarity in the face of the terrorism which has struck
this country and its citizens," Barnier said in a joint press
conference with Shalom.
"This spiral of violence and despair which threatens the entire
region is a conflict which we regard as central to the crisis in
the Middle East."
Barnier said that the French and European Union as a whole regarded
the "instability and insecurity here as our instability and
Israel has consistently accused the European Union of displaying
bias in the Middle East peace process.
Israel's angry reaction to Barnier's decision to meet with Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat, kept under virtual Israeli house arrest in
the West Bank, back in July forced the minister to scrap earlier
plans to meet officials here.
Barnier said that, after meeting Sharon, he understood that his
planned pullout from Gaza is "more difficult than I imagined
Settlers and members of Sharon's own Likud party are lobbying furiously
to block the pullout.
The minister said that the EU, one of the four sponsors of the
troubled roadmap peace plan, was "ready to play its role to
accompany the success of this withdrawal" but would not just
be handing out blank cheques.
"Europe will not merely limit its role to one of financial
support. We are not just a supermarket that can send cheques here
Shalom said that isolated disputes between the two countries should
not deflect from wider cooperation.
"We see France as an example for all of Europe in its determination
not to let differences of opinion in particular issues in the peace
process get in the way of our mutual desire to promote our bilateral
cooperation," said Shalom.
But he also took a swipe at France's continued determination to
hold talks with Arafat by saying there was no Palestinian partner
in the peace process.
Sharon's government has not only cut all ties with Arafat but also
refuses to speak with the moderate Palestinian prime minister Ahmed
Qorei, accusing him of lacking either the will or the ability to
end attacks on Israel by militants.
Apart from their differences over contacts with the Palestinians,
Franco-Israeli relations also took a dive in July when Sharon infuriated
Paris when he called on French Jews to leave "immediately"
to Israel in the face of what he called the "spread of the
Barnier visited Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial before
his meetings. After arriving on Sunday, the foreign minister also
toured a memorial for Jews who were deported from France during
the Nazi period.
| Bush says he would grudgingly accept
Islamic rule in Iraq
US President George W Bush has said he would accept an Islamic government
in Iraq as the result of free elections.
Mr Bush told the Associated Press in an interview that he would
accept such a result if elections were open and fair.
"I will be disappointed. But democracy is democracy,"
he said during an interview given on Air Force One.
"If that's what the people choose, that's what the people
choose," he said. Free elections are expected in the country
Speaking as he travelled between campaign stops, Mr Bush said the
US would leave Iraq "once we've helped them to get on the path
of stability and democracy".
He added: "It's very difficult for me to predict what forces
will exist although I will tell you that Iraq's leadership has made
it quite clear that they can manage their own affairs at the appropriate
Correspondents say Mr Bush's comments appear to clash with earlier
remarks from his administration which rejected calls soon after
the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime for the creation of an Islamic
state similar to that of its neighbour, Iran.
tricks return to the sunshine state
US election begins with
voting in Florida dogged by controversy over faulty machines and
| Oliver Burkeman in Tallahassee
Tuesday October 19, 2004
Gordon Sasser first got the feeling
that something strange was going on when the telephone pierced the
silence of a weekday afternoon at his house on the swampy fringes
of Tallahassee, northern Florida.
An automated voice had some surprising news: did he know that he
could now cast his presidential vote by phone, and could do so right
now, using the keypad? Mr Sasser's suspicion that somebody was trying
to trick him into thinking he was casting a vote - presumably so
that he wouldn't cast a real one - was far from unique.
James Scruggs, another Tallahassee resident, remembers a similar
unease about the young woman who phoned him at home, insistently
offering to collect his absentee ballot to ensure its safe delivery.
Then there was the elderly woman who called the local elections
office last week to register her husband for an absentee vote. According
to office staff, as she hung up she made a point of thanking them:
she wouldn't have thought to get in touch about her husband, she
said, if it hadn't been for their helpful call the night before,
when someone had taken her own details, assuring her that she was
now registered and would receive a ballot.
But the elections office makes no such calls.
"It's Alice in Wonderland here now," sighed Ion Sancho,
elections supervisor for Leon County, which includes Tallahassee,
Florida's capital. "Up is down, and down is up ... My feeling
is that someone has essentially conned her into believing that she's
going to be voting."
Mr Sancho is a longstanding thorn in the side of Florida's governor,
Jeb Bush, who presides from a building across the street. But even
he seems astonished by the reports reaching his office these days.
"I've been an elections supervisor for 16 years now, and nobody
has ever called me with this kind of activity occurring," he
The mysterious calls are only the most vivid symptoms of broader
problems in Florida which critics fear could leave thousands of
citizens disenfranchised on November 2.
New electronic voting machines have proven error-prone, and may
not be capable of accurate recounts. State authorities are threatening
to withhold votes from people who forget to tick a box confirming
that they are US citizens, even though they signed a statement to
the same effect on the same form. And among several legal feuds,
Florida Democrats are accusing the state of failing properly to
implement measures designed to prevent a repeat of the 2000 fiasco,
when thousands of African-Americans were wrongly prevented from
The US election officially began in Florida yesterday, as early
voting sites opened across the state - though in Duval County, a
Republican-run area with a large African-American population, that
too is a subject of dispute. Only one early voting site, far from
densely populated neighbourhoods, has been made available for the
"One location for a county of 831 acres - that's the most
asinine thing I've ever heard," said the Rev William Bolden,
a Jacksonville pastor who is among many to detect a pattern in the
Though voters have been affected across the spectrum of race and
politics - Mr Sasser, for one, is white and a Republican - they
will have the effect, Democrats say, of limiting turnout among minorities,
poor and less educated voters, all of whom traditionally vote Democrat.
They have been registered in record numbers this year, so the stakes
are higher than ever. "Certainly, somebody is afraid,"
Mr Bolden said.
Florida faded from international headlines after the dramas of
2000, but on the broad, tree-lined streets of the state capital,
things have rarely been more fraught.
Katherine Harris, the elected Republican secretary of state widely
seen as a key fighter in the effort to make sure George Bush won
the 2000 recount process, is gone. But in her place is Glenda Hood,
a former Republican office-holder who, thanks to a change in state
law, was not elected but appointed directly by Governor Bush, the
Ms Hood has found herself embroiled in a sequence of rows. First,
there was the attempt to undertake a new purge of alleged ex-felons
from Florida's voter lists - the same practice that left up to 22,000
people, mainly African-Americans, wrongly denied a vote in 2000.
That was discontinued after it was revealed that the new list contained
22,000 blacks and only 61 Hispanics, who traditionally vote Republican
Now her office is instructing county officials to reject registration
forms from thousands of Floridians who did not check a box answering
"yes" to the question "Are you a US citizen?"
- even though, in signing the form, applicants agree with the statement
"I do solemnly swear ... [that] I am a US citizen."
She is also fighting a courtroom battle over Florida's new system
of "provision ballots", introduced after the 2000 fiasco
so that people who arrived at the polls to discover they were not
on the register could vote anyway, then have their case considered
by officials. Ms Hood has decreed that the facility will not be
available to anybody who turns up at the wrong precinct within their
"But in most cases, the errors in the precinct information
are made by the elections office, not by the voter," said Jerry
Traynham, a lawyer fighting Ms Hood on a number of cases. "Everything
they're doing seems to be designed to exclude people from the democratic
process, rather than including them."
Mr Traynham's other major case involves the touch-screen voting
machines on which almost a third of Americans will be voting the
week after next. Ms Hood had originally sought to have the machines
excluded from any manual recounts - a decision overturned in court
- but now her critics argue that the machines leave an insufficient
audit trail: no individual paper receipt is produced when a citizen
"They certified technology in Florida which probably can't
actually do a real recount," Mr Traynham said. "The real
danger is that if something goes wrong, you'll never know."
In earlier primary elections in Florida in 2002, according to a
recent Vanity Fair investigation, one precinct using the machines
recorded no votes, several others had their voter records wiped,
24 polling places opened late, and dozens of poll workers resigned.
Ms Hood has consistently denied allegations of bias, suggesting
that the eleventh-hour nature of the lawsuits shows they are motivated
by partisanship. "It is ridiculous to suggest that Secretary
Hood is doing anything other than reaching out to all voters in
the state," her spokeswoman, Alia Faraj, told the Tampa Tribune.
"Our goal is to get as many people as possible to participate
in the process."
Ion Sancho is beginning to sound exasperated by it all - though
he insists that, in Leon County at least, he will do all he can
to make sure all who are legally entitled to vote are actually able
to do so.
"What I learned in 2000 was that Florida is not committed
to ensuring that all citizens have equal access to voting,"
he said. "I saw how this movie went the first time. I don't
want to watch it a second time."
Grove City, Pa. — The influence of President
Bush's faith on his foreign policy has been greatly
exaggerated by both friends and foes. Enthusiasts proudly
call the president's foreign policy "faith based." Detractors
angrily assert that the president invaded Iraq and removed Saddam
Hussein because he felt God called on him to do so.
But while Mr. Bush has given a number of reasons for invading
Iraq - from its past and potential use of weapons of mass destruction
to its suspected stockpiles of such weapons to its sponsorship and
harboring of terrorists - a belief that the
Almighty told him to send in the marines was not among them.
"I'm surely not going to justify the war based on God,''
he told Bob Woodward in "Plan of Attack.'' [...]
Now this is where critics can forge a substantive critique of
the influence of Mr. Bush's faith on policy. Those concerned about
separating church and state might maintain that he is on dangerous
ground here, predicating a grand vision on a specific biblically
based belief, one that may or may not be true. That's a reasonable
argument based on a real difference over a core belief.
On the other hand, those who contest this principle need to realize
that Mr. Bush's thinking is not that different
from the system of belief embraced by the founders - particularly
the notion that all human beings are "endowed by their Creator"
with certain unalienable rights, one of which is liberty.
Jefferson and John Locke subscribed to that, as did Republicans
like Lincoln and Reagan and Democrats like Woodrow Wilson and John
F. Kennedy. So have liberal and conservative thinkers and leaders
over generations. [...]
Yes, Mr. Bush's faith influences his foreign policy, but not in
the ways we commonly think. And it does so in a manner that will
make some people uncomfortable while inspiring others. It is crucial,
however, that we make distinctions between what George W. Bush really
believes and what we think he believes.
President Bush has tried to avoid any responsibility
for the flu vaccine shortage by making misleading statements. During
the presidential debate last Wednesday, President Bush said the
problem was that "we relied upon a company out of England."
That isn't true.
Chiron Corp., the company whose vaccine plant was contaminated,
is a California company - subject to regulation
by the U.S. government - that operates a factory in England.
During the debate, President Bush also said, "we took the
right action and didn't allow contaminated medicine into our country."
That isn't true either. It
was the British authorities who, after inspecting the plant, revoked
the factory's license on October 5th.
In June 2003, the United States Food and Drug Administration inspected
the Chiron plant. Initially, the FDA found that the plant was
contaminated with bacteria but later announced, "the problems
were corrected to their satisfaction," and allowed the plant
to continue to operate.
1. "Transcript of Debate Between Bush and Kerry, With Domestic
Policy the Topic," New York Times, 10/13/04.
2. "Both candidates stretched facts on key issues," Philadelphia
3. "Transcript of Debate Between Bush and Kerry, With Domestic
Policy the Topic," New York Times, 10/13/04.
4. "With Few Suppliers of Flu Shots, Shortage Was Long in Making,"
New York Times, 10/17/04.
This confirms Gordon Thomas, a journalist
with contacts in the most important intelligence services. The terrorist
had reached an agreement with China, which now negotiates its surrender
with Bush. It is his greatest electoral trick.
Translated from El
"El Mundo" -- During the home stretch of the Northamerican
elections, Osama bin Laden could prove to be the ace in the sleeve
of president Bush. As we speak, Washington is negotiating a highly
secretive agreement with Beijing, the Chinese capital, for the eviction
of bin Laden from his sanctuary in the turbulent Muslim provinces
of China, in the Northwest of the Great Wall nation.
More than five million people, many of them fanatic followers
of Osama, live in that region, which can be called one of the most
volatile regions of Earth. Thousands of them work for the mafias
who specialize in the trafficking of humans and drugs to the West.
Last summer, Bin Laden sealed an agreement with the authorities
in Beijing, in which he was granted asylum in return for his guarantees
that the guerilla war of the Muslim Chinese against the Chinese
nation would end.
Over the years, tens of thousands of troops of the Popular Liberation
Armee had been sent to the region with the intent to squash the
Since the arrival of the Saudi Osama Bin Laden, the region has
been relatively quiet, and the Muslims who live there are allowed
to continue their trafficking of humans and drugs.
However, Bin Laden could now see himself trapped in his refuge,
if an extraordinary agreement between Beijing and Washington would
come to pass, in which China would hand over to the United States
the most wanted terrorist in the world.
The capture of Bin Laden would virtually guarantee
the reelection of George Bush Jr., as it would confirm to the millions
of undecided voters of the U.S. that the war against terrorism was
judstified after Bin Laden had authorized the attacks of 9/11 against
New York and Washington.
"A new administration Bush would present China as its great
new ally in the war against terrorism. China would enjoy in Washington
the status of a most favored nation with all of its facets. Contracts
worth hundreds of millions of dollars would be approved by fast
track. The history of human rights violations in China would be
ignored," confirmed last week a high-level representative of
the Pentagon. He added that only a small
number of "members of very high rank" in the Bush administration
knew about the plan to "seize Bin Laden in exchange for a special
relationship with China." With
almost certainty, among them would be the vice-president, Dick Cheney,
and the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
Agreeing to speak under anonymity, the functionary offered details
of the plan to capture Osama Bin Laden as a means to keep Bush in
the White House. He explained that this is
not the first time that an American administration has resorted
to similar maneuvers during an electoral campaign.
Towards the end of the presidency of Jimmy Carter, a secret deal
was signed between the then future president of the U.S., Ronald
Reagan, and Iran, in which the American diplomats, who had been
kidnapped in Teheran, the Capital of Iran, would be freed the very
day that Ronald Reagan would be inaugurated to the White House.
According to Ari Ben-Menashe, the former national security advisor
of the Israeli government of Yitzhak Shamir, " they paid an
enormous sum of money to the Ayatollas of Iran." Ben-Menashe
affirms that this deal formed a pivotal piece in the negotiations
that later became known as Reagan's October surprise.
Theresa on the campaign trail
Theresa, the wife of the senator and democratic candidate, John
Kerry, gave to understand that another October surprise could be
imminent. Two weeks ago, she surprised the political advisors of
her husband by declaring in public: "I wouldn't be surprised
if, prior to the elections, president Bush were to capture Osama."
Since then, Mrs. Kerry rejected to further comment on her explosive
declaration. However, there are rumors in the intelligence community
that both she and her husband had been advised
that any further comments concerning an agreement that would include
the capture of Bin Laden could comprimise the national security
of the U.S.
Furthermore, also the Washington analyst, Al Santoli, the national
security advisor and Californian Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher,
and the editor of the respected bulletin China Monitor, affirmed
that "an October surprise wouldn't surprise me in the least."
In his first confirmed sighting in many months, the refuge of
Bin Laden has been pinpointed by an NSA satellite, one of many that
the supersecret U.S. agency utilizes in their search for him. His
hideout is located near a lake at the border between China and Pakistan.
At the other side of the Zaskar mountains, the white summits that
majestically look out over Bin Laden's sanctuary, a detachment of
special forces of the Pakistani and U.S. armies are awaiting orders
to capture Bin Laden, and move him by plane to Pakistan.
Escorted by 50 guerillas
During the last six months, Bin Laden has been sighted several
times in the mountains and open ranges of the Northwest. American
intelligence agents in the region are of the opinion that the Saudi
millionaire, accompanied by an escort of 50 guerilla mujaheddin,
moved East towards Cachemira, and from there crossed into China.
The agents furthermore believe that, previously, Bin Laden held
various meetings with high officials of Beijing. He convinced them
that he would be capable of obtaining peace in their Muslim provinces.
"We know about these meetings," confirmed Mansur Ahmed,
police chief of Bandipoor, North of Cachemira. "However, they
took place on Chinese territory."
Bin Laden is accompanied by Ayan al-Zawahiri, his primary advisor
and personal physician (Bin Laden suffers from a serious renal ailment).
Al-Zawahiri is a surgeon, educated in Cairo, accused of terrosrism
in Egypt, and condemned to death for rebellion. After Bin Laden,
he is the second most wanted terrorist world-wide.
White House sources reject to comment on this issue publicly.
"If the negotiations should fail, this would not be the most
suitable moment for the president to be seen directly involved in
these negotiations," affirmed one source.
It is believed that the possibility for such a deal emerged early
this year, after Donald Rumsfeld had met with a delegation of the
Chinese government during a visit to the far East. Later, George
Tenet, then director of the CIA, requested a viability study for
an operation to capture Bin Laden. Tenet was informed that the only
possibility would be if they could count on the cooperation of the
"To what extent that collaboration will occur in the few
weeks remaining until the elections, will depend to a good extent
on the confidence that Bush can inspire in the Chinese that he will
be able to live up to his promises," confirmed the functionary
of the Pentagon.
| For a glimpse of how RFID technology could transform
stores, factories and people's everyday lives, you may only need to
look as far as your local library.
Hundreds of city and college libraries are placing special microchips,
known as RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, on books in
an effort to make libraries more efficient. The tags are central
to a new breed of digital tracking system that can speed checkouts,
keep collections in better order, and even alleviate repetitive
strain injuries among librarians.
One snag facing RFID, however, is that consumer advocates are in
an uproar. They say the unchecked spread of the devices in libraries
and elsewhere could spell disaster for privacy. They envision a
future in which a network of hidden RFID readers track consumers'
every move, their belongings and their reading habits, though
most agree that such a scenario is largely impossible today for
Yet with RFID systems already in place or
soon to be installed at more than 300 libraries in the United States
and millions of books tagged, there is little doubt that the long-heralded
arrival of a huge RFID wave is for real. As further proof,
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently decided to let hospitals
inject into patients RFID chips storing medical data. And major
retailers, led by Wal-Mart Stores, are marching ahead with plans
to put tracking chips on merchandise.
Some argue that libraries are ahead of the pack and that the lesson
they learn could prove instructive to others.
"Libraries are much further along with using RFID in a consumer
environment than anybody else," said Jim Lichtenberg, an IT
consultant to libraries. "They represent a wonderful test-bed
in which to work through the issues of RFID because they have such
a profound concern about the rights of their patrons."
The virtues of recycling
How did libraries become trailblazers of this promising yet controversial
technology? And how can these cash-strapped institutions afford
to invest in RFID?
The answers to both questions come down largely to economics. One
of the big costs of RFID technology is outfitting millions of items
with tags. Today, the tags cost around 50 cents a piece. That's
too expensive to put on, say, millions of tubes of toothpaste sold
across the country every day. Such a move would instantly erase
the slim profit companies make on such household items.
But library books and other borrowed materials are different. For
one thing, they're supposed to be returned. So once a library tags
all its books, they only buy additional tags for new arrivals.
"In retail, you sell it once and it's over," Lichtenberg
said. "In a library, they go in and out and in and out for
15 years. So libraries can spend 40 or 50 cents per tag, and it
still makes economic sense."
In addition, libraries are sticklers for organization and spend
more time and people-power keeping shelves in order than most retailers
with equivalent inventory turnover do. As a tool for speeding along
the sorting and reshelving of books and the pinpointing of misplaced
ones, RFID promises big payoffs. [...]
Another big reason libraries are interested in the technology is
VTLS, 3M, Checkpoint and other RFID systems suppliers include check-in
and checkout stations with their packages. To check books out, patrons
swipe their library cards through a magnetic-strip reader and place
up to eight books on a counter equipped with an RFID reader.
The checkout is automatic and disables security mechanisms in the
books that would otherwise set off alarms at the door. If libraries
outfit library cards with RFID chips too, patrons don't even have
to remove them from their wallets in order to check out, Chachra
Haven't got time for the pain
Not only does the technology reduce lines at checkout, it frees
up library staff for more interesting work, such as helping patrons
with research, early adopters say. Or libraries
can cut back staff hours and save money on labor costs. [...]
San Francisco expects to start the project next year even though
the plan has drawn sharp criticism from local privacy activists,
including the Northern California chapter of the American Civil
Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Because
RFID tags can be read from a few feet away though bags and clothing,
they worry that government agents and other snoops with the right
equipment could stealthily intercept the signals from books sporting
the tags to find what's on people's reading list. [...]
While many libraries downplay the privacy dangers, the American
Library Association (ALA) acknowledges it's an issue, albeit a manageable
"There are a lot of legitimate privacy issues," said
Rick Weingarten, director of information technology policy at the
ALA. "Anything that involves content is inevitably wrapped
up in the culture wars, and that makes inappropriate monitoring
The ALA and a book publishing trade group called the Book Industry
Study Group recently issued a set of RFID privacy principles, which
urge libraries to inform their patrons about the technology, safeguard
data generated by RFID systems, and refrain from recording personal
data on RFID chips. [...]
TWO "fireballs" in the sky could
be clues to the massive mystery explosion which rocked part of Greater
They were seen by midwife Jeanette Vagg as she drove home just
minutes before the huge bang was heard.
And an expert at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire
believes the cause could be a bolide - a meteor between the size
of a hazelnut and a tennis ball.
"When it hits the atmosphere, it shatters," said astronomer
Ian Morison. "A loud explosion would be heard and the debris
could break into a million little bits. It seems like a reasonable
explanation for what happened."
Other theories for the massive noise in the Salford area include
the an unlicensed industrial firework and a build-up of flammable
gases in disused mine workings.
But Jeanette is convinced that meteorites are the answer.
Jeanette, who works at Trafford General, said: "I was driving
home through Urmston towards Stretford and I saw them in the sky.
"They were black at the bottom with
flames coming off them in a line. They were falling and one was
a bit higher than the other. My first reaction was to think
'I hope they're not bombs'. I drove a bit further and looked again,
but they had gone."
As reported in yesterday's MEN, dozens of people
called the police and fire service after hearing the blast at about
Chief Supt Brian Wroe of Salford police said: "The industrial
firework is one of several possible explanations, as is an underground
"Officers have met with residents in the Old Clough Lane area
of Worsley where we first received reports of an explosion. We have
also spoken to the fire service, the gas companies and the local
authority and not been able to find any rational explanation.
"We are keeping an open mind as we haven't been able to find
any evidence of damage or destruction."
The blast was heard by people in Chorlton, Farnworth, Walkden,
Worsley and Pendlebury. But police and the fire service have been
unable to identify the source despite searching the area.
The investigation has now been closed unless members of the public
suggest new lines of inquiry.
Earthquake experts today denied that a quake could have taken place
in Greater Manchester.
Experts from the British Geological Society launched an investigation,
but said that there was no evidence of any earthquake activity in
Halley's comet won't return until 2061, but
pieces of the celestial body are streaking across the sky. The heavenly
show, known as the Orionids meteor shower, peaks Wednesday night,
when sky-watchers may observe two dozen meteors per hour.
Though the comet remains distant, Earth is passing through the
comet's ancient debris field—with dramatic results.
"Over time comets leave a trail of debris along their orbits,"
explained Kelly Beatty, executive editor of Sky and Telescope and
editor of Night Sky magazine.
Each time a comet orbits the sun, the star's heat strips comets
of dust and ice. Scientists believe that Halley's comet sheds some
20 feet (6 meters) of dust and ice particles on each pass.
"For a select few [comets], the Earth goes through their orbits
at the same time every year," Beatty said. "The analogy
I like to use is a garbage truck full of sand. As it barrels down
the road, the sand billows out the back end. And that's what Earth
Earth passes near Halley's cigar-shaped orbit debris field twice
each year: the Orionids shower fall in October, the Aquarids shower
The tiny particles of ice and rock, some as small as a grain of
sand, put on quite a show as shooting stars or meteor showers.
"What we see is not the particle burning up," Beatty
said. "What we're really seeing is the particle transferring
all that energy to the air molecules along its path and causing
them to become superheated to the point that they are incandescently
Meteor particles are among the smallest celestial objects that
can be seen by the human eye.
"For anyone who has eaten a bowl of Grape Nuts, the little
nuggets in there are a pretty good match in size, shape, density,
and even color of what a typical meteor particle looks like from
space," Beatty said. [...]
It shouldn't happen to a scientist:
investigators have found that the $250m (£139m) Genesis space
probe, which crash-landed in the Utah desert last month, failed
because the switches designed to trigger its parachute were installed
It is the latest in series of mistakes by Lockheed Martin Astronautics
that has embarrassed Nasa. Five years ago the space agency lost
two of its missions to Mars thanks to seemingly trivial errors by
The switches on Genesis were meant to sense the braking caused
by the probe's high-speed entry into the atmosphere, and then initiate
the deployment of the craft's parachutes.
According to Dr Michael G Ryschkewitsch, chairman of the committee
investigating the accident, the most likely reason for the accident
was that the engineers assembling the Genesis probe more than four
years ago had been misled by faulty designs prepared by Lockheed
Martin. The aeronautics company declined to comment but said it
was cooperating with Nasa. Nasa scientists are baffled over how
they missed the error. [...]
Lockheed Martin Astronautics was also involved in a pair of botched
Nasa missions to Mars in 1999. The Mars Climate Orbiter was lost
on the red planet when scientists failed to notice that Lockheed
Martin had been giving Nasa data in imperial, rather than metric,
units. A few months later, the Mars Polar Lander, also built by
Lockheed Martin, was lost when its descent motor malfunctioned.
LA QUINTA -- A minor temblor
centered near Anza Monday night was felt as far as the eastern Coachella
Valley, but no injuries or damage were reported.
The 3.2-magnitude earthquake struck at 7:12 p.m. nine miles east-southeast
of Anza and 17 miles southwest of La Quinta, according to officials
at the U.S. Geological Survey.
The quake followed two much smaller temblors Monday morning southeast
of Anza. The largest of the two early morning shakers, a 2.6-magnitude
quake was recorded at 5:13 a.m. nine miles north-northeast of Borrego
Springs, officials reported.
The minor quake was the largest of a string of small seismic disturbances
during the past week along what is known as the San Jacinto fault
zone, a roughly 28-mile band stretching southeast through Imperial
Scientists studying Mount St.
Helens say small earthquakes have started rumbling more frequently
beneath the volcano in recent days, though they're not sure what
Some scientists think the change is significant, while others say
it's just more of the same and that the slow, steady growth of the
lava dome in the volcano's crater could continue for as long as
Jeff Wynn, chief scientist for volcano hazards at the U.S. Geological
Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash., said
the seismic and electronic signals being picked up from the volcano
aren't like anything scientists have seen since the mountain reawakened
31/2 weeks ago.
Four days ago, a seismograph reported a chain of earthquakes looking
like a series of heartbeats - seismic activity rising and falling.
Today, a seismograph hooked up to the same part of the mountain
showed what looked like a chain of pearls - steady, more frequent
earthquakes but without the more dramatic rising and falling of
Steve Malone, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network,
based at the University of Washington, said only a highly skilled
observer could detect the slight changes that have occurred in recent
days. "This is really not anything significant," he said.
Geologists have said there is little chance of anything similar
to the eruption that blew 1,300 feet off the top of the peak and
killed 57 people on May 18, 1980.
Wynn said the new signals showed a steady flurry of small quakes,
similar to ones recorded in 1984. The earthquakes have been less
than a magnitude 1, but Wynn said they've been happening more frequently
- about every 10 minutes - than they were several days ago.
Thousands of earthquakes - many of them tiny, some of them topping
magnitude 3 - have shaken Mount St. Helens since Sept. 23, apparently
from magma breaking through rock as it rose toward the surface.
Several steam bursts followed, and geologists detected lava at the
surface last Tuesday. [...]
The National Weather Service reported the clouds may clear away
on Wednesday. Wynn said a cloud break would give scientists a chance
to experiment with a new way of looking at the volcano using small,
The drones, 5 feet long with an 8-foot wingspan, were developed
for the military. If the experiment works, the small unmanned craft
could help scientists keep track of what's happening at Mount St.
Helens during the fall and winter months. [...]
Wynn said the last reading of surface temperature on the new lava
dome registered 730 degrees Celsius, or about 1,350 degrees Fahrenheit.
| A volcano in Indonesia's northern-most
province has begun spewing smoke, ash and potentially deadly heat
clouds with temperatures as high as 600 degrees Celsius, officials
Mount Soputan in the North Sulawesi province sprang into life on
Monday, throwing up smoke to a height of up to 400 metres said Yudi
Juhara from the nearby volcano observation centre in Tomohon.
He said that the top of the crater had been enveloped by clouds
and only upper parts of the smoke column could be seen.
"It has also been spewing heat clouds but we have not been
able to see how far down the slope they have gone as the top of
the mountain is still shrouded," he said.
Heat clouds have temperatures of up to 600 degrees Celsius and
burn all that lies in their path.
So far there has been no report of casualty or damage.
Mr Juhara said that the status of the 1,830 metre-high volcano
had been raised to above normal on Monday, but added that tremors
that usually accompany an eruption had become less frequent, indicating
Soputan last erupted in 2002 but caused no casualties.
| BEIJING -- A strong earthquake shook
southwestern China on Tuesday, injuring five people and damaging about
20,000 homes, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The magnitude-5 quake struck the densely populated city of Baoshan
in Yunnan province, the agency said. Of the five people who were
reported injured, one was hurt seriously, it said.
About 20,000 homes were damaged and some of them collapsed, it
said. Several school dormitories were damaged as well, it added.
Baoshan is about 1,400 miles southwest of Shanghai.
TOKYO (AFP) - A powerful typhoon was expected
to hit parts of Japan this week on the heels of a storm that killed
at least six people, the meteorological agency said.
Typhoon Tokage was located 390 kilometers (241 miles) southeast
of Miyako island in the Pacific region and packing wind speeds of
144 kilometers (90 miles) per hour, the agency said.
It was moving northwest at a speed of 20 kilometers (12 miles)
an hour and was forecast to hit southwestern Japanese islands including
Okinawa as early as Tuesday, the agency said.
According to the agency's computer simulation, the typhoon is expected
to move northeast through the Japanese archipelago on Wednesday
and Thursday, with strong winds, heavy rain and high waves.
Ma-on, the most powerful typhoon to hit eastern Japan in a decade,
slammed into the Tokyo metropolitan area on October 9, leaving six
people dead and three others missing and paralyzing the capital's
Just a week before Ma-on, Typhoon Meari wreaked havoc in the Japanese
islands, leaving 22 dead, six missing and presumed dead, and 89
injured in floods, landslides and other storm-triggered accidents.
SARDIS, Ark. - Driving rain and high wind
caused heavy damage and injured at least 10 people Monday as storms
moved through Arkansas, knocking out power to thousands of customers,
Near the town of Sardis, Fire Chief Rick Morris said about 45 structures
were damaged or destroyed. Several tornados were reported.
"When I looked out the window I saw the tornado swirling and
I heard it hit," said sign painter Doug Hethcox. "All
I could do was dive for the floor. The next thing I knew it was
over. My trailer was knocked about 4 feet off its foundation."
Near Hethcox's mobile home, 50-foot pine trees were snapped and
others were pulled out at their roots. Twisted metal and insulation
from destroyed mobile homes sat in the top of trees.
Tthe top and front of John Harris' home near Sardis was ripped
away. He said his wife and preschool-aged daughter were in the residence
just before storm hit.
"It's all gone," Harris said, as he sat on what used
to be the front steps of his blown-out brick and frame structure
in central Arkansas.
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) Betty Hill, who with
her late husband claimed to have been abducted by UFO extraterrestrials
in New Hampshire's White Mountains, has died at age 85.
She died at home Sunday after a battle with lung cancer.
Betty and Barney Hill claimed that on a return trip from Canada
they were abducted for two hours on Sept. 19, 1961.
They gained international notoriety, traveled across the country
and made numerous television and radio appearances telling their
story, which was retold in the book ''Interrupted Journey'' and
a television movie.
After returning home from their trip, the Hills were puzzled by
Betty's torn and stained dress, Barney's scuffed shoes, shiny spots
on their car, stopped watches, a broken binocular strap and no memory
of two hours of the drive.
Under hypnosis three years later, they recounted being kidnapped
and examined by aliens.
She retired from lecturing about UFOs in her 70s and complained
that the quest for knowledge about extraterrestrials had become
tainted with commercialism.
''I'm retiring because of my age, my disappointment in the way
the UFO field is headed, and I want a little more leisure time for
myself,'' she declared. ''I'm tired of traveling.''
Too many people with ''flaky ideas, fantasies and imaginations''
were making UFO and abduction reports, she said.
''If you were to believe the numbers of people who are claiming
this, it would figure out to 3,000 to 5,000 abductions in the United
States alone every night,'' she said. ''There wouldn't be room for
planes to fly.''
She said she believed people who said they saw a crashed spaceship
with five dead aliens aboard in Roswell, N.M., in 1947. But she
said the annual UFO festival in Roswell had become too much for
''In the beginning, people were looking for information,'' she
said. ''Now, it certainly has turned commercial.''
She also said media had fueled UFO fiction.
''The media presented them as huge craft, all brightly lighted
and flashing, but they are not,'' she said. ''They are small, with
dim lights, and many times they fly with no lights.''
Hill had gone a bit commercial herself, trying to fight UFO fantasies
with a 1995 self-published book, ''A Common Sense Approach to UFOs.''
Tired of being rebuffed by the government, Hill had said in an
interview that she and others serious about their sightings were
united in a ''silent network.''
''We discuss our findings only with each other. We have no membership
lists, no dues, no publications. We are unknown to the media, UFO
organizations and the general public. And we are learning,'' she
Hill had been a state social worker specializing in adoptions
and training foster parents.
She also was an active member of the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People and a founding member of Rockingham
County Community Action.
Hill is survived by a daughter, a son and niece.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Brewitt Funeral
Home in Exeter. Burial will be private. Visiting hours will be from
2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday.
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