Tuesday, October 19, 2004
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An Important Note about the Signs of the Times Page

SOTT
19/10/2004

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.

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Voice of the White House

TBRNews.org
October 18, 2004

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.

Comment: We are a little suspicious of the "Voice of the White House" that has been offering the inside scoop to TBR news now for many months. In this latest release of information, the "mole" is stating that Putin is "furious" that the CIA were involved in supporting the "terrorists" who carried out the recent Beslan massacre as a way to discredit Putin and get their hands on Russian oil. Yet, if this is the case, why did Putin only yesterday come out in open support for Bush and his efforts to secure a second term?

It is much more likely that both Putin, Bush and their respective controllers are fundamentally on the same side. Phony acts of terrorism are good for all "leaders", no matter which side of the "velvet curtain" they are on.

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Putin backs Bush victory

Julian Borger and Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
The Guardian
Tuesday October 19, 2004

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 in Tajikistan.

"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 attack.

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".

Comment: The simple truth is that there is no "leader" in power today who can win the "war on terrorism", because to win any war there must be an adversary to begin with. The US inspired war on terror, the value of which has been quickly understood and embraced by many governments, is an imaginary war carried out by phantom terrorists who, having carried out the attack are assimilated back into the fabric of the government agencies that spawned them.

In the case of the Beslan massacre, new and puzzling evidence has recently come to light which suggests that the "terrorists" were very much "under the influence" - but which influence...

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New Drugs Used by Beslan Terrorists Puzzle Russian Experts

MosNews
19.10.2004

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".

Comment: By way of evidence to make the case as outlined in our top commentary today, we present the following article as proof that, regardless of who wins the US election in November, the US sanctioned atrocities being carried out in Palestine will not abate.

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Kerry woos Jews as Florida votes

Tuesday 19 October 2004, 12:51 Makka Time, 9:51 GMT

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.

Comment: Of course, one could argue that Kerry, like all politicians is simply telling the Jewish voters what they want to hear, and if and when he is elected will be under no obligation to fulfill his pre-election promises. While that may be true in many cases, in the case of support for Israel, Kerry will surely be aware that it is not good for a sitting US President's career, or his health, to interfere with the long-standing US commitments to the soon-to-be-pariah state of Israel.

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The "Days of Penitence": Gaza Sinks in a Sea of Blood
Mohammed Omer writing from occupied Gaza, Live from Palestine,
18 October 2004

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 helicopters.

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 somewhat harmlessly.

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 and bulldozers.

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 out?

Comment: We suggest you read the above story again slowly, and let it sink in. Imagine for a moment these are the conditions in your neighborhood. That it is your homes being demolished, your children being slaughtered. Imagine having no water to drink, the stench of the sewer, acrid smoke and rotting flesh in the air, bombs going off and body parts littering the street. How would it feel to live with this type of horror every day, to cry out to the world for help and have it turn away in indifference?

To be able to put ourselves into the another person's shoes, to really try and understand what they are going through, is called empathy. It is this one characteristic that seems to separate true human beings from psychopaths like Sharon and Bush, who feign compassion while the blood of innocents drips from their hands.

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Amnesty International: A False Beacon?

By PAUL de ROOIJ
Counterpunch
Oct 13 2004

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" [1]. 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 [2]. 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." [3] AI's hypocrisy in issuing this limp statement is evident when it is compared with the press release analyzed below.

Double Standard?

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."[4]

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 [5]), 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 double standard.

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 [6]. 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 [7].

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 [8]. 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. [9]

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. [10]

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 year."[11]

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 [12]. The table below provides some context for the Palestinian prisoners.

Number of Palestinian Prisoners (July 8, 2004)

Total
5,892
Children (age < 18)
351
Women
75
Age > 50
42
Violation of accords [1]
433
% of prisoners put on trial
25%
Administrative detention [2]
786

Notes: [1] All prisoners held prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords should have been released. [2] 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: http://www.nad-plo.org/faq1.php

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 [13]. This implies that a large percentage of "political" prisoners in Cuba are POCs [14]. While the Palestinian POC list is not made public, when it comes to Cuba, a different standard applies [15].

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 this effort.

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. [16]. 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." [17]

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. [18]

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" [19]. Both accept Israel's right to build the Apartheid Wall, AI just urges that it be built on the Green Line [20].

Prof. Mandel offers an interesting view on this so-called right to self-defense:

"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." [21]

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 fraudulence.

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Israel destroys Palestinian homes as punishment: report
Last Updated Mon, 18 Oct 2004 19:22:46 EDT

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 attack."

Israeli officials say as many as 90 weapons-smuggling tunnels have been found.

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.

Comment: Israel has a policy of collective punishment, illegal under international law. Collective punishment holds the entire family of an accused to be responsible for the family member's actions. If collective punishment were to be applied in the US, then George W. would be responsible for the financial misdealings of his brother Neil and Jeb would be responsible for George's going AWOL.

But then, in America, none of them are held responsible for anything they do.

And no one holds the Israelis responsible for their actions, either. While the Israelis continue to kill Palestinians, the world community sits by and does nothing.

Well, in fact it is wrong to say the world community does nothing...

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France offers Sharon help with Gaza pullout
Agence France Presse
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 our insecurity."

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 before arriving."

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 and there."

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 wildest anti-Semitism".

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.

Comment: The world community, in this case the French, is helping the genocide along!

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Would you still love me tomorrow? Department

Bush: I would accept Islamic Iraq

Some News Source
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 next January.

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 time."

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.

Comment: Yeah, right, George. That's what you say today, but what about after November 2?

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Dirty tricks return to the sunshine state

US election begins with voting in Florida dogged by controversy over faulty machines and disenfranchised voters

Oliver Burkeman in Tallahassee
The Guardian
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 said.

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 voting.

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 entire county.

"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 controversies.

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 president's brother.

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 in Florida.

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 county.

"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 votes.

"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."

Comment: Florida is being touted as a swing state this year. In the last election, the Bush gang stole the presidency through Katherine Harris's exclusion of thousands of black voters. The same thing is getting ready to happen again. What is remarkable is how creative humans can be when they are out to screw their neighbors to promote their own agenda. Self-interest is such a powerful motivator!

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What Bush Believes
By PAUL KENGOR
Published: October 18, 2004

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.

Comment: Can anyone say damage control? This editorial appears to be in response to a piece in New York Times Magazine called "Without a Doubt" where author Ron Suskind examines Dubya's "faith-based" Presidency in some detail. An excerpt of it was published on yesterday's Signs page.

For anyone but the hard-core Republican fundamentalist in America today, George's "supposed" direct link to God seems at best a little odd, and at worst like the ravings of a deranged lunatic. For most folks who tend to regard "hearing voices in the head" as a sign of possible mental illness, Dubya's uplink to the Lord is cause for concern indeed.

Looking objectively at the culture of war and bloodshed that has been the status quo since the angry and jealous Jehovah arrived on the scene, it seems quite probable that Bush IS in direct contact with this particular deity. The endless carnage in the middle east, leading to the potential extermination of all the semitic peoples in the region (Jews and Arabs alike), is Bush's way of following through on his master's plans, initiated by Hitler over 60 years ago.

Even though the author above attempts to minimize the influence of Bush's faith on his foreign policy, the Signs are there for all to see.

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Bush Misleads on Flu Vaccine
OCTOBER 18, 2004

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."[1] 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.[2]

During the debate, President Bush also said, "we took the right action and didn't allow contaminated medicine into our country."[3] That isn't true either. It was the British authorities who, after inspecting the plant, revoked the factory's license on October 5th.[4]

In June 2003, the United States Food and Drug Administration inspected the Chiron plant.[5] 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.[6]

Sources:
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 Inquirer, 10/14/04.
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.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.

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Bin Laden is in China

orbstandard
10/13/04

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 Mundo

"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 insurgents.

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 Chinese.

"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.

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RFID, coming to a library near you
By Alorie Gilbert
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
October 18, 2004, 10:05 AM PDT
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 technical reasons.

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 for self-checkout.

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 said.

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 one.

"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 especially worrisome."

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. [...]

Comment: Since 9/11, it seems that organizations like the FBI have been rather interested in libraries and the books that some patrons are reading. While this article touts the benefits of RFID tags for libraries, it is still rather interesting that the American citizens' reading habits will soon be very easily obtained by the government and/or its agencies. Forget all the hoopla about the FBI covertly requesting library records; agents can just stand a short distance away and scan your bag without you knowing it.

As to potential abuse of RFID, the common response among advocates of the technology is that RFID tag readers only work from a few feet away at most. The problem with this response is that the technology to read RFID tags from much greater distances already exists - although it appears there are practical limits.

To read an RFID tag from a greater distance, one could use a more powerful and highly directional reader. Note that according to a technical presentation (PDF) given at an MIT Media Labs conference by a member of a company that sells RFID readers, the theoretical maximum read distance of a common UHF RFID tag is about 63 feet. It seems that the "facts" used to defend the use of RFID show that the technology is actually capable of more than its proponents claim. Also note that different type of tags have different maximum read distances, and improvements in future RFID tags could allow for super-long-distance tag reading. Furthermore, some of the limitations of the technology were instituted by the US government. If the limitations were removed or ignored, much longer read distances are possible.

In fact, what better way to acclimate the population to RFID as a "privacy-friendly" technology than to put simple tags in library books, and then show how limited the technology is? All that remains is to develop better tags that can be read from much farther away, and then remind the populace of how innocent and safe RFID tags are already used at their local library while you inject a new tag in their hand...

The Fourth Reich won't need to ask you for your papers. They'll just remotely identify you and kick down your door and carry you off when you least expect it...

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"Fireball in sky" clue to blast
Neal Keeling and Rashid Razaq
Manchester News
Thursday, 14th October 2004

TWO "fireballs" in the sky could be clues to the massive mystery explosion which rocked part of Greater Manchester yesterday.

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 7.30am.

Chief Supt Brian Wroe of Salford police said: "The industrial firework is one of several possible explanations, as is an underground explosion.

"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 the region.

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Orionid Meteor Shower to Peak Wednesday Night
Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
October 18, 2004

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 plows through."

Earth passes near Halley's cigar-shaped orbit debris field twice each year: the Orionids shower fall in October, the Aquarids shower in May.
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 hot."

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. [...]

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Back to front switches blamed for space probe crash
Alok Jha, science correspondent
Tuesday October 19, 2004
The Guardian

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 backwards.

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 company.

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.

Comment: Curious. First the usage of mismatching standards of measurement, then backward switches. Is this for real?

If so, then the next time you are told that private industry is better than publicly owned, remember this. (Please note: we are note taking sides on the issue which is, we think, a diversion from work on the soul. In this world, we'll never have a paradise, be it capitalist or socialist. We are simply pointing out that one must be critical of what one is told by people with an agenda.)

It has occurred to us that the Mars Polar Lander problem may have been faked. What if the Mars mission did successfully land, only someone didn't want us to know. Yes, another "conspiracy theory". In the case of Genesis, maybe it was human error, maybe someone doesn't want us to know what is really happening with the sun. The recent solar flares, long past the supposed end of the solar maximum, were certainly a surprise. The seventeenth century saw a long period of solar minimum called the Maunder Minimum. Scientists have not been able to explain its origin, although we have our own hypothesis.

Recent earthquake and volcanic activity along the Pacific ring of fire has been increasing. There are several volcanoes along the ring that are becoming active. Japan has been hit with a series of fairly strong earthquakes.

Could all of these events be related?

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Minor earthquake stirs eastern Coachella Valley (California)
By Darrell Smith
The Desert Sun
October 19th, 2004

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 County.

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Mount St. Helens seismic activity changing again
By Donna Gordon Blankinship
The Associated Press
Monday, October 18, 2004 - Page updated at 06:08 P.M.

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 it means.

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 a year.

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 activity.

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, unmanned aircraft.

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.

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Indonesian volcano awakens
Last Update: Tuesday, October 19, 2004. 1:49pm (AEST)
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 have said.

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 decreased activities.

Soputan last erupted in 2002 but caused no casualties.

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Earthquake Shakes Southwest China
By Associated Press
October 19, 2004, 7:16 AM EDT
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.

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Another powerful typhoon on course to strike Japanese islands
AFP
Mon Oct 18, 7:48 PM ET

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 transport systems.

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.

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Central Ark. Storms Cause Extensive Damage
By JAMES JEFFERSON, Associated Press Writer
Mon Oct 18, 8:16 PM ET

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, authorities said.

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.

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UFO figure dies
By Associated Press
10/18/2004 15:36

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 her.

''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 wrote.

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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