Friday, October 22, 2004
The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity 

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"Blood" Ties

Bush Backers Steadfast on Saddam-Al-Qaeda, WMD
Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (IPS) - Three out of four self-described supporters of President George W Bush still believe pre-war Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or active programmes to produce them, and that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein gave "substantial support" to al-Qaeda terrorists, according to a survey released Thursday.

Moreover, as many or more Bush supporters hold those beliefs today than they did several months ago, before the publication of a series of well-publicised official government reports that debunked both notions.

Those are among the most striking findings of the survey, which was conducted in mid-October by the University of Maryland's Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and Knowledge Networks, a California-based polling firm.

The survey, which polled the views of nearly 900 randomly chosen respondents equally divided between Bush supporters and those intending to vote for Democratic Senator John Kerry in November's presidential election, found a yawning gap in the world views, particularly as regards pre-war Iraq, between the two groups.

"It is normal during elections for supporters of presidential candidates to have fundamental disagreements about values or strategies," said an analysis produced by PIPA.

But "the current election is unique in that Bush supporters and Kerry supporters have profoundly different perceptions of reality. In the face of a stream of high-level assessments about pre-war Iraq, Bush supporters cling to the refuted beliefs that Iraq had WMD or supported al-Qaeda."

Indeed, the only issue on which the survey found broad agreement between the two sets of voters was on the question of whether the administration itself actively propagated the misconceptions about Iraq's WMD and connections to al-Qaeda.

"One of the reasons that Bush supporters have these (erroneous) beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration confirming them," noted PIPA Director Steven Kull. "Interestingly, this is one point on which Bush and Kerry supporters agree."

The survey also found a major gap between Bush's stated positions on a number of international issues and what his supporters believe that position to be. A strong majority of Bush backers believe, for example, that the president supports a range of global treaties and institutions, which he is actually on record as opposing.

On pre-war Iraq, the survey asked each respondent questions about WMD and links to al-Qaeda on three levels: 1) what the respondents themselves believed about the two issues; 2) what they believed "most experts" had concluded about them; and 3) what they believed the Bush administration was saying about them.

The survey found 72 percent of Bush supporters believe either that Iraq had actual WMD (47 percent) or a major programme for making them (25 percent), despite the widespread media coverage in early October of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA's) 'Duelfer Report', the final word on the subject by the one-billion-dollar, 15-month investigation by the Iraq Survey Group.

It concluded Hussein had dismantled all of his WMD programmes shortly after the 1991 Gulf War and had never tried to reconstitute them.

Nonetheless, 56 percent of Bush supporters said they thought most experts currently believe Iraq had actual WMD, and 57 percent said they thought the Duelfer Report had concluded that Iraq either had WMD (19 percent) or a major WMD programme (38 percent).

Only 26 percent of Kerry supporters, by contrast, said they believed that pre-war Iraq had either actual WMD or a WMD programme, and only 18 percent said they believed "most experts" agreed with those two possibilities.

Similar results were found with respect to Hussein's alleged support for al-Qaeda, a theory that has been most persistently asserted by Vice President Dick Cheney, but that was thoroughly debunked by the final report of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission earlier this summer.

Seventy-five percent of Bush supporters said they believed Iraq was providing "substantial" support to al-Qaeda, with 20 percent asserting Baghdad was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Sixty-three percent of Bush supporters even believed that clear evidence of such support has been found, and 60 percent believed "most experts" have reached the same conclusion.

By contrast, only 30 percent of Kerry supporters said they believe such a link existed and that most experts agree.

But large majorities of both Bush and Kerry supporters agree that the administration is saying Iraq had WMD and was providing substantial support to al-Qaeda. In regard to WMD, those majorities have actually grown since last summer, according to PIPA.

Remarkably, asked whether the United States should have gone to war with Iraq if U.S. intelligence had concluded Baghdad did not have a WMD programme and was not supporting al-Qaeda, 58 percent of Bush supporters said no, and 61 percent said they assumed the president would also not have gone to war under those circumstances.

"To support the president and to accept that he took the U.S. to war based on mistaken assumptions," said Kull, "likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about pre-war Iraq."

Kull added that this "cognitive dissonance" could also help explain other remarkable findings in the survey, particularly with respect to Bush supporters' misperceptions about the president's own positions.

In particular, majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assumed he supports multilateral approaches to various international issues, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) (69 percent), the land mine treaty (72 percent), and the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming (51 percent).

In all of these cases, majorities of Bush supporters said they favoured the positions that they imputed, incorrectly, to the president.

Large majorities of Kerry supporters, on the other hand, showed they knew both their candidate's and Bush's positions on the same issues.

Bush supporters were also found to hold misperceptions regarding international support for the president and his policies.

Despite a steady flow over the past year of official statements by foreign governments and public-opinion polls showing strong opposition to the Iraq war, less than one-third of Bush supporters believed that most people in foreign countries opposed Washington having gone to war.

Two-thirds said they believed foreign views were either evenly divided on the war (42 percent) or that the majority of foreigners actually favoured the war (26 percent).

Three of every four Kerry supporters, on the other hand, said they understood that most of the rest of the world opposed the war.

Kull, who has been analysing U.S. public opinion on foreign-policy issues for two decades, said misperceptions of Bush supporters showed, if anything, the hold the president has over his loyalists.

"The roots of the Bush supporters' resistance to information very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11 and equally into the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake," he said.

"This appears to have created a powerful bond between Bush and his supporters -- and an idealised image of the president that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have made incorrect judgements before the war, that world public opinion would be critical of his policies or that the president could hold foreign-policy positions that are at odds with his supporters."

Comment: Can you say "media complicity"? In the period between 911 and the invasion of Iraq, the Big Lie was repeated so often, was so forcefully drummed into people's heads, that nothing is going to shake it loose now. For month after month, the Bush Administration associated 911 with Saddam and WMD.

The campaign of fear -- "they could strike again, any time, any place, in your hometown" -- was so thorough that only another great shock would be able to lay down a new memory circuit in the brains of the Bush Believers.

We agree that these people are suffering from cognitive dissonance. Their identifies are bound up intimately with Bush. We see how clever the Powers That Be were when they chose Dubya for their puppet, Bush the hollow vessel into which the "word of God" could be beamed following the attacks, the consecration of George W., the man who leads with his gut, his instincts, as opposed to his head, or, better yet, a balance between thought and emotion.

"Knowledge Protects, Ignorance Endangers." Do we not have here a ominously striking confirmation of this phrase? The supporters of Bush live in a dream-world, an illusion, fueled by the corporatist press. The Republicans are in the process of putting the final nails in the coffin of the elections, but, even there, what difference would Kerry make with his made-in-Israel foreign policy?

On a profound level, when you buy into the lie, you are aligning yourself with the forces of chaos and entropy. When you buy into the lie, you are preferring your own subjective view of the world to the Truth. In this case, we have millions of Americans who have opted for chaos, and are we not seeing this manifested in the world? And what will be the consequences within the US after the election?

Individuals are believing the lie of evangelical Christianity -- tens of millions of them in the US. They believe the lie that Bush is doing God's work, and they therefore believe that it is God's work to invade and crush the countries of Islam, and to support murder and violence in Israel.

The rest of the world sits by and watches, doing nothing. We are as complicit as the press, as Bush himself. What kind of a world will we leave to our children, and to their children?

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Sinclair Broadcasting's long history of journalistic and corporate deception
By Jason Leopold
Online Journal Assistant Editor

October 20, 2004—Sinclair Broadcasting Group has tried to influence the outcome of elections long before the media company became a lightning rod for criticism due to its decision to air a controversial documentary, election critical of Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry's activities during the Vietnam War, 10 days before the Nov. 2 election. [...]

In September, Sinclair and Ehrlich once again made headlines as a result of the media company's cozy relationship with the governor. Sinclair produced a series of tourism ads in which Ehrlich appeared and waived its production fee on the condition that the state of Maryland purchase $60,000 worth of time on a Sinclair-owned station to air them, a deal which Ehrlich agreed to.

A week after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sinclair Chief Executive David Smith and his three brothers who control the media company handed down an edict to their news and sports reporters, and even a weatherman, at the company's flagship Baltimore television station, WBFF, requiring the broadcasters to follow up each on-air report with a statement conveying full support for President [sic] Bush and the war on terror.

The Sun reported that several journalists objected on the grounds that it would undermine their objectivity. Reporters and management, however, reached a compromise. The message read by reporters on-air said that it came from "station management."

"Still, according to at least four people at WBFF, some staffers believe they now look as though they are endorsing specific government actions," the Sun reported in a Sept. 18, 2001, story. "Several people interviewed at WBFF described the choice as "no-win": do something that could erode their reputations as objective journalists, or appear unpatriotic and uncaring toward the victims of last week's terrorist attacks."

Sinclair also aired spots on its 60 other stations during the aftermath of 9/11 declaring support for Bush and other government leaders to battle terrorist groups

The controversies continued to pile up.

Then in December of 2001, Sinclair was fined $40,000 by the FCC for exercising illegal control of business partner Glencairn Ltd. The fine was the culmination of a three-year FCC investigation into the companies' relationship.

The FCC's three Republican commissioners said Sinclair and Glencairn were liable for misinterpreting FCC policies. Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps wanted the FCC to pursue harsher penalties against Sinclair, saying Sinclair has repeatedly 'stretched the limits' of FCC ownership rules. "Several factors contributed to the FCC's finding that Glencairn's president and former Sinclair employee Edwin Edwards did not exercise control of his companies," according to a Dec. 1, 2001, report in the trade magazine Broadcasting & Cable.

"His incorrect report on the amount of debt Glencairn would assume with the purchase of several Sullivan stations. Purchase rights held by Sinclair for Glencairn stations at prices well below market rate. Glencairn's agreement to sell all but two of its stations to Sinclair as soon as the FCC relaxed rules restricting ownership of local TV stations," the trade publication reported.

The controversies surrounding Sinclair's blatant political leanings took its toll on the company's stock, but none more so than an announcement the company made on Christmas Eve 2002 by Sinclair's board of directors who voted in favor of investing $20 million in cash in Summa Holdings Ltd., which owns auto dealerships, retail tire franchises and a leasing company controlled by Sinclair CEO David Smith.

In a post-Enron world, the deal appeared to be a serious conflict-of-interest. Sinclair said Summa would spend money to advertise its auto dealerships on Sinclair-owned television stations. The deal sent Sinclair's stock plummeting 17 percent on Christmas Eve, a historically light day for trading, and sparked shareholder outrage, with many stockholders calling for a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and threatening to file shareholder lawsuits.

Sinclair told its shareholders at the time that it set up a special committee of outside directors to evaluate the investment and approved the deal, saying a conflict did not exist.

"Because the automobile industry represents the largest category of advertisers for television stations, and because Summa is a profitable and well-run company, we believe that the Summa investment is an attractive one for Sinclair," said communications attorney Martin Leader, who chaired the committee of outside directors.

Now, two years later, Sinclair plans to air a controversial documentary on Friday, 10 days before the Nov. 2 election, highlighting Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's antiwar activities during the Vietnam War. But the move is backfiring on the company big time.

More than 80 of Sinclair's advertisers have abandoned the media company's five-dozen television stations since last week, according to National Public Radio, due to fears of a massive public boycott. Moreover, Sinclair's stock has been battered over the past two days, falling 10 percent to settle Tuesday at a 3 ½ year low of $6.35—a direct result of its decision to air the anti-Kerry film, "Stolen Honor," on a majority of its television stations.

The company's decision to broadcast the documentary and its impact on Sinclair's shares has led to another shareholder revolt and at least one prominent securities litigator, William Lerach, has threatened to take legal action against the company.

But on Tuesday, David Smith, Sinclair's chief executive, said Sinclair would not air the anti-Kerry documentary "Stolen Honor." Instead, Sinclair stations will broadcast a "special one-hour news program" entitled "A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media," which will "focus in part on the use of documentaries other media to influence voting, which emerged during the 2004 political campaigns, as well as on the content of certain of these documentaries."

"The program will also examine the role of the media in filtering the information contained in these documentaries, allegations of media bias by media organizations that ignore or filter legitimate news and the attempts by candidates and other organizations to influence media coverage," according to the news release.

But, according to the company's news release, excerpts of "Stolen Honor" will be aired "in the context of the broader discussion outlined above" and will discuss the allegations surrounding Senator John Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activities in the early 1970s raised by a number of former POWs in "Stolen Honor."

Joe DeFeo, Sinclair's Vice President of News said, "As with all news programming produced by Sinclair's News Central, 'A POW Story' is being produced with the highest journalistic standards and integrity. We have not ceded, and will not in the future cede, control of our news reporting to any outside organization or political group. We are endeavoring, as we do with all of our news coverage, to present both sides of the issues covered in an equal and impartial manner."

Sinclair claimed on Tuesday that company executives have met privately with members of Kerry's campaign, "including a recent face-to-face meeting with senior campaign officials, for approximately two weeks in order to negotiate participation in the special by either Senator Kerry or his designee."

Kerry has declined Sinclair's invitation.

Smith said those involved in producing the documentary "have endured personal attacks of the vilest nature, as well as calls on our advertisers and our viewers to boycott our stations and on our shareholders to sell their stock. In addition, and more shockingly, we have received threats of retribution from a member of Senator John Kerry's campaign."

A spokesman for the Kerry campaign vehemently denied the allegations, and Wall Street doesn't buy it, either. Many of Sinclair's largest shareholders have said privately that Smith has failed to take responsibility for the firestorm he created and has blamed Democrats for the toll his actions have taken on Sinclair's finances.

Indeed, as Jim Glickenhaus, general partner of Glickenhaus & Co., a Wall Street firm whose clients own about 6,100 shares of Sinclair stock, said Tuesday in an interview with CBS Marketwatch, Sinclair "management is not acting in the interest of shareholders. By showing something that's clearly propaganda, they are damaging the (broadcast) network."

Comment: This is typical of the big shots. They get caught in their manipulations and paint themselves as "victims". Isn't this how Israel gets away with its unbridled killing of the Palestinians? Isn't this how the Bush Administration justified its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq?

Isn't this how each of us justifies our self-justifications when we feel wronged?

How can this world throw off the cancer that is Man if each of us as individuals do not rip out the cancer from within? Just stating the problem in these terms makes it clear that the job is impossible, for such inner work can only be undertaken through a conscious choice. It can never be imposed from without. That is way political solutions and revolutions never change the underlying structure, never resolve the injustices, because they put into power a group of people who are running the same basic programmes as those they replace, all based on our same basic drives of sex, food, and fear.

Throw into the pot the psychopath, a mechanical being with no empathy for another, a being who is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and whose values, or lack of them, are promoted by official culture, and you begin to see the depth of the problem. One must adopt the strategies of the psychopath to survive. If one is unaware of the nature of the psychopath, if one makes the mistake of thinking that someone must be "human" simply because he or she has two arms and legs and a charming smile, and must therefore come equipped with all of the emotions and feelings of our species, then one is opening oneself to becoming lunch, which should give one food for thought.

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Aftermath Of Last Week’s Editorial Endorsement
The Iconoclast, Crawford, Texas

The Iconoclast received considerable criticism this past week
after its editors endorsed John Kerry for President. Several subscriptions and advertisements were canceled after the newspaper hit the stands Tuesday morning.

The editorial, co-authored by the newspaper’s publisher, W. Leon Smith, and writers Don Fisher and Nathan Diebenow, expressed the opinion that Kerry would take the country in a better direction. There have been both positive and negative comments.

We expected that perhaps a few readers might cancel subscriptions, and maybe even ads, but have been amazed at a few of the more intense communications, some of which bordered on outright personal attacks and uncalled-for harassment.

We have been told by several avid Bush supporters that the days when newspapers publish editorials without personal repercussions are over. As publishers, we have printed editorials for decades, and have endorsed candidates, both Republican and Democrat. When Bush was endorsed four years ago, the Gore supporters did not respond with threats, nor did Democrats when we endorsed Reagan twice. Republicans did not threaten us personally or our business when we endorsed Carter and Clinton for their first terms.

In the past, when individuals disagreed with an editorial, they would write a letter to the editor politely expressing a different point of view in contrast to the views of the publishers, which we have usually published. Occasionally someone would cancel a subscription or an ad, but this was rare.

The goal of the editorial page has been to provide an arena for the expression of a variety of thoughtful opinions, some by the publishers, some by columnists, and some by our readers.

The new mode of operation, I am told, is that when a newspaper prints an editorial of which some sectors might disagree, the focus is now upon how to run the newspaper out of business. Out the window are the contributions the newspaper has made to the community in the past and the newspaper’s extensive investment in the community.

We do understand peoples’ rights to pull subscriptions and ads, and to express a differing opinion, but we have some trouble understanding threats and payback since in politics there are often a variety of options. For the publishers to herald one of the options should be no cause for persecution.

When you think about it, editorials are often displayed in people’s yards with campaign signs. These are endorsements by residents. Is it proper to persecute them for stating their opinions in this manner if you disagree with their choices? Should they be harassed and threatened? We don’t think so.

Unfortunately, for the Iconoclast and its publishers there have been threats — big ones including physical harm.

Too, some individuals are threatening innocent commercial concerns, claiming that if they advertise in The Iconoclast, they will be run out of business. We consider this improper in a democracy.

Several young members of our staff covering Tonkawa Traditions this past weekend were angrily harassed and threatened that they must leave, which cut short their ability to fully do their jobs and instilled in them considerable fear for their safety. These reporters had nothing to do with that editorial. They were part-time college students working to pay their way through school and better themselves.

Although several members of the community are upset at the newspaper, there are still those who want us to continue with local coverage as we have in the past. We do have concern for the safety of our staff, however, and find it troubling when they are bullied and cannot do their jobs.

From the period of Tuesday through noon Saturday of this past week, The Iconoclast has received over 700 letters to the editor related to the editorial which received more attention than we had expected. Some of the dispatches are very critical and some are very supportive of the editorial. And a few do offer a thoughtful, differing point of view on the issues, which we do appreciate.

Since The Iconoclast has a very small staff, it has been impossible for us to verify each and every signature as is our normal procedure prior to publication, but to provide the letters for the public to read, we are posting them on our website with the names of the authors listed as initials.

We have been told that some letters e-mailed to us did not get through, perhaps since our internet system became overloaded at times this past week. The letters posted are the ones we received that pertained to the editorial (as opposed to being simply questions or other correspondence).

A few have been edited slightly due to offensive language or the writer’s identity being revealed in the body of the letter, but we have attempted to publish them, with few exceptions, just as we received them.

To publish them in the print edition would require substantially too much space (about 30 pages, in our estimation). So go to if you want to peruse the letters.
Nearly a hundred individuals (including some Crawford residents) have purchased new subscriptions to help replace those lost, and a few have expressed a desire to become new advertising clients. For this, we are thankful.

The publisher has read every e-mail and letter received and sends appreciation to each and every letter-writer for expressing an opinion, pro or con, as this shows a passion for their positions and a keen interest in the upcoming election.

Whether readers agree or disagree with the recommendation rendered by the publishers, we do encourage them to vote in the upcoming election. We consider it more than a privilege, but a duty.
— W. Leon Smith

Comment: Last week, the newspaper in Dubya's hometown came out and supported Kerry. Here the editor responds to the outpouring of nastiness the decision brought upon them. How could they be so surprised? Have they not been watching the deterioration of American society over the last four years?

The signs of destruction have been visible for years, but only a small fringe have seen it. It will be too late when enough people wake up to try to change anything. But, then, we can only change ourselves. This world is as it is for a reason.

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Wal-Mart bans Jon Stewart book from stores
Last Updated Thu, 21 Oct 2004 15:12:31 EDT

NEW YORK - Retail giant Wal-Mart has banned America (The Book), a fake textbook written by Jon Stewart, the host of The Daily Show, from its stores.

The chain will not be selling the book because it contains a fake photo of the members of the U.S. Supreme Court in the nude.

"We were not aware of the image that was in the book [when Wal-Mart ordered it] and we felt the majority of our customers would not be comfortable with it," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Karen Burk told the Associated Press by way of explaining why the corporation had cancelled its order.

"We offer what we think our customers want to buy," Burk added. "That just makes good business sense." [...]

According to the Comedy Central website, America (The Book) explores "the reasons why concepts like 'One man, one vote,' 'Government by the people,' and 'Every vote counts' have become such popular urban myths."

Comment: If the clients the spokesperson is referencing are the same ones who are supporting Bush and who believe the lies from the White House, one has little trouble imagining that Stewart's book would not sit comfortably with them.

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Israel 'destroying' two-state solution

Israeli settlements currently occupy 42% of the West Bank

By Roshan Muhammed Salih
Thursday 21 October 2004, 21:24 Makka Time, 18:24 GMT

Israel's bid to grab Palestinian land and its strangulation of the Palestinian economy are destroying hopes for an end to the Middle East conflict, a new report has said.

Christian Aid, a UK-based aid agency, said on Thursday that without urgent international intervention generations of Palestinians and Israelis face a future of crippling poverty and relentless insecurity.

Its report, Facts on the Ground, explains how Israel is taking more land from the occupied West Bank for Jewish settler roads and settlements.

As a result, Christian Aid says, poverty and unemployment levels are rising, malnutrition and anaemia are mounting, and farmers are being prevented from tilling their land.

In the West Bank, illegal Jewish settlements control 42% of the land.

Israelis-only roads and highways criss-cross Palestinian territory, intersecting villages in the West Bank and cutting the Gaza Strip in three.

Unable to get their goods to market or travel to work, Christian Aid says Palestinians are seeing their economy strangled and their future vanishing before their eyes.

'Politics of separation'

The aid agency adds the separation barrier which surrounds large parts of the West Bank is the starkest sign yet of Israel's politics of separation.

For Palestinians, there is no freedom of movement between its two sides except through Israeli-controlled military checkpoints.

"Israel has steadily built and then expanded settlements on the land which it has occupied since 1967 in violation of international law," the report said.

"The announcement, in August 2004, that another thousand homes were to be built in the West Bank is a sign of the impunity with which Israel operates.

"This steady expansion, together with the construction of the separation barrier through the West Bank is creating ever greater hardship.

"These settlements have all but destroyed the possibility of a viable Palestinian state."

Christian Aid says the two-state solution would make it possible for Palestinians to tackle the endemic poverty that permeates the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Palestinian elections

It also offers Palestinians and Israelis the prospect of security and sovereignty that both peoples so desperately need.

"The increasing culture of violence, marked by suicide bombings, overwhelming military force in civilian areas and wanton destruction, threatens people in the region and beyond," said the Christian Aid report.

"But the policies of separation and division which we see today are heightening, not solving, the conflict.

"The UK, Irish and EU governments have a legal obligation, under international law, to ensure they hold Israel to account for its actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories."

In particular, Christian Aid recommends that Jewish settlements and their infrastructure be dismantled, and construction of the separation barrier around the West Bank be halted.

It also recommends that Palestinians be allowed to hold free and fair elections in the Occupied Territories.

Following the report's publication, Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, urged the British government to take seriously Christian Aid's findings and recommendations.

One-state solution?

"It is crystal clear that action is urgently needed to prevent both a full scale humanitarian disaster, but also the death of the two state solution around which an international consensus has so successfully been built over the last two decades.

"For too long successive Israeli governments have been allowed to ignore international criticism about the settlement policy and the building of the separation wall.

"It is also to be hoped that the British Prime Minister, when as promised gets re-engaged with the Israeli-Palestinian issue after November, urgently considers these recommendations."'s correspondent in the West Bank says a significant minority of Palestinians who believe Israel will never allow a viable Palestinian state now favour a one-state solution.

This would entail Jews, Muslims and Christians living side by side in all of historic Palestine on the basis of equal rights for all.

However, the main obstacle to this solution is Israel's fear that it would effectively signal the end of Zionism and its elevation of Jews above other peoples.

Israel, meanwhile, argues it is unrealistic for it to return to its 1967 boundaries as West Bank settlements have become large population centres.

And it says it has been forced to build the separation wall to keep out Palestinian "suicide bombers" intent on killing Israeli civilians.

Comment: Here again we return to the role of the "free press". They lie. All news from the occupied territories paints the Palestinians as "terrorists" and the settlers as "pioneers", an imagine that will resonate deeply in the American breast.

And these settlements are illegal under international law. Not that Israel, its American bouncer, or the European Union care about international law. It is there as a club to be used when they see fit, and to be conveniently ignored at other times. Israel expelled Palestinians from their homes and land in the late forties. They invaded the West Bank in 1967. Now they yet again assume the mantle of victim and claim "it is unrealistic for it to return to its 1967 boundaries as West Bank settlements have become large population centres."

The world is heading for an open religious war, a battle between Islam and Christianity, provoked and nurtured by the State of Israel. For Bush, this will be the proof of his faith.

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Eight years for US soldier who abused prisoners
Jamie Wilson
The Guardian
Friday October 22, 2004

A US soldier at the centre of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal was yesterday sentenced to eight years for sexually and physically abusing detainees.

Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick, 38, who admitted carrying out a mock electrocution of a detainee, was also given a reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay and a dishonourable discharge.

Frederick, an army reservist from Buckingham, Virginia, pleaded guilty at the court martial on Wednesday to eight counts of abusing and humiliating Iraqi detainees.

It was the longest sentence in the three convictions so far related to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, exposed in April with the publication of photographs and video showing US soldiers abusing naked Iraqis.

Frederick's lawyer, Gary Myers, called the sentence excessive and said he intended to appeal to seek a reduction.

Frederick, a military policeman who is a prison officer in civilian life, acknowledged his part in the abuse but also blamed his chain of command, telling the court prisoners were forced to submit to public nudity and degrading treatment "for military intelligence purposes."

During the court martial, Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Kramer, a military intelligence soldier called as a witness, referred to an email from the US command in Baghdad telling him to order his interrogators to be tough on prisoners. "The gloves are coming off, gentlemen, regarding these detainees," said the email. It added that the command "wants the detainees broken."

Frederick, who was in charge of the night shift at the "hard site" facility at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, said military intelligence soldiers and civilian interrogators told guards how to treat detainees.

That included stripping detainees, depriving them of sleep or taking away their cigarettes, Frederick said. Investigators wanted detainees "stressed out, wanted them to talk more," he added. [...]

Comment: So when are the trials for the commanding officers, military intelligence agents, and civilian interrogators going to begin? How about never? It seems that many of those who ordered the torture - including the Bush administration - may even be promoted and/or rewarded...

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Pentagon Rewards Generals, Corporations Tied to Abu Ghraib Scandal
by Chris Shumway
New Standard
October 17, 2004

Instead of reprimands or dismissals, one general tied to the torture and abuses at Abu Ghraib prison will probably receive a promotion and another has been recommended for a new command position. At the same time, both US corporations with direct ties to the abuse scandal have been rewarded with lucrative contracts valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, want to promote Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the former commanding general of US troops in Iraq, according to "senior defense officials" who spoke to the Los Angeles Times. Investigators have cited Sanchez for creating an environment that contributed to the torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib.

A fourth star for Sanchez might not come until after the November 2 presidential election, however, because the general is what one source termed politically "radioactive" right now due to his role in the prison abuse and torture scandal. If President Bush is re-elected, Rumsfeld, Myers and other top officials at the Pentagon will reportedly push aggressively for Sanchez's promotion.

Meanwhile, the Army's chief of intelligence said this week that he thinks Major General Barbara Fast, formerly the chief military intelligence officer in Iraq, should be put in command of the Army's intelligence school in Arizona. Lieutenant General Keith Alexander told reporters Friday he has "great confidence" in Fast's ability to supervise the training of Army interrogators. The same investigation that cited Sanchez also blamed Fast for failing to properly monitor activities by CIA interrogators at Abu Ghraib.

In the private sector, the US government has awarded lucrative contracts to security technology and mercenary contracting firms tied to the Abu Ghraib scandal by General Antonio Taguba's investigation.

CACI International, which provides interrogators to supplement the US Army's intelligence and counterintelligence operations in Iraq, revealed last week that it has obtained contracts valued at $266 million.

That announcement came less than a month after the US Army awarded a six-month "bridging contract" worth as much as $400 million to Titan Corp, the San Diego-based security firm also tied to the Abu Ghraib abuses. That contract will likely keep Titan's force of over 4,000 translators working in Iraq until September 2005.

Later last month, Titan landed a National Security Agency deal that will rope the publicly traded defense giant another $300 million. On October 1 Titan scored a five-year "indefinite-delivery, indefinit-quantity multiple-award" technical contract from the US Navy valued at over $1 billion. To continue the streak, on Thursday the Navy awarded Titan a separate five-year contract worth $109 million.

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Bushist Party bagmen and the rape of Iraq
By Chris Floyd
The Moscow Times

It's another story of the American Dream come true, the kind you see every day in George Bush's blessed realm. All the usual inspiring elements are there: a couple of plucky kids starting a business with nothing but hustle and a whole lotta heart; a few lucky breaks crowned with big-time success; a duffel bag stuffed with millions in cash from a war-zone slush fund; a father and son held hostage at gunpoint to block a corruption probe, then dumped in hostile territory with no papers, no money, no protection.

Yes, it's the story of Custer Battles LLC., a mercenary firm run by two former covert operators and Bushist Party bagmen who sharked up more than $40 million in the usual no-bid conquistador contracts from the rape of Iraq -- and may have skimmed an extra $50 million in fraudulent cream, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Custer Battles is not, as you might think, named for that earlier undermanned, overconfident military incursion that ended in disaster at Little Big Horn. No, the ill-omened moniker comes from the company's founders: ex-Army Ranger and "Special Operations" vet Scott Custer and his partner, fellow Special Opnik Mike Battles, who also brings his experience as a clandestine CIA officer, FOX News commentator and failed Republican congressional candidate to the mix.

Although CB had no previous security experience, the plucky firm somehow won a $16.8 million no-bid contract to provide security for Baghdad Airport. This was followed by $24.4 million to take part in the gargantuan porkfest surrounding the replacement of Iraqi currency, along with sundry other hired-gun work -- including a sideline in supplying military dogs for raids on Iraqi homes, which the company called a "beneficial interaction with civilians, lessening the cultural divide."

But their gravy train hit a roadblock last week, when the firm was suspended from further government pork-gobbling. The Pentagon and FBI were forced to launch investigations after former company executives -- including ex-FBI man Robert Isakson -- filed a "whistleblower" lawsuit against CB citing what the Pentagon itself called "adequate evidence of ... fraud, antitrust violations, embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, false statements" and other offenses "indicating a lack of business integrity." Actually, that sounds like a dream resume for a top post in the Bush Administration, but with a pesky civilian court making noise, the Pentagon pets are in the doghouse -- for now.

CB's alleged shortcomings in business integrity include setting up offshore front companies and sham sub-contractors to inflate costs in its lucrative, Halliburtonish "cost-plus" contracts, where the government covers all expenses and guarantees a set profit for favored cronies. The company's own documents also detail "forged leases and inflated invoices" and an outrageous $6 million overcharge on its expenses in the currency-exchange racket. When Isakson objected to the scams, two unnamed "top company officials" burst into his office with machine guns, held him and his 13-year-old son at gunpoint for hours, then stripped Isakson of his ID, money and gun and told them to find their own way out of Iraq, the LA Times reports. Father and son finally made their way through the hellhole of Fallujah to safety in Jordan.

Custer Battles still has friends in high places, however. In what legal experts say is a "highly unusual move," the Justice Department is refusing to join the case, which could recoup tens of millions of defrauded taxpayer dollars. The reason given for this coyness is the usual cartload of cowflop from Attorney General John "Jesus is King of America" Ashcroft. His office says the federal government has no jurisdiction in the matter because CB's contracts were not with the federal government but with the "Coalition Provisional Authority" -- i.e. the occupation authority appointed, led and funded by, er, the federal government. Such logical contortions are beyond the ken of mere mortals, of course -- but then the Lord works in mysterious ways, His cronies to reward.

Ashcroft's divine non-intervention effectively puts the kibosh on the case: As Knight Ridder notes, whistleblowers -- and taxpayers -- win 95 percent of such fraud-recovery suits when the Justice Department joins in, but only 25 percent when the feds stay on the sidelines. Thus it's a good bet that the smooth operators will get to keep every drop of blood money they've squeezed from Iraq. And why not? Plucky little guys with plenty of moxie always win out in the American Dream.

But just how little are these pluckers? Their web site offers a suitably Lincolnesque tale of humble origins: how they had to scrape and borrow money just to get to Iraq, where their unknown company was magically chosen by an unnamed Bush honcho who gave them the no-bid airport contract -- along with a duffel bag stuffed with $2 million just to get the ball rolling. Plucky Mike promptly deposited this swag in a Lebanese bank, far from the prying eyes of American regulators. From this seed sprang a mercenary/consulting outfit now worth $100 million.

Yet this pretty tale of cash-strapped kids chasin' the dream is rather belied by the partners' hard wired connections into the military-corporate power grid that rules the former American republic -- and by Mike's other career as well. He's a top executive in the Camelot Group, a heavy player on the international "private equity" scene -- colleagues of the Carlyle Group, that deep well of backroom deals where Bushes and bin Ladens once watered together.

No doubt all will be clear when Mike finally finishes the book he's been touting on the company web site -- a title that captures the essence of the whole Bushist enterprise: "Blood in the Streets: Seizing Opportunity in Crises."

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Fearing Friends
Spiegel Online
October 21, 2004

Americans are heading to the polls, and concerns in Germany are rising about the outcome of the election. The problem isn't as simple as you might think. If Kerry wins, Berlin expects stepped up pressure to send troops to Iraq. If Bush wins, it will be easier to say "no," but the war could expand to Iran.

Iran could become the next country under Washington's gun.
In June, Richard Holbrooke paid a visit to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin. After a short chat with Holbrooke, who is seen as a possible Secretary of State in a John Kerry White House, Schroeder got straight to the point: "What would Kerry do if he were president?"

"The first thing he would do," Bill Clinton's former ambassador to the United Nations said, "would be to invite you and French President Jacques Chirac to the White House." Schroeder could read between the lines. A joint invitation to the Iraq war opponents could only mean one thing -- Kerry would want a military contribution in Iraq.

"That's what I was afraid of," Schroeder replied.

An attempt by a new American president to seek military aid could throw Schroeder into a serious dilemma. If he refused, he would be ruining his chance to kick-start foundering German-American relations. Unlike George W. Bush, with his penchant for going it alone, Kerry has said he would pursue a "multilateral" foreign policy and consult America's allies on important issues. A "no" from Schroeder could be a major and early embarrassment for Kerry. If he agreed, he would be undermining one of the strongest pillars of the pact he made with voters: that German troops wouldn't set foot in Iraq.

Candidate Kerry has been pledging the opposite. He wants to bring as many allies as possible to Iraq -- including Germany's army, the Bundeswehr. "Kerry is taking a big risk," said Gernot Erler, deputy of the parliamentary group of the Social Democrats, before ruling out the possibility Berlin would accept any troop request -- even from a Democratic president.

A Bush win wouldn't leave German politicians breathing any easier. Nor would German voters be any happier, with recent polls showing as many as 74 percent saying they would vote for Kerry if they had the chance. Part of Bush's German problem is style -- the hometown swagger doesn't play well to a German crowd used to more intellectually-oriented leaders. But there is also substance, specifically Iraq, where Bush's unwavering unilateralism has angered Germans and made it easy to stick to a "no troops" mantra. A Bush re-election would make maintaining that firm stance more plausible. Popularity problems aside, Bush comes with even greater baggage than Kerry. The overarching concern in Germany is that he could shift the current row from Iraq to Iran, where evidence is strong that the country has ambitions to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Trouble in Teheran

Since it began its program to produce enriched uranium, Iran has catapulted itself to the top of the list of the world's most dangerous nations. Teheran is building missiles and warheads that can already reach Israel and may, in the future, travel as far as Europe -- and they could soon be tipped with nuclear weapons. Add to that the mullah's decades-long support of terrorist networks in their battle against Israel and it's easy to understand the growing concern.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has given the mullahs until November 25 to cease all nuclear-bomb-related building. But what happens if Teheran doesn't budge? Based on his track record, a re-elected Bush wouldn't wait too long before threatening military strikes. John Kerry has also taken a firm stance against Iran, but he has also said he would offer to sell nuclear fuel to the country so it wouldn't have to enrich its own uranium. The candidate says it's a "test" to determine whether Teheran is pursuing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

The language used by the Bush administration today to discuss Iran isn't much different from the vocabulary it used before the Iraq war. "Iran is a country that is not part of the civilized world in terms of its behavior," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday. John Bolton, an undersecretary of state in the State Department, confirms that the Bush administration is "determined" to ensure that Teheran does not become capable of producing nuclear weapons.

The similarities don't stop there. After Bush brought the Iraq case to the UN Security Council in September 2002, western governments bickered for six months over whether a violation of a Security Council resolution automatically justified going to war. Now, in autumn 2004, the fight has been over whether the IAEA should refer Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons program to the Security Council for disciplinary action even before the November 25 deadline. Observers in Berlin also believe any US attempt at a resolution would be vetoed by China and Russia.

It's a sequence of events European diplomats have carefully sought to avoid. One year ago, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain got the mullahs to agree to abandon their uranium enrichment efforts. In return, Europe guaranteed it would help technologically deficient Iran develop its civilian nuclear energy program. Even Bush spoke of a "very positive development." But it was an empty victory. In June, Teheran announced it would resume production of centrifuges that can be used in the enrichment process. On Thursay, diplomats from the EU trio are meeting with Iranian negotiators in Vienna, where they will sweeten the pot by offering to help them purchase a civilian reactor from Russia. But this time around, the US has said it would not support the European offer.

A ticking time bomb

If Iran continues with its nuclear program, one German diplomat told DER SPIEGEL, the "clock will start ticking" towards a US military attack. If Washington doesn't strike, then Israel likely will.

Just as certain as the possibility of a US or Israeli strike is the expectation of a counter strike from the Iranians. In fact, they've promised one. "We're not going to wait with tied hands for someone to do something to us," Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani warned. In Berlin, officials fear retaliation could pull Iran's crisis-plagued neighbors into the crisis, causing the entire Middle East and Central Asia to erupt.

As happened in the run-up to Iraq, the issue could again divide America's allies, who will this time ask more probing questions. How far are we allowed to go in our fight against rogue states? And which poses a greater danger for world peace: weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Islamic terrorist states or an arrogant US superpower that goes to war unilaterally wherever and whenever it wants?

Of course, with over 1,000 soldiers already dead in the Iraq war and the US military already stretched thin with missions in the Persian Gulf, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, it's unlikely Washington could create a new battlefront. But would those considerations stop it from engaging in targeted strikes against Iranian nuclear installations and from prompting Teheran to retaliate?

Whether the winner is John Kerry or George W. Bush, fears are growing in Germany about its friends across the Atlantic.

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Clinton eyes U.N. post
By ROLAND FLAMINI, UPI Chief International Correspondent
October 20, 2004

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has set his sights on becoming U.N. secretary-general. A Clinton insider and a senior U.N. source have told United Press International the 56-year-old former president would like to be named leader of the world body when Kofi Annan's term ends early in 2006.

"He definitely wants to do it," the Clinton insider said this week.

A Clinton candidacy is likely to receive overwhelming support from U.N. member states, particularly the Third World. Diplomats in Washington say Clinton would galvanize the United Nations and give an enormous boost to its prestige. But the former president's hopes hang on a crucial question that will not be addressed until after the presidential elections: can he get the support of the U.S. government -- a prerequisite for nomination?

The political wisdom is that a second George W. Bush presidency would cut him off at the pass. The notion of Clinton looming large in the international arena from "the glass tower" in New York would be intolerable to the Bush White House. If Democratic candidate, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., wins on Nov. 2 the prospect of Clinton as secretary-general won't exactly be welcome either, but Kerry would find it much harder -- if not impossible -- to go against it. [...]

Comment: Just think how much help the American Empire could gather if Kerry could carefully and cleverly pressure European countries like Germany and France into joining the battle while Bill Clinton maneuvers the UN in the same direction.

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Are you a terrorist?
by An Australian Terrorist
Perth Indymedia
2004-10-20 4:40 PM

New "terrorism" laws have been recently pushed through Parliament.

Answer this 5 point quiz:

1. Have you ever disagreed with any government policy and joined with others to express this by sending emails or phoning any politician, government department or bureaucrat?

2. Have you ever joined or been associated with the activities of a trade union, local protest group, or political or religious organisation?

3. Have you ever participated in a non-violent protest, rally or strike?

4. Have you ever donated money, bought raffle tickets or in any other way supported an international environmental, political or human rights organisation such as Amnesty International or Greenpeace?

5. Have you ever provided any professional advice for any political or
religious organisation?

If you reply "YES" to any one of these questions the Government could brand you a 'terrorist' using this legislation...

The definition of 'terrorism', includes actions made 'with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause'. It is so broad that it would cover civil disobedience by peace groups, M1 and other anti-globalisation blockades, union pickets and strikes, actions to stop logging in forests and similar activities. The demonstrators who pushed over a fence at the refugee detention centre at Woomera would be defined as 'terrorists'... [...]

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U.N. Divided Over Anti-Cloning Treaty
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
Thu Oct 21, 6:40 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS - Britain staunchly defended the right to use human embryos for medical research while the Vatican backed a complete ban on human cloning as U.N. members Thursday began two days of debate on the highly contentious issue.

The U.N. General Assembly's legal committee will meet again Friday to discuss two competing resolutions:

Costa Rica's draft calls for a treaty banning all cloning. Belgium's draft calls for a treaty banning the cloning of babies but allowing countries to decide on using embryos for research, which many scientists believe may lead to new treatments for diseases.

Britain's U.N. ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said his country was among the first to ban human reproductive cloning when it passed such an act in 2001.

"However, we cannot support any attempt to ban or unreasonably restrict cloning for research purposes, known as therapeutic cloning. We are convinced that therapeutic cloning holds enormous promise for new treatments for serious degenerative conditions that are currently incurable," he said.

Jones Parry offered his country's legislation as "a model to the United Nations or any other country" for how to ban reproductive cloning while permitting the therapeutic variety. He also rebutted claims that therapeutic cloning would require an endless supply of embryos and said that in May Britain set up the first stem cell bank.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's U.N. representative, argued that the distinction between reproductive and therapeutic cloning "seems specious" because they involve the same cloning process and differ only in their goals.

"Both forms of cloning involve disrespect for the dignity of the human being," Migliore said, calling it impossible to enforce a ban on one type of cloning while permitting another. He also argued that adult stem cell research posed no ethical questions and had so far proved more promising than embryonic stem cell research.

"We would say that the choice is not between science and ethics but between science that is ethically responsible and science that is not," he said.

All 191 U.N. member-states have the right to vote on the matter but the Vatican, which has permanent observer status, does not. The committee has not set a date to vote and has until Nov. 10 to do so.

Last November the legal committee voted 80-79 to delay consideration of a cloning treaty for two years, a move requested by Islamic nations. In December, the General Assembly decided without a vote to delay the discussion of a global treaty for one year.

Costa Rica's U.N. Ambassador Bruno Stagno Ugarte said Wednesday his resolution has 62 co-sponsors, including the United States, but "the divide that was there is still there." He said the international community must face its responsibilities on this vital matter, rather than put off a decision.

"We believe it's extremely urgent, and the fact that in South Korea, in a veterinary school, they have had the most success in human cloning is extremely worrisome," Stagno Ugarte said.

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The Truth About Beslan “Too Scary” to Reveal — Parliamentary Committee
Created: 12.10.2004

The parliamentary committee appointed to investigate the Beslan tragedy may keep the results of its investigation a secret, simply because they are too scary.

Over 330 people — half of them children — died in the three-day hostage drama in a school in southern Russia after up to 30 militants stormed the building on the first day of class.

“The truth about the real organizers of the terror attack may be so scary that revealing it would lead to new, bloody conflicts,” quoted Duma deputy and committee member Yuri Savelyev as saying at a press conference in St. Petersburg.

Earlier this week, committee chairman and Duma speaker Alexander Torshin announced that new videotapes found in Beslan over the weekend shed light on the events of September 1-3.

The committee also plans to meet Thursday with former president of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev, who was instrumental in negotiating with the terrorists on the second day of the siege, leading to the release of dozens of children.

“We have a lot of questions for Aushev, in particular, why he got involved in the investigation, why he led 26 people out of the school [on the second day of the siege] and who they were,” quoted Savelyev as saying.

Comment: "The truth about the real organizers of the terror attack may be so scary that revealing it would lead to new, bloody conflicts..." What could that mean? Either it is the group that has been accused - in which case, what would be scary about that? - or it is not. What "real organizers of the terror attack" could induce such secrecy? Who is being protected here? Hmmm.... well, MOSSAD comes to mind...

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Experts fear escape of 1918 flu from lab

10:33 21 October 04
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.
The 1918 flu virus spread across the world in three months and killed at least 40 million people. If it escaped from a lab today, the death toll could be far higher. “The potential implications of an infected lab worker – and spread beyond the lab – are terrifying,” says D. A. Henderson of the University of Pittsburgh, a leading biosecurity expert.

Yet despite the danger, researchers in the US are working with reconstructed versions of the virus at less than the maximum level of containment. Many other experts are worried about the risks. “All the virologists I have spoken to have concerns,” says Ingegerd Kallings of the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control in Stockholm, who helped set laboratory safety standards for the World Health Organization.

Work on the 1918 flu virus is not the only worry. Some experiments with bird flu have also been criticised as dangerous (New Scientist print edition, 28 February 2004).[...]

What is more, all the safety precautions are aimed at preventing escape, not dealing with it should it occur. If any of Kawaoka’s lab workers are exposed to the virus despite all the precautions, and become infected despite taking oseltamivir, the consequences could be disastrous.

“I experienced disbelief…regarding the decision to relocate the reconstructed 1918 influenza strain from a BSL-4 facility to a BSL-3 facility, based on its susceptibility to antiviral medication,” Ronald Voorhees, chief medical officer at the New Mexico Department of Health, wrote on ProMED-mail, an infectious
diseases mailing list.

By contrast, the team in Georgia, the first to experiment with genetically engineered 1918 viruses, did all its work at BSL-3Ag. Meanwhile, Michael Katze at the University of Washington at Seattle is planning to expose monkeys to aerosols of 1918-type viruses at BSL-3, a step down from BSL-3Ag. The recent SARS escapes were from BSL-3 labs.[...]

“There is no effective national system to ensure consistency, responsibility and good judgement in such research,” says Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project, a biosecurity pressure group in Austin, Texas. In a review of IBCs published this month, he found that many would not provide minutes of recent meetings as required by law.

He says the IBC that approved the planned 1918 flu study at the University of Washington considered only one scenario that could result in workers being exposed to airborne virus – the dropping of samples. Its solution: lab workers "will be trained to stop breathing".

Comment: "Lab workers will be trained to stop breathing?!" Well, that should make us all feel real secure! Does anyone get the impression that someone is playing Russian roulette with the human race? Just to reassure our readers who like the Cassiopaean experiment, we thought we might include this little excerpt from a session following 9-11:

September 24, 2001

Q: (L) Are there going to be any other kinds of violence, such as bombs or airplanes being flown into buildings, or release of anthrax, or small pox, or any other kind of chemical or germ warfare activities. Any of those?
A: Yes.
Q: (L) Which ones?
A: Fair chance of germ disbursement.
Q: (L) What kind of germ?
A: Influenza.
Q: (L) Do you mean a deadly form of flu?
A: Yes. Keep looking and listening.
Q: (L) Well we plan to. What is going to happen with the Middle-eastern situation?
A: Herding of population to much finer order of control.
Q: (L) What is the purpose of this increasing control?
A: Preparation for war in Palestine.
Q: (L) But nobody has said anything about having a war in Palestine. They're all talking about having a war in Afghanistan. How does Palestine fit in here?
A: It is the ultimate objective of Israel.
Q: (L) Why would they want to have war in their own country? Well, aside from the fact that they've been having a war in their own country for a long time. I guess they want to bring it to a final conclusion. What is going to be the result of this plan?
A: Destruction of Jews.
Q: (L) Well obviously this is not what THEY are planning, is it?
A: No.

See our Signs Flu Supplement for more on the making of the Flu Threat.

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Time for the Pentagon to Lift the Secrecy Surrounding its "Non-Lethal" Chemical and Biological Weapons

The Sunshine Project
News Release
19 July 2004

Sunshine Project Challenges the Defense Department to Release "Non-Lethal" Weapons Documents

(Austin - 19 July 2004) - Last week, when the Pentagon's lawyers insisted that the Sunshine Project remove documents about US Army chemical weapons research from its website, they called attention to the secrecy that surrounds US development of so-called non-lethal weapons. Belatedly realizing that censorship might backfire and draw more – not less - attention to "non-lethal" secrets, the Marine Corps tried to compensate with delay. It waited until 5:00 PM on Friday to respond to journalist's inquiries so as to try to ensure that the news cropped up outside of major US and international news cycles. Even then it said nothing of substance – it says it is investigating the matter.

The Pentagon has never been forthcoming about the extent of its "non-lethal" programs; but after the Sunshine Project and others began to take action against them at the Chemical Weapons Convention, secrecy has increased and the quality of disclosure under laws such as the Freedom of Information Act has plummeted.

For more than three and half years, the Sunshine Project has closely followed the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD), the coordinating body for US military "non-lethal" weapons research. In September 2002, the Sunshine Project went to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and called for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate programs to develop prohibited chemical weapons under the "non-lethal" moniker. In reply, the US State Department blocked the Sunshine Project’s accreditation to the meeting.

One month later, more than 120 innocent hostages were killed in the Moscow theater by the same kind of "non-lethal" chemical weapon. In 2003, it wasn’t the Sunshine Project that went to the CWC to request action, it was the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC). But the result was much the same: The Bush administration again used backroom maneuvers to prevent the ICRC from speaking and to keep "non-lethal" chemical weapons off the CWC's agenda.

"Non-lethal" weapons are a hodgepodge of technologies ranging from simple, well-understood items such as police batons and shields, to the weirdest frontiers of weapons science, like the Navy researcher whose proposal is to permanently "pacify" people by chemically burning out the neurological systems that make humans capable of violence. (His paper was accepted for discussion at a JNLWD-sponsored conference.) With new technologies, such as directed energy, JNLWD plays up the "gee-whiz" factor, resulting in headlines such as "Set Phasers to Stun", although to many observers the various directed-energy devices remind them more of the electric chair than reruns of Star Trek.

When it comes to chemical and biological "non-lethal" weapons, which are prohibited by treaty, JNLWD has the most explaining – and disclosing – to do. To begin with, if all of JNLWD's programs are treaty-compliant and truly "non-lethal", as it insists they are, why operate these programs under high classification? It is difficult to understand why a purportedly non-lethal weapon for missions such as peacekeeping would need to be shrouded in secrecy like that applied to nuclear weapons technology.

Beyond the three documents that the Marine Corps has insisted that the Sunshine Project remove from its website, a world of recent and undisclosed JNLWD and other Pentagon chemical and even biological "non-lethal" weapons research exists. The outlines of these programs can be ascertained through the Freedom of Information Act, related laws, and open sources. It is time for JNLWD and its military partners to come clean and prove that these programs are treaty-compliant and "non-lethal".

To begin the process of adequate public disclosure and discussion, Sunshine Project challenges the Pentagon to release the following materials:

1. The unredacted reports of the project Chemical Immobilizing Agents for Non-Lethal Applications, conducted by Optimetrics, Inc for the US Army Aberdeen Proving Ground in 2000 – 2001, as well as those of all follow-on projects;

2. The unredacted reports of the JNLWD technology investment project Front End Analysis for Non-Lethal Chemicals, conducted in fiscal years 2001 and 2002;

3. The unredacted reports of the project Technical Assessment of Antimateriel Chemical and Biological Agents, conducted at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, in 2000;

4. The unredacted videotapes of late 1990s US Navy (Dahlgren, VA) testing of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or "drones") equipped with "non-lethal" payload systems, requested by the Sunshine Project under FOIA a year and half ago, as well as documentation related to this program;

5. The unredacted reports of JNLWD's Loitering Non-Lethal Submunition program, as well the reports of Pentagon projects to develop "non-lethal" chemical missile payload systems, such as those for the ERGM (extended range guided missile) and the loitering "Tomahawk Tactical" cruise missile.

6. The full record of the lectures on antipersonnel "non-lethal" chemical weapons, classified "secret" and periodically given by JNLWD staff at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College since at least 2002.

7. All records deposited at the National Academies of Science for its JNLWD-sponsored non-lethal weapons study. (NAS has been refusing to release these records, at the behest of the Marine Corps and in violation of the Federal Advisory Committees Act, for a year and a half.)

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Scrambled F15’s From Otis Air Force Base: Mach 1.5 or Cruise Speed?
by Karen de Vries

Memory Fresh Up

On September 13th 2001, during his Senate Confirmation Hearing, General Myers, acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 11th stated that no military aircraft was scrambled until after the Pentagon strike, which was at 9.38 AM . [1]

According to a news release from NORAD on September 18th, 2001 , the FAA notified them about the hijacking of the first airliner (flight 111) at 8.40 AM . Subsequently they ordered to scramble two F15’s from Otis Air Force Base at 8.46 AM , which were airborne at 8.52 AM . [2]

Major Gen. Larry Arnold from NORAD stated on different occasions that “when the fighters took off, they were flying straight to New York City ” and that they were going at a speed of "about 1.5 Mach”. He also stated that at the time of impact the F-15’s were 71 miles away, about 8 minutes out, and going very fast [3] .

Conclusion: The statements of General Myers end Major General Arnold are in contradiction with one another. There is a discrepancy of 46 minutes. [...]

Some Calculations

The distance between Otis Air Force Base and the WTC is 153 mile. The two F15’s were airborne at 8.52.00 AM. The impact of Flight 175 at the second WTC tower was 9.02.54 AM.

This means they had about 10.54 minutes to intercept Flight 175.

They could have arrived in the area above the WTC within 10 minutes if their average speed had been (15.3 mile per minute x 60 =) 918 miles per hour (71 miles slower than the slowest mach 1.5). However, at the time of impact they were still 71 miles away from the WTC.

This means they have flown (153­ 71 miles =) 82 miles in 10.54 minutes, which means their average speed has been 82/10.54 = 7.78 miles per minute (x 60) = 466,79 Mph. It seems to be a remarkable coincidence that the average speed these F15’s must have flown, calculated on basis of the timeline NORAD released, is exactly their official cruise speed.

Arnold also stated that the F-15’s were about 8 minutes away at the time of impact of the second plane. 71 miles/8 = 8,875 Mp minute (x 60) = 532,5 per hour. That speed is nowhere near mach 1.5 (about 989 -1100 Mph).

Conclusion: We can be short about the mach-tale. It didn’t happen. [...]


1. Why did General Myers initially state that no military aircraft was
scrambled until after the Pentagon was hit?
2. Why did Major Gen Arnold contradict that statement a few days later?
3. Why did Major Gen Arnold state that they flew at mach 1.5, when it is obvious they didn’t?
4. Why didn’t the F-15’s accelerate to mach 1.5 or higher?
5. If there are any plausible reasons why they didn’t accelerate to mach 1.5 or higher, why didn’t NORAD to this very day bother to explain them?
6. Why do the statements about the notification time of the FAA and NORAD contradict each other?

By ignoring these (and many other) questions for over three years, NORAD and the Pentagon not only show an unacceptable contempt for the families of the victims and the public, by now they also completely forfeited all credibility.

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Wellstone Was Murdered


In "American Assassination," two professors explain how.

Who Killed Senator Paul Wellstone?

New Book Presents Damning New Research,

Authors, Publisher Call for Senate Investigation

Monday, October 25th, 12 Noon
National Press Club • Holeman Lounge
529 14th St NW • Washington, DC

Two years ago, all eyes were on the Senate race of Senator Paul Wellstone. In the wake of the defection of Jim Jeffords, the White House hand-picked Norm Coleman to attempt to unseat the populist Wellstone. But Coleman still trailed Wellstone late in the campaign. On October 11th, Wellstone voted against the President’s war on Iraq, despite a dire personal warning of "severe ramifications" from Vice President Cheney. As the result of his vote, Wellstone’s popularity soared.

Then tragedy struck. Just ten days before his probable re-election, Senator Wellstone was killed in the mysterious crash of his small aircraft. On October 25, 2002, the American people suffered the loss of a leader for peace and justice. Some folks harbored suspicions. And some remember how the media blamed the weather.

After two years of research, James Fetzer, Ph.D. and Don "Four Arrows" Jacobs, Ph.D., prove that the weather did not kill Senator Wellstone. Nor were the two pilots incompetent, as the final report of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would claim.

With impeccable logic, these two highly-lauded university professors ask the hard questions: Why the mysterious cessation of communication from the airplane right before the crash? Why did a passer-by experience cell phone interference at the exact time the pilots lost control? How did the FBI arrive at the crash scene, only an hour or so after the first responders, and eight hours before the NTSB?

At the time of Senator Wellstone’s death, 69% of Minnesotans polled said they had a hunch a "GOP Conspiracy" was at play. Now, a new book makes the case that the common people were right all along..

On October 25th, on the two year anniversary of Wellstone’s crash, Authors Jim Fetzer and Four Arrows will join Publisher Sander Hicks in Washington to reveal about what really happened that day. At the National Press Club, they will announce publication of American Assassination: The Strange Death of Senator Paul Wellstone.

"With new evidence and scientific rigor, Drs. Fetzer and Jacobs systematically appraise the alternative explanations for the death of a United States Senator. Their conclusion–that Paul Wellstone was the target of an assassination–is very disturbing. It should motivate authorities to launch a formal inquiry into the death of this remarkable American."

–Donald T. Phillips Author, Lincoln on Leadership

"Meticulous research...rigorous analysis. Their efforts lead us to only one conclusion."

–David Gabbard Professor, East Carolina University

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Red Sox Fan Killed by Police Projectile
By GREG SUKIENNIK, Associated Press Writer
October 22, 2004

BOSTON - A college student celebrating the Red Sox come-from-behind victory over the New York Yankees was killed after a police officer called in to control the rowdy crowd shot her in the eye with what was designed to be a non-lethal projectile.

Fifteen other people, including a police officer, suffered minor injuries in Boston's Kenmore Square neighborhood early Thursday, after thousands of baseball fans spilled onto the streets near Fenway Park to celebrate the Red Sox winning the American League pennant at Yankee Stadium.

Boston's mayor said he was considering banning alcohol sales in the city during the World Series to avoid a repeat of the rowdiness.

Victoria Snelgrove, a 21-year-old journalism major at Emerson College, was hit by a projectile fired by an officer on crowd-control duty. Snelgrove, of East Bridgewater, died of a head injury at Brigham and Women's Hospital later in the day.

Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said officers were using projectiles "designed to break upon impact, dousing the target with (pepper-like) spray."

"While I firmly and emphatically accept responsibilities for any errors," O'Toole said at a news conference Thursday, "I also condemn in the harshest words possible the actions of the punks (Wednesday) night who turned our city's victory into an opportunity for violence and mindless destruction."

O'Toole and Mayor Thomas Menino pledged to fully investigate. Menino said he will seek cooperation from city colleges, bars in the Fenway Park neighborhood and the Boston Red Sox to help prevent future disturbances. He said he would press colleges to expel students found guilty of criminal conduct in the melee.

Rick Snelgrove expressed outrage and said his daughter did nothing wrong. Standing outside the family home, he held up a photograph of his smiling daughter.

"What happened to her should not happen to any American citizen going to any type of game, no matter what," he said. "She loved the Red Sox. She went in to celebrate with friends. She was a bystander. She was out of the way, but she still got shot. Awful things happen to good people. My daughter was an exceptional person." [...]

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Deptford Woman, 89, Heads to Jail Over Iraq War Protest


Rip-Off Lillian Willoughby, a Deptford Quaker who will turn 90 in January, went to jail Wednesday to protest the war in Iraq.

Shortly before noon, Willoughby rose from her wheelchair, gave her husband of 64 years, George, a hug and a kiss, and disappeared into the federal detention center at Seventh and Arch streets here.

Reporting with her were five other peace activists, including a young couple from Camden, Cassie Haw, 22, and her husband, Chris, 23. All were convicted of obstructing the entrance to the federal building in Philadelphia on March 20, 2003, the day the United States invaded Iraq.

Given a choice between a $250 fine and a seven-day jail term, the six chose jail.

"I don't believe supporting the war in any way," Willoughby said Wednesday.

Addressing a group of about 50 supporters who gathered a block away, Willoughby said nonviolence isn't something that just happens.

"You have to learn to do it," she said, "to train for change," whether it's dealing with violence on the street or violence between nations.

Marion Brown, 59, of Northeast Philadelphia, one of those who would go to jail with Willoughby a few minutes later, recalled how she told the federal judge who sentenced them that she'd pay the fine if "you can use the money to provide clean drinking water to children in Iraq or to lessen our grandchildren's tax burden for paying for this war."

"He said, `No,' " Brown said. "He said he didn't think I was in any position to negotiate."

Willoughby, a native Iowan who has been active in anti-war and civil rights campaigns since the start of World War II, said Wednesday she was not nervous as she prepared to enter jail for the first time, although she confessed to being nervous at times since her sentencing last month.

She expects to be in solitary confinement, with only an hour a day outside her cell.

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Man Opens Fire at Mo. Manufacturing Plant
By JIM SUHR, Associated Press Writer
Thu Oct 21,11:08 PM ET

EARTH CITY, Mo. - A former employee walked into a conveyor belt factory and opened fire Thursday while workers were changing shifts, at one point reloading his shotgun in a parking lot before re-entering the building.

Though witnesses reported hearing multiple shots, only one person was wounded in the shooting that began about 3 p.m. at Beltservice Corp., in an industrialized area west of St. Louis, police spokesman Mason Keller said. The man was grazed by a bullet and his injury was not serious, Keller said.

By evening, only the gunman was still in the building, which is near the training facility of the St. Louis Rams football team. Keller said the man was in an area of the factory where he could not escape, but he did not elaborate.

Company co-founder and chairman Dick Engelsmann said 110 employees were in the building at the time of the shooting, and all were evacuated. He said the gunman left the company, which makes industrial conveyor belts, a year ago. He believes he was fired but could not say why.

One plant worker said he knew the shooter and that the man was having personal problems and missing too many days at work when he was fired.

"He told me if he lost his job he wouldn't be able to support his family," Marcus Jordan said.

Other workers said the shooting happened near the company's special-fabrication department, not far from a hallway containing a time clock.

Craig Kopplin said he had just begun his shift when he heard a gunshot. "Boom! Then instantaneously, I heard another," he said.

Another worker, Kevin Tippit, said he heard at least five gunshots. He bolted and sought shelter in a neighboring building's dock area.

"I was looking through the windows, and the guy came out, reloaded his gun and went right back in," he said. "It's craziness, craziness."

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Quakes linked to high tides


Posted on Fri, Oct. 22, 2004
By Glennda Chui
Mercury News

The news is good and bad for James Berkland, Santa Clara County's former staff geologist who claims he can predict earthquakes based on tides and runaway pets.

After 100 years of looking, scientists have finally found a connection between tides and earthquakes. In some parts of the world, and on certain faults, quakes are three times as likely when tides are high.

But the connection does not work the way Berkland thought. A separate analysis found no more quakes during his predicted ``seismic windows'' than would be expected from chance alone.

While the news may be a blow for Berkland's unorthodox prediction method, it is exciting for scientists, who say it ends a long quest and confirms that a relatively small nudge can trigger a quake.

It also opens the possibility that tidal stresses could be used to identify faults that are about to fail, said Ross Stein, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park.

There already are intriguing hints. In one study, small quakes that peppered the regions around six faults tended to occur at times of high tidal stress. But after a strong quake hit, the tidal connection vanished.

The seismologist who did that study, Sachiko Tanaka of Japan's National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention, is scheduled to report her findings at a San Francisco meeting in December.

Scientists have known for years that tides make the stress level in the Earth's crust rise and fall twice a day. So it has been a mystery why, despite dozens of studies, no one could show that tides triggered quakes, said Thomas Heaton, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

``This paper says we do see it if tides get above a certain threshold,'' he said. ``And knowing that threshold gives us some clues about how earthquakes start.''

Comment: Think of this article, and the last line, while reading the next two articles....

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Sea engulfing Alaskan village
By David Willis
BBC correspondent in Shishmaref, Alaska

It is thought to be the most extreme example of global warming on the planet.

Some estimate that the sea moves inland three metres a year
The village of Shishmaref lies on a tiny island on the edge of the arctic circle - and it is literally being swallowed by the sea.

Houses the Eskimos have occupied for generations are now wilting and buckled.

Some have fallen into the sea. Not only is the earth crumbling underfoot, but the waves are rising ominously all around.

As we walked across the narrow strip of beach that was his playground as a kid, village elder Tony Weyiouanna pointed to a series of barricades that have been erected over the years in the hope of stemming the tide.

"All of our efforts have been to protect our community," he told me. Has it worked? "Not yet."

Tony estimates the tide moves an average of 10 feet (three metres) closer to the land every year. When he was growing up, it was roughly 300 feet (91 metres) from where it is now.

Comment: First piece of evidence that the sea level is increasing.

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Maldives: Paradise soon to be lost
By Nick Bryant
BBC correspondent in Maldives

To visit the Maldives is to witness the slow death of a nation.

For as well as being blessed with sun-kissed paradise islands and pale, white sands, this tourist haven is cursed with mounting evidence of an environmental catastrophe.

To the naked eye, the signs of climate change are almost imperceptible, but government scientists fear the sea level is rising up to 0.9cm a year.

Since 80% of its 1,200 islands are no more than 1m above sea level, within 100 years the Maldives could become uninhabitable.

Comment: Second piece of evidence that the sea level is increasing.

Now, remember what the article on the relationship between earthquakes and tides suggested:

"This paper says we do see it if tides get above a certain threshold,'' he said. "And knowing that threshold gives us some clues about how earthquakes start.''

Is it too farfetched to consider that higher sea levels will put greater stress on the fault lines?

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Public TV zapper hot product
Last Updated Thu, 21 Oct 2004 15:01:27 EDT

SAN JOSE, CALIF. - A keychain device that enables people to turn off TVs just about anywhere is flying off the shelves, its inventor says.

Cornfield Electronics, which makes the device, is rebuilding its website because of the rush of orders.

The TV-B-Gone ($14.99 US) remote control was made public Monday in Wired magazine and on the web.

"I thought there would just be a trickle, but we are swamped," the inventor, Mitch Altman of San Francisco, told the Associated Press. "I didn't know there were so many people who were into turning TV off."

The device, an on-off switch, works on about 1,000 TV models, offering users relief from unwanted pictures and noise in airports, restaurants and bars.

It's like a universal remote control programmed to run through about 200 infrared codes that turn TVs on or off.

Aim the device, push the button and most TVs will go off.

Altman, an electrical engineer, says he tested the device all over the world and most people didn't react when the TV went off.

He doesn't like television and doesn't own one.

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From the Weird Desk...

MIA: cargo plane loses engine in flight

Thu Oct 21, 1:51 PM ET

CHICAGO - Federal aviation officials were searching for an engine that fell off a Boeing 747 cargo plane in mid-flight, possibly over Lake Michigan in the Great Lakes region, officials said.

The Kalitta Air jet was en route from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport when the pilot radioed air traffic controllers to alert them to mechanical problems Wednesday.

Controllers instructed the pilot to make an emergency landing in Detroit, Michigan, officials with the Federal Aviation Administration said.

It was only at that point that officials realised that the jet had not suffered engine failure, but that one of its four engines had physically disappeared, an FAA spokeswoman said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are collaborating to find the errant engine, which officials suspect may have ditched in the drink.

Lake Michigan, approximately 118 miles wide and 925 feet deep a its deepest point, is the second-largest Great Lake. It separates Michigan from Illinois, which is home to Chicago.

Comment: In other words, officials don't really know what happened to the engine. It is curious that only small aircraft and large cargo planes have been affected thus far in whatever is going on in the skies...

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Update: Crash at Halifax: The Last Conversation Will Remain Secret

Translated from Presse Canadienne
Thursday October 21, 2004

Halifax - The transcription of the last remarks exchanged between the air controller and the pilot of the Boeing 747 which crashed last week in Halifax will not be made public.

However, a transcription of this kind had been subjected to the public in 1998, a little after a Swissair plane had plunged in the Atlantic Ocean, off Nova Scotia. But a spokesman of the Security Office in transport of Canada, John Cottreau, affirms that the publication at that time was made inadvertently.

Louis Garneau, a spokesman of VOR Canada, the private agency which manages the air traffic in Canada, adds that any retranscription of the conversation would be a violation of federal law. Moreover, the private life of its employees would be violated.

The legal cause on the relevance of publishing such recordings will be discussed in federal Court in January.

Let us recall that the air crash on the runway of the International airport of Halifax caused seven deaths, all members of crew.

Comment: It was a cargo plane. Why wouldn't the transcripts be released to the public? Perhaps there is something in the pilot's remarks that the government believes would be disturbing to the public...

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No Peace for Linate. Radar Fails Again

Airport in chaos again after Wednesday's double blackout.

Corriere Della Sera
Friday 22 October 2004

MILAN - There's no peace for Linate. The Milan airport's radar system has let it down again. At 9.54 am, the equipment that controls air traffic all over the north west suffered a three-minute blackout, after those on Wednesday. ENAV, the state-owned air traffic control authority which manages the system, said that the cause was a technical hitch, "a problem of fine-tuning the system".

Meanwhile, yesterday's two incidents are still shrouded in mystery. According to Marco Alberti, the operational director of SEA, the company that manages Milan's Linate and Malpensa airport terminals, "the cause has not yet been identified".


After Wednesday's two breakdowns, today's was the third radar failure at Linate in little over 24 hours. The blackout this morning caused a one-hour hold-up for flights at all airports in northern Italy. The situation at airports in Lombardy seemed to be returning more or less to normal this morning. There were no problems at Malpensa or Orio al Serio. Then came the new breakdown.


At 11.14 am, ENAV issued a note saying, "the Milan system is functioning again". According to the bulletin, landings and departures were starting again, albeit in a much reduced fashion. Actual delays accumulated by passengers to and from Milan had not yet been calculated, nor was it clear what delays there would be for passengers whose flights involved a technical stop at Linate.

All flights could be delayed or cancelled because of the radar blackout. This sums up what passengers at Linate were told, after fog problems at Fiumicino had delayed the arrivals of many planes, causing severe problems (at least 18 flights were cancelled and 24 redirected to the Rome airport).


Milan's mayor, Gabriele Albertini, commented on the double blackout of CRAV (regional air traffic control) computers."The main thing is that in this case, the system malfunction was managed with the necessary functionality and security," said Mr Ablation. ENAV chairman Bruno Need assured journalists that the Linate radar failure would be identified and corrected, but declined to say when.

"We apologise to consumers for this problem," he told reporters at a conference on air security being held in Milan. "There were major difficulties with the power supply system. The gravity of the incident is not being underestimated."

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Unseen comets may raise impact risk for Earth
Mark Peplow
18 October 2004

The Solar System could be teeming with almost invisible comets, according to some astronomers' calculations. If they are right, such extra comets would significantly increase the risk of a catastrophic impact with Earth.

These objects have never been observed, but the astronomers argue that 'dark comets' provide a likely explanation for an astronomical puzzle: we can only see a tiny fraction of the comets that theory predicts.

Astronomers think that many comets come from the Oort cloud, a field of billions of icy objects that lies up to 100,000 times farther away from the Sun than the Earth does and marks the outer boundary of our Solar System. The icy objects are sometimes driven towards the Sun by gravitational tides generated by the shifting masses of stars in our Galaxy. When this happens they become comets, orbiting the Sun every 20 to 200 years on paths that lie at an angle to the planets' orbits.

Given the size of the Oort cloud, astronomers have calculated that there should be about 3,000 comets in these orbits, 400 times more than are actually observed.

The common explanation for this discrepancy is that the comets quickly disintegrate into smaller lumps after just one or two orbits, says Bill Napier, a recently retired astronomer who worked at the Armagh Observatory, Northern Ireland. But his mathematical model now suggests that, if this were true, the debris should cause many more major meteorite showers on Earth than we see, perhaps up to 30 every year.

In a paper to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society1, Napier concludes that the predicted comets are out there after all; we just cannot see them.

Little fluffy clouds

Napier worked with Chandra Wickramasinghe, an astronomer at Cardiff University in Wales, to explain the comets' invisibility. Wickramasinghe has suggested that Sedna, the most distant body identified in our Solar System, could have an orbiting twin that is dark, fluffy and made of tarry carbon compounds (see "Sedna 'has invisible moon'").

As Sedna may be a member of the Oort cloud, Napier thinks that other members of the cloud could be equally dark. Once ejected, the tarry comets would simply suck up visible light, he says, remaining cloaked in darkness. "Photons go in, but they don't come out."

"It's an intriguing possibility," says Alan Fitzsimmons, an astrophysicist at Queen's University of Belfast in Northern Ireland. "But while we have seen dark objects before, Bill is proposing something much, much darker than anything we've ever detected."

NASA's Stardust probe, which is bringing back samples of dust from the comet Wild 2, lends some support to Napier's idea. In June this year it reported finding lots of tarry carbon compounds spraying from the comet2.

Infrared challenge

The dark comets would present a major challenge to astronomers searching the skies for objects that might collide with the Earth. "They're so black you can't see the damn things," says Napier. "These things will just come out of the dark and hit you with no warning. It looks as if we're dealing with a substantial impact hazard that people haven't clicked into yet."

However, although they reflect almost no visible light, the dark comets should give out a tiny glow of heat, visible as infrared radiation. The infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, which has been operating from Earth orbit for just over a year, has not seen any dark comets. But this could be because it focuses on very small, distant parts of the sky, says Napier.

Fitzsimmons disagrees, saying that if these objects existed in the numbers proposed by Napier, either Spitzer or near-Earth object surveys such as Spacewatch, based at the University of Arizona in Tucson, would have picked them up by now.

A new space telescope might provide the answer. Earlier this month, NASA announced that it would launch an orbiting infrared telescope called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) in 2008, which will map much wider areas of the sky. Given enough time, it should be able to detect the dark comets, says Napier.

Comment: How coincidental that NASA has launched an infrared telescope capable of detecting these dark comets... In any case, one should remember that there have been visible NEO's in recent times that were not detected at all until they had zipped past the Earth.

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Theory of Relativity Evidence Found

By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 22, 2004; Page A03

Health/Science/Tech By measuring variations in satellite orbits, scientists have found the first direct evidence of one of the hallowed tenets of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity -- that the Earth and other large celestial bodies distort space and time as they rotate.

Researchers reporting yesterday in the journal Nature said improved satellite data had enabled them to show the effect known as "frame-dragging" with a degree of precision never previously possible.

"We improved our accuracy by orders of magnitude," said geodesist Erricos C. Pavlis of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and the University of Maryland at Baltimore. "In a while, we should be able to do even better."

Scientists expect that the results of the experiment, by Pavlis and Ignazio Ciufolini of Italy's University of Lecce, will be reinforced by NASA's ongoing Gravity Probe B, a satellite mission designed to measure frame-dragging and another Einsteinian effect by a different method -- calculating gyroscope deviations over time.

"Gravity Probe B is less systematic, but will provide higher accuracy -- within a margin of error of less than 1 percent," said Michael Salamon, NASA's discipline scientist for fundamental physics. "What this research [yesterday's report] means is that GPB may not in fact provide the first direct evidence of frame-dragging."

In the early 20th century, Einstein theorized that the gravity of large bodies such as the Earth distorts space and time, much the way a bowling ball would stretch a rubber sheet held aloft on all four corners.

Frame-dragging occurs, he said, because the Earth's rotation pulls space-time along with it. Salamon likened the effect to dipping a spoon into a cup of honey and turning it. Close to the spoon the honey twists, but the effect dissipates with distance.

Scientists have wanted to prove Einstein's theory since the dawn of the space age. Gravity Probe B, conceived more than 40 years ago, is measuring frame-dragging from a satellite by focusing a telescope on a distant "guide star" and measuring how the axes of gyroscopes deviate from their original positions pointing directly at the star.

Pavlis and Ciufolini used satellites in a completely different way. They closely tracked the orbits of LAGEOS and LAGEOS2, passive satellites covered with "retroreflectors" that reflect laser beams from ground stations, giving precise measurements of distance from the station to the satellite.

The satellites' orbits are slightly distorted -- not perfectly circular or elliptical -- because irregularities in Earth's surface jog them. But even after subtracting this surface-caused "noise," the researchers were still left with orbits that deviated slightly from what they should have been. The difference, they said, reflected frame-dragging.

"The satellite orbits are not perfect because the Earth is not perfect," Salamon said. "So subtract them out, and what you're left with are the effects of space time. The results are better with two satellites, and three would have been even better."

The key to the experiment's success was better data on Earth's gravity field -- a better map of the Earth-induced orbital distortions. This information, collected by another new satellite, enabled Ciufolini and Pavlis to shrink their margin of error dramatically from the 20 percent they obtained from an earlier attempt.

"There was a tremendous amount of criticism then, and a lot of people said 20 percent was on the edge of being acceptable," Salamon said. "This result, between five and 10 percent, is a lot cleaner."

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