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Phase Transition
SOTT Editorial

Phase transition
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

In physics, a phase transition is the transformation of a thermodynamic system from one phase to another. The distinguishing characteristic of a phase transition is an abrupt sudden change in one or more physical properties, in particular the heat capacity, with a small change in a thermodynamic variable such as the temperature. Examples of phase transitions are:

  • The transitions between the solid, liquid, and gaseous phases (evaporation, boiling, melting, freezing, sublimation, etc.; see also vapor pressure)
  • The transition between the ferromagnetic and paramagnetic phases of magnetic materials at the Curie point.
  • The emergence of superconductivity in certain metals when cooled below a critical temperature.
  • Quantum condensation of bosonic fluids, such as Bose-Einstein condensation and the superfluid transition in liquid helium.
  • The breaking of symmetries in the laws of physics during the early history of the universe as its temperature cooled.

Complex systems change as energy is added or removed from them. This change may not be obvious until the system hits the critical point of phase transition. At that moment, the system reorganises itself into a new order, finding an equilibrium where before there was instability and chaos.

A simple example is what happens to water as energy (heat) is added or removed from the system. Add heat and the water will warm gradually, finally beginning to bubble, and ultimately, turning into stream. The steam is the same chemical compound, H20, but with a different structure between the molecules. The transition to steam, the phase transition, happens "all at once" within definite conditions.

Remove heat from the water and it will become ice when it hits the freezing point. Once again, the chemical compound is the same, but the structure of the molecules is different. Once again, the transition is "at all once". The water leaps from a liquid state to a frozen state.

We are surrounded by such complex systems: the economic system, the political and social systems, the Earth's climate, the geology of the planet. These are all complex systems that work in ways analogous to that of water, with an important difference: we know enough about water to know that it can pass from a frozen state to a liquid state and then to a vapor. We know the qualities of each of these states. We know the critical points at which this occurs: 32° fahrenheit or 0° celsius is the transition point between solid and liquid, and 212° fahrenheit or 100° celsius between liquid and vapor.

We do not have such an exact knowledge of manmade systems, nor of the climate, nor of our Earth's geology, but we can hypothesise that they too experience their own "phase transitions". While it is not easy to predict what state such systems might transition to, we can look at the various manmade and natural upheavals that have occurred throughout history and use them to predict possible future events. Unfortunately, what we find does not make for reassuring reading.

Today, there is a general malaise among people from all parts of the planet. People sense that these are turbulent, unstable times, that the systems in which we are embedded are beginning to act in ways heretofore unseen. The Ring of Fire in the Pacific appears to be awakening as volcanoes and earthquakes there become more and more regular events. Many observers think that the US economy has been propped up for political reasons during the last months, if not years, in order to maintain the illusion of prosperity to return GW to the White House. The international political system has received important shocks since the neo-con job of 911, with the US openly proclaiming itself a new empire that will brooke no interference in its plans to dominate the world. At the same time, other analysts believe the US is already overstretched and will be unable to maintain its hegemony for long.

We see that more and more people are worried for their own future and for the future of their children. Even if they are unable to put this into words or accurately describe the reasons for their discomfort, they sense that something is seriously wrong. There is less and less faith in "economic security" as people see shops and businesses close or "restructure", putting employees of long date and a certain age out on the streets where jobs are scarce but the need to survive and support a family remain real and pressing. At the same time, the divide between rich and poor increases with each year, and freak weather is becoming more and more the norm.

It feels as if the water around us is beginning to bubble, a bit here, a bit there; we are on the verge of boiling.

The study of history tells us that such moments are periods of chaos; the old order can no longer hold and people look for someone to tell them what is coming. They need to be reassured in a period when reassurance is impossible.

What are the means most often used to bring equilibrium back to the system? Revolution, war, the arrival of dictators and strongmen to seek to impose their will over a confused and muddled population, a population that cannot see its way out of the crisis and so is looking for a savior, someone with the answers. During such periods, rights and liberties are suppressed. War, disease, natural catastrophe, and hunger kill millions. It is as if the energy needed to create this new equilibrium is the very life force of humanity.

We are in a period of phase transition. George W. Bush has just been returned to the White House to complete his theocratic revolution. His lies have been legitimized. Americans have decided that it doesn't matter if their leader is a lying, dishonest, manipulator. He has been given carte blanche to continue down the path towards chaos and destruction, with the added fact that he does not have to worry about being re-elected in 2008. If the US of today bears little resemblance to the country Bush took over four years ago, we think that the changes his administration is planning for the next four years will be even more radical and drastic. Will there even be elections in four years?

As things deteriorate, some will lose their illusions, others will look for a new and better illusion. We think it is time to work to see the world as it is. The signs tell us that we are entering a phase transition. The way down, to continue with our analogy with water, would be towards a solid, a structure where the links are tight, where movement is limited and fixed. Bush's political agenda fits such a description: the USA Patriot Act, the imposition of fundamentalist Christian ideology, the demonization of other points of view. Bush would lead the world to a closed and homogeneous society, where the values of a small number of Americans become the values, not only for other Americans, but for the whole world.

However, if we look up, towards the other critical point of phase transition, to extend the analogy, if we try to imagine a world of vapor, what might that be? If Bush seeks to impose a common illusory ideology and belief system on everyone, what would be the opposite?

Might it be a world where each opinion, based upon critical thought and a desire to see the world objectively, is valued because it contributes to the understanding of the whole? Where each individual takes responsibility for his or her own life, thoughts and ideas, and actions, rather than having them dictated by the media, friends and family, or the church?

There is no one to get us out of this mess but ourselves. The water is beginning to bubble. Is there time? The one thing that is certain is that none of the old ways out will work. There are no political, social, or economic solutions. International treaties on cutting back emissions will not work. Saving the rainforests, vegetarianism, idealist slogans from the left and right, none of these will work.

It is time for each of us to look deep within ourselves in order to discover what we have to give back to the world, what vein of creative energy we can tap into to bring something new to a realm dying under the weight of our old ways. In the face of chaos, we must learn to hold our own, to maintain a clear regard upon the only solid thing around us - the truth.

If the truth we must understand is the truth of chaos and catastrophe, so be it. We have, as a species, obviously not yet learned its lessons. As we enter the phase transition, it appears that we are destined for the privileged position of studying it very closely from the inside.

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Another Election Stolen - Americans Yet Again Swallow The Big Lie


In August of 2003, Walden O'Dell, Chief Executive of Diebold Elections Systems, the company that supplied America with 75,000 voting machines for Tuesday's election (including Ohio), told Republicans in a fundraising letter that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." What kind of a statement was that? Did Mr O Dell really mean what it sounds like he meant?

In light of this, does anyone find it strange that, for this election, Ohio took the place of Florida as the state where the winner was ultimately decided?

Does anyone find it strange that battleground states employing electronic voting saw Bush's vote up to five percent higher than their exit polls had forecast, While the exit polls of other states proved to be accurate predictors of the returns?

Does anyone find it strange that Bush was significantly behind in many polls in the run-up to the election yet ended up winning by a significant majority?

What about CNN's exit polling data for Ohio as of 12:21am on November 2nd: 51% of men and 53% of women were voting for Kerry, and 49% of men and 47% of women were supporting Bush. One hour later however update of the same page showed that Kerry has fallen to 47% and 50%, while Bush is up to 52% and 50%?

Strange isn't it...although no one should be surprised given Bush/Cheney's track record.

By now there is categoric proof that the 2000 election was stolen and the only thing that changed for this election is the relative seamlessness with which the crime was committed. There is however enough evidence to yet again condemn BushCo for the fascist dictators that they are.

Kerry of course is no better and by capitulating and peddling the lie that he had lost Ohio, he merely confirmed that he and the Bush gang take their orders from the same master. Kerry played good cop to Bush's bad, and the American people have fallen for the oldest trick in the book.

As for the question posed by the Daily Mirror in our picture of the day: the answer is that, while many millions of Americans are indeed "dumb", it is unlikely that the majority are dumb enough to elect a confirmed liar, so the liar simply had to cheat.

Here's the evidence:

What Happened In Ohio
Greg Palast
November 04, 2004

Bush won Ohio by 136,483 votes. Typically in the United States, about 3 percent of votes cast are voided—known as “spoilage” in election jargon—because the ballots cast are inconclusive. Palast’s investigation suggests that if Ohio’s discarded ballots were counted, Kerry would have won the state.

Today the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports there are a total of 247,672 votes not counted in Ohio, if you add the 92,672 discarded votes plus the 155,000 provisional ballots.

Greg Palast, contributing editor to Harper's magazine, investigated the manipulation of the vote for BBC Television's Newsnight. The documentary, "Bush Family Fortunes," based on his New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, has been released this month on DVD .

Kerry won. Here's the facts.

I know you don't want to hear it. You can't face one more hung chad. But I don't have a choice. As a journalist examining that messy sausage called American democracy, it's my job to tell you who got the most votes in the deciding states. Tuesday, in Ohio and New Mexico, it was John Kerry.

Most voters in Ohio thought they were voting for Kerry. CNN's exit poll showed Kerry beating Bush among Ohio women by 53 percent to 47 percent. Kerry also defeated Bush among Ohio's male voters 51 percent to 49 percent. Unless a third gender voted in Ohio, Kerry took the state.

So what's going on here? Answer: the exit polls are accurate. Pollsters ask, "Who did you vote for?" Unfortunately, they don't ask the crucial, question, "Was your vote counted?" The voters don't know.

Here's why. Although the exit polls show that most voters in Ohio punched cards for Kerry-Edwards, thousands of these votes were simply not recorded. This was predictable and it was predicted. [See "An Election Spoiled Rotten," November 1.]

Once again, at the heart of the Ohio uncounted vote game are, I'm sorry to report, hanging chads and pregnant chads, plus some other ballot tricks old and new.

The election in Ohio was not decided by the voters but by something called "spoilage." Typically in the United States, about 3 percent of the vote is voided, just thrown away, not recorded. When the bobble-head boobs on the tube tell you Ohio or any state was won by 51 percent to 49 percent, don't you believe it ... it has never happened in the United States, because the total never reaches a neat 100 percent. The television totals simply subtract out the spoiled vote.

And not all vote spoil equally. Most of those votes, say every official report, come from African American and minority precincts. (To learn more, click here.)

We saw this in Florida in 2000. Exit polls showed Gore with a plurality of at least 50,000, but it didn't match the official count. That's because the official, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, excluded 179,855 spoiled votes. In Florida, as in Ohio, most of these votes lost were cast on punch cards where the hole wasn't punched through
completely—leaving a 'hanging chad,'—or was punched extra times. Whose cards were discarded? Expert statisticians investigating spoilage for the government calculated that 54 percent of the ballots thrown in the dumpster were cast by black folks. (To read the report from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, click here .)

And here's the key: Florida is terribly typical. The majority of ballots thrown out (there will be nearly 2 million tossed out from Tuesday's election) will have been cast by African American and other minority citizens.

So here we go again. Or, here we don't go again. Because unlike last time, Democrats aren't even asking Ohio to count these cards with the not-quite-punched holes (called "undervotes" in the voting biz).

Ohio is one of the last states in America to still use the vote-spoiling punch-card machines. And the Secretary of State of Ohio, J. Kenneth Blackwell, wrote before the election, “the possibility of a close election with punch cards as the state’s primary voting device invites a Florida-like calamity.”

But this week, Blackwell, a rabidly partisan Republican, has warmed up to the result of sticking with machines that have a habit of eating Democratic votes. When asked if he feared being this year's Katherine Harris, Blackwell noted that Ms. Fix-it's efforts landed her a seat in Congress.

Exactly how many votes were lost to spoilage this time? Blackwell's office, notably, won't say, though the law requires it be reported. Hmm. But we know that last time, the total of Ohio votes discarded reached a democracy-damaging 1.96 percent. The machines produced their typical loss—that's 110,000 votes—overwhelmingly Democratic.

The Impact Of Challenges

First and foremost, Kerry was had by chads. But the Democrat wasn't punched out by punch cards alone. There were also the 'challenges.' That's a polite word for the Republican Party of Ohio's use of an old Ku Klux Klan technique: the attempt to block thousands of voters of color at the polls. In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, the GOP laid plans for poll workers to ambush citizens under arcane laws—almost never used—allowing party-designated poll watchers to finger individual voters and demand they be denied a ballot. The Ohio courts were horrified and federal law prohibits targeting of voters where race is a factor in the challenge. But our Supreme Court was prepared to let Republicans stand in the voting booth door.

In the end, the challenges were not overwhelming, but they were there. Many apparently resulted in voters getting these funky "provisional" ballots—a kind of voting placebo—which may or may not be counted. Blackwell estimates there were 175,000; Democrats say 250,000. Pick your number. But as challenges were aimed at minorities, no one doubts these are, again, overwhelmingly Democratic. Count them up, add in the spoiled punch cards (easy to tally with the human eye in a recount), and the totals begin to match the exit polls; and, golly, you've got yourself a new president. Remember, Bush won by 136,483 votes in Ohio.

Enchanted State's Enchanted Vote

Now, on to New Mexico, where a Kerry plurality—if all votes are counted—is more obvious still. Before the election, in, I wrote, "John Kerry is down by several thousand votes in New Mexico, though not one ballot has yet been counted."

How did that happen? It's the spoilage, stupid; and the provisional ballots.

CNN said George Bush took New Mexico by 11,620 votes. Again, the network total added up to that miraculous, and non-existent, '100 percent' of ballots cast.

New Mexico reported in the last race a spoilage rate of 2.68 percent, votes lost almost entirely in Hispanic, Native American and poor precincts—Democratic turf. From Tuesday's vote, assuming the same ballot-loss rate, we can expect to see 18,000 ballots in the spoilage bin.

Spoilage has a very Democratic look in New Mexico. Hispanic voters in the Enchanted State, who voted more than two to one for Kerry, are five times as likely to have their vote spoil as a white voter. Counting these uncounted votes would easily overtake the Bush 'plurality.'

Already, the election-bending effects of spoilage are popping up in the election stats, exactly where we'd expect them: in heavily Hispanic areas controlled by Republican elections officials. Chaves County, in the "Little Texas" area of New Mexico, has a 44 percent Hispanic population, plus African Americans and Native Americans, yet George Bush "won" there 68 percent to 31 percent.

I spoke with Chaves' Republican county clerk before the election, and he told me that this huge spoilage rate among Hispanics simply indicated that such people simply can't make up their minds on the choice of candidate for president. Oddly, these brown people drive across the desert to register their indecision in a voting booth.

Now, let's add in the effect on the New Mexico tally of provisional ballots.

"They were handing them out like candy," Albuquerque journalist Renee Blake reported of provisional ballots. About 20,000 were given out. Who got them?

Santiago Juarez who ran the "Faithful Citizenship" program for the Catholic Archdiocese in New Mexico, told me that "his" voters, poor Hispanics, whom he identified as solid Kerry supporters, were handed the iffy provisional ballots. Hispanics were given provisional ballots, rather than the countable kind "almost religiously," he said, at polling stations when there was the least question about a voter's identification. Some voters, Santiago said, were simply turned away.

Your Kerry Victory Party

So we can call Ohio and New Mexico for John Kerry—if we count all the votes.

But that won't happen. Despite the Democratic Party's pledge, the leadership this time gave in to racial disenfranchisement once again. Why? No doubt, the Democrats know darn well that counting all the spoiled and provisional ballots will require the cooperation of Ohio's Secretary of State, Blackwell. He will ultimately decide which spoiled and provisional ballots get tallied. Blackwell, hankering to step into Kate Harris' political pumps, is unlikely to permit anything close to a full count. Also, Democratic leadership knows darn well the media would punish the party for demanding a full count.

What now? Kerry won, so hold your victory party. But make sure the shades are down: it may be become illegal to demand a full vote count under PATRIOT Act III.

I used to write a column for the Guardian papers in London. Several friends have asked me if I will again leave the country. In light of the failure—a second time—to count all the votes, that won't be necessary. My country has left me.

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Our Call
Released: November 02, 2004

Zogby International's 2004 Predictions
(as of Nov. 2, 2004 5:00pm EST)

2004 Presidential Election

Electoral Votes:

Bush - 213

Kerry - 311

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Flashback: Diebold May Face Criminal Charges

By Kim Zetter
Apr. 23, 2004

SACRAMENTO, California –- After harshly chastising Diebold Election Systems for what it considered deceptive business practices, a California voting systems panel voted unanimously Thursday to recommend that the secretary of state decertify an electronic touch-screen voting machine manufactured by the company, making it likely that four California counties that recently purchased the machines will have to find other voting solutions for the November presidential election.

The panel also voted to send the findings of its recent Diebold investigation to the state's attorney general for possible criminal and civil charges against the firm for violating state election laws.

Following a contentious six-hour hearing during which the Voting Systems and Procedures Panel grilled Diebold president Bob Urosevich about his company's business practices, the panel voted to recommend decertifying the Diebold AccuVote-TSx machine, which was used for the first time in California during the March primary in Kern, San Joaquin, Solano and San Diego counties.

The decision was based partly on the fact that a peripheral device for the machine performed poorly in the March primary and partly on the fact that Diebold had marketed and sold the TSx to counties before it was certified by the state. The panel also said Diebold misled the state about issues pertaining to the federal certification of the system.

The state had conditionally certified the TSx in December so that counties that had already purchased the machines could use them in the March primary. But the company installed a last-minute peripheral device in several California counties that was still being de-bugged days before the March primary. The device, a smart card encoder that programmed voting cards to be used with the TSx, malfunctioned and produced major problems in San Diego and Alameda counties the morning of the primary. Several hundred precincts failed to open on time, thus disenfranchising voters who were turned away from the polls.

The decertification recommendation goes to California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who has until April 30 to decide how to act on it, a date that falls within the six-month advance notice that the state must give counties to take machines out of commission before an election.

The panel also recommended that Shelley ask the state attorney general to examine the possibility of bringing civil and criminal charges against Diebold for violating California election codes, which state that vendors cannot change software without notifying the secretary of state's office. The codes also say that no vendor can install uncertified software on voting systems.

Last November, the state discovered that Diebold had installed uncertified software on its voting machines in 17 counties without notifying state officials or, in some cases, even county officials who were affected by the changes.

Diebold said it was not entirely responsible for the installation of uncertified software and systems in California because changes in certification practices at the federal level had caused delays with certification and that state rules about certification were confusing.

But state undersecretary and panel chairman Mark Kyle said the company's excuses rang "hollow" and that the state's rules were extremely clear. He expressed anger that Diebold had been deceptive about advance knowledge of problems with its smart card encoder before the March primary. He also accused the company of "switch-and-bait" tactics in trying to pass off uncertified software as certified software and suggested that the company might have colluded with the federal testing lab, Wyle Laboratories, to get its system through the California investigation.

Panel member Marc Carrel, assistant secretary of state for policy and planning, said that Diebold's "spin" on the issues left him dizzy. He said that Diebold's repeated apologies were "belied by their actions and their statements."

"I keep hearing apologies. I keep hearing misleading statements. I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day -- it keeps repeating and repeating and repeating," he said. "I'm disgusted by the actions of this company."

Carrel said the "bait-and-switch" on software had resulted in the disenfranchisement of voters in various counties and resulted "in a reduction in the confidence not only in (touch-screen machines) but in voting in general. And that's very disturbing to me."

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Flashback: Voting Machine Controversy
by Julie Carr Smyth
August 28, 2003
Cleveland Plain Dealer

COLUMBUS - The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

The Aug. 14 letter from Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. - who has become active in the re-election effort of President Bush - prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of allowing O'Dell's company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential election.

O'Dell attended a strategy pow-wow with wealthy Bush benefactors - known as Rangers and Pioneers - at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch earlier this month. The next week, he penned invitations to a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser to benefit the Ohio Republican Party's federal campaign fund - partially benefiting Bush - at his mansion in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington.

The letter went out the day before Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, also a Republican, was set to qualify Diebold as one of three firms eligible to sell upgraded electronic voting machines to Ohio counties in time for the 2004 election.

Blackwell's announcement is still in limbo because of a court challenge over the fairness of the selection process by a disqualified bidder, Sequoia Voting Systems.

In his invitation letter, O'Dell asked guests to consider donating or raising up to $10,000 each for the federal account that the state GOP will use to help Bush and other federal candidates - money that legislative Democratic leaders charged could come back to benefit Blackwell.

They urged Blackwell to remove Diebold from the field of voting-machine companies eligible to sell to Ohio counties.

This is the second such request in as many months. State Sen. Jeff Jacobson, a Dayton-area Republican, asked Blackwell in July to disqualify Diebold after security concerns arose over its equipment.

"Ordinary Ohioans may infer that Blackwell's office is looking past Diebold's security issues because its CEO is seeking $10,000 donations for Blackwell's party - donations that could be made with statewide elected officials right there in the same room," said Senate Democratic Leader Greg DiDonato.

Diebold spokeswoman Michelle Griggy said O'Dell - who was unavailable to comment personally - has held fund-raisers in his home for many causes, including the Columbus Zoo, Op era Columbus, Catholic Social Services and Ohio State University.

Ohio GOP spokesman Jason Mauk said the party approached O'Dell about hosting the event at his home, the historic Cotswold Manor, and not the other way around. Mauk said that under federal campaign finance rules, the party cannot use any money from its federal account for state- level candidates.

"To think that Diebold is somehow tainted because they have a couple folks on their board who support the president is just unfair," Mauk said.

Griggy said in an e-mail statement that Diebold could not comment on the political contributions of individual company employees.

Blackwell said Diebold is not the only company with political connections - noting that lobbyists for voting-machine makers read like a who's who of Columbus' powerful and politically connected.

"Let me put it to you this way: If there was one person uniquely involved in the political process, that might be troubling," he said. "But there's no one that hasn't used every legitimate avenue and bit of leverage that they could legally use to get their product looked at. Believe me, if there is a political lever to be pulled, all of them have pulled it."

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2004-11-03 16:26:30

Greg Palast and Randi Rhodes reported today that the state of Ohio was stolen by the Republicans in election 2004. Ohio was the critical state that tipped the balance, giving the presidency to Bush.

Turns out one county in Ohio, equipped with electronic voting machines, reported NEGATIVE 25,000 votes.


That’s what at least one election official in Ohio said. The votes from that County are lost. Not counted. GONE!

Republicans in both Ohio and Florida fought for 2 years to prevent a legal requirement for the black box machines to produce a paper ballot. Ohio finally said they would require a paper ballot, but not until 2006. [...]

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Election Fraud 2004

by Denny Burbeck
Tennessee Independent Media Center

It could be that the huge increase in voters in this election was because the American people like being lied to and deceived. It could be that the young vote came out to support an Administration that is sending their jobs off-shore, and sending the military to far flung
areas of the world where they are murdered almost daily by extremists.

Or it could be that the huge increase in voters was countered by an administration who came to power by stealing the Florida election in 2000, and now has the ability to skew electronic voting machines by hacking into the software that was left precariously vulnerable by the manufacturers of the machines. Remember the Diebold CEO who stated that he would do "everything in his power" to give Ohio to Bush?

The first report of one evening news show last night was on a woman in New Orleans that said she touched the Kerry box, but her machine recorded a Bush vote. But that wasn't enough. They also did the "Katherine Harris" DIRTY trick of denying democrats a ballot...140,000 of them in Ohio. By the way, the 57,700 democrats in Florida that were denied a ballot in 2000 are still off the voting rolls and could not vote this year either. The freedom to cheat is George W's favorite freedom.

Another wonderful display of Democracy.

Another fine win Mr. President.

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Hotlines capture e-voting glitches

03 November 2004
Roxanne Khamsi

As politicians and lawyers digest the result of the US presidential election, several groups have focused attention on the problems with electronic balloting that were reported by voters during the polls.

One hotline, run by the non-partisan Election Protection coalition, allowed people to call in and report problems they encountered when placing their ballot, including difficulties with e-voting machines. The glitches in electronic voting equipment stretched across the country and left many voters frustrated, according to activists.

The most common e-voting difficulty reported as the election got under way involved cases where voters claimed that the final summary screen indicated a candidate different from the one for whom they had voted. The problem raises significant concerns because it appeared across a variety of types of touch-screen voting machine, says Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology policy group based in San Francisco.

But David Bear, spokesman for the leading e-voting equipment manufacturer Diebold Election Systems, believes that these voters had actually made a mistake, so the summary screen fulfilled its purpose by allowing them to double-check their selections. "That's what the summary screen is for," says Bear. He emphasizes that the electronic equipment undergoes stringent testing before reaching the polls. Voters that found the summary screen displayed an inaccurate selection could go back and fix their electronic ballot.

Other types of problems reported involved machines that indicated a candidate before the voter had made a choice. People also claimed to be unable to complete the voting process because the machine screens went dark.

"I think New Orleans wins the award for the worst voting situation in the country when it comes to electronic voting machines," says Cohn. A significant number of the city's machines did not boot up on time for a variety of reasons.

It was a problem that cropped up elsewhere as well. "But the difference between New Orleans and some of the other counties is that New Orleans hadn't prepared any back-up plan," says Cohn, "As a result they didn't have paper ballots or, frankly, anything to offer to voters when their machines didn't work, and they had to turn people away."

Tip of the iceberg

By the time polling began to wrap up on the East Coast, the Election Protection coalition says it had received over 600 reports of e-voting problems from across the country.

The number of reports is very low compared with the total number of voters who used the machines. But David Dill, founder of the Verified Voting Foundation and a computer scientist at Stanford University, California, points out that not everyone who experiences a problem will make a complaint.

"I think we can get a rough picture of how severe the problems are if we assume that a very small percentage of those voters are actually filing reports," he says.

Dill, like other election-rights activists, views these numbers as the tip of an iceberg.

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Paper denied access at polls
Nov 2, 2004

A federal judge on Monday refused to allow the Akron Beacon Journal access to polling locations -- a practice the paper has enjoyed for years in its news-gathering role.

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Texas woman who cast her vote for all Democratic candidates discovered her ballot marked for Bush/Cheney


When she did the final check, lo and behold every vote was for the Democratic candidates except that it showed she had voted for Bush/Cheney for president/vice pres. She immediately got a poll official. On her vote, it was corrected.

She called the Travis County Democratic headquarters. They took all her information, and told her that she wasn't the first to report a similar incident and that they are looking into it

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Group tallies more than 1,100 e-voting glitches

By Grant Gross
IDG News Service, 11/03/04

U.S. voters calling in to a toll-free number had reported more than 1,100 separate incidents of problems with electronic voting machines and other voting technologies by late Tuesday during the nationwide election.

In more than 30 reported cases, when voters reviewed their choices before finalizing them, an electronic voting machine indicated they had voted for a different candidate.

E-voting backers called the number of reported problems minor in the context of almost 50 million U.S. voters projected to use e-voting machines on Tuesday.

In a majority of cases where machines allegedly recorded a wrong vote, votes were taken away from Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, or a Democratic candidate in another race, and given to Republican President George Bush or another Republican candidate, said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Foreign monitors 'barred' from US polls

November 03 2004 at 12:54AM

Copenhagen - Some observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), a Europe-wide security and rights forum, were barred from entering some polling stations in the United States on Tuesday, one of them said.

"We were not allowed to enter polling stations," said Soeren Soendergaard, a Danish parliamentary deputy.

"Although we were officially invited to follow the (US presidential) election, the message was not passed on to the polling stations," he told the Danish news agency Ritzau.

He said he had been personally refused admission at three out of four polling stations in Columbus, Ohio.

"It's the limit of arrogance," complained the left-wing deputy, representing the 55-nation OSCE, a pan-European body of which the US is a member and whose duties include monitoring elections to ensure fair play.

Another Danish OSCE observer, conservative Carina Christensen, reported less serious irregularities in Jacksonville, Florida, but said police had been called when she tried to visit a Republican office.

She and three other delegation members had been well received by local representatives of the Democrat Party who had ensured their access to polling stations.

But Republicans were less welcoming. "We were denied entry to a local Republican office in Orlando," she told Ritzau: "They called the police, saying they had received guidelines from Washington to do so."

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Isolated voting problems reported across Texas
Associated Press

DALLAS - Long lines and stormy weather were the biggest hurdles most Texas voters faced on Election Day, but some voting machine problems were reported and an election judge accused of assaulting a federal election observer was replaced.

Dallas elections judge Julian Dean Helms was removed from his post early Tuesday after he pushed a U.S. Justice Department election observer out the door of his polling place, the Dallas County Sheriff's Department said.

The federal observer was one of two sent to the precinct based on past allegations of voting irregularities, sheriff's Sgt. Don Peritz Jr. said. Helms was replaced and the observers remained at the polling place.

Helms was not arrested and prosecutors were deciding whether to charge him with a crime. [...]

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In God - or reality - we trust
By Pepe Escobar
Nov 3, 2004

"We will export death and violence to the four corners of the Earth in defense of our great nation."

- George W Bush in Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack

It all boils down to Iraq. Will the majority of Americans reject George W Bush because of his defining moment - launching an indefensible preemptive war?

No matter what happens on election day - or days or weeks if the multibillion-dollar special again goes to the Supreme Court - the fact is that at least half of the nation, and the majority of its cultural and intellectual elite, has already rejected Bush as a divider, not a uniter, someone who did not even have a popular mandate to begin with. [...]

In a nutshell, we saw support for the Karl Rove-packaged, tough-talking, shoot-from-the-hip Bush in the red (Republican) states as a powerful expression of resentment toward the elite, a sentiment masterfully capitalized on by the Republican machine. Thus the Christian evangelist, God-fearing, anti-gun-control, anti-abortion, anti-stem-cell-research and anti-United Nations crusading armies defending true "American values". Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky or Mao Zedong never thought about this: working-class masses supporting a political party that lavishes tax cuts on the wealthiest 1% of the population and that is fully committed to destroying the civil institutions that support the working class.

These Bush-voting armies consider themselves under siege, are fiercely anti-intellectual (like the president himself) and in essence anti-modern. So no wonder this translates into a very ugly, aggressive brand of American nationalism. The "other" - especially the foreign Muslim other - is the ultimate enemy. The Bush administration's response to September 11, 2001, was a "war on terror", a misguided tactic (war) against a concept (terrorism). But the concept of "war on terror" was brilliant - because it inextricably linked this ugly, Bible-quoting American nationalism to the Republican agenda.

Thus Bush's mantra that there cannot be another commander-in-chief apart from himself: after all, he's on a mission from God. Thus his appeal to an "al-Qaeda" (base) of millions of believers who await the day of "rapture" when Jesus will come back to Earth and kill everyone in sight - except them. Bush's trademark hostility toward the factual world just mirrors the cognitive dissonance of the crusading God-fearing armies: no wonder the Bush administration lives in fantasyland. [...]

Osama bin Laden's spectacular irruption as the third party in the election might have benefited Bush by reinforcing the atmosphere of fear; but voters seem to be more annoyed by the fact bin Laden is still very much alive and kicking. The fact that Bush outsourced the Afghan war and took the eye off the ball to switch to Iraq (How Bush blew it in Tora Bora, Asia Times Online, October 27) is a story that won't go away - although corporate media largely ignore it: Mike Kasper of the website has an excellent Tora Bora-Iraq planning timeline. And Asia Times Online readers are also alerting that unlike the Bush administration spin, bin Laden did not threaten new attacks against the US: a correct, full transcript of his speech can be found at the al-Jazeera website. [...]

This is an election to bury the neo-cons. As Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke put it succinctly in America Alone: The Neo-conservatives and the Global Order (Cambridge University Press, 2004), "Neo-conservatives see themselves in a world of Hobbesian state-of-nature primitivism and conspiracy where perpetual militarized competition for ascendancy is the norm, and moderation (even of the sort envisioned by Hobbes) by the community of nations is impossible, where the search for a social contract a la Locke or Rousseau is illusory, where trust among human beings is elusive, and where adversaries (defined as anyone who does not share the neo-conservative world view) must be preemptively crushed before they crush you."

It took only eight neo-cons to take over the whole US government (namely the chief of the Near East and South Asia Division of the Department of Defense; the under secretary of defense for policy; the deputy secretary of defense; the secretary of defense; the under secretary of state for arms control; the chairman of the Defense Policy Board; the vice president; the chief of ataff to the vice president; and the deputy national security adviser). They are all members of the ultra-right-wing Project for a New American Century and they all signed the 1996 document "A Clean Break" written for the Likud Party in Israel - both of which have been calling for a war against Iraq since the mid-1990s.

This is an election to bury the real acting president, Dick Cheney, the ultimate architect of an ultra-secretive, anti-democratic, crony-capitalist-fueled Bush administration. But the fact is the neo-con-spun, non-reality-based paradigm really worked.

The numbers speak for themselves. In the faith-based universe versus the "reality community", 55% of Bush supporters still believe Iraq was supporting al-Qaeda; 72% believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or a program to develop them; 69% believe Bush supports the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; 61% believe that if Bush knew there were no WMD he would not have gone to war; 60% believe most experts believe Iraq was supporting al-Qaeda; 58% believe that the recent Duelfer report concluded that Iraq had either WMD or a major program to develop them; 57% believe that the majority of people in the world would prefer a second Bush term; 55% believe the 9-11 Commission Report concluded Iraq was supporting al-Qaeda; 51% believe Bush supports the Kyoto treaty; and 20% still believe Iraq was directly involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The 'war on terror'/Iraq record

A recent joint report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the al-Mustansariya University in Baghdad concluded that 100,000 or more Iraqis may have died because of the war, and "most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children".

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice should have resigned or been fired for allowing Bush to start a preemptive war based on false information and extremely incompetent analysis. Rumsfeld should have resigned or been fired over, among other things, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the human-rights abuses in Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo, for waging two wars on the cheap, for backing the convicted fraud and Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, and for failing to preview the Iraqi liberation struggle/guerrilla movement.

"Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US", read the Central Intelligence Agency briefing of August 6, 2001; Bush's reaction was to take a month-long vacation. As bin Laden mocked him in his recent speech, Bush kept reading My Pet Goat while planes-turned-to-missiles were devastating the World Trade Center. He opposed the 9-11 Commission and in the end only talked to its members under Cheney's wing. Radio-controlled by the neo-cons, he implemented their Hobbesian militaristic agenda, alienated key US allies around the world and mocked the United Nations as "irrelevant". There were no WMD in Iraq. But there are plenty in Pakistan and North Korea.

There is no rational explanation why revenge for September 11 got diverted into the catastrophic occupation of Iraq: Hamburg, Germany (where much of the September 11 plot may have been organized), and Hollywood, Florida (where several of the hijackers, according to the US government, had lived), had much more to do with September 11 than Iraq. And there's no rational explanation for why Afghanistan, apart from Kabul, remains a de facto disaster area run by warlords while the Taliban and al-Qaeda are alive and kicking along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Bush was not elected by the majority in 2000. If he is really elected now - with or without the majority of the popular vote - this will send a strong signal to the whole world that Americans support the neo-con agenda. The sequence is predictable: more corporate tax cuts, an even more repressive Patriot Act, more wars in the Middle East, more geopolitical chaos. The stakes couldn't be higher. The crusading armies may legitimize "exporting death and violence to the four corners of the Earth". Or progressive America may rejoin reality and punish the Bush administration for what it is: an illegitimate aberration.

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Election Day 2004: Vote for Osama
November 02, 2004

The well-timed release of the fake Osama video has nothing to do with the election campaigns of John Kerry or George Bush per se, as the corporate media tells us. Rather, it is an infomercial for the so-called war on terrorism, released precisely at a time when people are paying attention and, as well, to knock other issues out of the political arena. For the neocon and neolib factions of the ruling elite, there is but one issue: total war against the third world in the service of predatory globalism.

Of course, both so-called candidates, hand-picked by the ruling elite, made the war on terrorism central to their campaigns. Both are saying exactly the same thing—the occupation of Iraq will continue and preemptive wars will commence against Iran and Syria after the election. In essence, we are offered a war against terrorism with sugar or aspartame, the flavor remains the same. Do we want the Straussian neocon warmongers or the Democrat alternative, as exemplified by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (who is aligned with far right Republicans such as Newt Gingrich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ed Meese, Jack Kemp, and other warmongers on the so-called “non-partisan” Committee on the Present Danger, a front organization for the neocon American Enterprise Institute)? Kerry’s National Security Advisor (or more formerly known as Kerry’s National Security and Homeland Security Issue Coordinator) is Rand Beers, a National Security Council bureaucrat who was Bush’s Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Combating Terrorism. Democrats, such as Michael Moore, who believe Kerry can be persuaded to champion progressive issues (and also end the occupation of Iraq) may want to take a look at the people Kerry is looking at to staff his administration.

Osama the intel op—or rather the fake Osama, since the real Osama is more than likely dead—made his appearance (as did “Azzam the American” a few days before) after a nearly two year hiatus to remind Americans that the issue is total war, not the economy or prescription drugs for seniors, or a fair and equitable tax law, etc. If Osama was who our leaders say he is—a militant and fundamentalist Muslim—he would not be pulling for either candidate because he would realize that no matter who is president of the United States under the current arrangement foreign policy will remain the same. For as John Stockwell, a former CIA official, writes, “the United States [is] cast in the role of Praetorian Guard, protecting the interests of the global financial order against fractious elements in the Third World.” John Kerry understands this very well. If he didn’t he would not be allowed to run for president. Michael Moore and the desperate Democrats, who believe Kerry will have a change of heart upon entering the White House, need to do their homework.

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Bush win could see some Americans head north
WebPosted Nov 3 2004 09:09 AM PST

VANCOUVER - Some Democrats in Seattle say they are so disenchanted with President George W. Bush that they're ready to leave the U.S.

Jonathan Lynch, who is originally from Pennsylvania, is in Seattle for work – and is now considering applying to move to Canada.

"Perhaps some sort of political asylum or something. I'm not sure how many people are actually seriously considering it but it's come up in many, many discussions," he says.

One young person from the U.S. has already made that leap. Lyle McMahon, who is from Oregon, is studying at UBC.

"Part of the reason I've come here is that I personally haven't felt that comfortable staying within the country," he says.

"A lot of the issues that have arisen through Bush's policies from the Patriot Act or his stance on the environment or women's issues – things of that nature," he says.

"I've felt they've been tokenized and caused a real social detriment to the society."

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Electing to Leave
A Readers Guide to Expatriating on November 3rd
by Bryant Urstadt

So the wrong candidate has won, and you want to leave the country. Let us consider your options.

Renouncing your citizenship

Given how much the United States as a nation professes to value freedom, your freedom to opt out of the nation itself is surprisingly limited. The State Department does not record the annual number of Americans renouncing their citizenship-"renunciants," as they are officially termed-but the Internal Revenue Service publishes their names on a quarterly basis in the Federal Register. The IRS's interest in the subject is, of course, purely financial; since 1996, the agency has tracked ex-Americans in the hopes of recouping tax revenue, which in some cases may be owed for up to ten years after a person leaves the country. In any event, the number of renunciants is small. In 2002, for example, the Register recorded only 403 departures, of which many (if not most) were merely longtime resident aliens returning home.

The most serious barrier to renouncing your citizenship is that the State Department, which oversees expatriation, is reluctant to allow citizens to go "stateless." Before allowing expatriation, the department will want you to have obtained citizenship or legal asylum in another country-usually a complicated and expensive process, if it can be done at all. Would-be renunciants must also prove that they do not intend to live in the United States afterward. Furthermore, you cannot renounce inside U.S. borders; the declaration must be made at a consul's office abroad.

Those who imagine that exile will be easily won would do well to consider the travails of Kenneth Nichols O'Keefe. An ex-Marine who was discharged, according to his website, under "other than honorable conditions," O'Keefe has tried officially to renounce his citizenship twice without success, first in Vancouver and then in the Netherlands. His initial bid was rejected after the State Department concluded that he would return to the United States-a credible inference, as O'Keefe in fact had returned immediately. After his second attempt,

O'Keefe waited seven months with no response before he tried a more sensational approach. He went back to the consulate at The Hague, retrieved his passport, walked outside, and lit it on fire. Seventeen days later, he received a letter from the State Department informing him that he was still an American, because he had not obtained the right to reside elsewhere. He had succeeded only in breaking the law, since mutilating a passport is illegal. It says so right on the passport.

Heading to Canada or Mexico

In your search for alternate citizenship, you might naturally think first of Canada and Mexico. But despite the generous terms of NAFTA, our neighbors to the north and south are, like us, far more interested in the flow of money than of persons. Canada, in particular, is no longer a paradise awaiting American dissidents: whereas in 1970 roughly 20,000 Americans became permanent residents of Canada, that number has dropped over the last decade to an average of just about 5,000. Today it takes an average of twenty-five months to be accepted as a permanent resident, and this is only the first step in what is likely to be a five-year process of becoming a citizen. At that point the gesture of expatriation may already be moot, particularly if a sympathetic political party has since resumed power.

Mexico's citizenship program is equally complicated. Seniors should know that the country does offer a lenient program for retirees, who may essentially stay as long as they want. But you will not be able to work or to vote, and, more important, you must remain an American for at least five years.


Should one candidate win, those who opposed the Iraq war might hope to find refuge in France, where a very select few are allowed to "assimilate" each year. Assimilation is reserved for persons of non-French descent who are able to prove that they are more French than American, having mastered the language as well as the philosophy of the French way of life. Each case is determined on its own merit, and decisions are made by the Ministère de l'Emploi, du Travail, et de la Cohésion Social. When your name is published in the Journal Officiel de la République Français, you are officially a citizen, and may thereafter heckle the United States with authentic Gallic zeal.

The coalition of the willing

Should the other candidate win, war supporters might naturally look to join the coalition of the willing. But you may find a willing and developing nation as difficult to join as an unwilling and developed one. It takes at least five years to become a citizen of Pakistan, for instance, unless one marries into a family, and each applicant for residency in Pakistan is judged on a case-by-case basis. Uzbekistan imposes a five-year wait as well, with an additional twist: the nation does not recognize dual citizenship, and so you will be required to renounce your U.S. citizenship first. Given Uzbekistan's standard of living (low), unemployment (high), and human-rights record (poor), this would be something of a leap of faith.

The Caribbean

A more pleasant solution might be found in the Caribbean. Take, for example, the twin-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, which Frommer's guide praises for its "average year-round temperature of 79°F (26°C), low humidity, white-sand beaches, and unspoiled natural beauty." Citizenship in this paradise can be purchased outright. Prices start at around $125,000, which includes a $25,000 application fee and a minimum purchase of $100,000 in bonds. Processing time, which includes checks for criminal records and HIV, can take up to three months, but with luck you could be renouncing by Inauguration Day. The island of Dominica likewise offers a program of "economic citizenship," though it should be noted that Frommer's describes the beaches as "not worth the effort to get there."

Speed is of the essence, however, because your choice of tropical paradises is fast dwindling: similar passport-vending programs in Belize and Grenada have been shut down since 2001 under pressure from the State Department, which does not approve. In any case, it should be noted that under the aforementioned IRS rules, you might well be forced to continue subsidizing needless invasions-or, to be evenhanded, needless afterschool programs.

Indian reservations

Our Native American reservations, which enjoy freedom from state taxation and law enforcement, might seem an ideal home for the political exile. But becoming a citizen of a reservation is difficult-one must prove that one is a descendant of a member of the original tribal base roll-and moreover would be, as a gesture of political disaffection, largely symbolic. Reservations remain subject to federal law; furthermore, citizens of a reservation hold dual citizenships, and as such are expected to vote in U.S. elections and to live with the results.

The high seas

You might consider moving yourself offshore. At a price of $1.3 million you can purchase an apartment on The World, a residential cruise ship that moves continuously, stopping at ports from Venice to Zanzibar to Palm Beach. Again, however, your expatriation would be only partial: The World flies the flag of the Bahamas, but its homeowners, who hail from all over Europe, Asia, and the United States, retain citizenship in their home nations.

To obtain a similar result more cheaply, you can simply register your own boat under a flag of convenience and float it outside the United States' 230-mile zone of economic control. There, on your Liberian tanker, you will essentially be an extension of that African nation, subject only to its laws, and may imagine yourself free of oppressive government.


The boldest approach is to start a nation of your own. Sadly, these days it is essentially impossible to buy an uninhabited island and declare it a sovereign nation: virtually every rock above the waterline is now under the jurisdiction of one principality or another. But efforts have been made to build nations on man-made structures or on reefs lying just below the waterline. Among the more successful of these is the famous Principality of Sealand, which was founded in 1967 on an abandoned military platform off the coast of Britain. The following year a British judge ruled that the principality lay outside the nation's territorial waters. New citizenships in Sealand, however, are not being granted or sold at present.

A less fortunate attempt was made in 1972, when Michael Oliver, a Nevada businessman, built an island on a reef 260 miles southwest of Tonga. Hiring a dredger, he piled up sand and mud until he had enough landmass to declare independence for his "Republic of Minerva." Unfortunately, the Republic of Minerva was soon invaded by a Tongan force, whose number is said to have included a work detail of prisoners, a brass band, and Tonga's 350-pound king himself. The reef was later officially annexed by the kingdom.

More recently, John J. Prisco III, of the Philippines, has declared himself the prince of the Principality of New Pacific, and announced that he has discovered a suitable atoll in the international waters of the Central Pacific. As of publication, the principality has yet to begin the first phase of construction, but it is already accepting applications for citizenship.

Imaginary nations

Perhaps the most elegant solution is to join a country that exists only in one's own-or someone else's-imagination. Many such virtual nations can be found on the Internet, and citizenships in them are easy to acquire. This, in fact, was the route most recently attempted by Kenneth Nichols O'Keefe, the unfortunate ex-Marine. In February 2003, O'Keefe went to Baghdad to serve as a human shield, traveling with a passport issued to him by the "World Service Authority," an outfit based in Washington, D.C., that has dubbed more than 1.2 million people "world citizens." While laying over in Turkey, however, he was detained; Turkey, as it turns out, does not recognize the World Service Authority. O'Keefe was forced to apply for a replacement U.S. passport from the State Department, which rather graciously complied.

Upon his arrival in Baghdad, O'Keefe promptly set the replacement passport on fire. But he remains, to his dismay, an American.

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US forces pound Falluja
Thursday 04 November 2004, 15:58 Makka Time, 12:58 GMT

US forces have stepped up pressure on Iraqi fighters in Falluja, using AC-130 aircraft and tanks to bombard eastern and northwestern areas of the town.

Witnesses said AC-130s - cargo aircraft equipped with cannon and machine guns - were in action for at least half an hour late on Wednesday while tanks shelled the town on the ground.

The bombardment was said to be the heaviest on the town for several weeks.

The US military is poised for an offensive on Falluja, some 50km west of Baghdad, to flush out armed men resisting its forces.

High spirits

Speaking to Aljazeera from Falluja, Iraqi journalist Abu Bakr al-Dulaimi said the city's citizens feel that US communiques about an imminent large-scale attack against their city and Ramadi is an attempt to destroy their morale.

"However, the possible attack on Falluja does not affect their high spirits," he added.

"Falluja citizens have showed indifference towards Bush's re-election as they believe the US policies are clear and consistent when dealing with Islam, Muslims and the Iraq case," al-Dulaimi pointed out.

Earlier in the day, attacks by US warplanes sent up plumes of black smoke from the eastern edge of Falluja.

A woman was seriously wounded and a teenage girl lost her right leg in the strikes, hospital official Isam Muhammad said.

The US-backed Iraqi interim government has threatened to wrest control of Falluja from the Iraqi fighters before elections scheduled for January.

Residents of the city say the daily bombardments cause heavy civilian casualties and increase resentment against the United States.

Comment: Within 24 hours of stealing another election, Bush and his war criminals are upping the ante in Iraq. Bombing by planes are cannon and notoriously inaccurate. The Bushists are not targeting the mythical "al Qaeda", nor the Iraqi resistance. They are targeting women and children.

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Give Him an "F" in the War on Terror
How Bush Was Offered Bin Laden and Blew It

George Bush, the man whose prime campaign plank has been his ability to wage war on terror, could have had Osama bin Laden's head handed to him on a platter on his very first day in office, and the offer held good until February 2 of 2002. This is the charge leveled by an Afghan American who had been retained by the US government as an intermediary between the Taliban and both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Kabir Mohabbat is a 48-year businessman in Houston, Texas. Born in Paktia province in southern Afghanistan, he's from the Jaji clan (from which also came Afghanistan's last king). [...]

In a lengthy interview and in a memorandum Kabir Mohabbat has given us a detailed account and documentation to buttress his charge that the Bush administration could have had Osama bin Laden and his senior staff either delivered to the US or to allies as prisoners, or killed at their Afghan base. As a search of the data base shows, portions of Mohabbat's role have been the subject of a number of news reports, including a CBS news story by Alan Pizzey aired September 25, 2001. This is the first he has made public the full story.

By the end of 1999 US sanctions and near-world-wide political ostracism were costing the Taliban dearly and they had come to see Osama bin Laden and his training camps as, in Mohabbat's words, "just a damn liability". Mohabbat says the Taliban leadership had also been informed in the clearest possible terms by a US diplomat that if any US citizen was harmed as a consequence of an Al Qaeda action, the US would hold the Taliban responsible and target Mullah Omar and the Taliban leaders.

In the summer of 2000, on one of his regular trips to Afghanistan, Mohabbat had a summit session with the Taliban high command in Kandahar. They asked him to arrange a meeting with appropriate officials in the European Union, to broker a way in which they could hand over Osama bin Laden . Mohabbat recommended they send bin Laden to the World Criminal Court in the Hague.

Shortly thereafter, in August of 2000, Mohabbat set up a meeting at the Sheraton hotel in Frankfurt between a delegation from the Taliban and Reiner Weiland of the EU. The Taliban envoys repeated the offer to deport bin Laden. Weiland told them he would take the proposal to Elmar Brok, foreign relations director for the European Union. According to Mohabbat, Brok then informed the US Ambassador to Germany of the offer.

At this point the US State Department called Mohabbat and said the government wanted to retain his services, even before his official period on the payroll, which lasted from November of 2000 to late September, 2001, by which time he tells us he had been paid $115,000.

On the morning of October 12, 2000, Mohabbat was in Washington DC, preparing for an 11am meeting at the State Department , when he got a call from State, telling him to turn on the tv and then come right over. The USS Cole had just been bombed. Mohabbat had a session with the head of State's South East Asia desk and with officials from the NSC. They told him the US was going to "bomb the hell out of Afghanistan". "Give me three weeks," Mohabbat answered, "and I will deliver Osama to your doorstep." They gave him a month.

Mohabbat went to Kandahar and communicated the news of imminent bombing to the Taliban. They asked him to set up a meeting with US officials to arrange the circumstances of their handover of Osama. On November 2, 2000, less than a week before the US election, Mohabbat arranged a face-to-face meeting, in that same Sheraton hotel in Frankfurt, between Taliban leaders and a US government team.

After a rocky start on the first day of the Frankfurt session, Mohabbat says the Taliban realized the gravity of US threats and outlined various ways bin Laden could be dealt with. He could be turned over to the EU, killed by the Taliban, or made available as a target for Cruise missiles. In the end, Mohabbat says, the Taliban promised the "unconditional surrender of bin Laden" . "We all agreed," Mohabbat tells CounterPunch, "the best way was to gather Osama and all his lieutenants in one location and the US would send one or two Cruise missiles."

Comment: The article continues on, detailing the many times the Taliban offered bin Laden on a platter to the US, only to be repeatedly refused.

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Physicist Hawking condemns war against Iraq
Some News Source
September 5, 2004

London — Britain's most famous scientist, Stephen Hawking, condemned the U.S. led invasion of Iraq as a “war crime” and said Tuesday it was based on lies.

The physicist spoke at an anti-war demonstration in London's Trafalgar Square timed to coincide with the U.S. election. Protesters read out the names of thousands of Iraqis and coalition troops killed since the March 2003 invasion.

“The war was based on two lies,” said Hawking. “The first was we were in danger of weapons of mass destruction and the second was that Iraq was somehow to blame for Sept. 11.

“It has been a tragedy for all the families that have lost members. As many as 100,000 people have died, half of them women and children. If that is not a war crime, what is?”

Hawking, the best-selling author of A Brief History Of Time, was joined by other public figures. Similar events were being held in Spain, Italy, Australia, the United States and Iraq.

“Our message to the U.S. is that the war is illegal and unnecessary, and we want our troops to come home,” said Andrew Burgin, a spokesman for demonstration organizer Stop the War Coalition. “We also want to highlight the enormous number of Iraqis killed in this conflict who are so often ignored.”

In Trafalgar Square, hundreds of spectators holding candles or placards opposing President Bush listened as speakers read the names of the dead while their images were projected onto a large screen.

One group of students from London's Imperial College waved anti-Bush signs, hoping to send a message to U.S. voters.

“If enough people show up tonight at the demonstration, I think a few more voters might notice what we're saying,” said Emma Thomson, a student from Scotland who said she was able to cast a vote in Pennsylvania because she was born there.

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U.S. extends troop deployment ahead of Iraqi elections
Last Updated Tue, 02 Nov 2004 11:51:47 EST

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon on Tuesday ordered several thousand U.S. troops to extend their tour of duty in Iraq for two months.

The 6,500 troops had been due to come home before Iraqi elections scheduled for January.

American military officials say the order is to increase troop numbers and capabilities ahead of the elections, which militants have vowed to disrupt.

The news comes as U.S.-led forces prepare for a possible offensive to retake the Iraqi insurgent stronghold of Falluja, which American warplanes pounded overnight.

Also Tuesday, a car bomb exploded near the Iraqi Education Ministry in Baghdad, killing at least five people.

The explosion, which happened about 9:30 a.m. local time, badly damaged the ministry building, along with about six cars parked nearby.

Iraqi security officials say they believe it was caused by a car bomb, set off on a side street bordering the ministry and a busy commercial district. Police say a large wall contained the blast, limiting its potential damage.

Witnesses say the body of one victim, an elderly man, burned in the street. Reports say two of the victims were women.

Government building and Iraqi officials have been frequent targets of militants intent on disrupting reconstruction and civil order.

Comment: It doesn't seem likely that these soldiers will ever return home, now that Bush has won the election. Having been been given a green light to extend his war on terror throughout the middle east, his war machine will be needing a lot more cannon fodder.

We can probably expect an escalation of tensions with Iran soon, over the whole "nookulur" issue, followed by an indefinite extension of tours already in Iraq, and when that's not enough, calls for the inevitable draft will come.

Perhaps they will introduce these measures gradually in the beginning in order to acclimatize the sheeple, already nervous over a second Bush term.

If you thought the first four years were bad...

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Missing arms tied to blasts

WASHINGTON - Explosives used in some of Iraq's major terror bombings were the same type as those missing from a dump monitored by the UN, the Daily News has learned.

Forensic tests by a joint task force at the Quantico, Va., Marine base show the bombers who leveled the United Nations and Jordanian missions in Iraq, and who staged other big attacks, used RDX and HMX military-grade high explosives, said a government source briefed on the findings. Both types of munitions were under seal at the Al Qaqaa site near Baghdad.

"[Analysts] are able to say there are chemical composites that match the same type of explosives" sealed by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors before the war began, said the informed source.

But the lab experts - from the FBI, CIA and Defense Department - are "just not able to say conclusively" that the chemical residue at the bombing sites matches the Al Qaqaa stockpiles, the source added. Analysts don't have samples from Al Qaqaa to compare with the bombings.

"It's not outside the realm of possibility that the [Al Qaqaa] stuff was used by insurgents, but ... it's hard to say the powder is from there," said the government source.

Democrat John Kerry chided President Bush in a TV ad for not securing the explosives, suggesting that they were "the kind used for attacks in Iraq and for terrorist bombings."

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Hungary to pull troops from Iraq
Last Updated Wed, 03 Nov 2004 17:58:36 EST

BUDAPEST - Hungary will withdraw 300 non-combat troops from Iraq by March 31, despite a request from the Iraqi interim government to stay for another year.

"We are obliged to stay there until the (Iraqi) elections. To stay longer is an impossibility," Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said.
The Iraqi elections are due to be held by Jan. 31.

The Hungarian government has been under pressure from its citizens and its opposition parties to bring the troops home.

The Iraqi interim government sent a letter to Hungary about three weeks asking that the troops' mission be extended by about a year "to help Iraq's stabilization process."

Hungary has a transportation contingent of 300 troops in Hillah, south of Baghdad. One Hungarian soldier has died in Iraq.

Gyurcsany, who has been prime minister since September, said he did not believe in pre-emptive war.

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Massive Attacks Halt Iraqi Oil Flow With Three Pipelines, Exports Hit
Nov 03, 2004
Source: Al-Jazeera

Fighters have mounted the biggest attacks yet on Iraq's oil infrastructure, blowing up three pipelines in the north and hitting exports via Turkey, oil officials say. The attacks on Tuesday, which were hours apart, sharply reduced crude oil supplies to Iraq's biggest refinery at Baiji.

The government is already struggling to build up stocks of refined oil products before winter.

The attacks did not lift oil prices, however, as speculation about a US election victory for Senator John Kerry triggered a 10% decline from last Monday's price peaks. US crude by 1200 GMT was off nine cents at $50.04 a barrel.

Attacks against oil facilities in north and central Iraq have intensified in the past few weeks as US forces attacked cities in central Iraq. Imports of refined products have been also disrupted.

The first pipeline attack on Monday night destroyed a section of the Iraq-Turkey export pipeline in the Riyadh area, 65 km southwest of the oil producing centre of Kirkuk, officials at the state North Oil Company said.

Huge Blazes

It was followed by two attacks, including one in the Qushqaya region northwest of the city on a pipeline connected to the Bai Hassam oilfield and feeding the main export pipeline, officials said.

Reuters Television footage showed huge blazes with no fire crews to be seen.

"We cut off all flows for now. The Qushqaya fire is covering around one square kilometre. The export pipeline fire is also big," one official said.

"Technically, the system was shut down." [...]

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Israeli troops in drag make retaliatory attack
Associated Press

Nablus, West Bank — Israeli troops destroyed the homes of a teenaged Palestinian suicide bomber Tuesday and two men who sent him to a crowded Tel Aviv market where he killed three Israelis and wounded 32.

Troops razed the home of the bomber, 16-year-old Eli Amer Alfar, and damaged four neighbouring houses in the crowded Askar refugee camp near Nablus, witnesses said.

Mr. Alfar's family of 12 had already removed belongings, knowing Israel as a deterrent routinely destroys the homes of those involved in attacks against Israelis.

The army also destroyed the homes of two senior members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The radical Palestinian faction that took responsibility for Monday's blast and the Israeli military said the two had dispatched the bomber.

In Nablus, Israeli undercover troops late Monday killed three Palestinian militants affiliated with Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement in a gunbattle in the Casbah, the city's crowded centre.

Witnesses said some of the soldiers disguised themselves in the head-to-toe coverings of Muslim women and carried trays of candy as they approached the militants sitting in a coffee shop.

Palestinian witnesses said the soldiers opened fire without warning, killing two wanted men. The army said the fugitives had drawn pistols before they were shot.

Three other extremists joined in the battle and the army brought in reinforcements, killing a third gunman. One man was seriously wounded and a fifth escaped, the army said. The troops later raided a Red Crescent clinic looking for the wounded man but failed to find him, witnesses said.

Military officials said the target of the raid was Majdi Murai, a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a violent splinter group of the Fatah movement. Mr. Murai was responsible for recruiting a number of teenaged boys for suicide attacks, they said.

Mr. Murai survived an attempt on his life last month.

Frustrated by Israeli security measures that have greatly reduced their effectiveness, extremist groups have turned to using teenagers and women to transport explosives and carry out attacks, hoping they would raise less suspicion at the dozens of Israeli checkpoints designed to capture bombers.

The Tel Aviv bomber was only 16, one of the youngest Palestinian attackers, and his parents lashed out at the militants who recruited him.

"It's immoral to send someone so young," said Samir Abdullah, 45, the boy's mother. "They should have sent an adult who understands the meaning of his deeds." [...]

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Blacks, Whites live in "Different Moral Universe"
Black Commentator

The American presidential election, the quadrennial gathering of citizens for a supposedly common purpose, actually occurs in parallel universes. For one group, the opportunity to ratify one of two choices vetted by the permanent rulers of the land, represents the highest expression of civilization on Earth to date – proof of the inherent goodness of the American project. For another group of Americans, the chance to ratify the same choices is a tentative triumph over the historical crimes of the first group, whose most powerful elements are busily plotting new assaults on the franchise.

“Opposed universes” may be a better term to describe the perceptions of Blacks and whites as revealed in a four-year study of racial divisions under President George W. Bush. Harvard Professors Michael C. Dawson and Lawrence Bobo report that 63% of whites believe that efforts to disenfranchise Blacks in Florida in 2000 were either “not a big problem” (20%), “no problem at all” (18.5%), or a “complete fabrication” of the Democrats (24.5%). This, in answer to questions posed in 2004, as evidence mounted that the election nightmare was about to revisit the state.

Speaking from the real world, 76% of African Americans described the events of 2000 as a “big problem,” 15% as “not a big problem,” and 5% as “no problem at all.” Just 3.7% believe the Democrats made the whole thing up – a sliver of Black folks who must be considered mentally incompetent, since they do not have the excuse of living in the white parallel universe.

Just over a third of whites (37%) recognized that something very serious – “a big problem” – happened in November, 2000. “There’s clearly a divide in the white community,” said Dr. Dawson, a noted social demographer, adding that his conclusions are preliminary and general. “No substantial divide exists in the Black community” over the significance of efforts to disenfranchise African American voters in Florida, he said. What is most troubling is that “there is a significant segment of whites who say, even if you can do something about the disenfranchisement problem, legally, nothing should be done about it.”

Whose world is real?

In the course of questioning Blacks and whites in 2000, 2002 and 2004, Professors Dawson and Bobo have found “deep divisions” between the races that have been “hardening, not converging.” Indeed, “whites and Blacks look at the world extremely differently,” said Dawson. For those Blacks who feared the worst when the Republicans took over the White House, “Bush has fulfilled all their expectations. Black people’s low expectations [of Bush] have been reinforced from 2000 and 2002.”

Nevertheless, said Dawson, “Some optimism has not been beaten out of us.”

Although whites grow increasingly divided among themselves as Bush’s first term nears an end, “African Americans from all economic situations are opposed to the war” and erosion of civil liberties. “The appointment of Attorney General John Ashcroft meant much more to African Americans than Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell,” notes Dawson.

The collective white mind is muddled, at best. “A nebulous fear of America’s place in the world has enabled Bush to lie and have these lies believed…and even when he’s not believed, a significant part of the nation outside of the Black community believes that the future will be better with Bush,” said Dawson. By rights, Bush “should be losing many of the seniors, all the working poor, and even large segments of the middle class.” But he’s not.

The Iraq War has caused the most dramatic movement – and conflicts – in white opinion. Bobo’s and Dawson’s data show “there’s a growing uneasiness about the war.” About one-half of whites “are very uneasy.”

In surveys last year, said Dawson, “large majorities of whites thought it was unpatriotic to protest the war,” while “large majorities of Blacks thought it was right to protest the war if you disagree with it.” This year, “what’s changed among whites is not the question of whether it was right to go to war, but there is more tolerance for protest.” Dawson speculates that “what’s driving that is there is a clear uneasiness about the conduct of the war.”

It is clear to that whites are “uneasy” because the U.S. does not appear to be “winning” the war, which is very different than a moral objection.

African American sentiment against the war is solid, and consistent with historical Black opinion. “With the exception of the first Gulf War,” said Dawson, “African Americans in the late 20th century have been extremely skeptical about American overseas adventures. They are also skeptical about the president who is leading the war. Nobody is going to tell African Americans that it’s unpatriotic to protest.”

Black support for the 1991 Gulf War plummeted almost immediately after the war ended. “This time the skepticism was from the start of the Iraq War, and it did not wane,” Dr. Dawson reports.

Scapegoating TV

Blacks and whites see the world from opposite ends of American Manifest Destiny, which is at the very core of the white national personality, worldview, and sense of self. Like a Black Hole, Manifest Destiny exerts a near-irresistible pull on white Americans, distorting history and even the near-past beyond recognition. Realities are made invisible, even as they unfold in plain sight.

Many politically progressive whites think they have broken free of the delusions of Manifest Destiny, yet remain in its orbit. Howard Zinn, the eminent and prolific radical historian (A People's History of the United States), writing in the November issue of The Progressive, blames “the press and television” for not having “made clear to the public – I mean vividly, dramatically clear – what have been the human consequences of the war in Iraq…the deaths and mutilations of Iraqi children.”

“I believe,” wrote Zinn, “that the American people's natural compassion would come to the fore if they truly understood that we are terrorizing other people by our 'war on terror.'" [Emphasis ours.]

The American people’s “natural compassion?” Zinn cites the alleged collective quality as if it were a self-evident fact, when history and contemporary reality tell us that, regarding non-white lives, nothing could be further from the truth. Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The “compassionate” white consensus continues to hold that the “Japs” got a well deserved payback for Pearl Harbor. Most Americans don’t lose a minute of sleep over two to three million dead Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians (1960 - 1975) – unless, of course, they are up late enjoying one of the scores of Hollywood movies in which American actors slaughter villainous Southeast Asians all over again. The “compassionate” parents of these Americans likely sated their bloodlust through hundreds of ritual cinematic re-enactments of the conquest of (similarly villainous) Native Americans. And their grand- and great-grandparents flocked to D.W. Griffith’s pro-Ku Klux Klan film “classic” Birth of a Nation and his rabidly anti-Mexican blockbuster Martyrs of the Alamo, both released in 1915.

A huge segment of white America revels in seeking out dark enemies and watching them die – preferably by the thousands. This is provable, empirical fact. Yet Zinn, a fully credentialed anti-racist intellectual and activist, insists that these same Americans would rein in their government’s war of terror against Iraqi civilians if they only knew the facts of the carnage.

Actually, these Americans know quite enough, and what they don’t know, they make up, creating or choosing to believe fantasies that always end with more dark dead people littering the landscape. This must be a happy ending, since it is the one the white public repeatedly ratifies (in real life wars) or cheers (in the cinematic kind). How Howard Zinn and other progressives find general white American compassion at the end of the rainbow is a mystery, presumably based on an article of faith specific to the way white Americans construct reality in their parallel universe.

Zinn’s baseless belief in “the American people's natural compassion” was contradicted by a representative sample of white Americans themselves, even before the Iraq war began.

As reported in February, 2002, Zogby pollsters elicited damning evidence of white disregard for Iraqi lives in the final weeks before the invasion:

”Zogby pollsters asked: Would you support or oppose a war against Iraq if it meant thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties? A solid majority of white men answered in the affirmative, as did more than a third of white women. Only seven percent of African Americans favored a war that would kill thousands.”

Black people watch even more television than whites, but feel no great compulsion to kill thousands of civilians.

We asked Harvard’s Michael Dawson to explain the gross differences in Black-white responses to the 2002 question. He replied:

“The Zogby question posits high civilian casualties as a fact and asks, What are you going to do about it? If you don’t see it as a moral question, then we’re living in a different moral universe. How we decide what’s moral and what’s not moral is done by a different calculus.”

The Iraq War will decide next week’s election. If whites are “uneasy” enough with the war, Kerry will win. But let’s not confuse uneasiness with “the American people's natural compassion.” There ain’t no such animal.

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Woman releases hostages at N.C. plant
Tuesday, November 2, 2004 Posted: 6:21 PM EST (2321 GMT)

CLAYTON, North Carolina (AP) -- A woman apparently upset about the firing of a friend took five people hostage Tuesday at a Caterpillar factory before gradually releasing them and surrendering.

No one was injured during the two-hour incident at the construction-equipment plant southeast of Raleigh.

The woman appeared to be holding a shotgun and claimed she had explosives on her body when she walked into the plant's lobby in mid-afternoon, said Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell.

"Apparently, she is an acquaintance or friend of an employee terminated recently" and was "demanding answers," Bizzell said. He described the woman as "irate about the treatment that her friend got."

The suspect, who was not a Caterpillar employee, was being taken to the Johnston County Jail, said sheriff's department spokesman Pat LaCarter. The woman's name was not immediately released.

"The thing we're thankful for is everybody's out, nobody's hurt," LaCarter said.

About 800 to 900 people work in the plant. Employees in the plant's manufacturing area were removed on buses.

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Buddhist chief beheaded in revenge for Muslim deaths
By Jan McGirk, South-east Asia Correspondent
03 November 2004

A Buddhist village chief was beheaded in Thailand's Narathiwat province yesterday in an apparent revenge killing, a week after 78 Muslim protesters were crushed to death en route to a military detention centre.

The chief's death was the second beheading in a year of sectarian violence in three predominantly Muslim provinces bordering Malaysia. Almost 450 people have died in sporadic attacks, most of them policemen or civil servants.

Police said that Jaran Torae, 58, went missing on Monday night and was decapitated with a machete at about 8am, after being shot in the chest. His head was found with a note, in a plastic fertiliser bag on the roadside. His torso was retrieved later from a rubber plantation nearly a mile away.

The message reportedly said: "This is revenge for the innocent Muslim youths who were massacred at the Tak Bai protest. This was less than what has been done to the innocent." On 25 October, a protest outside a police station turned into a six-hour stand-off between security forces and Muslim protesters demanding the release of six villagers suspected of supplying weapons to militants. Seven protesters were shot dead and 78 of 1,300 men arrested for rioting were crushed to death or suffocated after being loaded into military trucks. [...]

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Seoul may fall in 16 days if Pyongyang attacks

Worst-case scenario if US fails to come to its aid in time

Nov 2, 2004
By Joo Sang Min
For The Straits Times
In Seoul

SHOULD war break out on the Korean Peninsula and the United States fail to come to its rescue in time, Seoul would fall in 16 days to North Korea.

That is the worst among six or seven outcomes forecast by a computer simulation exercise held by the state-run Korea Institute for Defence Analyses in 2000. But just as possible is a decisive victory for the South.

Details of the exercise were revealed to lawmakers during Seoul's parliamentary audit last month, unnerving many with the spectre of a Korean war bloodier than the last.

After the meeting, Mr Park Jin of the main opposition Grand National Party divulged the worst possible scenario to the public, warning that Pyongyang's long-range artillery could destroy a third of Seoul in an hour.

'The enemy's long-range artillery is capable of firing 25,000 shots an hour into the city,' he told reporters.

The densely populated city of 10 million would quickly turn into a sea of fire as gas pipelines and other inflammable installations explode.

That was all the government would say about the exercise, citing security issues. [...]

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N. Korea warns of naval conflict
Tuesday, November 2, 2004 Posted: 12:33 AM EST (0533 GMT)

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea has accused the South's navy of staging a serious provocation that could lead to a maritime conflict.

Pyongyang's warning came after South Korean patrol boats fired warning shots to repel North Korean navy vessels in the Yellow Sea on Monday.

The South Korean military said the warning shots were fired at the North Korean ships after they strayed into South Korean waters.

But North Korea's navy is blaming Seoul for the incident, with Pyongyang calling it an "unacceptable provocation".

On Tuesday, North Korean's official state news agency, KCNA, issued a statement quoting naval sources as saying that the North Korean boats were on a routine patrol when they were fired upon, according to South Korea's official Yonhap News Agency, which monitors KCNA.

"The South Korean armed forces deliberately committed this armed provocation which may give rise to another skirmish in the West Sea," the North's statement said.

The statement called on South Korea to punish those responsible and ensure such incidents don't happen again.

North Korea is one of the world's most authoritarian and secretive nations, with an economy in dire straits after decades of mismanagement. [...]

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Russian researcher hands over plutonium
By Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press Writer
 |  November 2, 2004

MOSCOW -- A former Russian nuclear physicist turned over 14 ounces of plutonium he found in a dump and then kept in his garage, a news agency said Tuesday. Now he finds himself facing possible criminal charges.

Leonid Grigorov said he had written several letters to authorities urging them to properly secure the eight containers of dangerous material that he said he found discarded near a mining factory in Zmeinogorsk in southern Siberia, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

When the letters went unanswered, he placed the material in a leaden case in his garage. Each container held 1.75 ounces of plutonium.

"As an expert, I felt obliged to do that to avoid danger," he said, according to ITAR-Tass.

Grigorov turned the plutonium over to police after seeing a police notice inviting people to surrender weapons in exchange for a cash prize. But instead of giving him a prize, police opened a criminal investigation against Grigorov on charges of illegal possession of radioactive materials.

Nikolai Shingaryov, a spokesman for Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said that plutonium-238 is widely used in industries but could not be used to build an atomic bomb.

He would not comment on the ITAR-Tass report but said it appeared unlikely that containers in Grigorov's possession could hold such a large amount of plutonium. [...]

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Police may get phone-tapping powers

Public-interest groups view move as an attack on civil liberties
Nov 2, 2004

Kuala Lumpur - THE Malaysian government is considering a controversial move to allow police to tap private telephone lines as part of its efforts to tackle terrorism and serious crime in the country.

It will come in the form of amendments being proposed to the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Mohamed Radzi Sheikh Ahmad.

But the move has been met by strong objections from public-interest groups which expressed outrage over the proposal.

They describe it as an attack on civil liberties, said the minister. [...]

Among the proposed amendments are provisions for the police to obtain approval from the Attorney-General's Chambers to tap private lines of terror suspects as well as implant surveillance devices. [...]

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One-in-a-trillion comet
Discovering a comet in a spectrograph's slit is the astronomical equivalent of a hole in one.
Matthew Kenworthy
November 3, 2004
These days, automated search programs discover most new comets. The rest go to keen-eyed amateurs, whose photographic memories and wide-angle binocular views lend themselves to spotting these cosmic vagabonds. But even astronomers can win the lottery sometimes — or at least catch a comet by pure chance.

On September 22, Sandhya Rao and Dave Turnshek, both of the University of Pittsburgh, were taking spectra of a bright star just after twilight at the MMT Observatory's 6.5-meter telescope in southern Arizona. This, they thought, would help set up the telescope in preparation for their scheduled observations of faint quasars. Suddenly, as their exposure of BD 303639 came to an end, a new spectrum appeared.

Cometary movement

The spectrograph has an effective field of view only 2" wide by 2' long. Because that's some 100,000 times smaller in area than a typical pair of binoculars, they didn't expect the object to reappear on the next exposure. Much to their surprise, another exposure confirmed the mysterious object's existence; it had perceptibly moved closer to the star's position.

A quick check revealed that both new spectra were identical, and that the team was seeing a new object moving at a rate of 2.2' per hour along the spectrograph's slit. Further exposures confirmed the motion of this mysterious interloper, but its spectrum remained a mystery. A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the object's apparent motion limited it to the solar system, but what could it be?

A comet or an asteroid seemed to be the most likely possibilities, and an analysis of the object's spectrum identified it as a previously undiscovered 16th-magnitude comet. With time pressing, the astronomers moved onto their next target star, but despite calls to other telescopes in the hopes of capturing a confirming image, the object has not been observed again to date.

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Statement on Near Earth Asteroids by Board of Directors of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Date Released: Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Source: Ames Research Center

The following statement was recently approved by the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. It is the third AIAA Position Paper on NEOs. The first such paper, in 1990, was very influential in calling attention to the impact hazard. (Tagliaferri, Edward, "Dealing with the Threat of an Impact of an Asteroid or Comet on Earth: The Next Step," AIAA Position Paper, April 1990).


An AIAA Position Paper (2004)

Approved by

AIAA Space Systems Technical Committee
AIAA Space Operations and Support Technical Committee
AIAA Systems Engineering Technical Committee
AIAA Atmospheric and Space Environments Technical Committee
AIAA Board of Directors

October 2004
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 500
Reston, VA 20191 (703) 264-7500


The purpose of this Position Paper is to briefly review what is now known about the threat to Earth posed by close approaching asteroids and comets (called Near Earth Objects or NEOs). Based on our current understanding (recently reviewed at the 2004 Planetary Defense Conference sponsored by AIAA and The Aerospace Corporation), AIAA recommends that the following steps be taken to protect the Earth from NEO impacts:

* Create an organization within the U.S. government responsible for planetary defense.

* Extend the Spaceguard Survey, currently focused on finding and cataloging 1-km-class objects and larger, to include finding and cataloging 100-m-class NEOs and larger.

* Develop and fund ground-based techniques as well as missions to several asteroids to gather information that contributes to designing deflection missions.

* Conduct mission design studies to characterize requirements for short-, medium-, and long-term missions.

* Conduct flight tests to demonstrate our ability to change a NEO's orbit.

* Sponsor research to assess the political, social, legal, and disaster relief consequences of a serious NEO threat, mitigation effort, or possible impact.


Significant progress has been made in a number of areas to better understand the nature and physical characteristics of NEOs. These include a well-defined program to detect and determine the orbits of potentially hazardous NEOs (Spaceguard Survey) and missions to comets (Stardust, Deep Impact) and an asteroid (NEAR). These areas have been addressed in a series of national and international conferences culminating in the 2004 Planetary Defense Conference sponsored jointly by the AIAA and The Aerospace Corporation (

A primary result of these conferences and related studies is the agreement that the threat of NEO impact is real and must not be ignored. They have noted that although the present NEO search efforts are looking for large NEOs (>1 km diameter), impacts of smaller objects, while not likely to cause worldwide disasters, can result in significant loss of life and major property damage and need to be considered. There is also a growing concern that a small impact in the wrong area at the wrong time could be mistaken as an attack, possibly leading to the use of nuclear weapons. [...]

Comment: But have we not been told countless times that the chances of an impact in the near future are 50 zillion to one? Is someone getting scared? Has someone other than the Signs of the Times team been noticing the considerable increase in the number of meteorite sightings and impacts over the past few years?

No doubt. But the extent of government knowledge about cyclical catastrophes caused by meteorite impacts will remain secret until such time as it is beneficial to the powers that be to release it, and even then there will be so much spin as to render it useless to the people.

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Quakes recorded off Vancouver Island
Wednesday, November 3, 2004

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- A series of at least four medium-intensity earthquakes was recorded yesterday in a seismically active area beneath the Pacific Ocean west of Vancouver Island, scientists said. No damage was reported.

The quakes were recorded on Canadian and U.S. seismographs starting about 1:30 a.m. and were centered about 150 miles west of Ucluelet.

The largest was felt at Alert Bay near the northern tip of the island shortly after 2 a.m., authorities said.

That most forceful temblor was recorded at a magnitude of 6.7 by the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo. The other earthquakes showed intensities varying from 4.0 to 5.0, according to the U.S. earthquake center.

An earthquake of magnitude 5 can cause considerable damage and 6 severe damage, but the tremors were too far from populated areas to have significant effects, scientists said.

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Strong earthquake hits Japan
From correspondents in Tokyo
A MAGNITUDE-5.7 earthquake rocked northern Japan late today, weeks after a powerful tremor jolted the country killing 39 people and injuring thousands.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The quake, which shook the country's northernmost main island of Hokkaido at 11.03pm (1am AEDT), was centred 60km below the earth's surface, the Meteorological Agency said.

The quake was about 800km north of last month's magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck rural Niigata prefecture.

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Earthquake Rattles Aegean Sea Island
7:42am (UK)

A strong undersea earthquake shook the central Aegean Sea island of Antikithira early today but did not cause any damage or injuries.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 and struck at 8.22 am (0622 GMT), said the Athens Geodynamic Institute. Its epicentre was located on the seabed near the island of Antikithira, about 155 miles south of Athens. It was also felt in Athens, throughout parts of southern Greece and on the island of Crete.

An earthquake of a magnitude between 2.5 and 3 is the smallest generally felt by people. A quake of magnitude 4 to 5 can cause moderate damage in populated areas.

“It was a strong earthquake that took place in a well-known area where many occur. It was felt so far because of its great depth,” institute head Giorgos Stavrakakis said.

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Quakes recorded off Vancouver Island, no damage reported
Tuesday, November 2, 2004

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- A series of earthquakes, including one of considerable force, were recorded early Tuesday beneath the Pacific Ocean west of Vancouver Island, scientists said. No damage was reported.

The quakes were recorded on Canadian and U.S. seismographs starting about 1:30 a.m. PST and were centered about 150 miles west of Ucluelet. The largest was felt at Alert Bay near the northern tip of the island shortly after 2 a.m., authorities said.

That temblor was recorded at magnitude of 5.6 by Canada's Pacific Geoscience Center north of Victoria and at 6.5 by the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo.

An earthquake of magnitude 5 can cause considerable damage and 6 severe damage, but the tremors were too far from populated areas to have significant effects, scientists said.

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Earthquake rocks parts of central Indonesia?

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ A strong earthquake rocked parts of Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province early Wednesday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said.

The magnitude 5.3 quake hit the province at 4:48 a.m. (2148 GMT Tuesday) and was centered beneath the Makassar Straits, about 37 kilometers (23 miles) southeast of the town of Donggala, the Agency said.

Donggala is a port town on the western coast of Sulawesi island, about 1,550 kilometers (960 miles) northeast of Jakarta.

Media reports said houses shook in several towns on the island.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelagic nation is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location in an area where the Australian continental plate is being pushed underneath Southeast Asia, creating an arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches.

In September, a magnitude 5.5 quake rocked Bali island, killing one person when a wall collapsed.

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Quakes hit Iranian cities

Tehran, Nov 3, IRNA -- An earthquake measuring 3.5 degrees on the open-ended Richter scale shook parts of the northeastern Iranian province of Golestan Wednesday morning.

According to the seismological base of Tehran University's Geophysics Institute, the tremor occurred at 06:00 hours local time (02.30 GMT).
The quake jolted Aq Qala, the capital city of Gorgan, and Gonbad Kavous.

A relatively mild earthquake measuring 4.3 degrees on the open-ended Richter scale also rattled the city of Gonbad in Golestan province Monday night.

An earlier earthquake measuring 5.8 degrees also shook the vicinity of Aq Qala on October 8, causing damage to property.

Meanwhile, an earthquake measuring 3.4 degrees on the Richter scale hit the northern city of Qazvin Tuesday night.

According to the seismological base of Tehran University's Geophysics Institute, the tremor occurred at 22:43 hours local time (07.13 GMT).

There were no reports of any casualty or damage to property caused by the quake.

Iran is situated on some of the world's most active seismic faultlines and quakes of varying magnitudes are usual occurrences.

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Study links tree rings to global warming
November 2, 2004

TUCSON, Ariz.(AP) - Did global warming spur severe drought in the Western United States? A new study co-authored by a tree-ring researcher at the University of Arizona shows a possible connection.

The width of tree rings over the past 1,200 years show that temperatures were unusually high during "megadroughts" between 900 A.D. and 1300 A.D., according to the study.

It said the era may be an indication of what's to come for the West as the planet keeps getting hotter.

"It's kind of a cautionary tale," said lead author Edward Cook of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "Any warming in the future, whether due to greenhouse gases or natural variation, would not be good for the West."

Global warming is at least partly due to heat-trapping greenhouse gases from tailpipes and smokestacks.

So will the Earth will keep getting warmer this century?

The study's authors note there's no proof global warming has caused the West's current dry spell.

"I think it's way too speculative to say that warming is in any way responsible for these last four years of drought," said David Meko, associate research professor at UA's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. "A four-year drought is a little blip in the tree-ring record."

But the scientists believe the synchronicity between the warm and dry periods wasn't just a coincidence.

They say the warmer temperatures are at least partly due to heat-trapping greenhouse gases from tailpipes and smokestacks. And they suspect higher temperatures made the eastern Pacific resemble the La Nia pattern that typically makes the West drier than normal.

The study is scheduled to be published in the journal Science in the next few weeks. It was reported earlier this month in the prestigious publication's online edition.

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Nobel laureate at CU has "flesh-eating" malady
By Sean Kelly
Denver Post Staff Writer

Eric Cornell, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist from Boulder and a University of Colorado adjoint professor, remained in critical condition Saturday after contracting a rare "flesh-eating" bacterial disease.

Cornell, 42, was hospitalized last week after contracting necrotizing fasciitis, an infection caused by the bacteria that typically causes strep throat.

According to a statement by his family, Cornell's "condition is treated with aggressive surgery to stop the spread of the bacteria."

"We are grateful for the concern and support of the university community as well as our family and friends," the family statement said.

Cornell is a senior scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and an adjoint physics professor at CU.

In 2001, Cornell and CU professor Carl Wieman received the Nobel Prize in physics for leading a team in the creation of the world's first Bose-Einstein condensate in 1995. The new form of matter, predicted by Albert Einstein, allows scientists to study the small world of quantum physics. [...]

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Feathered Friend? -- For some, legend of Big Bird remains a mystery
October 31,2004
Alma Walzer 
The Monitor

McALLEN — For decades, bird lovers have flocked to the Rio Grande Valley to see a large variety of their feathered friends. But in 1976, hunters scoured the area trying to win a reward for the capture of a creature which became known to residents here as Big Bird. For about two months in the mid-1970s, Big Bird — not the friendly tall, yellow bird that loves children on Sesame Street — terrorized Valley residents.

The 5-foot-tall bird was described as "horrible-looking," according to The Monitor’s archives. Its wings were large enough to be folded over its body and it had large, dark red eyes attached to a gray, gorilla-like face. Its head was bald and it made a loud, shrill sound through its 6-inch-long beak.

Tom Waldon claimed to have found its tracks on Jan. 2, 1976, near his home in Harlingen. The three-toed tracks measured 8 inches across and pressed an inch and a half into the ground.

Three teachers from San Antonio claimed to have seen Big Bird in that city as well, on Feb. 24, 1976. The trio later pointed to a picture in a book of a pteranodon, an extinct giant flying reptile, as being most like what they had seen. Some bird experts told area residents that the bird was a lost condor or a jabiru, a large Central American stork which can boast a 10-foot wing span, big tracks and a featherless head. The jabiru has a breeding ground about 250 miles south of McAllen, near Tampico, Mexico, experts pointed out. But just as mysteriously as it arrived, Big Bird seemed to disappear overnight. But for some Valley residents, what exactly the Big Bird was is still a mystery.


The Big Bird sighting thought to be the first was Jan 1, 1976, when Tracey Lawson, then age 11, and her cousin Jackie Davies, then 14, were playing in Lawson’s back yard near Harlingen.
The two girls say they saw the bird standing about 100 yards away on an irrigation canal, according to the Atlas of the Mysterious in North America.

Lawson went inside to get her binoculars, and when she returned, she saw the bird staring back at her.

Big Bird was more than 5 feet tall, she said, and when she and Davies ran inside to tell her parents, the adults did not believe them.

On Jan. 8, 1976, The Brownsville Herald and the Valley Morning Star ran a piece that told the story of Alverico Guajardo and a strange "birdlike" creature which he claimed to have seen outside his home one day earlier.

"I was scared," Guajardo said at the time. "It’s got wings like a bird, but it’s not a bird. That animal is not of this world."

Guajardo said Big Bird had large wings but it never flew while in his presence. Its eyes were as big as silver dollars and its long, skinny beak was three or four feet long, he said.

It made a terrible noise, and although the sounds seemed to come from the creature’s throat, which pulsated as it made the noise and its beak never moved, Guajardo said.

The Brownsville Herald article indicated that reports of the large bird began shortly after a number of cattle mutilations made the news in Cameron County, but there was no proof that the bird had caused the strange mutilations.


As more sightings of Big Bird were reported, its legend grew. One Valley radio station offered a reward of $1,000 for the capture of the bird, archives show. [...]

The sightings of Big Bird were reported from every type of person, including two San Benito police officers.

Patrolmen Arturo Padilla and Homero Galvan, traveling in separate police cars, reported seeing a huge bird with a 15-foot wing span gliding through the air.

"It’s more or less like a stork or pelican-type of bird," Padilla said. "I’ve done a lot of hunting, but I’ve never seen anything like it."

Padilla said the bird had a wingspan of about 15 feet. He said he was willing to shoot it if he saw it again.

Big Bird was sighted along the river near Laredo as well, by Arturo Rodriguez and his nephew Ricardo, as they were fishing on the banks of the Rio Grande, newspaper archives show.

Television footage showing three-toed footprints, measuring 9 inches by 12 inches, and believed to have been left by Big Bird, fed the fear felt by area residents.

When one eyewitness said he believed the bird was large enough to easily scoop up a small child off the ground, parents began to keep their children indoors, instead of allowing them to venture outside to play.

Fear took a tighter grip on the Valley after Jan. 15, 1976, when a Raymondville man told police officers he was attacked by the bird.
"I felt some wind and looked up and this big bird attacked me," said Raymondville resident Armando Grimaldo, who was 26 years old at the time.

Grimaldo’s neighbors found him in his back yard shaking and screaming, and reported that his shirt and jacket were torn.

A man from Eagle Pass said he was attacked as well, archives show.

Francisco Magallanez’s claim that he was attacked was given some credibility by law enforcement officials, who said Magallanez had marks on his shoulders. His physician, Dr. Arturo Bates, told police the marks were made by some type of animal or bird. [...]


Big Bird became larger than life when the tales about it were told over and over.

Some of the stories can be found in the Special Collections Department in the library of the University of Texas-Pan American.
For years, UTPA students have been asked to write down what they know about local legends, and Big Bird has always been a favorite. Because the students never intended for their stories to be published, The Monitor will not print their full names.

Javier, 27, of Rio Grande City recalled the story which connected Big Bird to the mysterious cattle mutilations.

"It’s a true story that happened in Starr County in the early 1980s," Javier wrote. "There were reports of the bird killing cattle because the ranchers were finding cattle mutilated and drained of their blood.

"There was no explanation and people were shocked because the cattle were supposedly mutilated using surgical instruments and there were no tire tracks or foot prints near the dead cattle," Javier wrote. "After the bird disappeared, there were no more reports of mutilated cattle."

A 49-year-old man from Olmito, who withheld his name from the report given to a UTPA student named Yadira, said he had proof the bird attacked him.

"He left a bar a little late and was about to get in his car when he was attacked by a giant bird," Yadira wrote. "It cut him up, so when he got home his wife bandaged him up.

"He told her the story but she didn’t believe him," Yadira wrote. "The next day the wife used his car and found bird feathers on the seat and the floorboard."

Another UTPA student, Esequiel, said he was in sixth grade at a Pharr elementary when he saw the bird for himself. His story is also in the library collection.

"We were at recess and saw a huge bird-like object in the sky," Esequiel wrote. "My friend and I were the only ones who saw it, even though there were a lot of students playing outside. "We told a teacher about it and she said it was probably an unexplained event like a UFO or something," Esequiel wrote. [...]

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Jesus...and zoo guards save man in Taiwan lion's den
November 3, 2004

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - A lion attacked a man who jumped into the animal's enclosure and shouted: "Jesus will save you!" at the big cat Wednesday at the zoo in Taiwan's capital.

Cable TV stations showed the lion ripping a jacket off the man as he stood in a grassy enclosure that held two of the animals.

Without panicking, the man fell back on a stone ridge and the lion then jumped at him, biting him in the arm. The lion then clawed at his trousers before retreating.

The man then calmly stood with his arms outstretched in front of the two animals.

A witness, Hsu Li-jen, told cable station CTI the man shouted: "Jesus will save you" at the animals.

Guards drove the lions away with water hoses and police shot the animals with tranquillizer darts. The man, identified only by his surname, Chen, then picked up his jacket and climbed out of the pen. He was taken to the hospital for tests.

"He had bite marks both at the front and back of his leg," Doctor Wang Yao-ching told CTI.

Another doctor said Chen, 46, also had psychological problems.

"He took this dangerous action today because he imagined he heard voices," psychiatrist Teng Hui-wen said, adding his case is still being investigated.

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Man tries to seize Governors Island
November 3, 2004

David Nash is taken to ambulance at downtown's Pier 11 yesterday after attempting to "seize Governors Island for the Blue Tulip Party."

An emotionally disturbed man in a wet suit attempted to "seize" Governors Island yesterday by hoisting a pirate flag - sparking a massive response by cops and the Coast Guard.

"Put your weapons down, and go in peace," David Nash, 41, of Amherst, Va., told a half-dozen harbor patrol cops who nabbed him.

His face covered with black makeup, Nash claimed to have swam to the island, even though he was dry when cops found him. There was no oxygen tank or mask with his wet suit.

Nash told the Daily News he was "trying to seize Governors Island for the Blue Tulip Party."

"It's a political organization I started," Nash added, mumbling about "Indians" and "reparations" as his motives for trespassing.

The unemployed man was brought back to Pier 11 near Wall St. at 9 a.m. and taken by ambulance to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

His move to commandeer Governors Island was first noticed when workers saw the pirate flag hoisted at 6:40 a.m. on the flagpole in the center of the island, cops said. A skull at theflag's center had a painted bullet hole between a set of red eyes. A police spokesman said it wasn't clear how long Nash had been on the island, or where he had landed.

Nash's mother, Pat, in Amherst, told The News that her son was an aspiring artist who suffered from psychological problems and took medication.

He was in New York to visit some museums, said his mom, who had not heard from him for a week and a half.

She said her son's antics may have been timed to Election Day. Nash had proclaimed himself a presidential candidate in 2000, and was the only known member of his Blue Tulip Party.

"Something for me to worry about - again," said the mother after learning about her son's stunt.

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Naked man holds up flight from LA
By Liz Gooch
November 4, 2004

A naked man ran across the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport and climbed onto the wheel of a Qantas plane bound for Melbourne.

Airport authorities saw the man running towards flight QF94 on Tuesday and sent police, security and paramedics to investigate.

The plane's captain was notified and he shut down the engines, Qantas spokeswoman Jodie Taylor said.

Authorities spoke to the man, who peacefully climbed down after about 45 minutes. The plane, which was due to leave at 11.15pm on Monday, Los Angeles time, eventually took off an hour later. [...]

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