- 911 Eye-witnesses
- High Strangeness
Article - The Blair Belief Project
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
| Phase Transition
| SOTT Editorial
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
TomPaine.com, 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
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 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
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
"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
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
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.
Zogby International's 2004 Predictions
(as of Nov. 2, 2004 5:00pm EST)
2004 Presidential Election
Bush - 213
Kerry - 311
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
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 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
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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. [...]
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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."
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
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. [...]
"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
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 topdog04.com 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
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
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
The US military is poised for an offensive on Falluja, some 50km
west of Baghdad, to flush out armed men resisting its forces.
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
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
Residents of the city say the daily bombardments cause heavy civilian
casualties and increase resentment against the United States.
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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."
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
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.
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.
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
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." [...]
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
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." [...]
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
“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
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
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.
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
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
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
”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.
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.
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
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
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
That was all the government would say about the exercise, citing
security issues. [...]
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
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.
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. [...]
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
PROTECTING EARTH FROM ASTEROIDS AND COMETS
An AIAA Position Paper (2004)
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
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
* 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
* 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
* 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 (www.aero.org/conferences/planetdef).
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.
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.
| 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
The quake jolted Aq Qala, the capital city of Gorgan, and Gonbad
A relatively mild earthquake measuring 4.3 degrees on the open-ended
Richter scale also rattled the city of Gonbad in Golestan province
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
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.
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
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.
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"
Cornell, 42, was hospitalized last week after contracting necrotizing
fasciitis, an infection caused by the bacteria that typically causes
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
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. [...]
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 FIRST SIGHTINGS
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
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
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
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.
GROWING LEGEND, GROWING FEAR
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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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