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A US soldier is seen with an inscription on his helmet calling for vengeance in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, 50 kms west of Baghdad. (AFP/Mehdi Fedouach)

JFK Shows The Way

SOTT Analysis

Last year on November 22, the 40th anniversary of the murder of JFK, we dedicated a significant portion of the Signs page to looking again at the overwhelming evidence that Kennedy was the victim of a US government-inspired plot. We are not sure if it was simply because we feel that everything that can be said about the event has already been said, or if we have lost hope that anyone really cares anymore, but this year, on the 41st anniversary, we completely ignored it.

To be honest, we tire of stating endlessly that which is patently, almost absurdly, obvious to anyone with two neurons in contact with one another. Sure, we understand the various factors that lead a majority of American citizens to continue to believe, against all evidence, that Oswald did it, but that doesn't really help when having to face the fact that, in our world, those guilty of the worst crimes usually get away scott free.

Sitting there brooding on this and other depressing facts, as we are wont to do, an interesting article caught our eye. The title was:

"New Video Game Recreates Kennedy Assassination"

A ray of hope perhaps? Had someone finally latched on to the stupendous idea of programming the minds of the world's gaming-obsessed youth with the truth about the JFK murder?

Not exactly. The body of the story went on to say the following:

A new video game to be released on Monday allows players to simulate the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

The release of "JFK Reloaded" is timed to coincide with the 41st anniversary of Kennedy's murder in Dallas and was designed to demonstrate a lone gunman was able to kill the president.

Ewing said the game was designed to undermine the theory there was some shadowy plot behind the assassination. "We believe passionately there was no conspiracy," he said.

Traffic Games said the objective was for a player to fire three shots at Kennedy's motorcade from assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's digitally recreated sixth-floor perch in the Texas School Book Depository.

Points are awarded or subtracted based on how accurately the shots match the official version of events as documented in by the Warren Commission, which investigated Kennedy's assassination.

Shooting the image of Kennedy in the right spots in the right sequence adds to the score, while "errors" like shooting first lady Jacqueline Kennedy lead to deductions.

Each shot can be replayed in slow motion, and the bullets can be tracked as they travel and pass through Kennedy's digitally recreated body. Players can choose to see blood by pressing a "blood effects" option.

Players can view the motorcade from a number of angles, including the perspective of filmmaker Abraham Zapruder and a view from the "grassy knoll" where some conspiracy theorists believe a second gunman was stationed.

It was the sort of story that has the potential to put us "over the edge" so to speak, but just as we felt that the last vestige of enthusiasm we possessed might have been squashed, we were gripped by a strangely invigorating idea. While it may be true that the vast majority of ordinary people simply do not, or are unable, to care anymore, it is clear that there is one group that is still very much concerned about making sure their voice is heard and their message received. We are talking about the same group that was responsible for the assassination of JFK, and a host of other heinous crimes leading right up to the present day and the criminal "war on terror".

We realised that there is still a battle to be joined, and success or failure can not be measured by the extent of the apathy or disinterest of the people, but rather by the evidence for the continued manipulation of the people by the "powers that be". The simple logic is that, if such "power brokers" are still exerting significant efforts to brainwash the masses and obscure the truth, then there must still be something to fight for. Our job then, and that of any "truth seeker", is not to fight to free the individual or collective per se - for each must choose for themselves if they love the truth over all else - but rather to fight for the concept, the very idea of truth, and its existence in this world.

There is never a point then when we can 'throw in the towel' or decide that all is lost, for while we still have breath, we still have work to do. It has been suggested that the universe keeps its options open right up until the last moment, and while the odds may not look good, we are not about to shrink from our responsibility, as we see it, to do all we can to keep the fire of truth alive, right up until the last moment.

Each tactical move that the 'control system' makes in an attempt to bury the truth and further stack the deck in their favor, will be responded to with the truth itself. At present there are still a handful of dedicated 'seekers after truth', but if they should fall by the wayside, then we shall carry on the task, alone if need be. Like we said, while we have breath in our bodies.

Such is the state and nature of our world and those that control it, that defending the truth very often means exposing the lies and deception that attack it. The truth then is not always pleasant to behold, and the articles and commentary on today's page portray the current situation on our planet in a particularly truthful way. The first is an excerpt from George Orwell's book "1984" and describes very succinctly the present dynamic between the "leaders" and the people.

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Excerpted from the book "1984" by George Orwell

The splitting-up of the world into three great superstates was an event which could be and indeed was foreseen before the middle of the twentieth century. With the absorption of Europe by Russia and the British Empire by the United States, two of the three existing powers, Eurasia and Oceania, were already effectively in being. The third, Eastasia, only emerged as a distinct unit after another decade of confused fighting. The frontiers between the three superstates are in some places arbitrary, and in others they fluctuate according to the fortunes of war, but in general they follow geographical lines. Eurasia comprises the whole of the northern part of the European and Asiatic land-mass, from Portugal to the Bering Strait. Oceania comprises the Americas, the Atlantic islands including the British Isles, Australasia, and the southern portion of Africa. Eastasia, smaller than the others and with a less definite western frontier, comprises China and the countries to the south of it, the Japanese islands and a large but fluctuating portion of Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet. [...]

Since each of the three super-states is unconquerable, each is in effect a separate universe within which almost any perversion of thought can be safely practised. Reality only exerts its pressure through the needs of everyday life - the need to eat and drink, to get shelter and clothing, to avoid swallowing poison or stepping out of top-storey windows, and the like. Between life and death, and between physical pleasure and physical pain, there is still a distinction, but that is all. Cut off from contact with the outer world, and with the past, the citizen of Oceania is like a man in interstellar space, who has no way of knowing which direction is up and which is down. The rulers of such a state are absolute, as the Pharaohs or the Caesars could not be.

All the beliefs, habits, tastes, emotions, mental attitudes that characterize our time are really designed to sustain the mystique of the Party and prevent the true nature of present-day society from being perceived. Ownership of the print media made it easy to manipulate public opinion, and the film and radio carried the process further.

At this moment, in April 1984 (as Winston writes his diary) Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which HE happened to remember. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible. Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.

All that was needed was unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control,' they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink'.

In the ramifications of Party doctrine Julia had not the faintest interest. Whenever he began to talk of the principles of Ingsoc, doublethink, the mutability of the past, and the denial of objective reality, and to use Newspeak words, she became bored and confused and said that she never paid any attention to that kind of thing. One knew that it was all rubbish, so why let oneself be worried by it? She knew when to cheer and when to boo, and that was all one needed. If he persisted in talking of such subjects, she had a disconcerting habit of falling asleep. Talking to her, he realized how easy it was to present an appearance of orthodoxy while having no grasp whatever of what orthodoxy meant. In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.

It was rather a shock to him when he discovered from some chance remark that she did not remember that Oceania, four years ago, had been at war with Eastasia and at peace with Eurasia. It was true that she regarded the whole war as a sham: but apparently she had not even noticed that the name of the enemy had changed. In the end he succeeded in forcing her memory back until she did dimly recall that at one time Eastasia and not Eurasia had been the enemy. But the issue still struck her as unimportant. "Who cares?" she said impatiently. "It's always one bloody war after another, and one knows the news is all lies anyway."

But in some ways Julia was far more acute than Winston, and far less susceptible to Party propaganda. Once when he happened in some connexion to mention the war against Eurasia, she startled him by saying casually that in her opinion the war was not happening. The rocket bombs which fell daily on London were probably fired by the Government of Oceania itself, 'just to keep people frightened'. This was an idea that had literally never occurred to him. She told him that during the Two Minutes Hate her great difficulty was to avoid bursting out laughing. But she only questioned the teachings of the Party when they in some way touched upon her own life.

He picked up the children's history book and looked at the portrait of BIG BROTHER which formed its frontspiece. The hypnotic eyes gazed into his own. It was as though some huge force were pressing down upon you - something that penetrated inside your skull, battering against your brain, frightening you out of your beliefs, persuading you, almost, to deny the evidence of your senses. In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And they would kill you for thinking otherwise. The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in a debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer.

And yet he was right! They were wrong and he was right. At one time it had been a sign of madness to believe that the earth goes round the sun. Being a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad. The obvious, the silly, and the true had to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth's centre. With the feeling that he was speaking directly to O'Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, Winston wrote:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

Comment: Orwell had a conspiracy theory. In "1984", he said that a global organization, "Big Brother", ruled the world and that it was "a dedicated sect doing evil". Its elite members were called "the Brotherhood" and they worked anonymously behind the scenes manipulating the politicians and bureaucracy beneath them, who in turn manipulated the masses below them.

Orwell said that this Brotherhood, working for Big Brother, owned every means of communication, ie tv, radio, movies, newspapers, books, magazines, textbooks etc. They're the ones who produce the violent and pornographic entertainment and distribute it among the people. Their goal is to "totally demoralize society" and they are willing to:

- commit murder
- commit acts of sabotage
- betray their country to foreign powers
- cheat, forge, and blackmail
- corrupt the minds of children
- distribute habit-forming drugs
- encourage prostitution
- disseminate venereal diseases" etc etc.

Remember, Orwell wrote "1984" over 55 years ago. This fact alone shows us that the present dumbed-down manipulated state in which humanity finds itself is not a recent phenomena, the policies that have today lead us to the full discolsure of the "Orwellian nightmare" were laid long ago, and now that the time is right, the final pieces are being put in place and the true terror of the situation unveiled. Do not, however, expect that the mere fact that the truth is staring us all in the face will suffice to awaken those who choose to remain asleep to reality.

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Flashback: Why Terrorists Hate America

by William Blum
January 2002

Why do terrorists hate America enough to give up their lives in order to deal the country such mortal blows? Of course it's not America the terrorists hate; it's American foreign policy. It's what the United States has done to the world in the past half century -- all the violence, the bombings, the depleted uranium, the cluster bombs, the assassinations, the promotion of torture, the overthrow of governments, and more. The terrorists -- whatever else they might be -- are also rational human beings; which is to say that in their own minds they have a rational justification for their actions. Most terrorists are people deeply concerned by what they see as social, political or religious injustice and hypocrisy, and the immediate grounds for their terrorism is often retaliation for an action of the United States.

Most Americans find it difficult in the extreme to accept the proposition that terrorist acts against the United States can be viewed as revenge for Washington's policies abroad. They believe that the US is targeted because of its freedom, its democracy, its modernity, its wealth, or just being part of the West.

But government officials know better. A Department of Defense study in 1997 concluded that: "Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States." Former president Jimmy Carter, some years after he left the White House, was unambiguous in his concordance with such a sentiment: "We sent Marines into Lebanon and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the intense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers -- women and children and farmers and housewives -- in those villages around Beirut. ... As a result of that ... we became kind of a Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful."

The terrorists responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 sent a letter to the New York Times which stated, in part: "We declare our responsibility for the explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region."

For more than four months the most powerful nation in history rained down a daily storm of missiles upon one of the poorest and most backward people in the world. Eventually, this question pressed itself onto the world's stage: Who killed more innocent, defenseless people? The terrorists in the United States on September 11 with their flying bombs? Or the Americans in Afghanistan with their AGM-86D cruise missiles, their AGM-130 missiles, their 15,000 pound "daisy cutter" bombs, their depleted uranium, and their cluster bombs? By year's end, the count of the terrorists, victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania stood at about 3,000. The total count of civilian dead in Afghanistan was essentially ignored by American officials and just about everyone else, but a painstaking compilation of numerous individual reports from the domestic and international media, aid agencies, and the United Nations, by an American professor -- hunting down the many separate incidents of 100-plus counts of the dead, the scores of dead, the dozens, and the smaller numbers -- arrived at considerably more than 3,500 through early December, and still counting.

The American scorched-earth bombing of Afghanistan may well turn out to be a political train wreck. Can it be doubted that thousands throughout the Muslim world were emotionally and spiritually recruited to the cause of the next Osama bin Laden by the awful ruination and perceived injustice? That is to say, the next generation of terrorists. Indeed, in December, while the American bombs were still falling on Afghanistan, a man -- British citizen Richard Reid, who was a convert to Islam -- tried to blow up an American Airlines plane en route to the United States with explosives hidden in his shoes. At the London mosque that Reid had attended, the cleric in charge warned that extremists were enlisting other young men like Reid and that agents aligned with radical Muslim figures had stepped up recruiting efforts since September 11. The cleric said that he knew of "hundreds of Richard Reids" recruited in Britain. Reid, described in the press as a "drifter," reportedly traveled to Israel, Egypt, the Netherlands, and Belgium before arriving in Paris and boarding the American Airlines plane. This raises the question of who was financing him. The freezing of numerous bank accounts of alleged terrorist groups throughout the world by the United States may have rather limited effect.

Americans do not feel any more secure in their places of work, in their places of leisure, or in their travels than they did a day before their government's bombings began.

Has the power elite learned anything? Here's James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA, speaking in December in Washington, advocating an invasion of Iraq and unconcerned about the response of the Arab world: The silence of the Arab public in the wake of America's victories in Afghanistan, he said, proves that "only fear will re-establish respect for the U.S." What, then, can the United States do to end terrorism directed against it? The answer lies in removing the anti-American motivations of the terrorists. To achieve this, American foreign policy will have to undergo a metamorphosis.

If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize to all the widows and orphans, the tortured and impoverished, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. Then I would announce, in all sincerity, to every corner of the world, that America's global interventions have come to an end, and inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the USA but now -- oddly enough -- a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims. There would be more than enough money. One year's military budget of 330 billion dollars is equal to more than $18,000 an hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. That's what I'd do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I'd be assassinated.

Comment: The above article was written just a few months after the 9/11 attacks. At that time, there was not the wealth of research and evidence available pointing to the distinct possibility that 9/11 was an "inside job". Nevertheless, the author articulates very clearly the truth about, and effects of, the foreign policies of successive US governments. Today, those foreign policies have created untold misery in the "developing world" , and set the scene for a conflagration of epic proprortions in the "developed world". The Middle East has been chosen as center stage in the upcoming repeat performance and will act as the touch paper to ignite a conflagration of biblical proportions (coincidence?) that will engulf us all. Naturally, Israel plays a central and commanding role in manufacturing this crisis and could not have done so without being on the "inside".

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Flashback: "In Our Hands"

June 13 1996
Joseph Sobran

One isn't supposed to say this, but many people believe that Israel now holds the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in its hands. This is what is known as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

The odd thing is that it is held by many Israelis. In an essay reprinted in the May 27th issue of The New York Times, Ari Shavit, an Israeli columnist, reflected sorrowfully on the wanton Israeli killing of more than 100 Lebanese civilians in April: "We killed them out of a certain naive hubris. Believing with absolute certitude that now, with the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in our hands, the lives of others do not count as much as our own..."

In a single phrase -- "in our hands" -- Shavit has lighted up the American political landscape like a flash of lightning.

Notice that Shavit assumes as an obvious fact what we Americans can say publicly only at our own risk. It's surprising, and refreshing, to find such candor in an American newspaper (though his essay was reprinted from the Israeli paper Haaretz).

The prescribed cant on the subject holds that Israel is a "reliable ally" of the United States, despite Israel's long record of double-dealing against this country, ranging from the killing of American sailors to constant espionage and technology theft. The word "ally" implies that the relationship exists because it's in the interests of this country, though Israel's lobby is clearly devoted to the interests of Israel itself, and it's childish to suggest otherwise.

You expect that from the Israeli lobby; lobbies are lobbies, after all. But it's unnerving that the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media should be "in our hands," as Shavit puts it. Bill Clinton, a lover of peace since his college days, raised no protest when the Israelis drove 400,000 innocent Lebanese out of their homes in "retaliation" for rockets launched into Israel (wounding one Israeli) by a faction over whom those 400,000 had no control.

Congress, of course, was supine as usual at this latest extravagance of Israeli "defense." Congress too is "in our hands."

A recent article in The Washington Post likened the Israel lobby's power to that of the gun and tobacco lobbies. But there is one enormous difference. Newspapers like the Post aren't afraid to criticize the gun and tobacco lobbies. They will say forthrightly that those lobbies seek goals that are dangerous for this country. They don't dare say as much of the Israeli lobby.

But much of the press and electronic media are "in our hands" in a more active sense: They supply misleading pro-Israel propaganda in the guise of news and commentary, constantly praising Israeli "democracy" and ignoring Israel's mistreatment of its non-Jewish minorities -- mistreatment which, if any government inflicted it on a Jewish minority, would earn it the fierce opprobrium of our media.

No decent American would think of reducing American Jews to the status of Palestinians in Israel. The idea is almost absurd. Yet Americans are taxed to subsidize the oppression of Palestinians, on the flimsy pretext that they are helping an "ally" in America's own self-interest to be hated and despised by the whole Muslim world.

All this is interesting less for what it tells us about Israel than for what it tells us about America. Frank discussion of Israel is permitted in Israel, as Shavit's article illustrates. It's rarely permitted here. Charges of anti-Semitism and a quiet but very effective boycott will be the reward of any journalist who calls attention to his own government's -- and his own profession's -- servitude to Israeli interests.

Very few in America are doing anything to change this sorry state of affairs. Shavit wrote his article in the desperate hope of turning back his countrymen and his government from a morally and politically perilous course. At least he can hope. It's harder for us, when our own government isn't in our hands.

Comment: It is indeed an enigma how "millions of people can be so stupid" as the UK Mirror asked in the aftermath of Bush's reappointment in Nov 2004. How does a government get away with so much, and right under the noses of the people? There are undoubtedly many factors involved, but high on the list is the systematic robbing of individuals of their ability to think for themselves - as individuals.

The US government has essentially taught the American people to "think with your country, not your brain". The values of a faceless monolith then become the personal values of each individual. In this way the people are made guilty for the crimes of their country (and the leaders that control it). "America" bombing Iraq and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians is not then the actions of a corrupt and unrestrained government but the "will of the people" as Bush announced on his "acceptance of victory" speech last month.

Indeed, the American people have been co-opted en masse and from now on that which is wrought in their name and with their manipulated consent will be limited only by the perverted imagination of a depraved minority of what have come to be known as "NeoCons.

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Flashback: The War on Dissent Widens

By Jim Lobe, AlterNet. Posted March 12, 2002.

A powerful group of neo-conservative war hawks is launching a bold new public relations campaign attacking anyone who disagrees with Bush's war on terrorism.

At a Tuesday gathering of the National Press Club, members of the new Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT) declared their intention to "take to task those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the war we are facing."

Those groups and individuals, AVOT claims, need to be resisted both here and abroad. A full-page AVOT advertisement carried in the March 10 Sunday New York Times pointed to radical Islam as "an enemy no less dangerous and no less determined than the twin menaces of fascism and communism we faced in the 20th century." At the same time, the $128,000 ad lambasted those at home "who are attempting to use this opportunity to promulgate their agenda of 'blame America first.'"

Comment: Note the words of Orwell 55 years ago:

At this moment, in April 1984 Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which HE happened to remember. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible. Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.

It was rather a shock to him when he discovered from some chance remark that she did not remember that Oceania, four years ago, had been at war with Eastasia and at peace with Eurasia. It was true that she regarded the whole war as a sham: but apparently she had not even noticed that the name of the enemy had changed.

"Both [internal and external] threats," the ad continues, "stem from either a hatred for the American ideals of freedom and equality or a misunderstanding of those ideals and their practice."

Comment: It seems that these Neocons who dictate US policies prefer the simplistic black and white version of reality. If you diagree with the government you either hate "freedom and equality" and side with the evil terrorists or you are just plain stupid.

To expose the internal "threats," AVOT has compiled a sample list of statements by professors, legislators, authors and columnists that it finds objectionable. The strategy appears similar to an earlier, much-criticized effort to monitor war dissidents by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a group founded by Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, and neo-conservative Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman.

AVOT's list of speakers it considers threatening include:

- Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who said, "Some of us, maybe foolishly, gave this president the authority to go after terrorists. We didn't know that he, too, was going to go crazy with it."

- President Jimmy Carter, who assailed Bush's use of the phrase "axis of evil," arguing that it was "overly simplistic and counter-productive."

- Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who accused the president of "canceling, in effect, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments" and called the war "the patriot games, the lying games, the war games of an unelected president."

- American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner criticizing "Bush's dismal domestic policies" and his "dubious notion of a permanent war."

- Lewis Lapham, the editor of "Harper's Magazine," who in a recent editorial said that Washington itself has used terrorist tactics during the 1990s, including the bombing of civilian targets in Baghdad and the Balkans.

Who exactly is behind AVOT's efforts? The newly-formed organization is headed by a formidable array of right-wing luminaries. At the top of the list is former Secretary of Education and drug czar William Bennett, AVOT's chairman. The group's Senior Advisors include former CIA director R. James Woolsey; former Reagan Pentagon official Frank Gaffney; William P. Barr, attorney general under George Bush, Sr; and mega-political donor Lawrence Kadish. AVOT is a project of Empower America -- also co-chaired by Bennett -- whose principal members include conservative political operatives Jeane Kirkpatrick, Jack Kemp, Vin Weber and William Cohen.

During the press conference, Bennett insisted that, "We do not wish to silence people," adding that for now, AVOT plans to hold teach-ins and public education events, particularly on college campuses.

In response to AVOT's criticism, Harper's Lewis Lapham said Bennett is a "wrong-headed jingo and an intolerant scold." He added that AVOT appeared to be a new "front organization for the hard neo-con (neo-conservative) right," which has gained unprecedented influence in the Bush administration, particularly among the top political appointees in the Pentagon and Dick Cheney's office. "This is the war-monger crowd," he said.

Indeed, AVOT is being initially funded primarily by Lawrence Kadish, chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and a top donor to the Republican Party. Kadish, a real estate investor in New York and Florida, was cited by Mother Jones Magazine as one of the country's top individual donors, having given $532,000 to the GOP. His RJC has long tried to build links between the Republican Party, including its Christian Right component, and American Jews.

Bennett, Gaffney, and Woolsey are all veteran members of a neo-conservative network of groups with overlapping boards of directors that have long championed rightwing governments in Israel and, among other things, urged strong U.S. action against both Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Islamic government in Iran, as well as Palestine Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Both Gaffney and Bennett, for example, were two of about three dozen mainly neo-conservative signers of an open letter sent to Bush in the name of the "Project for a New American Century" nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks. It called not only for the destruction of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, but also to extend the war to Iraq, and possibly to Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestine Authority unless those nations ceased their alleged support of terrorist groups opposed to Israel.

Woolsey, meanwhile, was sent by the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board to Britain in late September to gather evidence that could link Iraq to the Sept. 11. He and has since become one of the most visible commentators in the media in favor of extending the war to Baghdad. Woolsey is also on the board of the Jewish Institute for National Security, a hawkish pro-Israel group.

AVOT is also linked through many channels to Richard Perle, chair of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board (which sent Woolsey on his Iraqi quest). Perle, like Jeane Kirkpatrick, perches full time at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a neo-con think-tank that has emerged as the hub of an "axis of incitement" -- a small but potent network of like-minded, ultra-hawkish officials, analysts and opinion-makers. It appears that AVOT is the latest institutional offspring of that network, which is united by a passionate belief in the inherent goodness and redemptive mission of the United States; the moral cowardice of liberals and European elites; the existential necessity of supporting Israel in the shadow of the Holocaust and in the face of Arab hostility; and the primacy of military power.

These beliefs came through clearly at Tuesday's press conference. Woolsey, for example, told reporters he agreed with those who are "calling the war we're in now World War IV." But Gaffney was the most strident of the speakers at the event, saying that we should be skeptical of our "new-found friends" in the war on terror.

"[We must] pay special attention to friends like Saudi Arabia and Egypt whose ongoing use of media are creating problems for our allies," (implying Israel), Gaffney said. Any criticism of the administration's conduct of the war, he added, could be "interpreted in such a way as to hurt national resolve...(and) embolden the enemy."

Comment: Do yourself a favor. Pick up a book on Germany prior to WWII and inform yourself about the policies carried out by the Nazis. You will note some startling similarities with modern day America.

"If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.... If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed." -- Thomas Jefferson to Col. Yancey, 1816

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Inside the Clouds of 9/11

Catalyst for Perpetual War

Manuel Valenzuela

"ICH" -- What remains today of the entity once known as the United States can be seen by escaping the still-omnipresent hypnotic fog that spans the land of the free and the home of the brave, from coast to coast, spawned by the smoldering inferno and avalanching debris of three years ago, when the human species once-more entered into dimensions familiar and frequent yet malicious and frightful, where all semblance of reality seemed to disappear inside the smoke of crashing airliners and collapsing towers. 

Only by escaping the all-encompassing haze of fear, hatred and vengeance – that cocktail of conditioned ignorance born on 9/11 that continues to smother and imprison the minds of millions of Americans – can we begin to discern what was done to us, and what subsequently continues to be done to us and our way of life. Only then can we pragmatically stand at the doorstep of reality, banging on its heavy-metal doors, eager to be welcomed inside, seeking desperately to understand the true identity of a world that has been made mad by warmongers, greed mongers, profiteers and criminal monsters disguised as men. 

Inside the clouds of 9/11 lay hidden sinister plans and malevolent intentions, indoctrinated minds and their brainwashed existence. Inside this tempestuous cloud of debris, dust, smoke, asbestos, chemicals, particulates and human flesh lie hidden war criminals and crimes against humanity that continue to run unobstructed, free to continue their reign of terror, sending the world into the abyss of perpetual war and suffering, immune from the conformist and placid sheep living in their realm whose existence continues to be lived in extravagant ignorance fed by bread and circus, tele-trash conditioning and dumbed-down education.

It is inside the clouds of 9/11 that the most successful psychological warfare technique ever devised by man can be seen for what it is, namely, the devastatingly successful mechanism by which an entire nation was transformed from placid isolationists going about their daily god-fearing lives into blood-thirsty seekers of vengeance and gluttonous purveyors of human malice. The genius of those exploiters of 9/11, with its horrific mass death and carnage, its violent destruction of buildings and human life, was in bombarding American citizens, through the television and using the mouths of media lackeys, with ceaseless images of what transpired that day along with voices of vengeance, hatred and war, thereby shaking the foundations of reality and the constructs of security hundreds of millions believed themselves to live under. 

Suddenly a new reality emerged and fear, that most controlling emotion in the human animal, that passion clouding the mind and our logical, analytical thinking, was unleashed throughout the nation. Insecurity blanketed the country as images of falling buildings and crashing airlines paralyzed an entire populace. Our world came crashing down along with the World Trade Center, and in its debris-filled clouds did we find ourselves in, not knowing what to make of what had without notice transpired, not understanding the violence we had just witnessed, not comprehending a world gone mad. Our fear blinded us, and immediately rage and hatred permeated from our pores. We are but animal primates, after all, and our emotions began to control our thinking human brain. 

Calls for vengeance soon filled our televisions, broadcast directly into our homes. We had been attacked; thousands of our citizens had been murdered in a most heinous crime against humanity. America found itself a nation devoid of rational thought; its population was now controlled by animal instinct, now easily manipulated by those longing for a new Pearl Harbor. Hundreds of millions became pawns in the sinister plots of a few elite; Americans were now willing to do anything, follow anyone, destroy everything responsible for such great suffering. 

We became easily molded clay in the hands of the exploiters, the warmongers, greed addicts and profiteers whose interests suddenly seemed attainable. An entire populace was theirs, hundreds of millions ready, willing and able to do anything to right what had been made wrong. With a collective paranoia rampant throughout the nation and an enveloping fear and schizophrenia invading an entire populace, those in power and those that control could do anything they pleased.

Almost immediately, the seeds of blame were sowed onto a population needing an enemy and scapegoat from which to focus its collective wrath. Rather quickly and conveniently Muslims were blamed without a single investigation or an act of prudence. Arab names immediately appeared on passenger manifests, impossible to find passports were suddenly said found in the remains of the World Trade Center, parked cars containing copies of the Koran along with flying instructions in Arabic were quickly discovered, images of dancing Palestinians made the airwaves, even though the images were of children recorded months before, ambiguous video of hijackers at so-called airports circulated, and all around, the corporate media, with its many Zionist interests lurking freely, besieged our conscious with Arab bogeymen and Muslim motives, immediately finding itself an enemy to castigate and blame. 

It all fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle, all too soon, all too convenient, all too surreal and all seemingly pre-arranged, as if scapegoats had already been decided upon to validate already predetermined wars in the Middle East. Yet we never wondered, we never questioned how everything had come to be so expeditiously. Hypnotized to the images of that malicious day we remained, immersed by fear and hatred and rage and calls for vengeance. We fell into the trap of a new Pearl Harbor, the interests that be had what they wanted, a militarized, paralyzed and vengeance mobilized citizenry, ready to believe anything, ready to unleash war on America’s new enemy. The barrage was ceaseless, the drums of war now beat strongly, before the American people knew it, those responsible for 9/11 had been chosen. The wheels had been set in motion. 

Thus, in the American mind the placement of the Arab as evildoer extraordinaire was firmly implanted, fictionally concocted as hating our freedoms and our way of life, seen as a destroyer of liberty and American ideals, an inhuman barbarian alien to our construct of civilization that had to be destroyed. An entire Middle East and an entire race of people had become the enemy, and soon America’s army of killing machines would unleash hell into lands and onto innocent peoples having absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. The new Soviet, the new Communist, the new Indian and Viet Cong, the new Nazi and Japanese warrior, the new Filipino and Spaniard and Mexican and English did America now have from which to feed its long, centuries old addiction to war. 

In the unenlightened mind of millions, a few thousand fanatics could not be distinguished from hundreds of millions. One face was imputed on all Arabs, and so an entire race, an entire religion, both alien and unknown to dumbed-down Americans, had to be labeled evildoers. A culture not understood and feared, dark-skinned and non-Christian, oppressed by decades of American-sponsored dictators, exploited by American foreign policy, robbed of their land by Zionist entities, and possessing the black blood needed to run through the veins of the American Empire was thus chosen as the perfect enemy needed for perpetual war and perpetual profit.

With a seething yet blind American public, irrational in mind, devoid of analytical and logical thinking, thanks to the psychologically devastating imagery of 9/11 exploited by both government and media, the Arab world became a land of barbarians, of untermensch, of savages, heathens and pagans. Once more history, and the mind of the masses, were repeating themselves, eager to label as sub-human those it wanted conquered and annihilated, thereby validating in the American mind the certain death, destruction and devastation their complicit hatred would birth. The Islamic faith became enemy number one, and in the American mind the angel of death was asked to spill the blood of the Arab world through the instruments of death so cherished in the land of rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air. 

It was 9/11 and the massive manipulation that followed that condemned Afghans and Iraqis alike to slaughter and mass murder by a delusional and thoroughly mind-controlled military and a callous and apathetic American populace whose sheer hunger for Middle East blood can only be surpassed by its enormous quantity of ignorance and insatiable thirst for oil. Just like Germans living in Hitler’s time, millions of Americans turned a blind eye, playing ignorant fools even as tens of thousands of Muslims were being slaughtered, even as reality becomes obvious and truths are made manifest. The dead and maimed are dark-skinned Arabs, after all, a lower level of human than average Joe Six-pack, much like Africans, Vietnamese and Latin Americans. 

Through systemic and methodical manipulation of American minds, using the captivating and controlling power of televised imagery, warmongers in office and those in corporatist America blitzkrieged the populace with an incessant bombardment of 9/11 images, both live and taped, replayed over and over and over again, that mutated a once pacific citizenry into a ravaging and crazed army of vengeance. With a clearly distinguished enemy, inhabiting lands deemed necessary for the imperial aspirations of the Pax Americana and the Zionists in Washington, the Capitalistic Crusade could commence, the military-industrial complex’ assembly lines could now forever spit out instruments of death and profit, gas pipelines could be built and controlled, and oil could gluttonously be pillaged at the expense of 25 million Iraqis, 100,000 of whom now lie buried in graves, rubble or sand dunes. 

Nation Transformed

Thanks to two towers collapsing, thanks to airlines used as guided missiles, thanks to avalanches of ash-colored debris rushing New York’s streets and thanks to the impregnating horror of human wickedness forever paralyzed into our collective minds the warmongers, the greed addicts and the profiteers, those with vested interests in a new Pearl Harbor, those seeking profit and wealth through death and destruction, those seeking free reign to destroy Palestinians and their culture, and those opportunists now transforming America into corporatist dictatorship have succeeded in shackling the collective will of the American people, making us impotent creatures easily controlled, now unable to fight for our nation, even as it is eviscerated and gutted, even as it implodes into the dustbin of human refuse. 

Somewhere in the abyss of negative energy Joseph Goebbels is laughing, proud at those who took the reigns of propaganda manipulation from his grave. Somewhere he is enjoying the fabulous gift granted to those now using us as marionettes in a game of ideology, power, delusion and human malevolence. Impotent millions stand, infected with the virus of fear, hatred and vengeance, unable to escape the fictions mouthed by corporate media and those in power, unable to escape the clouds of 9/11 that make eyes blind, hearts cold and minds numb. 

Unable to grasp or comprehend the greatest lie ever told the American people, millions linger in silent complicity and acquiescent submission, preferring not to know the evils done in their name, choosing to remain ignorant to the human malice their vote has retained in power, basking in the comforts prevalent in America while tuning out the untold suffering American foreign policy continues to spawn, becoming pawns in a global chess match where tens of thousands lie dead, hundreds of thousands wounded and maimed in both body and mind, and millions desperately surviving day to day, trying to evade the human hell unearthed by the greatest terrorist state in the world today. 

The gift of 9/11 to those in control, the invaluable images, sounds and dastardly horrors orchestrated so very well by the neocons, Zionists, corporatists, military-energy-industrial complex and the Bushites, both for their independent and united vested interests, has made an already deeply entrenched war culture an even more menacing and violent populace, marching steadfastly to the tunes of the drums of war and the trumpet sounds of ceaseless death, maiming and destruction. 

This is the new America. This is what we have become. 

The psychological effects of 9/11 and its myriad collection of images, from multiple cameras and angles, cannot be underestimated or ignored when seeking to understand the transformation of America into what it is today: imperial warmonger and terrorist nation abroad and autocratic usurper of rights, freedoms and democracy at home. September 11th accounts for 59 million marching drones and brainless citizens captured by the hypnotizing allure emanating from the comforting sounds of Pied Piper Bush’s magical flute, that combination of Rovian propagandist repetition and dumbed-down talk, that has sculpted a fictional war president out of a mountain-size monument to elitist mediocrity. It accounts for a vast majority of citizens completely unaware of the incessant corporate media conditioning and manipulation that has formed a most successful controlling mechanism, making half the population placid, conformist and pacified members of society and the other half a warmongering frenzy of blood-thirsty sharks eager to follow every last dictate of those in power. 

Morality Lost

In the American mind, most notably apparent in those who voted against their own interests, voting the ticket of fear and insecurity for another four years, the taped and replayed images of 9/11, never before witnessed by human eyes or bombarded into the human mind on such a grand scale, created a psychological pestilence that attached itself to tens of millions of Americans. This virus has made eyes blind to the reality of what transpires around them. It has created millions of citizens living in a vegetative state, unable or unwilling to see truths even when it is placed in front of their faces. It accounts for a sickness prevalent in the United States, where what is is ignored and what isn’t is believed, where a callous indifference to innocence destroyed and maimed is superceded by fear of gay-marriage, Bible-banning and women’s rights. The suffering of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Afghans and Iraqis is seen as necessary so that we can put closure on the conditioned fear and thirst for vengeance sprouted by 9/11. 

In our diluted world, the chosen enemy must suffer the same fate we did on 9/11, yet on a much more massive scale, because we are America, we are the all-powerful, the merchant of good, the defender of freedom and democracy, the bastion and protector of humanity. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have been so brainwashed into believing that our government and elected leaders are the epitome of good that we fail to realize just how brazenly malevolent they really are. America is the Evil Empire, the Great Satan, a nation made worse after 9/11, its citizenry now complicit in the crimes against humanity the government has for decades unleashed onto the world. Today 9/11 has been surpassed dozens of times over through the death of over 100,0000 Iraqis, most women and children, and in the sheer wickedness of America’s assault on the Iraqi nation. If the death of 3,000 Americans is terrorism, what then should we call the extermination of over 100,000 Iraqis, the maiming and injury of countless more, and the importation into their nation of a human hell that is destroying the very fabric of that ancient civilization? 

A war culture on steroids has become the antithesis of humanity, a cancer upon all humankind, a growing tumor spreading disease and hatred throughout the peoples of the world. We are hypocrites, preaching the values of morality yet enthralled by human wickedness; we wear Jesus on our sleeves yet fail to implement his message; tens of millions of Bible-thumper fundamentalists, the American Taliban, calling themselves Christians, take comfort in the death of 100,000 Muslims; these same call for the protection of Israel and the destruction of Palestinians, even when Jesus was himself Arab, an ancestor of today’s indigenous peoples of Palestine (I guess if you believe in creationism and the Rapture you must also believe Jesus was Scandinavian-white, blond, blue-eyed, with European facial features). We call those that behead barbarians and animals yet our bombs and missiles behead and maim thousands more and we call ourselves the essence of enlightened man? 

In today’s America, compassion and empathy have been replaced by malice and moral cowardice. Fear mongering, more than anything else, decided the 2004 election. Racism and hatred, the need for vengeance and the seeking of sadistic suffering upon those seen as sub-human helped re-select the war criminals in office. It was a desire to destroy an alien culture unknown and misunderstood, scapegoated as America’s next enemy, in a long line of distinguished evildoers from which war has been harvested, that sent millions of brainwashed conduits for perpetual war to the voting booth. It was a desire to inflict the same carnage that befell our shores, the same fear reeking from our pores, that gave Bush so many votes. In 59 million Americans Bush got validation to continue his vicious circle of violence, and in the monstrous destruction of Fallujah, with over 6000 dead, hundreds of bodies rotting in the streets, swarmed by millions of flies, a third of its buildings in rubble, the wickedness America and its people have become can the world see. 

The wickedness perpetrated on 9/11 released a racism and xenophobia that has existed in the United States since its inception, from the extermination and subsequent imprisonment of the Indian to the enslavement and apartheid of blacks to the destruction of Vietnam and the Philippines to the bigotry against Mexicans living in stolen land to the discrimination and exploitation of today’s immigrants. There exists in America today a hatred for Arabs and Muslims, wisely planned by those whose hands toy with our marionette strings, that has released into the air the winds of allowed carnage upon a population of innocent human beings. 

This is a blatant racism, guided and exponentially increased by the atrocities of 9/11, that fails to separate monsters from normal people like you and me, wanting nothing more than to live in peace and happiness. In the death of over 100,000 Iraqis, and the maiming in body and mind of countless more, for a war of choice and not necessity, in an illegal and criminal war of aggression and profit, for no moral justification and no humanist reason whatsoever, with little or no opposition and protest from citizens, the seeds of American racism have firmly been planted yet again. 

This phenomenon can best be seen with the rise of the so-called Christian Crusaders, the American Taliban, tens of millions of believers in fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, those espousers of everything Christ whose actions resemble everything Satan, self-described lovers of ‘moral values,’ crusaders of life even as they subsidize and vote for death, haters of progress and secularism, fearful of gay and Arab bogeymen, seeking the male control of women’s reproductive choice as well as the continued dumbing-down of America’s children. These millions have been brainwashed into believing their Dear Leader is a catalyst of God itself, a conversant with the Almighty, a second coming of the ‘savior’ sent to protect them in times of great insecurity and what they perceive as the nearing of biblical Rapture. 

Through the fear and insecurity so ingeniously implanted by those in power into the American psyche, Christian lovers of moral values have become the vessel of convenience for those whose interests lie in perpetual war against the Arab world. Claiming the moral high ground, this army of unenlightened sheep seeks the entrance to the kingdom of God even as they foam at the mouth at the grisly truth of 100,000 dead innocent Arab and Muslim people in far off lands and even as their insatiable addiction to kill, maim and destroy resurrects in them the Nazis of the past and manifests the monsters of the present. 

Yet when their Dear Leader herds them to pasture, telling them the Almighty condones the present Crusade in Iraq, so full of imported suffering and exploding rage, only the death of American mercenaries and killing machines matter. Forgotten are the children, the women, the ancients, the innocent and the plethora of Iraqi policemen who have died at the hands of the military industrial complex. Forgotten are the rapes, the cold-blooded killings, the torture, the dehumanization, the suffering, the bombings, the assassinations and the human hell created by American forces that now breathe life in Iraq. When Iraqis are subhuman, however, only the lives of the occupiers and invaders matter. American racism at its worst. 

These are American Christian values, that pestilence concocted by false prophets and indoctrinated into unenlightened millions roaming the isolated netherworld of ignorance and extremist theology, that have made the United States the ultimate terrorist state and a most dangerous manifestation of the inherent evil in human existence. In truth, these values have lived as long as the nation itself, hibernating for years until that time when enemies are needed and warmonger leaders appear to shepherd the masses into the jaws of wolves.

Infecting the masses with these moral values is oftentimes too easy. All that is needed are new Pearl Harbors that serve to blind and mobilize, alien cultures or nations chosen, and a corporate media that acts as official government loudspeaker, with its vast array of prostitutes regurgitating official company and government diatribe directly into the homes of millions. Fear, racism, hatred, xenophobia, homophobia, ignorance and unenlightenment are a product of a dumbed-down populace, thanks to education and television, systematically made sheep by the system in which they live. American Christian values reflect this reality. 

Escaping the Clouds

The day before 9/11 and the day after are two different worlds, – as much as two days divided by a cataclysmic event could be – never again to interconnect in the sands of time and the order of human civilization. A paradigm shift that altered the future course of humanity befell the world, and a way of life that dissolves more and more with each passing day is eroding. For a few, it was the miracle welcoming in a new Pearl Harbor from which to mobilize the masses to their lunatic world vision. For others, it was the manna from heaven needed to help justify in the populace’s minds the pre-ordained invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq for oil profits and corporatist power. For the majority of us, 9/11 and its aftermath continues to lead us towards a police state and undemocratic despotism at home, fear and insecurity in the world, and perpetual war in our daily existence.

America has been transformed for the worse, with only a few elite basking in the splendor of their long-sought reality. Millions continue to be plagued by trance-like ignorance, like bobble-head dolls agreeing with every dictate their masters command. Warmongers and greed addicts have found their habitat; profiteers are being enriched by our stolen treasure; other nations prosper at our ill-conceived wars. 

Soon more wars will follow, along with a draft that will rob Americans of their children, sent to fight delusional wars for profit-making and power-grabbing crusades, sacrificed in body and mind for the continued expansion of greed and the Almighty Dollar. The world no longer seems safe; the post 9/11 world has been hijacked by fundamentalist extremists in America and beyond, taken over by a small cabal of zealots and corporatists doing with us and the planet as they wish, pitting poor versus poor, caste versus caste and religion against religion in wars which only those in power benefit from. 

Just as we breathe, our futures are being stolen from us and our children. Just as our heart beats, our morality is being eroded from under us. Just as we live, so our complicity in mass murder is becoming a reality. Three-hundred million Americans have become complacent witnesses to terrorism done in our name, yet nothing is done to bring justice to the world, nothing is done to put an end to madness, nothing is done to halt the crimes of our leaders. 

We have been trained well to be the obedient, complacent, conformist, acquiescent, law abiding lapdog of the Establishment, unwilling to question authority, seek accountability, demand justice, resist, protest or dissent. Given a bone or a treat we simply wag our tails in contentment, eager to fall back asleep and forget the whipping our masters give us and the world. 

In the clouds of 9/11 do we find ourselves immersed in, unable to escape the all-encompassing debris that continues to make blind millions upon millions of eyes, making foggy our ability to reason and analyze reality. 

In the clouds of 9/11 can a lost America be found, missing for three years, disintegrating like a morning mist from the world of today. Instead, a new America is rising, full of violence and indifference, full of conquest and arrogance, full of lack of empathy and thirst for inflicting pain and suffering. 

Just as America roams the thick cloud cover of 9/11, unable to find its missing self, so too has our psychology been lost among the ruins and the dust. Missing it remains, making us unaware of what we have become, similar to the millions of Germans who in the 1930’s allowed the Nazis to rampage across the world, their minds hypnotized and oblivious to the crimes against humanity being perpetrated in their name, pretending as if nothing was happening, pretending their leaders were pure and altruistic. 

In the thick debris cloud of 9/11 can we see what has happened to this nation. In here can we see what we have become. In here can we see what our own minds have mutated into and what they continue to let happen in our name. 

In the clouds of 9/11 do we find ourselves trapped in, unwilling to awaken from our nightmare, unable to stop the madness and uncertain what the future course this nation will take. In the clouds of 9/11 lie the answers and solutions as to how to salvage a sinking ship. If we are to right what has been made wrong, then, the maze of fog and haze and debris and violence must we escape, finding light where only gray ash exists, finally reaching an enlightenment America so desperately needs. 

Manuel Valenzuela is social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst, Internet columnist and author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel now published by A collection of essays, Beyond the Smoking Mirror: Reflections on America and Humanity, will be published in early 2005. His articles appear regularly in alternative news websites including His unique style and powerful writing is read internationally and seeks to expose truths and realities confronting humanity today. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at A collection of his work can be found visiting his archives and by searching the Internet

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Uncle Sam has his own gulag
Sun, December 5, 2004
By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor

Behaving like the Soviet secret police won't make America safer

The Lubyanka Prison's heavy oak main door swung open. I went in, the first western journalist to enter the KGB's notorious Moscow headquarters -- a place so dreaded Russians dared not utter its name. When they referred to it at all, they called it "Detsky Mir," after a nearby toy store.

After interviewing two senior KGB generals, I explored the fascinating museum of Soviet intelligence and was briefed on special poisons and assassination weapons that left no traces. I sat transfixed at the desk used by all the directors of Stalin's secret police, on which the orders were signed to murder 30 million people.

Descending dimly lit stairs, I saw some of the KGB's execution and torture cellars, and special "cold rooms" where naked prisoners were beaten, then doused with ice water and slowly frozen. Other favoured Lubyanka tortures: Psychological terror, psychotropic drugs, prolonged sleep deprivation, dazzling lights, intense noise, days in pitch blackness, isolation, humiliation, constant threats, savage beatings, attacks by guard dogs, near drowning.

Nightmares from the past -- but the past has returned.

According to a report leaked to the New York Times, the Swiss-based International Red Cross has accused the Bush administration for a second time of employing systematic, medically supervised torture against suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, and at U.S.-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The second Red Cross report was delivered to the White House last summer while it was trying to dismiss the Abu Ghraib prison torture horrors as the crimes of a few rogue jailers.

According to the report's allegations, many tortures perfected by the Cheka (Soviet secret police) -- notably beating, freezing, sensory disorientation, and sleep deprivation -- are now routinely being used by U.S. interrogators.

The Chekisti, however, did not usually inflict sexual humiliation. That technique, and hooding, were developed by Israeli psychologists to break resistance of Palestinian prisoners. Photos of sexual humiliation were used by Israeli security, and then by U.S. interrogators at Abu Ghraib, to blackmail Muslim prisoners into becoming informers.

All of these practices flagrantly violate the Geneva Conventions, international, and American law. The Pentagon and CIA gulags in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan have become a sort of Enron-style, off-the-books operation, immune from American law or Congressional oversight.

Suspects reportedly disappear into a black hole, recalling Latin America's torture camps and "disappearings" of the 1970s and '80s, or the Arab world's sinister secret police prisons.

The U.S. has been sending high-level anti-American suspects to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and, reportedly, Pakistan, where it's alleged they are brutally tortured with violent electric shocks, savage beatings, drowning, acid baths, and blowtorching -- the same tortures, ironically, ascribed to Saddam Hussein.

Protests over this by members of Congress, respected human rights groups, and the public have been ignored. President George W. Bush just named Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general, his nation's highest law officer. As White House counsel, Gonzales wrote briefs justifying torture and advised the White House on ways to evade or ignore the Geneva Conventions.

Grossly violating the Geneva Conventions undermines international law and endangers U.S. troops abroad. Anyone who has served in the U.S. armed forces, as I have, should be outraged that this painfully won tenet of international law and civilized behaviour is being trashed by members of the Bush administration.

Un-American behaviour

If, as Bush asserts, terrorism suspects, Taliban, and Muslim mujahedeen fighters not in uniform deserve no protection under the laws of war and may be jailed and tortured at presidential whim, then what law protects from abuse or torture all the un-uniformed U.S. Special Forces, CIA field teams, and those 40,000 or more U.S. and British mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan euphemistically called "civilian contractors"?

Behaving like the 1930s Soviet secret police will not make America safer. Such illegal, immoral and totally un-American behaviour corrupts democracy and makes them no better than the criminals they detest.

The 20th century has shown repeatedly that when security forces use torture abroad, they soon begin using it at home, first on suspected "terrorists," then dissidents, then on ordinary suspects.

It's time for Congress and the courts to wake up and end this shameful and dangerous episode in America's history.

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Al Qaeda's next target?
By Brian Knowlton International Herald Tribune
Saturday, December 4, 2004
WASHINGTON - Europe seems increasingly likely to be the target of the next major Qaeda attack, a trend that could intensify when scores of Qaeda-affiliated militants who left European countries to fight in Iraq return home, several top terror analysts said.

Europe is vulnerable in ways that the United States is not, said many of those attending what was described as the largest conference ever on Al Qaeda, the group behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

Europe's large, growing and poorly integrated Muslim population, its prisons and fundamentalist mosques where extremism is nurtured and laws that constrain the European police more than their American counterparts are all factors, said the analysts, who included former CIA counterterror officials and foreign terror specialists.

Experts at the conference Thursday, sponsored by the nonprofit New America Foundation, said that they did not expect new attacks to match the breadth of the Sept. 11 attacks, in large part because of improved security. Instead, they expect more operations resembling the coordinated March 11 bombings in Madrid, which killed 191 people.

"We are blind to the real danger facing us," said Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who worked in Islamabad, Pakistan, with the Afghan mujahedeen, where Osama bin Laden had his terrorist roots.

The danger, Sageman said, was not more Sept. 11-style attacks but "a succession of Madrids, Casablancas, Istanbuls" - smaller, but still highly deadly, coordinated attacks. [...]

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Returning Fallujans will face clampdown
By Anne Barnard, Globe Staff  |  December 5, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The US military is drawing up plans to keep insurgents from regaining control of this battle-scarred city, but returning residents may find that the measures make Fallujah look more like a police state than the democracy they have been promised.

Under the plans, troops would funnel Fallujans to so-called citizen processing centers on the outskirts of the city to compile a database of their identities through DNA testing and retina scans. Residents would receive badges displaying their home addresses that they must wear at all times. Buses would ferry them into the city, where cars, the deadliest tool of suicide bombers, would be banned.

Marine commanders working in unheated, war-damaged downtown buildings are hammering out the details of their paradoxical task: Bring back the 300,000 residents in time for January elections without letting in insurgents, even though many Fallujans were among the fighters who ruled the city until the US assault drove them out in November, and many others cooperated with fighters out of conviction or fear.

One idea that has stirred debate among Marine officers would require all men to work, for pay, in military-style battalions. Depending on their skills, they would be assigned jobs in construction, waterworks, or rubble-clearing platoons.

"You have to say, 'Here are the rules,' and you are firm and fair. That radiates stability," said Lieutenant Colonel Dave Bellon, intelligence officer for the First Regimental Combat Team, the Marine regiment that took the western half of Fallujah during the US assault and expects to be based downtown for some time.

Bellon asserted that previous attempts to win trust from Iraqis suspicious of US intentions had telegraphed weakness by asking, " 'What are your needs? What are your emotional needs?' All this Oprah [stuff]," he said. "They want to figure out who the dominant tribe is and say, 'I'm with you.' We need to be the benevolent, dominant tribe.

"They're never going to like us," he added, echoing other Marine commanders who cautioned against raising hopes that Fallujans would warmly welcome troops when they return to ruined houses and rubble-strewn streets. The goal, Bellon said, is "mutual respect."

Most Fallujans have not heard about the US plans. But for some people in a city that has long opposed the occupation, any presence of the Americans, and the restrictions they bring, feels threatening.

"When the insurgents were here, we felt safe," said Ammar Ahmed, 19, a biology student at Anbar University. "At least I could move freely in the city; now I cannot."

A model city

US commanders and Iraqi leaders have declared their intention to make Fallujah a "model city," where they can maintain the security that has eluded them elsewhere. They also want to avoid a repeat -- on a smaller scale -- of what happened after the invasion of Iraq, when a quick US victory gave way to a disorganized reconstruction program thwarted by insurgent violence and intimidation.

To accomplish those goals, they think they will have to use coercive measures allowed under martial law imposed last month by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. [...]

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At least 17 Iraqi civilians killed in ambush near Tikrit
05 December 2004 1709 hrs

BAGHDAD - At least 17 Iraqi civilians working for a US contractor were killed and 13 others wounded on Sunday when they were ambushed on their way to work in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown north of Baghdad, the US military said.

"Seventeen Iraqi civilians working for a US civilian contractor were killed and 13 wounded when anti-Iraqi forces attacked them at 9:30 am (0630 GMT) northwest of Tikrit," Master Sergeant Robert Powell told AFP.

"The civilians were travelling to work in civilian buses when men in two pick-up trucks attacked them with small arms fire," he said.

The area was secured by national guards and US forces, and civilians were evacuated to Tikrit hospital.

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'We will not boycott elections and are willing to declare a truce with Israel'

UK Independent
06 December 2004

Sheikh Hassan Yusuf, the recently released Hamas leader, talks to Donald Macintyre

Hamas will not ask Palestinians to boycott the presidential elections and will react "responsibly" to any official call for a ceasefire from the Palestinian Authority leadership, one of the faction's leaders said yesterday.

Sheikh Hassan Yusuf was speaking on the eve of talks in Damascus between Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation chairman, and Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas. Sheikh Hassan said Hamas was "seriously" considering participation in elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council next year.

In the longer term, Sheikh Hassan, who was released two weeks ago after a 27-month sentence in an Israeli prison, repeated that the faction, which is formally committed to the elimination of Israel, would be ready for a two-state agreement based on pre-1967 borders at least in the interim, and said "any subject" would be open for discussion after that.

Sheikh Hassan, the most prominent West Bank spokesman for Hamas, called previous attacks on Israelis "occupation crimes" and said talk of a ceasefire without a halt to Israeli "targeted killings" and incursions was "insignificant". But although he has told the Palestinian media that he is not striking new positions, his remarks yesterday appeared to advance the faction's thinking on several fronts in what he called the new "reality" after the death of Yasser Arafat. Mr Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, has made clear he is seeking a period of calm from all factions, a demand he is expected to discuss with Mr Mashaal.

Though coupled with a stipulation that Hamas activists will not vote in the 9 January election, the decision not to call for a boycott - and to consider standing for PLC seats - reverses the stance the faction had at the last elections in 1996, in accordance with its rejection of the Oslo accords and the Palestinian Authority itself.

Sheikh Hassan said: "The position of Hamas on elections is that it is not going to vote or have a candidate but it is not calling on the people to boycott the elections. There is a lot of pressure from the Palestinian street to have a role in the [PLC] elections and we are very much considering that."

Sheikh Hassan, who said Hamas had been "considering" a halt to suicide bombings if Israelis ceased killing civilians, said that discussion of a ceasefire was not new and Hamas had joined other factions during Mr Abbas's premiership last year in "testing" Israel's willingness to agree to a hudna, or ceasefire. Many Palestinian leaders blame Israel for the collapse of the ceasefire in 2003 by continuing assassinations of militants.

Asked if Hamas was prepared to mount a second "test", he said: "Abu Mazen has not yet made an official request to do that. When he does, our response will be responsible and in the interests of the Palestinian people." Asked about prospects for an initial reduction in militant violence during the election campaign, he added: "We don't have an initiative for a hudna but we have practised it before. Hamas reads the reality and makes its strategy according to the reality."

A senior Israeli security official cast doubt late last week on the centrality of Sheikh Hassan's role in the Hamas leadership. Last Thursday Mahmoud al-Zahar, a physician who is the senior Hamas leader and one of the movement's founders, said Hamas was ready to consider a temporary halt to attacks against Israel "if Israel stops its aggression against the Palestinian people".

Despite scepticism in some Israeli official circles about the sincerity of Hamas's intentions - especially about extending any ceasefire beyond 9 January - a senior Israeli security source said that if the Palestinian leadership succeeded in mobilising its security apparatus, Hamas could fall into line for fear of a repeat of the PA crackdown on the faction in 1996.

Much of the Hamas leadership were arrested and Hamas accused some Palestinian security heads of helping the Israelis to kill or arrest others.

The senior Israeli security official accused Iran of being the paymaster of Hamas and Islamic Jihad but said the local leadership had its own views and added: "If Iran thinks the Palestinian Authority and Fatah are going to come out stronger than Hamas, then it will live with a ceasefire." If not it would continue with "terror" against Fatah as well as Israelis.

Palestinian sources say Sheikh Hassan told Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic intelligence agency, before his release that Mr Abbas and Ahmad Qureia, the Palestinian Prime Minister, were Israel's "last chance" for a settlement, but that Israel needed to reciprocate in any reduction of militant violence.

Sheikh Hassan denied Hamas was funded by the Iranian government and called on European governments to drop its proscription of the faction, saying money given to it for charitable purposes was used only for such purposes. He said that, unlike Osama bin Laden, Hamas was a "nationalist" movement and "has no problem with America or Europe".

Comment: As a general rule we stay away from predictions here at Signs of the Times, but we feel confident enough to break with tradition on this particular subject.

Israel does not want peace with Palestinians, and will do everything in its power to avoid having to agree to a just settlement. We predict that, in the months following the Palestinian elections, and just when a peace settlement seems possible, one of the so-called "Palestinian terror groups" will, against all reason and logic, mount an attack on Israel or Israeli citizens, "confirming" to the world that Palestinian leaders (and Palestinians in general) are not interested in peace and , bizarrely, seem to prefer that the IDF continue to murder innocent Palestinian children as they walk to school.

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I was poisoned: Yushchenko
Agence France-Presse
From correspondents in Kiev and London
December 6, 2004
Two faces ... Mr Yushchenko this weekend, left, and earlier this year.
UKRAINE's opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko says he is determined to find out the facts behind a suspected poisoning attempt in the lead-up to the country's election.

His face remains disfigured as a result of a mystery illness that struck during the bitterly-fought campaign.

"Soon the world will know what happened," he said from his office in Kiev yesterday.

"I will reveal all the details of what they gave me to look like this."

The Opposition leader said he fell ill after attending a dinner hosted by the Ukraine's secret police in the weeks leading up to the election.

Doctors who treated Mr Yushchenko in Vienna found it difficult to find the cause of the condition - which was severe.

In hiding

Mr Yushchenko's family has now gone into hiding in fear of their safety.

"Even today, my family cannot live in Kiev," he said to London's Sunday Telegraph.

"My children can't go to school. I believe the worst is behind us, but still it is not safe for my family. It will not be safe before we have completed the political transformation of this country."

Mr Yushchenko has both US and Ukrainian citizenship. He and his wife have three children, and appeared together on stage at a demonstration on Friday in Kiev.

New elections are scheduled in the country for December 26 following weeks of protests over alleged fraud in the November 21 poll.

Details of the new poll were agreed upon last week in a bid to end the stalemate which has existed since the last election result was announced. [...]

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U.S. army deserter wants to stay in Canada
Last Updated Sat, 04 Dec 2004 19:27:10 EST

TORONTO - Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board will hear Monday why Jeremy Hinzman, a former paratrooper with the U.S. army, should be granted refugee status in Canada.

Rather than serve in Iraq, Hinzman deserted the army and came to Canada in January seeking sanctuary in a Quaker hall outside Toronto.

He considers the Iraq conflict immoral and illegal
and while he refuses to speak his mind until his hearing is over, back in July, Hinzman, 25, put his position into perspective: "My life isn't that significant, but also it's not so worthless as to be killed or to go kill innocent people."

Canada has not granted refugee status to American citizens in the past, but Hinzman's supporters are counting on a precedent in international law to help the American.

Gerry Cordon, a Hinzman supporter, says a soldier who refused to fight in Saddam Hussein's army in the invasion of Kuwait, successfully sought refugee status.

To help his client, Hinzman's lawyer plans to present evidence of a systematic pattern of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, including attacks on civilian population centers, and the torture and murder of prisoners, at Monday's hearing.

The board will also hear eyewitness testimony of the killing of Iraqi civilians from former Marine Sgt. Jimmy Massey.

Massey, who served in Iraq, says he's witnessed instances of civilians being shot – not as a mistake, but with cold deliberation.

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Minister to investigate missing airport uniforms
Last Updated Sat, 04 Dec 2004 18:42:47 EST

MONTREAL - Federal Transport Minister Jean Lapierre says he wants a report explaining how security uniforms and badges disappeared from airports across the country.

More than 1,000 uniforms and parts of uniforms were lost or stolen, and nearly 100 security badges went missing over a nine-month period, CBC News reported after uncovering documents from the federal agency responsible for making air travel safe.

"I want a report by Monday morning on all the details of all those elements," Lapierre said when asked for his reaction on Saturday.

Lapierre also gave assurances that all airports in Canada are "now double checking the identity of every employee that comes in."

"Since 1 p.m. this afternoon, at the 89 airports across the country, we're double-checking the identification cards, not only when (employees) enter the premises, but also during the work shift," Lapierre told reporters. [...]

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16 dead, eight injured as bus plunges into river in China
06 December 2004 0543 hrs

BEIJING : Sixteen people were killed and eight were injured when a truck plunged into a river in southwest China's Guangxi region Sunday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

A farm truck carrying 32 passengers drove off the road and into a river in Zhaoping County when the driver attempted to overtake another vehicle, it said.

The other passengers were rescued but their condition was unknown, Xinhua said. [...]

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French soldier threatens to blow up explosives depot
05 December 2004 2255 hrs

LILLE, France : A French soldier barricaded himself inside an explosives depot in northern France, threatening to blow up the building and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

"We are trying to make contact with him to find out exactly what his motives are. We believe he was recently told he must take compulsory retirement," an official said Sunday.

Some 400 people have been told to leave their homes at Connantray-Vaurefroy, near Chalons-en-Champagne about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Paris. They were being given shelter at a gymnasium in a nearby village.

A security cordon was set up around the depot manned by some 70 police, army and fire-brigade officers. Traffic was barred from entering the zone.

The soldier, who is aged about 50, "left a written message indicating his plan" to blow up the depot, the official said.

"We're surveying the situation to get a clearer picture of the man and what's driving him," said Jean-Luc Guillemoto, cabinet director at the prefecture of the Marne district.

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Twenty-three die in gas explosion at Kazakhstan coal mine
05 December 2004 1503 hrs
ALMATY - Twenty-three coal miners died on Sunday when a methane gas blast tore through a mine owned by a global Indian steel producer in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, the latest accident to strike the Soviet-era industry.

The explosion tore through one of the tunnels some 50 metres (165 feet) below ground as the night shift crew arrived for work at the Shakhtinskaya mine in the central steppe region of Karaghandy.

The region, which produces much of the coal for this nation of 15 million people, has been hit by similar accidents in the past, most recently in 2002 when 17 people were killed.

"Eighty-seven people were in the mine at the time, of whom three were injured and 23 died -- a commission has been formed that is working on establishing the cause," Zhanibek Sadykanov, spokesman for Karaghandy's regional administration, said. [...]

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Meteorite caused flashes: expert
By staff writers
December 6, 2004

STRANGE flashes of light, vibrations and loud rumblings heard early today by residents along the New South Wales coast could be caused by a meteorite, according to one expert.

The flashes are said to have occurred about 4am AEDT. ABC Radio received reports from listeners from Coffs Harbour to Wollongong.

Rob McNaught, from the Siding Springs Observatory at Coonabarabran, says it has all the hallmarks of a meteorite which came within 20km of the earth's surface, the ABC reported.

One caller, Dorothy, from near Macksville, told the ABC Mid-North Coast Breakfast program of her experience.

"I'd only just got out of bed and I was looking out a northerly facing window and to me it just lit up the hills," she said.

"It didn't seem to come out of the sky like lightning does... I thought it might have been a vehicle light's flashing, but it was too much of a flash for that and it may have been five minutes later that there was a low rumble."

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Earthquake strikes western Germany
Sunday, December 5, 2004

BERLIN, Germany (AP) -- An earthquake struck western Germany near the French border early Sunday, but there were no reports of major damage or injuries, officials said.

The magnitude 5.4 quake, with an epicenter near the German town of Waldkirch, occurred about 2:52 a.m. (0152 GMT), Germany's geological center in Freiburg said.

France's national seismological center had earlier reported that the quake had a 4.9 magnitude.

German and French authorities said hundreds of people telephoned seeking information about the temblor, but there were no reports of major damage or injuries.

The earthquake could be felt in a 250-kilometer (150-mile) radius, seismologist Wolfgang Bruestle said. He said the epicenter was lucky to escape much damage.

"That is really amazing for this strength," Bruestle said. [...]

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Light earthquake shakes Humboldt County
Sat, Dec. 04, 2004
Associated Press

WILLOW CREEK, Calif. - A magnitude-4.3 earthquake shook Humboldt County about 20 miles east of Eureka on Saturday, authorities said.

The quake struck at 5:48 p.m. and was centered about 13 miles south southeast of Willow Creek, according to a preliminary report by the U.S. Geological Survey.

A dispatcher for the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department said there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries related to the quake.

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Dozens injured as tremor rattles Algeria
December 05 2004 at 02:11PM

Algiers - A tremor shook the Algerian capital on Sunday, slightly injuring 46 people days after an earthquake hit the same area, officials said.

The state seismological institute said the tremor measured 4.7 on the Richter scale, and hit at about 9am just off the coastal town of Zemmouri.

A devastating quake in the region killed 2 300 people in May last year.

"It's a tremor linked to the earthquake of 2003, which is still capable of generating strong aftershocks and may continue to do so for some time," said a spokesperson from Algeria's seismic authority, CRAAG.

Zemmouri is located in the seismically active Boumerdes province, east of the capital. The tremor was also felt in Algiers.

Frightened local residents fled their homes.

A 5.7-magnitude earthquake in Boumerdes on Wednesday injured 100 people, slightly damaged buildings and temporarily cut off the coastal area from electricity and communications.

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Typhoon-class winds bring warm weather to Japan
Monday, December 6, 2004 at 07:10 JST

TOKYO — A rapidly expanding low-pressure system brought typhoon-class winds to the Japanese archipelago from Saturday night to Sunday night, causing blackouts, stranding ships and paralyzing some air and land traffic.

In Tokyo, winds of 144 kilometers per hour — the strongest ever in the capital — were recorded early Sunday morning. Elsewhere in the metropolitan area, they reached 172 kph in Chiba and 150 kph in Yokohama.

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Tropical cyclone heading for Somalia: UNDP
NAIROBI (AFP) Dec 04, 2004

A tropical cyclone is racing towards the shores of Somalia and is expected to hit the coast on Monday at the latest, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) warned in a statement issued Saturday.

"The system is heading fast inland towards Somalia and will likely hit the neighbouring livelihood zones in Kenya and Ethiopia as well," the statement said. The three countries lie on and to the south of the Horn of Africa. [...]

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Death toll of flood rises to 11 in East Java, Indonesia 2004-12-05 18:38:43

JAKARTA, Dec. 5 (Xinhuanet)-- The death toll of the flood which took place in a number of districts in East Java province in Indonesia has increased to 11 up to Sunday, mainly residents of Blitar district.

Thousands of disaster-related victims from Blitar are now living in the location of refugees, according to the official Antara news agency.

The local officials in the province said the districts of Blitar and Kediri are the two worst areas hit by the flood which was caused by heavy rain in last days in East Java as tens of villages in the two districts are still submerged in a 40 to 50 cmdeep water.

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China landslide kills 30
Last Updated Sun, 05 Dec 2004 18:15:13 EST

BEIJING - The death toll from a landslide in southwest China's Guizhou Province has risen to 30.

Fourteen people are still missing after the disaster, which occurred early on Friday.

Rescue work is continuing, but officials say it is becoming more difficult to clear the site, with the increasing accumulation of rock and soil.

Officials have ruled out finding any of the buried victims alive after a huge mass of earth crashed down on the village in the early hours of Friday. Large excavating machines and more than 1,000 rescuers were trying to dig through the mud when the operation was suspended late Saturday. [...]

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Chinese crab discovered in St. Lawrence
Poses threat to ecosystem

QUEBEC (CP) - Marine scientists are on high alert for a crab invasion in the St. Lawrence River.

A single Chinese mitten crab, one of the most invasive species in the world, was found in the river near Quebec City this fall. It is the first discovery of the crustacean in Canadian waters where conditions are right for it to thrive, according to some scientists.

The prolific crustacean plays havoc with shore-based fisheries by overwhelming nets. It also digs tunnels deep into fragile riverbanks, accelerating erosion.

Alarmed federal scientists are calling on fishermen and boaters to report any more sightings of the crab which has spread rapidly around the world from China.

"It is very invasive, it can reach incredible numbers in a very short, sudden population explosion," said Yves de Lafontaine, an aquatic ecosystems analyst with Environment Canada in Montreal.

The critter can travel more than 500 kilometres in its four-year lifetime, reaching as far as Cornwall, Ont., if it establishes a breeding population in the St. Lawrence.

Named for the dense patch of dark hair on some of the crabs' claws, mitten crabs live most of their lives in fresh water but breed in salt water, making the St. Lawrence River a potentially perfect home base.

Over several decades, the voracious crawler has moved to England, Germany and California. The crab often travels in the ballast of ships, but scientists in California believe it was intentionally released in the San Francisco Bay. [...]

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Flashing lights hover over city
December 06, 2004

EVEN the sceptics are questioning the origins of a strange light that hovered over Darwin on Saturday night.

Several readers phoned the Northern Territory News late on Saturday night to describe the unidentified flying object that captured their attention.

But neither the RAAF or the airport were able to shed any light on the flashing green, blue and red lights witnesses saw.

Laboratory technician Julie Lynn was relaxing on the balcony with husband Nigel at their Leanyer home when they noticed the UFO about 8.30pm.

A self-described sceptic, Mrs Lynn believes there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why the UFO hovered above Darwin - she just has no idea what it could be.

"It was fascinating to watch," she said.

"I was quite looking forward to curling up on the couch and watching a movie but it had our attention until we went to bed after midnight.

"It hovered in the one place for at least two hours but had moved significantly when we checked on it again before we went to bed.

"I can't believe there are UFOs or little green men out there - there must be an obvious explanation.

"And we weren't drinking so it wasn't something we imagined."

The UFO was described as being shaped like three connected ball-shaped spheres that flashed blue, green and red from as many as six different light sources.

It first appeared in a south-easterly direction and was moving northeast.

Department of Defence spokeswoman Kelly Cooper said the UFO was definitely not a secret military aircraft or RAAF-related.

The airport also denied the UFO could have been a plane waiting to land in Darwin.

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BOOM! ... What the heck was that?


Mysterious blasts, flashes in the sky have Tyngsboro residents rattled

TYNGSBORO Looking south from his home on Curtis Road Tuesday night, Chris Lyons saw the bright flash light up the clouds.

About three seconds later came the boom a deep thump that shook his entire house.

From Hudson, N.H., to the Chelmsford line, the eastern half of Tyngsboro has been rocked with well over a dozen of these mysterious, pulsating booms over the past five weeks, rattling both windows and nerves.

Lyons said he knows a thing or two about explosives. As a youngster, the engineer used to mess around with M-80s or fashion homemade explosives under proper adult supervision, of course out of black gunpowder and aluminum piping.

"Those are like sparklers compared to what is going on here," Lyons said. "If this were in a house, there would not be a board left. The house would be pulverized.

"Ten sticks of dynamite might not completely blow up a house," Lyons added. "But what happened that night ... I can't even describe it. For a guy who's not afraid of this stuff, my God, I felt very intimidated.

"All I could think of, to tell you the truth, was my son going to school the next day, and it was unsettling," Lyons said.

All reported incidents have occurred after dark, mostly between 7 and 9 p.m. Nearly all of them have been reported on Mondays and Tuesdays.

When the bangs were first heard in late October, police called the Federal Aviation Administration, thinking they might have been sonic booms from aircraft. They were not.

Residents didn't report the incidents at first, thinking they were related to demolition or construction projects that might be happening in the area. Blasting permits are only allowed during daytime hours, and none were issued during this time period.

Callers initially reported seeing bright flashes of light in the hills west of the Firehouse Restaurant & Lounge which is about a half-mile south of the Tyngsboro Bridge and to the east, near the banks of the Merrimack River. Most of the flashes were white, but other eyewitnesses have reported seeing orange and red flashes. One resident said she saw blue lightning-like streaks.

"I didn't think anything of it," said Jackie Baker, who lives down the road from the Firehouse Restaurant. "But then, when it shook the house... ."

On Nov. 1, police received dozens of calls reporting at least six incidents between about 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. The Lowell and Chelmsford police departments also investigated similar complaints stemming from the same incidents.

Tyngsboro patrol cars were even in the area during all of the bangs, but officers could not pinpoint their location. Riding on all-terrain vehicles the next day, other officers searched the expansive woods west of the Boston University Corporate Education Center campus, where some thought the blasts might have originated.

More booms were heard Nov. 2, Nov. 9, Nov. 23 and Nov. 30.

"It was very loud," said Henry Moulton, who lives on Lawrence Road, just south of the school complex on Norris Road. "Something like a bomb exploding in World War II."

"I thought it was in my back yard," said Moulton's wife, Yvette. "I thought maybe the swimming pool had blown up."

It took nearly 10 minutes for Henry Moulton to get through to the police dispatcher, whose telephone line was flooded with dozens of similar calls.

What is especially baffling is that, to date, no one has reported finding any evidence of explosions, such as burn marks, splintered wood or rock or other debris.

"There's got to be something, somewhere," said Ellen Lyons.

It would seem unlikely that the blasts are being caused by dynamite or more modern explosives. In the wake of 9-11, even blasting caps must be painstakingly accounted for, making it nearly impossible to misplace such materials without drawing attention from federal investigators. Some residents suspect the blasts could be homemade concoctions of fertilizer, chemicals or explosive gases.

"We definitely want to get to the bottom of this ... absolutely," said Selectman Kevin O'Connor.

Deputy Police Chief Richard Burrows said the police don't know what's causing the low-pitched booms and are looking for the public's help.

Comment: First we have mystery booms in Richmond Virginia, now more booms accompnaied by lights in the sky in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Just what is going on...?

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