Tuesday, December 7, 2004
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Picture of the Day



Us Vs. Them
From: Heretic, Soldier, Iraq
To: GI Special
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2004 4:05 AM
Subject: Us vs Them

I am a manipulated stooge who sold his soul to exploit the ignorant with the proud lies our own leaders.
 
I am told on a regular basis "The Army is not like it used to be." Most of the lifers think that the military lacks discipline and blame the new "Nintendo generation" soldiers for the weakness.
 
However, I think a hard look should be given at the uses of America's advanced military in the modern era. Due to the operations the military has been tasked in the last forty years, the nobility of the professional soldier has been destroyed.
 
From Vietnam to Iraq the Armed Forces has been a chess piece in a game for money and power by elite Americans. Back in the world wars the military represented every citizen's will. Today the people are duped with lies and phony values to support imperial progress.

Comment: Wasn't it George W. Bush's grandfather who profited handsomely from the living hell that was WWII?
 
Weapons of mass destruction, links to the two towers tragedy, and the ousting of an oppressive dictatorship are all bait for a revenge hungry over-patriotic American.
 
I doubt that the men in power are as incompetent as the world imagines. For that reason I dismiss the apparent failures in Iraq as not the true goals of this war. After these errors are eliminated you are left with the truth behind the media smoke screens.
 
This war is about money.
 
Most people believe that dollars are being handed over to Iraq to rebuild their country on the backs of the American tax payers and under the protection of US troops.
 
However, the money never sees Iraq. It leaves your wallet and goes through the system in DC and ends up in a corporation with the sizeable government contract. Sure the product is a new road, a school house or AK-47s for the Iraqi National Guard, but the money is only making a rich man richer.
 
Even the soldiers are brain washed into hating the "rag heads".
 
I have overheard soldiers telling racist jokes like "Why do Iraqis smell so bad? So blind people can hate them too." It becomes easy to hate the Arab people. We don't understand their culture, their religion and their language. They are a poor people with a lesser quality of lifestyle and standard of living. The average soldier can not relate to living without electricity, plumbing, and toilet paper.
 
If we see them as inferior it makes it easier to kill them. Just as one might kill a dog that digs through his trash. As a soldier gets into combat situations the prejudice grows as they blame every Middle-Easterner for the conflict.
 
The Joes hate Iraqis because the command hypes about being in Iraqi to stabilize a democracy and fight terrorists on their own ground. The leadership never explains the fact that a majority of Iraqis don't want a republic that is just a branch of the Western materialistic culture and that they see America as a tyrant equal to the fallen Saddam's Baath Party.
 
Most soldiers mistake the word insurgent to mean a person that is inserted. As if we are fighting men from other countries than Iraq. When, insurgent means rebel.
 
The common GI won't investigate why the insurgent will sacrifice himself, because most soldiers would never do the same.
 
But somewhere in the back of the GI's mind he has a sense that what he is doing here is wrong. It gives him doubt and discourages his morale.
 
The lifers hold on to the lies of the system because the truth would destroy the core of their beliefs. The fact that the stars and bars is only an illusion for the real power behind the throne could ruin their psyche and crash their egos. They will never let go of their pride and use it as an excuse to cover their fear.
 
A war backed by our nations cowards. What else would a preemptive strike be good for. Americans get so afraid they will kill in cold blood and thump their chests to claim it for a good cause.
 
History is written by the victors and might makes right. After all is said and done it will go down that way in the books. We will kill communists, drug dealers and terrorists. Next will be homosexuals and atheists. Then full circle back to Jews and Blacks. Fear and prejudice is destructive and we dominate using it. Every country folds to American policies afraid their homes will become the next Baghdad.

And, our leaders use media to force the United States people into anxiety using colored threat levels, video of violence, and worse case scenarios presented as emergency updates. We even had Colin Powell lie to the worlds most powerful council, the U.N., about Iraq's malicious intent with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. America intimidates the world while calling the insurgent freedom fighters terrorists.
 
So Americans can't let go of their fear. Like it is a security blanket from a childhood memory.
Just as most people can't relax their guard, in Nam lifers couldn't relate to the men that was turned on to marijuana.
 
To let your mind and body go and become open to the chaos of the world is impossible for a person who lives in constant fear of the unknown truth. Drug usage isn't as much of a problem here in Iraq amongst the soldiers, yet. However with a draft, the inactive reserve and more stop-loss it won't be long before more soldiers discover the potency of Arab hashish and opium based narcotics.
 
There will be a division between lifers and the heads again. It has already started with the stop-lossed soldier obviously not wanting to be in service any longer. Many of them get court marshaled or chaptered out with dishonorables saving the military from paying an already deserved Collage GI Bill and other veterans benefits.
 
As war here in the middle-east gets more violent the soldiers will become less afraid of punishment. Prison will become a more sane option than trying to take Fallujah for the fourth time.
 
Most the soldiers I have talked to have joined for selfish reasons. They wanted money for collage, travel the world, get out of a dead end, avoid going to prison, or had no direction in life.
 
The boys who joined up to defend the red white and blue are few and far between. I met some soldiers that were motivated by September 11th, but not many. It is a need in today's society to find alternate advantages to enlist, and when kids learn what they really signed themselves up for it is a rude awakening. Many soldiers are counting down to their last day in the military from the first few hours at basic training.
 
For all these reasons, whether the G.I.s are conscious of it or not, the military personal have a decreased motivation and intensity.
 
We fight for lies, are alienated by our chain of command and are only trying to ride out the clock until we can finish our contracts without losing what we have worked for or seeing the inside of a prison cell.
 
The Armed Forces will never have a loyal troop base until its goals change. If there was something worth fighting for, something the common man can gain, rather than just being underpaid mercenaries for some elitist, then the soldiers would have more encouragement to join in work hard.
 
I myself find it difficult to have discipline in an Army full of ass-kissing lying hypocrites who enforce a wicked US policy with a violent war I disagree with.
 
I serve in shame,
 
The Heretic, Iraq

Comment: The author certainly makes some keen observations regarding the state of the American people and the probable future of the US as a whole. See the following articles...

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Eco-Terrorism Suspected in Md. Fires
By STEPHEN MANNING, Associated Press Writer
December 7, 2004

INDIAN HEAD, Md. - Investigators suspect arson in at least four of the fires that destroyed a dozen homes and burned several others in a posh subdivision under construction near a nature preserve, and the FBI said it would look into ecoterrorism as a possible motive.

Some $10 million in damage was done as 41 homes burned Monday at the Hunters Brooke subdivision, about 25 miles south of Washington. Environmental and community groups tried to block the development in a lawsuit last year that claimed it would hurt one of the nation's last undisturbed magnolia bogs.

Arson caused the fires in at least four homes near Indian Head in Charles County, said Faron Taylor, a deputy state fire marshal.

"We are not going to reveal where in the homes the fires were set, or the method of ignition," Taylor said late Monday. "Only the perps and us know that, and we're not going to tip our hand."

FBI spokesman Barry Maddox said FBI agents examined the scene, and ecoterrorism was one of the motives that would be investigated.

The homes, which were not occupied, were priced between $400,000 and $500,000. The Sierra Club called the 319-unit development "quintessential sprawl" in its Fall 2000 sprawl report, noting it is far from existing infrastructure and "threatens a fragile wetland and important historical sites near the Chesapeake Bay."

The homes, on lots about a quarter acre each, were spread over a 10-acre area, Taylor said. Television coverage showed the fires, first reported before 5 a.m. Monday, at scattered spots around the neighborhood. [...]

Comment: And so it begins. Environmentalists are now associated with terrorism. Ongoing "ecoterrorist attacks" are not even needed - just a mini-Reichstag fire in the beginning. Just look at 9/11 and the aftermath. Many Americans still quake in their boots when the latest invented terror threat is released. There is no need for more large-scale attacks like those of 9/11. A reader sent us the following comments on the economy that relate to this topic:

I watched CNN's latest fear-programming program, "Nuclear Terror," the other night and this concept of "stemming the flow" was brought home to me.

Specifically, if there is even a tip that a bomb is on its way to the port of L.A. from Hong Kong or someplace, they could very well shut down the port. This would immediately mean shelves emptying, jobs gone, ships and containers in holding patterns with nowhere to go, a total foul-up of the supply line that would have international repercussions, and some degree of hysteria as soon as the word got out -- or should I say, is broadcast hysterically by the media, thanks to the conditioning that has resulted in a jumpy/jittery populace. It might even have implications for other U.S. ports.

And ***there doesn't even have to be a real issue*** just a tip that could be false information. This is an unbelievably fragile system and thus easy to control.

We have long suspected that if the plans of Bush, the Neocons, and the Zionists are to continue, the US will clamp down on anyone who does not get in line or meet the Neocons' standards: liberals, environmentalists, truth-seekers, peace activists, and so on. With the economy likely to crash in the very near future and a war on terror that stretches off over the horizon, the fear and anger of the masses in the US will be easily channeled into the service of the empire, just like in Germany before WWII.

The process already began on 9/11. This article is just the next step.

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Feds propose database to track all college and university students
by Diana Jean Schemo,
The New York Times
Nov. 29, 2004

WASHINGTON -- A proposal by the federal government to create a vast new database of enrollment records on all college and university students is raising concerns that the move will erode the privacy rights of students.

Until now, universities have provided individual student information to the federal government only in connection with federally financed student aid. Otherwise, colleges and universities submit information about overall enrollment, graduation, prices and financial aid without identifying particular students.

For the first time, however, colleges and universities would have to give the federal government data on all students individually, whether or not they received financial assistance, with their Social Security numbers.

The bid arises from efforts in Congress and elsewhere to extend the growing emphasis on school accountability in elementary and high schools to postsecondary education. Supporters say that government oversight of individual student data will make it easier for taxpayers and policy makers to judge the quality of colleges and universities through more reliable statistics on graduation, transfers and retention.

The change would also allow federal officials to track individual students as they journey through the higher education system. In recent years, increasing numbers of students have been attending more than one university, dropping out or taking longer than the traditional four years to graduate. Current reporting practices cannot capture such trends; a mobile student is recorded as a new student at each institution.

Under the proposal, the National Center for Education Statistics at the Department of Education would receive, analyze and guard the student data. In making its case for the change, the national center points to a long history of working with student information and says it has never been forced to share such data with law enforcement or other agencies. [...]

But Jasmine L. Harris, legislative director at the U.S. Student Association, said that since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the balance between privacy and the public interest had been shifting.

"We're in a different time now, a very different climate," Harris said. "There's the huge possibility that the database could be misused, and there are no protections for student privacy."

She pointed to the National Directory of New Hires, a register of people who re-enter the work force, which began as an effort to track employment trends. Since its creation, however, the database has also been used to track parents who fail to pay child support or who owe the federal government non-tax debt, she said. "The door is wide open," Harris said. [...]

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Navy: Some SEALs Photos for Intelligence
By SETH HETTENA, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 7, 2:57 AM ET

SAN DIEGO - Preliminary findings of a military inquiry suggest that some of the recently published photographs of Navy special forces capturing detainees in Iraq were taken for legitimate intelligence-gathering purposes and showed commandos using approved procedures, a Navy spokesman said Monday.

The photos, which have drawn a strong reaction in Arab media, also appear to show Navy SEALs sitting or lying on top of hooded and handcuffed detainees in the back of a pickup truck.

Citing the ongoing investigation, a spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado declined comment on the pickup truck pictures, among 40 images of detainees which an Associated Press reporter found on a commercial photo-sharing Web site posted by a woman who said her husband brought them from Iraq.

Senior officers at the SEALs headquarters said other photos are "consistent with the use of tactics, techniques and procedures in the apprehension of detainees," Navy Cmdr. Jeff Bender said.

He cited as an example a photo in which a uniformed man is holding the head of a prisoner to pose him for a picture for "identification purposes." A gun with an attached flashlight is being used to illuminate the detainee's face for the photograph, Bender said.

Taking photos of prisoners for administrative or intelligence purposes is an exception to Navy regulations that generally forbid unofficial photos of prisoners of war.

In another photo, a commando standing with upraised fists next to a detainee is using hand signals to communicate with other troops who do not appear in the image, according to Bender.

The two photos are part of a larger group of mug shots of detainees, whose faces were blacked out in the pictures posted online. Some drip blood, which experts on the law of war said was not by itself a sign of abuse. It was unclear whether the detainees resisted capture by Navy special forces. [...]

Comment: There, see? It was just a big misunderstanding. The US does not extradite "terrorists" to countries like Syria and Egypt to be tortured, and Abu Ghraib was just a bad dream. Some of the prisoners in these new photos even beat themselves up until they were bloody. That's just how crazy these terrorist evildoers are!

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New probe opened into death of US football star-turned-soldier
AFP
Tuesday December 7, 2:30 PM

The US Army has launched a new investigation into the death of a US football star who turned down a lucrative sport career to fight the war on terror as a simple soldier, a military official disclosed late.

Twenty-seven-year-old Army Ranger Pat Tillman was killed in southeastern Afghanistan last April, in what was initially described by his superiors as a shootout with Taliban guerrillas who had attacked his convoy.

A subsequent probe determined that Tillman, who gained national hero status when he forswore a 3.6-million-dollar National Football League contract to join special forces for 18,000 dollars a year in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, fell victim of "friendly fire."

But independent probes undertaken in the intervening months by two leading US newspapers have shown the episode could have been the result of outright negligence on the part of Tillman's superiors.

"Because of concerns and questions that the Tillman family had, the Army started a new investigation into this matter," Sergeant Kyle Cosner, a spokesman for the Army Special Operations Command, told AFP. [...]

The Los Angeles Times, for instance, quoted Afghan militia commanders as expressing doubt the Ranger unit was under rebel attack to begin with.

The commanders said one team of Rangers had likely mistaken a landmine explosion for an attack and began uncontrollably strafing a canyon where Tillman and other US soldiers were, the newspaper report points out.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post quoted a confidential Army document questioning the wisdom of a commander's decision to split Corporal Tillman's platoon into two teams, saying it had "contributed to the eventual breakdown in internal platoon communications."

As a result, the late football star's family is now raising pointed and angry questions about the Pentagon's handling of the matter. [...]

Comment: Remember the story about brave and heroic Pat Tillman? The following article contains a summary of the first story we were told about Tillman's death.

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Flashback: Tillman Killed by 'Friendly Fire'

By Josh White, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sun May 30, 2004 1:00 AM ET

Pat Tillman, the former pro football player, was killed by other American  troops in a "friendly fire" episode in Afghanistan  last month and not by enemy  bullets, according to a U.S. investigation of the incident.

New details released yesterday about Tillman's death indicate that he was  gunned down by members of his elite Army Ranger platoon who mistakenly shot in  his direction when the unit was ambushed. According to a summary of the Army  investigation, a Ranger squad leader mistook an allied Afghan Militia Force  soldier standing near Tillman as the enemy, and he and other U.S. soldiers  opened fire, killing both men.

That Tillman, 27, wasn't killed by enemy fire in a heroic rescue attempt was a  major revelation by the U.S. military more than a month after the April 22  incident, which the Pentagon and members of Congress had hailed as an example  of combat bravery. Tillman's sacrifice of millions of dollars when he left the  National Football League's Arizona Cardinals to become a soldier has been held  up as a stark contrast to the prison scandal in Iraq.

Comment: And here we see one of the reasons for the blatant lies...

Shortly after his death, Army officials awarded Tillman a Silver Star for  combat valor and a Purple Heart. He also was promoted from specialist to  corporal. They said Tillman was killed while charging at the enemy up a hill,  allowing the rest of his platoon to escape alive.

Instead, it appears Tillman's bravery in battle led him to become a victim of a  series of errors as he was trying to protect part of his stranded platoon,  which Army officials say was attacked while hampered by a disabled vehicle it  had in tow. The report said Tillman got out of his vehicle and shot at the  enemy during a 20-minute firefight before he was killed when members of his  unit opened fire after returning to the scene to help. [...]

Comment: So, first Tillman was a hero for charging at the enemy up a hill, thereby allowing the rest of his platoon to escape. Then the story changed to his death due to friendly fire when he was trying to protect his stranded platoon from an attack by enemy soldiers. Now it seems the story is changing again: there may not have been any attack at all. Tillman was killed by friendly fire when his fellow soldiers freaked out and started firing wildly when a land mine detonated. We anxiously await episode four of this exciting saga!

If the government will lie to such an extent just to drum up support for the war and make Americans forget about Abu Ghraib, how many other bigger lies have been passed off as the truth to the masses? And what does the intentional propaganda involving Tillman - released around the time the Abu Ghraib story broke - say about the complicity of the government, intelligence agencies, and military in the torture committed at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere? If Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples, why would the Tillman propaganda be needed?

In any case, it was well-conceived propaganda - even though the execution was obviously far from flawless. A football star who had been offered over three million dollars by the NFL turns down the offer, joins the military, and sets off to defend his countrymen from evil terrorists. If Tillman's death had not been glorified as it was, some Americans may have looked upon his death as unnecessary, and his passing up of the NFL contract as a terrible waste. Had it not been for Abu Ghraib, a simple little lie about Tillman's fate would have prevented any doubt amongst the masses. Instead, he was made into a self-sacrificing and noble hero, thereby reinforcing his decision, making all football players look good (and we all know how terribly important sports stars are in American culture), and stirring up a tidal wave of patriotism that drowned out any concern about US forces using torture.

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CIA officials provide bleak assessments of Iraq
AFP
Tue Dec 7, 3:16 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The departing CIA station chief in Iraq and another CIA official who visited there recently presented bleak views of the situation in Iraq in classified briefings to their superiors, The New York Times said.

In a classified cable sent in late November, the CIA chief who ended a year-long tour of duty in Iraq, warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian violence unless the Iraqi governement asserted authority and built up the economy, said officials familiar with his cable.

The CIA chief's identity was withheld, but officials described him as highly regarded within the intelligence agencies.

The CIA official who visited Iraq and then briefed officials from other US government agencies was Michael Kostiew, a senior adviser to new Central Intelligence Agency chief Porter Goss. His asessment of Iraq was similarly bleak, the officials said.

Both assessments were much more pessimistic than the picture of Iraq offered by top US government officials and could signify that Goss is willing to listen to different views than those expressed by the US administration, The New York Times said.

Comment: What about the fact that Goss is purging the CIA of anyone who isn't in Bush's back pocket?

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Bush, Christian Right and Zionism
By Ibrahim Ebeid

George W. Bush was reselected to be the Imperial President of the United States by the extreme political and Christian right. He was entrusted to rule four more miserable years. The United States will suffer under his tyranny, more young people will die in Iraq in vain and more Iraqis will suffer and die as well.

The Christian Right are Christians who are not right Christians but racist Zionists and President Bush became their representative and their advocate. President Bush is not a right Christian, he dose not follow the teaching of Christ. Christ came to spread love, harmony and peace on Earth but President Bush came to murder, spread fear, horror and terrorize the Earth. Any country that does not follow him would be attacked and ruined.

Iraq was a country that progressed and chose its way in developing itself for its own benefits and for the benefits of the Arab Nation as a whole. It believed in an Arab ideology, which is nationalist in character and humanitarian in scope. To be effective in participating in the advancement of the world the Arab World has to be liberated, free and united.

Palestine was occupied and a racist entity was established there in Palestine. The Palestinians became refugees and most of them are scattered around the World. This is a catastrophe, which was created by the Imperialist West who was responsible for the creation of the racist Zionist entity.

Iraq believes in the reunification of the Arab land and has realized that Palestine was occupied and the majority of its people were forced, under the gun, to live in exile. Zionists from around the World are squatting in the homes of the Palestinians. Of course this is unjust; no people should be deprived from having a normal life with dignity in their own land. Palestine has to be liberated, its people should return to their cities, towns and villages. Palestine should be liberated and restored to the Arab fold in order to achieve Arab Unity.

George W. Bush adopted the Christian right ideology, which is Zionist, and he became a pawn in the hands of this unchristian movement, which poses danger not only to other countries but to the United State as well. The Zionist ideology that he embraced is a racist one that poses a grave danger to the entire World and the United States is not excluded.

Zionism, which was born in the Imperialist West, found a strategic ally in Imperialist USA. This racist movement was capable of dominating the United States and dragging it to launch a war of aggression against Iraq to occupy and ruin it. This war was waged on behalf of "Israel" and the Christian Zionist were behind it to hasten the second coming of Christ.

The Zionists played a major role in this racist war against the Arab Nation. The Zionist entity was entrusted by the Imperialist United States to destroy, kill Palestinians and annex what was left of Palestine. The United States was entrusted by the Zionist entity to destroy Iraq in order to keep "Israel" expanding to realize the dream of Zionism for greater "Israel".

"Israel" is playing a major role in the war in Iraq. Despite American concealment of this fact, Al Hayat newspaper reported that soldiers, officers and rabbis of dual citizenships took part in the battles and that some of the "Israelis" were killed by the resistance's bullets, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The killing of an "Israeli" officer in Fallujah exposed the existence of a large number of "Israeli" officers, snipers, and paratroopers in Iraq. Based on Zionist "Israeli" press statistics, "Israel" currently has no fewer than 1,000 officers and soldiers scattered around the American units working in Iraq. In addition, 37 rabbis are operating within the American troops, which lead us to believe that the real number is greater.

Reports that come to us from Iraq confirm the cooperation of the Zionist entity with the United States on the aggression against Iraq. The Mossad is scattered in the North as well as in the South. Offices are opened in these areas. Land is being acquired by Zionist Jews in Kirkuk, Mosul Sulaymaniah and in other cities. Also it was reported that Allawi is sending his top officers to Israel" to get training how to fight against "guerilla warfare" and that Israel is also strengthening its relation with the Kurdish leadership, which started decades ago with Mustafa Barazani.

Many reports came from Fallujah that the United States soldiers were using forbidden arms in this embattled city. The Sunday Mirror of London reported on November 28, 2004 that the US troops were secretly using outlawed napalm and gas to wipe out "remaining insurgents" in and around Fallujah, though that napalm was forbidden and outlawed by the United Nations in 1980.

Since that American Zionist onslaught on Fallujah citizens and reporters have reported seeing many corpses scattered in the streets that look melted and charred as a result of the use of napalm.

The United States had used outlawed weapons before, in Bosnia and in Iraq. Depleted uranium was used in Iraq at a large scale in 1991 by George W. H. Bush and during the invasion by George W. Bush, the son. The water of the Iraqi rivers and lakes were poisoned and the marine life was destroyed. The soil also was poisoned, including the air and the environment became unsafe for man, animal and plant.

Fallujah became a ruined city; its citizens are not able to return. Its schools, homes and places are destroyed. Allawi claims that it is not safe for the citizens of Fallujah to return. They are not allowed to return and they are being forced to live in sickening conditions in the desert without food and shelter and if they return what they will find?

Ask Bush And Allawi!

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Soldiers File Suit Over Extended Enlistments
By Esther Schrader, Times Staff Write

WASHINGTON -- Saying they were duped into enlisting in the armed forces without being told they could be prevented from leaving, eight soldiers filed a lawsuit Monday challenging a policy forcing them to serve in Iraq beyond their terms of enlistment.

"I served five months past my one-year obligation and I feel that it's time to let me go back to my wife," David Qualls, a specialist in the Arkansas National Guard, told a news conference in Washington.

The suit is the latest legal challenge to the U.S. Army's "stop-loss policy" that has prevented thousands of soldiers from leaving the military when their volunteer service commitment is over. Earlier, several California National Guard soldiers who received orders to report for duty took the policy to court individually. The suit filed Monday differed from the earlier legal challenges in that the soldiers were on active duty in Iraq.

Under the stop-loss program, the Army can extend enlistments during war or national emergencies. The policy was used before, in the buildup to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

But the policy is based on a federal statute that was not included in contracts signed by the soldiers when they enlisted. The lawsuit contends that that makes the policy a breach of contract because it extends soldiers' length of service without their consent.

"This was fraudulent enlistment, and the fact that the Pentagon is seeking to enforce this is somewhat shocking," said Jeffrey Fogel, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a liberal-leaning civil rights group based in New York assisting the eight soldiers in their lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman, said the Pentagon had not reviewed the lawsuit and would not comment. But he defended the policy of extending tours of duty, saying it was needed for cohesiveness and continuity.

"The alternative is people start leaving that unit in the middle of a tour," he said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked at a briefing about the lawsuit, said that military conflict necessitates sacrifices by enlistees.

"We are a nation that remains at war," McClellan said. "We're at war against terrorism. It's important that we win this war. We appreciate the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. And these are difficult issues sometimes that the Department of Defense has to work to address."

Qualls, the only plaintiff publicly identified, is home on leave. The other seven are now serving in Iraq or are in Kuwait en route to Iraq.

The soldiers sued Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior military officials in federal court, asking to be immediately released from military servicebecause they had served out their contracts.

Qualls and two other plaintiffs enlisted under so-called Try One contracts that allow veterans to serve for one year before committing to full enlistment. Qualls said that when his contract expired a year later, he was told he could not return home from Iraq, where he had served nine months, to his wife and daughter in Arkansas.

Four others are serving under multiyear contracts that also have run out. The remaining soldier's contract doesn't expire until spring, but he has been told to expect to serve in Iraq beyond the expiration date.

"What it boils down to in my opinion is a question of fairness," Qualls, 35, said. "I feel it's time to let me go back to my wife."

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Preemption for All!
December 6, 2004
by Paul Craig Roberts

Has President Bush lost his grip on reality?

In his Dec. 1 speech in Halifax, Nova Scotia, President Bush again declared his intention to preemptively attack "enemies who plot in secret and set out to murder the innocent and the unsuspecting." Freedom from terrorism, Bush declared, will come only through preemptive war against enemies of democracy.

How does Bush know who and where these secret enemies are? How many more times will his guesses be wrong like he was about Iraq?

What world does Bush live in? The U.S. cannot control Iraq, much less battle the rest of the Muslim world and beyond. While Bush threatened the world with U.S. aggression, headlines revealed the futility of preemptively invading countries: "Pentagon to Boost Iraq Force by 12,000," "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq at Highest Monthly Level," "Wounded, Disabled Soldiers Kept on Active Duty."

We are getting our butts kicked in Iraq, and Bush wants to invade more countries? It is clear as day that we do not have enough troops to deal with Iraq. The 12,000 additional troops "to improve security" are being acquired by extending the combat tours of troops already on duty in Iraq. More U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq in November than in any previous month. The U.S. is so hard-up for troops that the Pentagon is deploying soldiers who have lost arms and legs in combat. On Dec. 1, the Washington Post reported: "U.S. armed forces have recently announced new efforts to keep seriously wounded or disabled soldiers on active duty."

Redeploying the disabled is presented as a heroic demonstration of our gung-ho warriors' fighting spirit. But what it really means is we have no more troops to throw at the few thousand lightly armed Iraqi insurgents who have tied down eight U.S. divisions.

According to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, the hospital has treated 20,802 U.S. troops for injuries received in Iraq. According to the Pentagon's figures, 54 percent of the wounded are too seriously injured to return to their units. If that figure is correct, it would mean that the insurgents have put 11,233 U.S. troops out of action. Add in the 1,254 U.S. troops who have been killed for a total of 12,487. That's 9 percent of our total force in Iraq and a much higher percentage of our combat force.

There is no indication that we have put 12,487 Iraqi insurgents out of action. Indeed, until very recently, the U.S. military estimated that there were only several thousand active insurgents in all of Iraq.

Someone needs to tell Bush that terrorists are stateless and that invading states creates insurgencies. In Iraq, our soldiers are not fighting terrorists. They are fighting an insurgency that Bush created by invading Iraq. Bush's preemptive wars are a good way to depopulate the U.S. and bankrupt our country.

For all our firepower, we are not winning the war. Fallujah has been destroyed, but the U.S. military can claim only 1,200-1,600 insurgents were killed. Many of the dead counted as insurgents are probably civilians killed by the U.S. military's indiscriminate use of high explosives. But even if we assume the military's estimate of enemy dead is accurate, it is an unimpressive figure in view of the 850 wounded and 71 dead Americans. U.S. Fallujah casualties of 921 is a strikingly high figure considering the heavy armor, artillery, helicopter gunships, jet fighters, and sophisticated communications that back up U.S. troops.

Why was Bush in Nova Scotia advocating preemptive invasion unless Bush has other Middle Eastern countries targeted? Iran and Syria are the only two remaining Middle Eastern countries that are not ruled by U.S. puppets.

Lacking sufficient military forces to successfully occupy Iraq, how is Bush going to engage in preemptive wars against Iran and Syria without bringing back the draft? If eight U.S. divisions can't do the job in Iraq, 16 U.S. divisions won't be enough for Iran. Defeating standing armies is a different game from occupying a hostile country. The U.S. military is good at the former, not at the latter.

Bush would serve our country and the rest of the world far better by ceasing his macho aggressive talk and working to create trust and good will. Bush is a very foolish man if he thinks America will bear no consequences for his support of Israel's appalling treatment of the Palestinians. Is Bush really as stupid as he sounds? Is the president of the United States so poorly informed that he believes that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have nothing to do with U.S. support of Israel's destruction of the Palestinian people? [...]

The American public is totally uninformed about the true character of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Americans could learn a great deal by reading Israeli newspapers and the reports of Israeli peace groups. However, it is impossible to believe that the U.S. government is equally in the dark about the consequences of Bush's support for Israeli aggression against the Palestinians and the impact Bush's support of Israel has on Muslims' attitudes toward the U.S.

A president who misled us about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and terrorist links will also mislead us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about Iran's intentions – indeed, about everything. Bush proved that his word cannot be trusted; yet Americans reelected him.

Bush got the voters' message: "Lie to us some more."

On Dec. 3, Russian President Vladimir L. Putin replied to Bush's Halifax speech by declaring Bush's policy "dictatorial and hypocritical." Russia's leader warned that policies "based on the barrack-room principles of a unipolar world appear to be extremely dangerous." Russian Air Force commander General Vladimir Mikhailov announced that Russia, too, can engage in preemptive attacks. Russia has informed neighboring Georgia that Russia might use cruise missiles and strategic bombers in preventive strikes against Chechen terrorists sheltering on Georgian territory.

Bush's insane doctrine of preemptive war promises a 21st century more bloody than the 20th.

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Karzai sworn in as Afghan leader

Tuesday, 7 December, 2004

Hamid Karzai has been sworn in as Afghanistan's first directly-elected president amid tight security at the former royal palace in Kabul.

Mr Karzai, who has led the country since the Taleban were ousted in 2001, won landmark elections in October.

Among the 150 guests at the ceremony were US Vice-President Dick Cheney and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Ordinary Afghans were urged to stay at home amid fears of attacks by Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters.

"We have now left a hard and dark past behind us, and today we are opening a new chapter in our history in a spirit of friendship with the international community," he said.

He told his audience that the fight against the remnants of the former Taleban regime was "not yet over", and urged sustained international aid and co-operation to defeat increasing links between extremists and drug-trafficking.

"The same co-operation has led to the rebuilding of the Afghan state and significant progress in restoring peace, stability and security to our country," he said. [...]

Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld left Kabul later on Tuesday, after being advised not to stay in the city overnight for security reasons.

Early, Mr Cheney rallied US troops at Bagram airbase near the capital.

"For the first time the people of this country are looking confident about the future of freedom and peace," he told them.

Referring to the former regime and the al-Qaeda network it harboured, he added: "The dictatorship that harboured the most vicious terrorist network in history is now history."

Afghanistan is still riven by tribal differences, with hugely influential warlords such as Abdul Rashid Dostum controlling large swathes of the country.

Western governments also fear that a boom in opium farming is threatening to flood Europe with cheap heroin and turn Afghanistan into a virtual "narco-state".

Comment: Had enough of the "official story"? How about some real news?

Karzai was a Unocal "consultant" to the Taliban during the mid 90's. In 1997 Unocal, with the help of Karzai, entertained Taliban leaders in Texas, buttering them up with a view to signing a contract that would allow Unocal to build an oil pipeline from the Caspian basin through Afghanistan en route to the sea. Now remember, at this time the US government has already branded the Taliban an "evil regime" and publically called their policies towards women and children "despicable". The US government had also accused the Taliban of "harboring" Osama bin Laden, the man who, according to US government officials had bombed US embassies and murdered American citizen. Kind of makes one wonder does it not?

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Israel and Egypt swap prisoners

By Dan Williams
Reuters
Monday 06.12.2004, CET 02:44

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Egypt has sent a convicted Israeli spy home after eight years in jail and Israel released six Egyptian infiltrators in
the clearest sign of a warming of relations strained by a Palestinian uprising.

Both cases had elements of the bizarre. Azzam Azzam, an Israeli Arab textile worker, was alleged to have passed messages in women's underwear soaked in invisible ink. Israel said the Egyptians detained last summer planned to hijack an army tank.

By putting the two affairs behind them, Israel and Egypt seemed to be setting the stage for closer security cooperation over Prime Minister

Ariel Sharon's plan to pull troops and settlers out of neighbouring Gaza in 2005.

Shouting "I am born again", Azzam, a member of the Druze sect, crossed into Israel from Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Sunday hours after six Egyptian students charged with conspiring to attack Israeli soldiers were returned home.

Jailed in 1996 in Egypt, where he worked in a joint Israeli-Egyptian textile venture, Azzam was sentenced a year later to a 15-year prison
term after being found guilty of spying for Israel's Mossad intelligence service.

Azzam and Israel denied the charges which included allegations he used the invisible ink to communicate with a purported Egyptian
co-conspirator.

Sharon's office hailed Azzam's release as a "personal gesture" to the prime minister by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, reciprocated
by Israel's agreement to free the infiltrators it arrested in August.

"This humanitarian gesture will contribute to a strengthening of relations between Egypt and Israel," the prime minister's office quoted him as telling Mubarak.

Egypt's state news agency MENA said Azzam was freed for health reasons after serving a significant part of his sentence.

The dual release, which scored points at home for Sharon as he battles to put together a new governing coalition, also appeared to hold out an olive branch to the Palestinians.

PALESTINIAN PRISONERS

"In addition, as a gesture to Mubarak, Sharon instructed the security authorities to examine the possibility of shortening the prison terms of Palestinian prisoners," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

A prisoner release could help strengthen moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, favoured by Israel and the United States as a
potential peacemaker following the November 11 death of Yasser Arafat.

The Azzam case cast a deeper shadow over what Israelis call a "cold peace" with Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to
sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state.

After the start of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, relations took another turn for the worse with Egypt's recall of its ambassador in Tel Aviv.

Last August, Israeli authorities arrested six Egyptian students, aged between 21 and 25, near the desert border for crossing into Israel
illegally armed with an airgun and 14 knives.

Prosecutors said the infiltrators planned to hijack a tank, kill its crew and then rob a bank to finance more attacks.

Parents of the Egyptian students have said in interviews that their sons had no political views and had gone to Israel merely to find work.

Breaking with its policy of neither confirming nor denying allegations having to do with intelligence activity, Israel insisted from the outset
Azzam had no connection to its spy services.

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Israeli jailed for role in terror group that attacked Arab schools

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
07 December 2004

An extreme right Jewish settler convicted under counter-terrorism legislation for membership of an organisation that killed eight Palestinian civilians was jailed for eight years yesterday.

Shahar Dvir-Zeliger, a member of the "new Jewish underground" was also found guilty in Jerusalem district court of illegal possession of arms stolen from the Israeli Defence Forces stores. Zeliger belonged to the "Bat Ayin" group, held responsible for several attacks including one which killed a baby, and an ambush on a car in July, 2001, in which three Palestinians were shot dead.

During the investigation, Zeliger led police to the group's massive weapons cache containing guns, anti-tank rockets, and ammunition stolen from Israeli Army weapons stores and bunkers in the West Bank. The cache was hidden in caves near his home in the West Bank settlement of Adi Ad.

The counter-terrorism order under which Zeliger was convicted was last used in the 1980s against members of the "Jewish underground" who bombed the cars of Arab mayors in the West Bank and mounted a shooting attack at the Islamic University in Hebron in which three students were killed.

Judge Yoram Noam said the prison term was the longest he could impose in view of the cooperation shown by Zeliger during the police investigation, which established that some of the weapons had been used to kill Palestinians. But he declared: "The phenomenon of Jewish citizens of Israel belonging to a terrorist organisation aiming to harm Arab residents needs to be eradicated by severe punishment." [...]

Comment: Indeed. The idea that there are Israeli terrorists cannot be allowed to become widely known, and anyway, terrorism is the job of the Israeli government, the Mossad and the IDF.

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Al-Qaeda claims attack on US consulate in Jeddah: website
AFP
December 7, 2004

DUBAI (AFP) - The Saudi branch of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror group used an Islamist web site to claim an unprecedented attack on the US consulate in the Saudi port of Jeddah, stating that some assailants had managed to flee after the operation.

"Your brothers of the squadron of the martyr Abu Annas al-Shami stormed one of the bastions of the American crusaders in the Arabian peninsula, in Jeddah," the statement said.

"They were able to withdraw from the consulate and reach a safe place, after losing two martyrs who covered the retreat of the mujahedeen, three of whom were wounded and are being treated," said the statement signed by the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula.

"Your brothers managed to kill nine people in the consulate, including two Americans and seven soldiers of the tyrannical (Saudi) regime, and wounded dozens more," it said.

The assailants seized "telecommunications machines, light arms, sophisticated electronic equipment and important documents," the group said, promising to release details of what it called "Operation Conquest of Fallujah" after the Iraqi Sunni town stormed by the US army last month.

"This operation is one of the series of operations carried out by the Al-Qaeda organization in their war against the crusaders and the Jews to chase the infidels out of the Arabian peninsula," the group said, adding that "the mujahedeen are determined to pursue their fight."

Gunmen stormed the consulate on Monday, triggering a bloody three-hour siege and a shootout that left five staff and four attackers dead, Saudi officials said. [...]

The brazen attack was the first of its kind on a diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia but the latest in a series of bombings and shootings blamed on Al-Qaeda in the oil-rich desert kingdom since May 2003 that have often targeted foreigners.

The attackers raided the Red Sea beachfront consulate compound in broad daylight in a hail of bullets and explosions that set off a fire and sent black smoke billowing into the sky.

The Saudi interior ministry said in a statement issued early Tuesday that five members of a "deviant group" hurled bombs at one of the gates of the US consulate as a vehicle belonging to the mission was driving in at 11 am (0800 GMT) Monday.

Saudi authorities use the term "deviant group" to refer to suspected sympathizers of Al-Qaeda who have killed more than 90 people and wounded hundreds in the past 19 months.

The five men "then managed to get in the area surrounding the consulate and tried to torch one of the buildings, attacking those who were on the site," said the ministry statement, read on state television.

Security forces rushed to the scene and besieged the assailants, killing three on the spot and wounding the two others, one of whom later died in hospital, the statement said.

"As a result of this criminal action, five people on the scene -- a Yemeni, a Sudanese, a Palestinian, a Pakistani and a Sri Lankan -- were killed," said the interior ministry statement.

US President George W. Bush said the raid proved that terrorists were still active and the Saudi government vowed there would be no let up in its fight against Islamic extremists.

"The attacks in Saudi Arabia remind us that the terrorists are still on the move," Bush said in Washington. "They want us to leave Saudi Arabia, they want us to leave Iraq, they want us to grow timid and weary."

Comment: Wow. These "al-Qaeda terrorists", this "deviant" group are looking more and more like an very well trained military organisation every day. The US mission in Saudi is one of the most heavily guarded buildings in Saudi Arabia - one of the most repressive regimes on the planet - yet this rag-tag bunch of "rag heads" are able to just walk right in and take control.

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Seven bombs go off in Spanish cities
December 7, 2004 - 12:04AM

Seven explosions hit Spain on Monday, wounding at least two people, after the Basque separatist group ETA threatened to set off a series of bombs, Spanish officials and media said.

Officials said the people were wounded in a bomb in Santillana del Mar in northern Spain.

Another bomb exploded in Ciudad Real to the south of Madrid.

El Pais newspaper said on its website that explosions had also gone off in Leon in the north and Malaga in the south. El Mundo's website said explosions were also reported in Avila, north-west of Madrid. Media also reported two more explosions.

None of the sites are within Spain's Basque country, which is made up of three provinces in the north of Spain that Basque nationalists say are part of a greater Basque homeland including Navarra and three provinces in France.

Anonymous callers claiming to speak for ETA told a Basque newspaper earlier that seven cities had been targeted.

A first caller said the devices were timed to explode at 1.30pm (11.30 AEDT) in the northern cities of Avila, Valladolid, Leon and Santillana del Mar, the newspaper Gara said.

A second call came in 15 minutes later warning of explosives also placed in Malaga, Alicante in the east and Ciudad Real.

The Interior Ministry said the seven sites targeted - streets and plazas and a parking lot - had been evacuated and cordoned off.

Five small explosive devices were detonated at service stations along major highways around Madrid on Friday evening after a similar call to Gara from a person claiming to speak for ETA.

Damage was minor and two police officers were slightly injured.

Gara often serves as a mouthpiece for ETA.

Another device was defused in the southern city of Almeria on Saturday.

Monday is a public holiday in Spain to celebrate the 1978 constitution, a source of pride to most Spaniards marking the return to democracy after the four-decade dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Police had warned of a possible ETA attack.

ETA has killed nearly 850 people since 1968 in a bombing and shooting campaign for an independent Basque state. [...]

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Proposed new UN rules could have allowed Iraq war: Britain
AFP
Mon Dec 6, 3:15 AM ET

LONDON - New rules being proposed for a reformed United Nations might have allowed the United States and Britain to carry out their invasion of Iraq with the approval of the world body, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in a newspaper interview.

"Had this new jurisprudence been there, I think the Security Council would probably -- you can't be certain -- have decided to take Chapter 7 action against Iraq in respect of human rights abuses," Straw told the daily The Independent.

"That would have been as much a basis for determining an ultimatum by the Council as weapons of mass destruction became. They are dealing with situations before a latent threat becomes imminent. That's very important," he added.

The proposed new rules were laid out in a report commissioned by UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, and published on Tuesday last week.

The new rules would strengthen the power of the UN Security Council to approve military action against states that were deemed to be failing or refusing to protect their citizens against human rights abuses. [...]

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Iranian squads accused of using torture
AFP
Tue Dec 7, 2:48 AM ET
NEW YORK - Human Rights Watch said secret squads operating under the Iranian judiciary have used torture to force detained Internet journalists and activists to write self-incriminatory "confession letters."

The New York-based group said it had evidence confirming that secret squads of interrogators -- primarily former intelligence officers purged in the late-1990s by President Mohammed Khatami -- forced the detainees to write the letters under extreme pressure as a condition for their release on bail.

"The Iranian government shouldn't think for a minute that anyone will believe in the authenticity of these letters. They're fooling no one," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "With stunts like these, Tehran is rapidly losing its already meager credibility on human rights."

The group believes the Iranian government has resorted to forced confessions to pave the way for the prosecution of reformist politicians and leaders of civil society organizations.

By obtaining self-incriminating confessions, the government is attempting to destroy individuals' reputations, sow discord among activists and ultimately shut down all independent voices and organizations," Human Rights Watch said.

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Florida woman runs over teens who hit her SUV with golf ball
11:44 PM EST Dec 06

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) - A woman ran over two teenage brothers after they accidentally hit her sport utility vehicle with a golf ball they were bouncing in a parking lot, officials said. One of the boys suffered life-threatening injuries.

The 14-and 16-year-old boys were bouncing the golf ball in a shopping centre parking lot Sunday afternoon when it went astray and struck the vehicle driven by 47-year-old Kathy Allen, sheriff's deputy Greg Suchy said.

No damage was done, and the boys apologized and began to walk away, Suchy said. Allen started to drive away, but suddenly made a U-turn, ran over a median and struck the teens before knocking over a light pole, Suchy said.

"I tried to run. I blacked out. I woke up bleeding," Justin Marshman, 16, told the Florida Times-Union.

She then allegedly went after a third brother, but did not hit him. A witness said that after the vehicle came to rest, Allen got out of the car and smoked a cigarette with the boys lying on the ground in pain.

"She charged them. This was the most deliberate act," witness Russell McPhee said. "After she ran them down, she got out of the car and lit a cigarette like a movie star."

Isiah Grayer, 14, was in critical condition Monday. Justin Marshman, his stepbrother, was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Brent Woolbright of the St. Johns County Public Defender's Office said he was assigned Allen's case Monday and was trying to get all the facts.

"I talked to her, and her story is a little different than what was reported," he said.

Allen told the court she has mental problems. A judge ordered her held without bail Monday on three counts of attempted murder.

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Meteor lands with a bang

By Richard Macey
December 7, 2004

After circling the sun for billions of years it exploded over northern NSW yesterday with the force of about 500 tonnes of TNT, shaking people from their sleep and lighting up the pre-dawn sky.

As worried Taree residents phoned police, a shockwave from the meteor's blast was heard by networks of sensitive microphones set up near Hobart and Tennant Creek to listen for secret nuclear tests.

"We saw the shockwave for about five minutes," said David Brown, a scientist from the Federal Government's Geoscience Australia, which runs the listening posts.

Dr Brown said the data showed that the meteor, travelling west to east, broke into about five parts high in the sky just north of Taree at 4.18am.

"Any debris would have fallen into the sea," he said, adding that Geoscience Australia's earthquake monitoring stations did not detect any ground impact.

Dr Brown said the explosion was probably equal to that of about 500 tonnes of TNT but could have been as big as that of 1000 tonnes.

Graham Bird, of Taree police, was among those who heard the meteor's arrival. "I certainly woke up," he said. "It sounded like really heavy thunder."
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Police received reports of the blast from Wollongong to Coffs Harbour, and his own station received about 70 calls, he said.

"We had a few truck drivers say the sky lit up for about four seconds and that it was like daylight," he said.

The blast woke Warren Burnes, owner of a prawn trawler, who was at home in Harrington, 40 kilometres north of Taree.

"I thought it was the local petrol station exploding," he said. "It was very, very loud. I jumped up in bed and looked outside but I saw nothing. Everyone heard it. It made my sister-in-law's baby cry."

A Manly caller to Angela Catterns's ABC radio program said the jolt knocked a painting off her wall, smashing the glass. "It scared the daylights out of me."

Rob McNaught, an astronomer at Siding Spring, near Coonabarabran, said meteors typically entered the atmosphere at about 20 kilometres a second and started glowing 90 kilometres up.

The boom heard by residents suggested that yesterday's meteor was less than 50 kilometres up when it exploded.

If made from stone or iron the meteor was probably at least as big as a basketball.

Mr McNaught said there was a chance that security cameras in eastern NSW recorded the fireball, or at least its reflected glow.

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Meteorite lands in Polonnaruwa

by Manjula Fernando

Further studies are being conducted into the fallen meteorite found at the Sankabodhi Viharaya, Polonnaruwa by the Arthur C Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies to find its definite origin.

The tests are to determine whether the object which shows certain magnetic qualities, is from the asteroid belt, inner solar system or outside the solar system, Dr. Chandana Jayaratne said.

This asteroid which fell to the Sankabodi Viharaya on November 27, creating a fissure 3.6 cm in length, 3.3 cm in width and 3 cm in depth has now been confirmed to be a rare type iron meteorite by the Arthur C Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies after an X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry analysis and several other tests, Dr. Jayaratne said.

A resident monk has seen a blue smoke tail when it came down. According to eye witnesses the object was shining metallic blue but within 24 hours it has turned brownish black due to oxidation after contact with oxygen in the earth's atmosphere.

The meteorite weighing 47.015 grms. consists of elements Ti, Cr, Mn, Fe and Zn and was the first outer space object to be tested since the setting up of the meteorite testing laboratory at the Clarke Institute.

Comment: Few people are aware of the number of "space rocks" that have been raining down on us over the past few years. Is it possible that there really is something out there headed this way? All of the signs suggest that there is, but don't expect to hear anything about it in the mainstream media. They are not interested in real journalism or putting facts together to really inform the public. The public's job is to remain distracted by the banalities of daily life and things like Janet Jackson's right breast. Such things are much more interesting and important than the prospect of impending planetary catastrophe, aren't they

See our recently updated Signs Meteor Supplement for the facts on what has been going on in the heavens for the past three years.

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Earthquake shakes northern Japan
Last Updated Mon, 06 Dec 2004 18:30:36 EST

TOKYO - A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 has jolted the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan.

Japan's Meteorological Agency warned the quake could create a tidal wave off the eastern shores of the island.

There are no reports of injuries. Japanese broadcaster NHK reports train service in the eastern part of the island has been suspended and some homes have lost power.

Monday's quake is the second sizable one to strike the island in the past week. A quake with a magnitude of 7.1 hit Hokkaido Nov. 29, injuring two dozen people.

The island is still recovering from a series of quakes that struck in late October and killed 39 people. The quakes cut water and gas services in Niigata prefecture, about 250 kilometres north of Tokyo, and left more than 46,000 people living in emergency shelters.

That quake was the worst in Japan since 1995, when a quake with a magnitude of 7.2 killed 6,000 people in Kobe.

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Magnitude 5.1 Quake - FIJI REGION
USGS
2004 December 6 16:26:29 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 16:26:29 (UTC) on Monday, December 6, 2004. The magnitude 5.1 event has been located in the FIJI REGION. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Toll of dead and missing from Philippine storms tops 1,400
AFP
December 6, 2004

REAL, Philippines - Relief agencies battled bad weather to deliver supplies into storm-ravaged areas of the Philippines as the toll of dead and missing from two storms in one week exceeded 1,400, officials said.

A tropical storm that hit the country on November 29 -- locally named "Winnie" -- left a total of 669 dead and 697 missing, most of them from the three northeastern coastal towns of Real, Infanta and General Nakar.

Colonel Jaime Buenaflor, the military commander in the storm-hit area, said there were 607 dead and 695 missing in the three towns according to figures from his soldiers who are helping in the relief effort.

The rest of the storm's victims were in other parts of the country as heavy rains caused flooding, landslides and other hazards such as fallen trees and power lines.

Typhoon Nanmadol, which hit on Thursday last week, has caused another 38 deaths and left another 33 people missing, the civil defense office said. [...]

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Ripped roof a casualty of early winter storm
WebPosted Dec 6 2004 01:54 PM NST

ST. JOHN'S  —  A fierce winter storm closed schools, cancelled ferries, made roads treacherous and gave one Bay de Verde family an experience they'll never forget.

Much of Cathy Knapman's roof flew away at about 11:30 Monday morning.

"It's amazing – the wind is unbelievable," Knapman says.

Neighbours arrived with ropes to secure the rest of the Knapman's roof.

"There's nothing here to tie it onto, except a rock."

The storm has left much of her house exposed.

"That's the killer. Our whole house is exposed – if we have snow or rain tonight, everything in the house will be ruined," she says.

The family was not able to get a measurement of wind speed. Knapman said the family had been planning to buy a gauge for Christmas.

High winds, coupled with blizzard conditions, brought daily life to a standstill in different parts of the province.

For example, winds have been clocking well over 100 k/h in western Newfoundland, where most schools in the region are closed.

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UK has fastest growth of psychotropic drugs on children and adolescents
By Liz Smith
6 December 2004

The Archives of Disease in Childhood have just published its latest findings on the "Increased Prescribing Trends of Paediatric Psychotropic Medications". The medicines investigated include antidepressants, stimulants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and other anxiolytics.

The researchers from the Institute of Child Health, University of London, acknowledge that studies in the US and Britain have shown a considerable increase in the prescribing of psychotropic medicines—drugs capable of affecting mental activity. But little information was held regarding other countries. Therefore the study looked at nine countries between 2000 and 2002.

Using prescription data the countries looked at were Britain, France, Germany and Spain (the largest market in Europe), Argentina, Brazil, Mexico (the largest market in South America), Canada and the USA.

The study defined children as those under the age of 18 years. It was found that the number of psychotropic prescriptions for children has risen in all nine countries and seven have shown a significant increase. The UK has the highest percentage increase (68 percent) and the lowest was Germany (13 percent).

These results suggest that the global increases in prescription rates are not only prevalent in the UK and US, but evident in several other countries. The authors express concern that drugs are being used to replace non-drug treatments, but caution that there is insufficient research to confirm or refute this suggestion.

The report does state that "the observed increase in so many countries should raise concern, as little research has been conducted in children to study the effects of most psychotropic medications." [...]

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And finally...

Some See Jesus In Dental X-Ray

NBC30

A Phoenix dentist and his staff say that an X-ray taken this week seems to contain an image resembling Jesus.

The patient came in for a routine exam on Tuesday. The image was revealed when the X-ray was developed.

The patient described himself as a devout Christian, but said he has never before seen Jesus in an X-ray.

The patient's dental exam was perfect.

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