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US President George W. Bush plays cowboy in Chile
after frustrating APECconference

The 12th APEC Summit
Asian-Pacific States Snub George W. Bush
Réseau Voltaire

Brought together in Santiago, Chile for the 12th Asian-Pacific Summit (APEC), twenty-one heads of state and government applied themselves to ignoring US proposals and to forming new commercial relations without Washington. Vladimir Putin positioned himself as the adversary to US imperialism. Hu Jintao successfully thwarted the US in Latin America. Meanwhile George W. Bush, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, got into a punch-up with Chilean police.

The 12th Summit of the economic leaders of the Asian-Pacific zone brought together 21 delegations in Santiago, Chile, November 20 and 21, 2004. This big circus, in itself without interest, was the occasion for numerous chiefs of state and government to multiply bilateral discussions and justify stopovers in all directions coming and going from the conference. The conference was preceded by a surprising and little publicized international trade show on Homeland Security in Honolulu from November 14 to 17, which doubled as a symposium for chiefs of Asian-Pacific multinationals (APEC Business Advisory Council – ABAC). If none of the meetings were important in themselves, the general mixing up of heads of state shook up the equilibrium of regional diplomacy.

The second Asian-Pacific Homeland Security trade show offered Tom Ridge, director of Homeland Security for the US, a rostrum to present the new US-VISIT program which handles biometric surveillance of its borders. The Bush Administration had wanted to sell the initiative to many of the states and to share with them the information collected. The only taker was the already committed delegation from Taiwan, headed by the Minister of the Interior Su Jia-chyuan. The other states were content to acquire the material necessary to make their passports conform to the new US requirements but have no plans to similarly equip their borders.

The Santiago Summit was to have “dynamised the liberalization of world trade” (veritable cliché of any diplomatic summit), “struggled against nuclear proliferation” (that is, put North Korea alone on trial) and “reinforce the war against terrorism” (more precisely, cut off the arming of the Iraqi resistance). It could have also celebrated the new four-year mandate of George W. Bush.

The heads of the multinationals spontaneously prepared for the delegates a motion which had as its aim the creation of an Asian-Pacific Free Trade Zone. The text was drawn up by Hernán Somerville, boss of the Chilean bosses and as such, this year’s chairman of ABAC. It was hardly difficult to see the hand of White House Economic Counsellor, Robert Zoellick, behind this initiative. Zoellick has pushed identical motions at all regional conferences, no matter where they have been held. Washington’s objective is to renegotiate the liberalisation of trade by splitting up the partners rather than passing by the WTO where they form blocks. However, the manipulation was a little too apparent and predictable. The heads of state politely offered their congratulations for this contribution in order to better push it aside.

Even prior to the official opening of the summit, President Bush had declared to the press that the participating states shared the same preoccupation with the development of nuclear arms by North Korea and Iran. On November 17, Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated that he had “seen certain information suggesting that they [the Iranians] were working actively on delivery systems [for nuclear warheads]”. But on November 19, the Washington Post [1] revealed that these accusations, supposedly supported by intelligence reports, were without any basis. November 20, Mr. Powell repeated his accusations in an interview with El Mercurio [2]. But the next day, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergeï Lavrov buried the subject by declaring to the press that Russia had no information that went in this direction and that Mr. Bush was careful not to discuss the question during his meeting with Mr. Putin.

Concerning the struggle against terrorism, George W. Bush didn’t miss the chance, as with every summit since September 11, 2001, to condemn the transnational character of this threat and to invite the international community to support the efforts of the United States to wage this “war”. Normally, the delegations that are trying to win favour with Washington pick up the chorus of this type of speech while the others content themselves with a word of compassion. This time it was different. Three days earlier in Quito the Latin-American states had just refused Rumsfeld’s offer to integrate their armies under the command of the United States in the war on terrorism. [3] They were thus little inclined to read their lines from Bush’s script. Worse, Vladimir Putin launched into a long tirade against States that support terrorism by underlining that the attack in Beslan had nothing to do with the question of Chechnya but was sponsored from outside of Russia. Far from sympathizing with the difficulties of the US, he suggested in thinly veiled words that the US was itself a terrorist state, an allusion all the easier for Latin American states to understand as the CIA is suspected of having restarted their program of assassinations and, notably, of having killed Venezuela’s Procurer General two days earlier. [5]

Pulling the blanket in another direction, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin pushed for the recognition of the “Responsibility to Protect” oppressed populations, as well as his project for a forum of 20 leaders to resolve, among themselves, questions of sanitary security (SARS, bird flu).

Finally, there was even one of Washington’s allies who underlined that US leadership in the struggle against terrorism would be more credible if the State Department first resolved one of the causes of terrorism that it has long allowed to degenerate: the Israeli-Palestianian conflict. If this blow was expected, to general surprise it was delivered by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, followed immediately by Indonesian President Susilo Barnbang Yudhoyono and Malasian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

To sum up, neo-conservative rhetoric is too worn out to continue to surprise, and each state is now opposing it with systematic responses.

The Solitude of George W. Bush

Even if monetary questions were not on the agenda, they haunted the summit. The yuan is still not convertible and its weak value favours Chinese exports towards the US to such an extent that US stores now sell more Chinese than US products. Canada has asked the IMF to calculate whether or not the yuan is undervalued, which could be considered as a form of disguised export subsidy.
In reality, the yuan has been more or less fixed to the dollar since 1994. The Chinese delegation turned the problem on its head: all the while committing itself to making the yuan convertible, China demanded that the US stop the fall of the dollar (down 35% vis-à-vis the euro since the arrival of George W. Bush in the White House). Moreover, the US economy would collapse if China were not supporting the dollar by buying US Treasury Bonds. This is where the shoe pinches: the US economy is in full rout, public accounting is notoriously fixed in such a way that it is difficult to judge the size of the problem; but everyone knows that the colossus with feet of clay could crumble at any moment, taking dependent economies with it, first Japan, then partially the European Union. Furthermore, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koïzimi was particularly worried coming out from his November 20 meeting with George W. Bush: the President of the US told him with a straight face that his administration is committed to keeping the dollar strong. At that moment, the dollar was valued at 102.70 yen, its lowest level since April 2000. [6]

Definitively, the APEC Summit didn’t accomplish much. Mr. Bush, who arrived with high hopes, left not only with nothing positive, but in fact, with much to the contrary. Enraged, he finally lost his cool. For a dinner at the Mapocho Station Cultural Centre, Chile’s secret service was only allowing a limited number of body guards per person to enter. Therefore they turned away a part of Mr. Bush’s escort. Returning to the entrance, Bush demanded that all of those accompanying him be permitted to enter. Words were exchanged. Suddenly, the President of the United States of America attacked the Chilean police, exchanging punches with them. Shortly after, it was announced that the gala supper, offered to 400 guests by Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, had been cancelled to avoid another scuffle.

Far from calming spirits, Mrs Bush then decided to visit the house of poet and communist leader Pablo Neruda, who died in 1973, twelve days after the overthrowing of democracy by the CIA, the death of his friend Salvador Allende, and the installation of the junta of Augusto Pinochet. This visit was an infamous provocation for Chileans at the moment when an independent commission had just established responsibility for the crimes of the dictatorship.

The World is Larger than the US

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi profited from the summit by signing a commercial treaty with Chile. Tokyo wishes to use Santiago as a springboard into the South American continent. An agreement for reciprocal economic support was also signed with Indonesia. However, Mr. Koizumi failed to improve relations with his main neighbours. Fifty-nine years after Japan’s surrender, Tokyo has still not made peace with either Russia or China and continues to have important border differences with them both. Moreover, Tokyo is competing with Beijing for access to Russian energy riches. The difficult relations between the two countries degraded this year when Mr. Koizumi insulted all of the Pacific peoples by attending a memorial ceremony in honour of Japanese war criminals from the Second World War. Chinese President Hu Jintao informally informed Japan during the summit that another such official participation in the ceremony in 2005 would be very badly interpreted by the region. As a peace-making gesture, Mr. Koizumi declared that his country had no intention of going to war against China.

Upon arriving in Santiago, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin was welcomed by his Chilean opposite, Ricardo Lagos. Together they paid homage to the memory of Salvador Allende in front of Moneda Palace, one way, among others, of recalling the long Russo-Chilean friendship that contrasts so clearly with US crimes in the country. After having concluded numerous accords with Chile, Mr. Putin afforded himself a “frank” conversation with his US opposite, George W. Bush. If Putin accepted to renounce 80% of the Iraqi debt, this would only come as an exchange for some progress in the dossier of Russian membership in the WTO. Nothing else emerged from this one on one that was shortened after an exchange of friendly comments about “the return of Russian centralism” and “foreign interference in the Ukraine”. On his way back from the conference, Vladimir Putin stopped over in Brazil and then in La Haye to meet with the European Commission. Just enough time to verify that the list of contentious issues with the Commission President, the very Atlanticist Jose Manuel Barroso, is the same as those with Mr. Bush.

The Russian President presented a determined and systematic opposition to the United States. As if, persuaded that the world is facing a Second Cold War, he is presenting himself as the champion of the “Nyet!”, the natural alternative to the bellicose US.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun multiplied his stopovers on his way to APEC. He stopped in Los Angeles to give a speech to the World Affairs Council. To the surprise and indignation of the United Staters, he explained that the demands of the North Koreans in nuclear matters were justified by the military threat that Washington held over Pyongyang. Then, he went to Argentina and Brazil to negotiate a commercial agreement with Mercosur, of which these two countries are the leaders.

On his way to APEC, Chinese President Hu Jintao stopped over briefly in Portugal in order to have the Lusitanian world opened to him by Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopez. Equipped with these recommendations, he went on to Brazil to meet with President Lula da Silva. The two countries already have important commercial relations and a common satellite programme. In Argentina, the Chinese President signed five agreements with his opposite, Nestor Kirchner, instantly increasing commercial exchanges between the two countries by 122%. Other than that, during the summit, Hu Jintao signed several agreements with Ricardo Lagos, agreements which were also for considerable amounts. Even more spectacular was the stopover on his return flight to hail his Cuban opposite Fidel Castro and his brother Raul who will succeed him. The two countries claim to be socialist, however, during the last few years, China has invented a hybrid system of national capitalism. China is, with Russia, the principal partner in aiding Cuba to overcome the economic embargo of the United States and its allies. We were thus treated to several bizarre speeches where the word “socialism” referred mostly to the friendship between the two peoples rather than to any precise economic ideas.

This Chinese breakthrough in Latin America, coming after its alliance with Iran, marks a complete change in foreign policy. Pushed by its need for energy, Beijing is looking for suppliers of hydrocarbons. But, conscious of the vulnerability of these relations, Hu Jintao initiated a vast deployment on the international chessboard that brings China into play in areas heretofore reserved for the United States and in violation of the “Monroe Doctrine”.

The results of all this commotion can be summed up thusly: as predicted, the summit itself accomplished nothing. George W. Bush, who had just been declared the victor in his country’s elections, did not receive the congratulations he expected, but rather had to suffer a series of rebuffs: the heads of state and government that he helped to bring together used this occasion to look for and to sometimes find new partners that will permit them to escape from the protection racket run by Washington. In the Asian Pacific, they don’t believe that the US is the hyper-power that dominates the world and they’d like to do business without it.

[1] « Nuclear Disclosures on Iran Unverified » by Dafan Linzer, The Washington Post, 19 November 2004, p. A1 and A17.
[2] Remarks gathered by Katherine Bauerle.
[3] « Rébellion militaire à Quito ? » by Jorge Gomez Barata, Voltaire, 7 December 2004.
[4] « La responsabilité anglo-saxonne à Beslan » by Marivilia Carrasco, Voltaire, 27 September 2004.
[5] « Notre ami Danilo Anderson assassiné à Caracas » and « La CIA derrière l'assassinat de Danilo Anderson ? » by Marcello Larrea, 19 November and 1 December 2004.
[6] « Bush affirme l'engagement américain en faveur du dollar fort », AFP, 20 November 2004, 15:26.

Translated from the original French at by Signs of the Times

Comment: It appears as if the rest of the world is deciding to "go it alone" for the next four years. Having seen the devastation wrought by the first four years, they are looking for ways of containing the United States for the next four. Of course, good Patriots will once more show the vapidity of their world analysis and come down on the side of Bush against the supposed One World Government that the rest of the world, via the UN, is trying to impose upon them!

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Austrian doctors say Ukraine's Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin
10:16 PM EST Dec 11

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin, doctors said Saturday, adding that the highly toxic chemical could have been put in the opposition leader's soup, producing the severe disfigurement and partial paralysis of his face.

Yushchenko was in satisfactory condition and was expected to be released from Vienna's private Rudolfinerhaus clinic Sunday or Monday to return to the campaign trail in Ukraine, said hospital director Dr. Michael Zimpfer.

Yushchenko, who faces Viktor Yanukovych in a rerun of a disputed presidential runoff on Dec. 26, has claimed that he was poisoned by Ukrainian authorities. They deny his allegation.

His supporters at home expressed little surprise over the doctors' conclusion.

"Everybody knew he was poisoned so we didn't really need official tests," said Anatoly Klotchyk, 19, standing in the sleet outside his tent near Kiev's Independence Square, where supporters have conducted a blockaded of government buildings since the dispute flared, grabbing international attention after the runoff last month.

Campaigners for his opponent, Viktor Yanukovych, meanwhile, again rejected suggestions that the prime minister was involved in the poisoning.

There is "no logic in such an accusation," said Taras Chornovyl, Yanukovych's campaign manager.

Yanukovych was declared the winner of the Nov. 21 presidential runoff, but the results were annulled by the Ukrainian Supreme Court, which cited massive fraud and ordered a new vote.

Yushchenko fell ill in early September and had been treated at the Vienna clinic twice before. But it was the tests run since he checked in Friday night that provided conclusive evidence of the poisoning, Zimpfer said.

The 50-year-old politician also has suffered from back pain and acute pancreatitis.

"There is no doubt about the fact that Mr. Yushchenko's disease - especially following the results of the blood work - has been caused by a case of poisoning by dioxin," Zimpfer said.

"We suspect involvement of an external party, but we cannot answer as to who cooked what or who was with him while he ate," Zimpfer said, adding that tests showed the dioxin was taken orally.

Zimpfer said Yushchenko's blood and tissue registered concentrations of dioxin - one of the most toxic chemicals - that were 1,000 times above normal levels.

"It would be quite easy to administer this amount in a soup," Zimpfer said.

The substance containing the dioxin would most likely have been consumed the day Yushchenko fell ill, as dioxin is rapidly absorbed, Zimpfer said.

"This substance led to quite a significant increase in the (dioxin) level within just a few hours and this intake then led to the quite devastating effects that we have seen," he said. "The substance started to wreak havoc in the body."

A parliamentary commission that investigated Yushchenko's mysterious illness in October said he complained of pains after meeting with Ihor Smeshko, the head of Ukraine's Secret Service, but it lists other places he ate or drank that day. Smeshko promised the secret service would investigate.

The massive quantities of dioxin in Yushchenko's system caused chloracne, a type of adult acne produced by exposure to toxic chemicals that left his once-handsome face badly disfigured, hospital dermatologist Hubert Pehmberger told The Associated Press.

Chloracne can take up to two to three years to heal, but Dr. Nikolai Korpan, the physician who oversaw the Ukrainian politician's treatment, said Yushchenko is "fully capable of working."

Unlike earlier blood tests, the latest were sent to a laboratory in Amsterdam that uses a new analysis method that could test it for dioxin, Korpan said.

When first seen by the Austrian doctors Sept. 10, Yushchenko was in a critical stage but was "not on the verge of dying," Zimpfer said.

"If this dose had been higher, it may have caused death," he said.
Dioxin - a contaminant found in Agent Orange - is a byproduct of industrial processes such as waste incineration and chemical and pesticide manufacturing. [...]

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Arafat's nephew says he died 'unnatural death,' backing poisoning suspicions
10:21 PM EST Dec 11

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - The late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's nephew said Saturday his uncle may have died an "unnatural" death, a statement expected to renew speculation among Palestinians and in the rest of the Arab world where many already believe Arafat was poisoned despite Israel's repeated and vehement denials.

Nasser al-Kidwa, who is also Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, made the comments after he handed over the 558-page medical dossier to Palestinian officials in Ramallah. No diagnosis or reason has been given for Arafat's death Nov. 11 at a French hospital.

Al-Kidwa's remarks could cause renewed tension between Israel and the Palestinians at a time when it appeared relations were improving. By providing fuel for rumours Arafat was poisoned, his comments could also make it more difficult for a new Palestinian leadership to take control after a presidential election Jan. 9.

But a decision Saturday by Israel's Labour party to join Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government could pave the way for him to implement his Gaza withdrawal plan and restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

After handing the 558-page medical dossier to interim Palestinian president Rauhi Fattouh , Al-Kidwa said French doctors could not rule out poisoning but had not found traces in Arafat's body of "any poison known to them."

"Examinations of X-rays and all imaginable tests...are still with the same results, the inability of reaching a clear diagnosis," Al-Kidwa said in English during a news conference.

"That is precisely the reason why suspicions are there, because without a reason you cannot escape the other possibility...that there is unnatural cause for the death," he said.

French officials have said judicial authorities would have opened an investigation had they suspected foul play.

Arafat, suffering from a mysterious illness, was urgently airlifted to the Percy Military Training Hospital in the southwestern Paris suburb Clamart, on Oct. 29. His condition rapidly deteriorated and he fell into a coma.

A month after Arafat's death at the age of 75, speculation still swirls about what killed him, with rumours ranging from cirrhosis of the liver, to AIDS, to poisoning.

Hani Masri, a commentator for the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam, said many Palestinians already believe their leader was poisoned and Israel had made clear on many occasions it wanted to rid the region of Arafat.

"If there was proof he was poisoned it would severely complicate matters. The new leadership would not be able to renew peace negotiations with a country that killed its president," Masri said.

Al-Kidwa and other Palestinian officials have said Israel contributed to Arafat's death by confining him to his battered compound for the last three years of his life. [...]

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Girl, 7, killed at the dinner table as Israelis retaliate for mortar attack
By Donald Macintyre in Khan Yunis, Gaza
11 December 2004

A seven-year-old Palestinian girl was killed yesterday as she was eating lunch in her home. Israeli troops had opened fire in response to a mortar attack which wounded four residents of a nearby Jewish settlement.

Relatives said that a single Israeli bullet had passed through Rana Sian's head and hit her father in the leg as the family sat at the table eating rice and meat in their home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

Palestinian medics said the Israelis were retaliating for the earlier mortar attack on the Gaza settlement of Neveh Dekalim which seriously injured an 18-year-old man and an eight-year-old boy. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, which also slightly injured two other men.

The fresh bloodshed came as Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, formally invited the opposition Labour Party to join a new coalition government to push through his plan to dismantle the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip.

The coalition plan won decisive backing from the Likud central committee on Thursday. This was a serious defeat for Likud dissidents, who bitterly opposed Mr Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan and had hoped to block a unity government with Labour in an attempt to sabotage it.

Tomorrow, Labour's central committee will be urged by its veteran leader Shimon Peres formally to approve the invitation to join Mr Sharon's government.

The outbreak of violence in Gaza threatened to cast a shadow over renewed hopes of a ceasefire as Palestinians embark on elections to replace Yasser Arafat as their president.

The dead Palestinian girl's sister Amal, 17, said last night that the bullet had gone through the window frame, entered and left the head of her sister, the youngest in the family, before striking her father, Omar, in the right leg as he stood three metres away from the table. She said her father had got up to wash his hands in the sink. "Suddenly I noticed that my father was crying out that he had been shot in the leg. We rushed over and tried to see what had happened to him.

"But then my younger sister Heba noticed that Rana was lying on the ground. She told my mother to look at her. She had fallen on her head and was lying in a pool of blood. She still had rice and meat in her mouth. We didn't believe it. My father forgot his wound and went to carry her. Blood was dripping from her." She said that her father had taken her to hospital but that she believed she had been killed instantly.

Amal Sian claimed that the house was well away from the main concentration of Israeli fire after the mortar attack and that the Israeli response had been to fire "indiscriminately" and that her sister had been killed as a result.

"I can't believe that I have lost my sister. She was cute, very sociable and good at school. We were always laughing. I had been speaking to her only a few moments earlier asking her how she was because I had been busy with my married sister's family."

Israeli military sources confirmed last night that gunfire had been directed at Khan Yunis in the aftermath of the mortar attack but insisted that it had been aimed at Palestinian mortar crews. An Israeli Defence Forces spokesman said reports that the girl had been killed were still being investigated.

In a separate and earlier incident, Palestinian militants fired a Qassam rocket at the border fence separating Israel from Gaza but no casualties or damage were reported. [...]

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SIS: Israeli Troops Kill 3800 Palestinians, Wound 43569 others from September 2000 until October 2004
(IPC Exclusive)

GAZA, Palestine, December 8, 2004-- Since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 29, 2000 until October 31, 2004, the Israeli occupation troops have killed 3800 Palestinian men, women and children and wounded 43569 others, including 8435 who received medication on the spot, an exclusive report by the State Information Service (SIS)-linked Palestinian National Information Center (PNIC) revealed.

The PNIC's report mentioned that the number of killed children has reached 699 , female victims are 249, those killed during Israeli shelling are 732, while victims of the Palestinian national security forces are 344, as teachers and students are 749.

Those killed extra judicially are 303, those killed due to blocking of movement on checkpoints are 121, including children , women and elderly, who have been suffering from chronic diseases, the PNIC indicated.

Also, the number of those victimized at the hands of the Israeli armed settlers, are 36, including those of the medical crews and civil defense brigades, as well as 9 media men and 220 athletics, the report hinted.

As for the wounded, the PNIC confirmed that 43569 citizens have been wounded during the said period, including 8435, who received medication on the spot, while those wounded students are 4721.

Regarding those jailed by the Israeli forces throughout the Intifada, they have been numbered 7200, including 5857 registered by the Palestinian Prisoners Ministry and distributed to 25 Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 1360 students, 300 children, 196 teachers, 900 others suffering from chronic diseases, plus 128 female prisoners including 62 convicted, 63 on custody and 3 others placed under administrative detention.

In addition, the report outlined statistical figures on Palestinian-owned houses that have been completely and partially demolished by the Israeli occupation troops, numbering them to 69120 including 7149 completely distributed as 4414 in the Gaza Strip.

Those partially demolished houses are 61971, including 22007 in the Gaza Strip, while the other buildings and facilities demolished by the Israeli troops completely and partially are 590, including 316 schools and colleges, while 43 other schools have been turned to military outposts. As far as the Israeli violations regarding the agriculture sector are concerned, the report said that the Palestinian-owned lands razed by the Israeli bulldozers reached 71914 dunums, 1229210 trees have been uprooted, 649 stores demolished , 659 farms devastated, 27567 dunums of irrigation networks have been bulldozed, 1234 water tanks devastated, as well as 207 houses owned by farmers demolished.

The report shed the light as well on the amount of unemployment amongst the Palestinian people, rating to 2.3, as the poverty rate is g.6, according to last year's statistics.

The violations against journalists during the Intifada are apparent in the PNIC's report as 708 cases of attacks against journalists have been recorded, mainly on military checkpoints and roadblocks.

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Guantanamo: 'People are becoming mentally ill'
11 December 2004 07:43

Fresh allegations about a regime of torture and humiliation inflicted on detainees by their American captors at Guantanamo Bay have been made by a Briton still held there, according to British Foreign Office documents seen by The Guardian newspaper.

The claims by Martin Mubanga, from London, are the latest to surface from the prison where the United States holds 550 Muslim men it claims are terrorists -- in conditions that have sparked worldwide condemnation.

Mubanga (31) alleges that only months ago he was kept shackled for so long that he wet himself, and then was forced to clean up his own urine. He claims to have been threatened, that an interrogator stood on his hair, and that he was subjected to extremes of temperature rising to 36 degrees Celsius. He was kept chained to the floor by his feet for an hour during a welfare visit from a British government official.

Mubanga is one of four Britons still in Guantanamo, held without charge or trial. His allegations follow revelations that FBI agents recently raised concerns about ill treatment they witnessed of prisoners.

The claim of fresh abuses against Britons came as Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, ventured further than any senior government figure so far in attacking the US policy at Guantanamo Bay.

"At the heart of our culture is a commitment to the rule of law and human rights," the lord chancellor said in a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research, a left-wing think-tank. "We could never countenance individuals being put beyond the law as has happened at Guantanamo Bay."

That period of being beyond the rule of law had now ended, he added, as a result of a Supreme Court decision allowing the detainees to challenge their incarceration in court.

But Louise Christian, solicitor for two British detainees, including Mubanga, dismissed Lord Falconer's comments: "There is no difference between what we are doing here at Belmarsh and Guantanamo Bay. People at both are becoming mentally ill."

Other allegations of mistreatment at Guantanamo were made in October in a letter from another of the British detainees, Moazzam Begg. The five Britons who were released from Guantanamo in March have also alleged torture.

The allegations about Mubanga's treatment are contained in a letter from a British Foreign Office official to the prisoner's family. Mubanga, a former motorcycle courier, made his allegations in June during a welfare visit.

The letter reads: "Martin told the official ... he had been interrogated, shackled and not allowed to go to the toilet.

"He said he had wet himself and had been forced to clean up the mess himself. Martin said that in another incident in June, he had been put in a room with the temperature at 97 degrees Fahrenheit ... he knew the temperature because he had seen the dial."

The letter continues: "Martin said that there had been a struggle and he had had his hair stood on by the interrogator."

Mubanga was arrested in Zambia and has been held as a terrorist for more than two years without access to a lawyer.

During a visit by a Foreign Office official on October 3, a record of which The Guardian has seen, Mubanga was kept trussed up for the entire 60 minutes. The official noted: "Martin's feet were shackled to the ring in the floor." Mubanga also said his weight has plunged in captivity from 84kg to 75kg, that he gets tired and dizzy, and he does not get enough food.

He is allowed 30 minutes of exercise every second day.

Christian said the allegations showed the failure of government efforts to secure the Britons' release.

"For the British government to sit on its hands while its closest ally, the US government, is torturing our citizens is unforgivable," she said.

According to the Foreign Office letter, the US claims Mubanga attacked his interrogator, despite the fact he almost certainly would have been shackled: "The US authorities said that their records show that Martin grabbed the interrogator's hand and applied a pressure-point hold. The interrogator stated that he would call the military police and Martin let go without further incident."

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We have raised with the US authorities the allegations of maltreatment raised with us by Mr Mubanga during a welfare visit. The US authorities have investigated them and their response is that they are without merit.

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Bush's Choice for Security Post Pulls Out
By Warren Vieth and Edwin Chen, Times Staff Writers
December 11, 2004

WASHINGTON Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik on Friday abruptly withdrew himself from consideration as the nation's next Homeland Security chief, saying he had determined that a former household employee might have been an illegal immigrant.

Kerik's unexpected withdrawal cast a temporary cloud over President Bush's second-term Cabinet, and appeared likely to revive the contentious issues raised by the "nannygate" disclosures that derailed two of former President Clinton's high-level nominees.

The debate could be particularly awkward because Kerik was Bush's choice to head the department charged with enforcing the nation's immigration laws, including policing the borders to prevent foreign nationals from crossing illegally.

"Commissioner Kerik informed the White House this evening that he is withdrawing his name for personal reasons from consideration for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security," the White House said in a statement. "The president respects his decision, and wishes Commissioner Kerik and his wife, Hala, well."

Kerik said in a statement he had learned of the potential immigration law violation as he was completing documents required for the Senate confirmation process.

"I uncovered information that now leads me to question the immigration status of a person who had been in my employ as a housekeeper and nanny," Kerik said. "It has also been brought to my attention that for a period of time during such employment required tax payments and related filings had not been made."

He said the inevitable controversy over the worker would "only serve as a significant and unnecessary distraction to the vital efforts of the Department of Homeland Security."

In addition to the possible immigration law violation, Kerik in recent days has contended with news reports focusing on his business dealings since he left the New York Police Department in 2001, including his ties to a stun-gun maker that has sold weapons to the Department of Homeland Security. [...]

However, in addition to the problem with his nanny and housekeeper, a number of other issues from Kerik's colorful past have come to light that could have prompted questions in a confirmation hearing.

Earlier Friday, White House officials had defended Kerik in response to questions about possible conflicts of interest stemming from his business dealings since stepping down three years ago as New York City's police commissioner.

News accounts in recent days have focused on Kerik's arrangements with companies selling stun guns, prescription drugs, computer software, personal security products and services, nuclear power, telephone service and insurance policies.

"We've looked into all these issues, and obviously, he'll be talking about some of these matters during his confirmation hearing," McClellan said in his afternoon news briefing.

He added: "We have full confidence in his integrity and we are confident that he will take the appropriate steps necessary to make sure that there are no conflicts there."

Kerik was police chief under then-Mayor Giuliani, and has worked closely with his former boss at Giuliani Partners, a strategic consulting firm in New York, a lucrative partnership for the former police commissioner.

Bush encountered Kerik in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks. Kerik was later tapped for duty in Iraq, where his programs helped increase the Iraqi police force from about 30,000 to more than 80,000 in late 2003.

But his successors cut the force to about 46,000 this year by weeding out corrupt and ill-trained officers. After Kerik left, officials concluded that the short-term training was not working and revamped the program.

Newsweek reported that while Kerik was police commissioner, the NYPD bought four $50,000 security doors for police headquarters. They turned out to be too heavy for the floor to support. One of them was used by the Department of Corrections, and the other three were put in storage. A police department investigation found irregularities in the bidding process.

After leaving the NYPD, Newsweek reported, Kerik became an advisor to a company distributing the doors, though he renounced his deal after the door-maker's president was indicted for defrauding the city.

As head of Homeland Security, Kerik would have overseen a department that does business with several security clients of Giuliani Partners, notably Taser International of Scottsdale, Ariz., which makes stun guns.

Kerik was a member of the company's board and received stock options in the company that were valued at more than $6.2 million by the time he recently sold them, the New York Times reported Friday. The newspaper said that Kerik had referred Taser executives seeking more federal business to officials at Homeland Security.

Trouble often followed Kerik. As a young soldier in South Korea, he fathered a child out of wedlock. As NYPD commissioner, he was fined $2,500 for sending two police officers to Ohio to help research his bestselling 2001 memoir, "The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice."

When the book's publisher, Judith Regan, reported her cellphone stolen after a visit to a Fox Television studio, detectives reportedly showed up at the homes of Fox employees who had been on the set at the time.

A Senate GOP aide speculated about Kerik's withdrawal: "It was probably a mounting list of potentially embarrassing issues, and they decided to cut their losses before it got worse. Good timing too: late on a Friday night.

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Print Soldier Lost Arm, Got Bill to Boot
December 11, 2004
From Associated Press

WASHINGTON Spc. Robert Loria of Middletown, N.Y., lost his arm in Iraq, but instead of a farewell paycheck from the Army he got a bill for nearly $1,800.

On Friday a platoon of New York lawmakers came to his rescue.

Loria found himself stuck at Ft. Hood, Texas, this week when Army officials said he owed money for travel expenses and for lost equipment.

Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey and Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, all Democrats, interceded on behalf of the 27-year-old veteran after his wife, Christine Loria, told the Times-Herald Record of Middletown about the problem.

"Christmas is coming up, and we are severely overdrawn because of this," his wife said. "It turned out his getting wounded wasn't the worst thing this year to happen this was."

Clinton, Schumer and Hinchey said the Army had dropped the billing demands.

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Doubts Are Raised on Push for Anthrax Vaccine
Published: December 11, 2004

In ordering a new $877 million anthrax vaccine last month, the federal government said it was a major step toward creating a "bioshield" to protect Americans from germ warfare. But delivering that protection may be difficult: the vaccine is unproven in humans, the maker has legal and accounting troubles, and health officials are not prepared to distribute the vaccine quickly if it is needed.

Bush administration officials, as well as the top executives at VaxGen, the manufacturer in California, say they are confident they can fulfill their promise.

"This program needs to be a success for all of us - the federal government, for the company and for the American public," said Lance K. Gordon, VaxGen's chief executive.

But some scientists say the effectiveness of the vaccine, which is to be delivered starting early in 2006, is still in doubt.

"When the day comes and we have to give this to 20 million people, in terms of this new vaccine, what will happen?" said Jack Melling, former head of Britain's biodefense vaccine program and now a consultant to the United States Government Accountability Office. "The jury is still out; it is still an open question."

The vaccine contract, enough to inoculate 25 million Americans, is part of a $5.6 billion effort called Project BioShield intended to build a drug stockpile and other defenses against any diseases terrorists might try to inflict on the population.

VaxGen, which is to produce 75 million syringes of vaccine with a formula it is still fine-tuning, has had recent setbacks, including the removal this summer of its stock from the Nasdaq market because of accounting problems and lawsuits from investors who say it exaggerated the prospects for its AIDS vaccine, which has been abandoned.

The federal government has had its own recent embarrassments with vaccines: the shortage of flu vaccine this year and the aborted effort in 2003 to vaccinate health care workers against smallpox.

Some experts question the value of the whole Project BioShield, as the investment in the bioterrorism stockpile will perhaps mean less money for research or treatment of other health problems, like AIDS, cancer or even the flu.

"This anthrax threat is extraordinarily exaggerated," said Victor Sidel, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and past president of the New York City Public Health Association. "All of this is simply playing to the politics of fear." [...]

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Grenade explodes at concert in Sri Lanka; 2 killed, 15 injured
10:25 PM EST Dec 11

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) - A grenade exploded at a concert featuring Indian movie stars and entertainers in Sri Lanka's capital Saturday, killing at least two people and injuring 15, officials said.

Military spokesman Brig. Daya Ratnayake said the grenade was thrown at the crowd as the three-hour show was nearing its end. A man identified as a journalist for a local newspapers and a woman were killed, he said.

"Two persons were dead," Press Trust of India news agency reported, adding that "there were another 12 injured admitted (to hospital). . . . All have shrapnel injuries caused by a hand grenade or a hand bomb."

The Indian entertainers were unhurt, officials said. The show, titled Temptation 2004, featured Indian stars Shahrukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Javed Khan and Celina Jaitly.

Earlier, police used tear gas to break up a protest by about 200 Buddhists who tried to prevent the concert, held a day before the anniversary of the death of a leading Buddhist cleric.

Sunday is the first anniversary of the death of Gangodawila Soma - a popular preacher who campaigned against conversions of Buddhists by Christians. Monks are a powerful political force in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka.

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Sixteen die in plane crash in El Junquito, bodies recovered with much difficulty
Published: Friday, December 10, 2004
Bylined to: David Coleman
Sixteen people have died in a plane crash this Friday morning in El Junquito, west of Caracas.  Emergency reports came in at 11.11 a.m. that a SkyTruck plane with a crew of 16 from the National Guard (GN) had crashed near Kilometer 24 in El Junquito. [...]

Caracas Fire Department, National Guard Fire Units and Metropolitan Police (PM) emergency crews were at the scene within minutes of the plane crash.  Eye-witnesses say there was "a loud explosion before the plane fell out of the sky" although there was significant cloud cover at the time of the tragedy.  Rescue crews say the bodies have been recovered but only with much difficulty because of the terrain and crash site conditions.

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Slight earthquake in Shillong
Dec 12, 2004 Sun

Shillong, December 11: An earthquake of slight intensity was recorded in Shillong and its surrounding areas early today.

This was the third tremor recorded in the area this week.

According to the Meterological Department here, the quake measuring 3.2 on the Richter Scale was felt at 0317 hrs. Its epicentre was located 20 km away from the Central Seismological Observatory here.

The last tremor, having a magnitude of 4.7 on the Richter Scale, was recorded at 2.19 pm on December 9. That was preceded by one measuring 3.6 on December 7.

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Sunday December 12, 2004
(AGI) - Rome, Dec. 11 - A seismic tremor was adverted by the population in the province in campobasso. The epicentre was in the cities of Campobasso, Toro, Campodipietra, Jelzi and S. Giovanni in Galdo. No damage was verified and no one was injured, according to the exams done at the Operating room in the Civil Protection unit. And the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, the seismic tremor occurred at 00:30 with a magnitude of 3.1

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Strong earthquake rocks southern Japan

TOKYO: A strong earthquake shook the southern Japanese island of Kyushu on Sunday but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The magnitude 5.1 temblor was centered 10 kilometers (6 miles) under the earth's surface off the west coast of Kagoshima, about 985 kilometers (620 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

There was no danger of tsunami, or tidal waves caused by seismic activity, the Meteorological Agency said.

A magnitude 5 earthquake can cause damage to homes if it occurs in a residential area.

Japan suffered its deadliest quake in a decade two months ago when a magnitude 6.8 temblor rocked the northern Japanese region of Niigata, killing 40 people and injuring more than 2,700.

Sunday's quake was in an unrelated area.

Japan, which rests atop several tectonic plates, is among the world's most earthquake-prone countries.

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'Ball of Fire' in Sky Was Meteor Shower
By Martin Weil and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page C07

Not long after nightfall yesterday, the calls started coming in at police departments across the Washington region.

Callers, acting out of curiosity or a sense of responsibility, or both, gave accounts of bright lights flashing across the sky.

"It looked like a ball of fire falling out of the sky," said Cpl. Cynthia Brown, a Maryland State Police dispatcher, recounting what a caller from the Golden Ring area of Baltimore County told her about 7:30 p.m.

It appeared last night that the callers were witnessing part of the Geminid meteor shower.

In general, meteors, or shooting stars, are bits of cosmic dust that burn up as they speed through the atmosphere. The dust usually comes from the deterioration of comets, but scientists say asteroid debris may have produced the Geminids, which are visible in the southern sky.

This manifestation of astronomical pyrotechnics is expected to reach its peak tomorrow night and Tuesday morning. But the shower, which began making its presence known about the beginning of last week, was vivid enough last night for a number of witnesses.

One of them, near Middletown in the western part of Frederick County, told state police of a "fiery ball coming out of the sky," according to a communications officer.

The state police barracks in Pikesville, near Baltimore, got calls about "bright lights shooting through the sky." And in Fairfax County, residents of the Great Falls area telephoned authorities with similar accounts.

The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office told of receiving a number of reports, some of them speculating about the possibility that an unidentified flying object might have been streaking through the skies.

"We sure have" been getting such calls, said a dispatcher at the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office. He said callers gave information about "fire in the sky."

At the Maryland State Police barracks in Waterloo in Howard County, Brown tried to get information from her caller about where the bright falling object might have landed.

"There was no telling," she said. The caller said it just fell. There were no reports last night of anything on the ground being struck.

The flurry of calls was not a total surprise. Les Dorr, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, indicated that the shower was "nothing that was not expected."

The Geminids are so named because they seem to come from the constellation Gemini. But they appear not to be as well known as other showers that occur throughout the year. One reason might be that they occur in December, making outdoor viewing somewhat less pleasant.

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Earthquake Shakes Caribbean Territories

By Associated Press
December 11, 2004, 10:52 PM EST

ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands -- A magnitude 5.7 earthquake jolted the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Saturday, the Puerto Rico Seismic Network said.

Police and rescue officials in all three Caribbean territories said there were no reports of injuries or damage.

The epicenter was 27 miles northwest of the main British Virgin Island of Tortola and 70 miles east of Puerto Rico.

A magnitude 5 quake can cause considerable damage in populated areas.

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From the Himalayas to the South Pacific, "climate witnesses" testify about global warming
By KEVIN GRAY | Associated Press
December 10, 2004

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - A Nepalese sherpa fears his mountain valley will be flooded by melting glacier runoff high in the Himalayas. A Fiji islander frets about rising sea levels while Indians cope with the destruction of mangrove swamps in northeastern India.

As scientists debate whether global warming is affecting Earth, "climate witnesses" told a U.N. environmental conference Friday they are already feeling the heat, worried about changing weather patterns they say are drastically affecting life from the Himalayas to the South Pacific.

"In the past we just accepted it was the will of God," said Penina Moce, a housewife from Udu, a fishing village in eastern Fiji. "But now we believe there could be other reasons."

Moce spoke as delegates from nearly 200 countries sat down in Buenos Aires for an annual gathering by government officials, scientists, and environmentalists aimed at trying to cut down on "greenhouse" emissions believed by many to be causing a rise in Earth's temperatures.

The 44-year-year-old mother of five said many on her South Pacific island of some 400 people are alarmed by recent signs of altering climate: shortened rainy seasons, eroding coastlines and dwindling fish stocks. Water, already in short supply, has become even harder to come by, she said.

"When it rains, everyone will leave whatever they're doing and rush outside to try and save as much water as possible," she said. "We are lucky if it rains for two days straight."

Environmentalists say her testimony exemplifies what is occurring in some areas affected by global warming and climate change _ issues the world has tried to address through the Kyoto Protocol, a landmark agreement requiring initial cuts in "greenhouse gas" emissions by 2012 that comes into force in February.

With only a few months remaining before Kyoto takes effect, the science over global warming remains divided. The United States _ the largest industrialized country along with Australia not to join the treaty _ has cited scientific uncertainties as one of the reasons.

Debate has dragged on for decades over the causes of climate change and whether it is already being felt.

Many scientists believe carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases _ released by factories, vehicles and coal-burning power plants _ seriously threaten life on Earth by causing a gradual rise in the planet's temperature. Global warming has been blamed for more violent storms, rising sea levels and shrinking animal habitats.
Caspar Ammann, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said changes are apparent all around the world.

"You see the massive changes in the mountain ranges around the world, where you see the glaciers disappearing very rapidly, you see changes in vegetation and changes in the whole seasonal cycles. The sea ice that is going back ... these are indications."

A study by Ammann's colleague Tom Wigley at NCAR and Sarah Raper of the Climatic Research Unit in Britain found a 90 percent probability global temperatures will rise by 1.7 to 4.9 degrees centigrade (3.1 to 8.9 degrees Fahrenheit) between 1990 and 2100 as a result of human influences if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked.

Other experts, however, disagree, saying Earth's temperatures have varied greatly over long periods of time, and little is known about how the atmosphere copes with temperature change.

"If you look at the long term records of temperatures, you will see periods warmer than today and periods colder than today," said John Cristy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

"We don't see the same warming in the deep atmosphere," he continued. "If it were man-made that's where you would see the warming."

But Anil Krishna Mistry, a 37-year-old rice farmer and former poacher living in tiger-infested mangrove swamps along India's border with Bangladesh, said he is worried by what he sees as changing climate patterns.

He said his region of Bali Island is under constant threat of flooding from heavy rains and that rising sea levels have washed away huge tracts of land and made other areas too salty for rice growing.

"There were 64 types of mangrove plants in the region but now half of those species are now dying out," said Krishna Mistry, speaking through an interpreter. "The mangrove stands act as a barrier against high tides from the oceans. But due to rising sea levels, high tides are entering into the mainlands and making the land and freshwater areas salty."

He said village subsistence farmers are losing rice paddies and freshwater drinking supplies to the rising saltwater tides and that many try to survive by poaching and by overfishing in the 104 islands in the region.

"We are surrounded by water but don't have a single drop to drink," said the Indian. "The changes in monsoon patterns are leading to more unpredictable weather. Many people are living on the edge with no other place to go."

Norbu Sherpa, an expedition guide in the Himalayas mountains, also warned of a changing landscape in the Everest region.

"In the years that I have worked a trekking expedition guide, I have seen snow lines and glaciers go back higher and higher, he said. "Meanwhile, new lakes are forming, others are growing larger and larger."

Comment: Whenever an issue of global significance, like impending environmental catastrophe, becomes glaringly obvious to anyone with two neurons in contact with one another, the PTB will inevitably unleash a hoarde of experts and debunkers to downplay the problem, and to give the illusion of fair and balanced debate.

And if that doesn't work, they can always enlist the help of a best-selling novelist to self-calm the masses by claiming it's all an exaggeration. By using popular culture to spread disinformation, they ensure that it is exposed to a large number of people, who will continue to ignore what is right in front of their eyes and gladly go back to sleep.

A writer so popular and well-respected that his new book will easily drive the last nail of ridicule in the coffin of anyone who dares open their eyes to the plethora of environmental dangers currently facing the planet.

Like Michael Crichton for example...

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Author pours cold water on global warming
United States
11 December 2004 08:07

He is most famous for his far-fetched tale of how dinosaurs could be brought to life with DNA from mosquitoes trapped in amber. Now the bestselling author Michael Crichton has written a thriller about ecoterrorism that the critics say is equally fantastic in its refusal to accept that global warming is a clear and present danger.

With two million copies of State of Fear hitting bookshops across the world, Crichton's thesis that the "interminable yammering of fearmongers" about climate change is being used to keep ordinary people perpetually anxious will reach a huge audience.

As diplomats and scientists gathered at the 10th international convention on climate change in Buenos Aires on Friday to discuss where to go from Kyoto, the 62-year-old author of Jurassic Park and Rising Sun arrived in Britain to promote his 600-page "techno thriller".

The story of a South Pacific island that launches a multimillion-pound lawsuit against the United States, and green terrorists who plot to manufacture a series of earthquakes, underwater landslides and tsunamis to prove that global warming is happening, has an unusual denouement: a 14-page bibliography and a five-page authorial note explaining his extreme scepticism about global warming.

Crichton fills his latest with graphs and "facts" against global warming. Rather than warning readers about the dangers of dinosaurs, nanotechnology or rising Japanese power, he bolsters his argument by citing the work of prominent climate-change sceptics, including the political scientist Bjorn Lomberg.

"The current near-hysterical preoccupation with safety is at best a waste of resources and a crimp on the human spirit, and at worst an invitation to totalitarianism," he concludes. [...]

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1952 military engagement with UFOs myth or mystery?
Dec 10, 5:16 PM

In an account of a military engagement sure to leave critics scoffing, a UFO investigator claims more than a dozen U.S. Air Force jet fighters were destroyed by flying saucers on a single day in 1952. But not before their guns and rockets crippled several UFOs that wound up making emergency landings in rural West Virginia.

"I know how it sounds," says Frank Feschino, the Port Orange artist whose new book attempts to reconstruct what would be the biggest dogfight since the Marianas Turkey Shoot in 1944. "But I think it's going to come out real soon. There's a lot of guys out there who know what happened but are too scared to talk."

Feschino's book -- "The Braxton County Monster: The Cover-Up of the Flatwoods Monster Revealed" (Quarrier Press, $29.95) -- revisits a mystery that has been a part of West Virginia lore for more than half a century.

At its core are a dozen eyewitnesses to a strange, robotic creature that appeared on a hilltop following the crash of an alleged meteor on the evening of Sept. 12, 1952. But following an investigation that took 14 years to research and write, Feschino claims the beginning of the incident involved a UFO air battle that began in Florida, shifted to the Eastern seaboard and ended in an Air Force whitewash.

Thirty five years ago this month, the USAF officially terminated its UFO study, called Project Blue Book, by concluding there were no national security aspects to the phenomenon. Arguably the most hectic phase of Blue Book's 22-year existence was 1952, when a record 1,501 reports were logged. July was the busiest month. Warplanes were scrambled to chase nocturnal UFOs that buzzed Washington, D.C., on consecutive weekends.

Even Patrick Air Force Base got splashed by the wave on July 18 of that year, when seven on-base airmen observed a series of silent amber-red objects approaching restricted air space late one evening. One UFO passed directly overhead before pulling a 180-degree U-turn and disappearing to the west. According to the Blue Book reports, none of the objects were spotted on radar and no planes were dispatched to confront them.

Blue Book ruled the avalanche of UFO sightings across the southeast on Sept. 12, 1952, could be attributed to a meteor.

But no meteor showers were scheduled for that night, and the Harvard Meteor Project, which tracked 2,500 cosmic fireballs from 1952 to '54, recorded no activity on that date.

Feschino also quotes Indian Harbour Beach astronomer Hal Povenmire, author of "Fireballs, Meteors and Meteorites," as dismissing the meteor explanation. Povenmire declined to comment on Feschino's book, but he reiterated his stance for FLORIDA TODAY:

"It definitely wasn't a meteor." [...]

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