Monday, December 13, 2004
The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity 

Signs of The Times

 
SITE MAP

Daily News and Commentary

Glossary

The Signs Quick Guide

Note to New Readers

Archives

Search

Message Board

Books

 
 
SOTT Podcast logo
Signs of the Times Podcast
 
Pentagon Strike logo
Pentagon Strike Flash by a QFS member
 

High Strangeness
Discover the Secret History of the World - and how to get out alive!

 

High Strangeness
The Truth about Hyperdimensional Beings and Alien Abductions

 

The Wave
New Expanded Wave Series Now in Print!

 

Support The Quantum Future Group and The Signs Team

How you can help keep Signs of The Times online...

 
The material presented in the linked articles does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editors. Research on your own and if you can validate any of the articles, or if you discover deception and/or an obvious agenda, we will appreciate if you drop us a line! We often post such comments along with the article synopses for the benefit of other readers. As always, Caveat Lector!

(Bookmark whatsnew link! In case site is down, info will be there!)

 
Printer Friendly Version    Fixed link to latest Page

New Travel Log! The Quantum Future Group Goes to Rennes-le-Chateau

New Signs Supplements!

911 Eye-witnesses

Pentagon Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member

New Publication! 'The Wave' finally in book form!

The Wave: 4 Volume Set
Volume 2

by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

With a new introduction by the author and never before published, UNEDITED sessions and extensive previously unpublished details, at long last, Laura Knight-Jadczyk's vastly popular series The Wave is available as a Deluxe four book set. Each of the four volumes include all of the original illustrations and many NEW illustrations with each copy comprising approximately 300 pages.

The Wave is an exquisitely written first-person account of Laura's initiation at the hands of the Cassiopaeans and demonstrates the unique nature of the Cassiopaean Experiment.

Order Volumes 1 and 2 now!


Picture of the Day


Pleiades
©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte


The Semiotic Deception of September 11th

by Phillip Darrell Collins

Replete with esoteric symbols, conspiracy research certainly warrants semiotic examination. Although fraught with historical flaws and theological distortions, The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown acknowledges the value of semiotics in studying the conspiratorial world. In fact, the novel's central character is a semiotician specializing in symbology. Evidently, Brown recognized the potential of semiotics in analyzing the coded messages of cabals occupying history's darker corners. September 11th is one such corner that is worth semiotic analysis.

Numerous researchers like Michael Ruppert and Dennis Cuddy have done an excellent job compiling the evidence of government complicity in 9-11. Recapitulating their arguments is not the purpose of this article. However, it is this researcher's contention that there is a supranational power elite positioned above the political machinations of national governments. It was this supranational elite that created Bin Laden and, through strategically placed surrogates, de-activated portions of American's national security apparatus that could have prevented 9-11. Commenting on this supranational elite, Professor Keller explains: "Like a secret society, those at the top rarely reveal the inner workings of their worlds" (3).

Semiotics could provide the Rosetta Stone to deciphering the esoteric language of the elite, particularly the subtle messages that they embedded within the events of 9-11. This article shall semiotically dismantle the early media reports that NBC broadcasted on September 11, 2001. It is this author's contention that these early reports, working intertextually with sci-fi films of previous years, helped the power elite to impose a politically expedient narrative paradigm upon 9-11.

A Primer on Semiotics

Finding its proximate origins during the sixties, semiotics is a relatively young field of study. Its simplest definition is the study of signs. However, semiotics probes slightly deeper, examining the application of signs in the daily social interchanges of humanity. Moreover, signs are not merely images, like the proverbial STOP sign. They are also spoken and written words. These last two categories of signs have long been the providence of linguistics, a subsidiary of the larger field of semiotics. All of these signs are used to communicate messages, which semioticians refer to as "texts." A text can inhabit any medium of communication. Whether verbal or nonverbal, a text always has meaning.

Before proceeding any further, a list of basic terms used in semiotics might be helpful to the reader. Throughout the course of this examination, these terms will continue to re-surface. Hopefully, they will not become two confusing.

Signs: There are three categories.

Iconic: These signs normally resemble something else. They are approximations, facsimiles. Examples: statues, pictures.

Indexical: Like the index in the back of a book, these signs refer the percipient to something else. They are used to establish causal or physical relationships. Examples: Smoke is commonly an indexical sign for fire. A shadow is normally an indexical sign for a physical body in front of some light source.

Symbols: These signs express some convention and hold a shared meaning for those interpolated into the culture. These signs must be learned. Examples: Words, numbers, flags.

Intertextual reference: This type of reference creates a correlation between more than one text, thus augmenting a sign's meaning.

Denotation: A sign's literal meaning.

Connotation: A sign's implied meaning.

It should be understood that this is just the basic terminology of semiotics. However, it will work for the purposes of this examination.

The Narrative Paradigm: "Good" Americans vs. "Evil" Arabs

Few are not acquainted with the scene in Independence Day during which the White House is destroyed by a powerful energy beam from a hovering alien ship. In his semiotic analysis of this famous clip, Professor Elliot Gaines discerns "the narrative qualities that embody the paradigmatic character of the situation and images" surrounding 9-11 (Gaines 123). This researcher would contend that such synchronicities were consciously engineered by the entertainment industrial complex. Intrinsic to the narrative characteristics of Independence Day was a paradigmatic template that the elite successfully imposed upon September 11th. Promulgated vigorously by Establishment media organs, Independence Day was instrumental in creating a cultural milieu that would be hospitable to future media manipulations. By the time of the WTC attacks, the collective subconscious of America was fertile with memes (contagious ideas) planted by Independence Day.

This memetic fertility is most effectively illustrated by the comments of MSNBC reporter Ron Insana. Insana witnessed the disintegration of the World Trade Center firsthand (Gaines 125). In an interview with Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, and Tom Brokaw, Insana vividly recounted his experience:

[A]s we were going across the street, we were not terribly far from the World Trade Center building, the south tower. As we were cutting across a, a quarantine zone actually, the building began disintegrating. And we heard it and looked up and started to see elements of the building come down and we ran, and honestly it was like a scene out of Independence Day. Everything began to rain down. It was pitch black around us as the wind was ripping through the corridors of lower Manhattan. (Qutd. in Gaines 125)

Gaines identifies the Independence Day reference as semiotically significant (125). Given his distinction as a journalist before a global audience, Insana is thoroughly cognizant of the fact that his "intertextual reference to the film will be understood as a commonly known cultural text" (125). At this point, the previously dormant seeds of virulent thought implanted by Independence Day have been activated. Insana's invocation of this "commonly known text" has triggered the release of ideational spores within humanity's collective consciousness. Gaines reveals the semiotic effect of Insana's intertextual reference upon the percipient's mind:

The violence in Independence Day, coded as fiction, constructs a narrative binary opposition that clearly identifies good against evil. The available images representing the events of September 11th, using inferences drawn from Independence Day's sign/object relations, construct a narrative paradigm based upon the same themes, but coded as reality. (126)

Indeed, Insana's intertextual reference helped establish the paradigm of "good against evil" upon which the "War on Terrorism" would be premised. Suddenly, Arabs became analogous to the "alien invaders" of Independence Day. Simultaneously, the United States became analogous to the beleaguered "home world." Semiotically, Insana's intertextual reference prompted America's collective subconscious to reconceptualize the relational dynamic between the West and the Arab world. "Good" humans against "evil" aliens, a narrative paradigm coded as fiction in Independence Day, suddenly recoded itself in the guise of reality. However, according to the elite's narrative paradigm for September 11th, being neither "good" nor "human" is part of the Arab's role.

The Semiotics of Sci-fi Predictive Programming

It is not this researcher's contention that Insana consciously designed his intertextual reference to achieve such an end. However, it is this researcher's contention that Insana's intertextual reference is product of a larger semiotic deception. This larger semiotic deception is part of a program for cultural subversion known as "sci-fi predictive programming," a term coined by researcher Michael Hoffman. Elaborating on this concept, Hoffman states: "Predictive programming works by means of the propagation of the illusion of an infallibly accurate vision of how the world is going to look in the future" (205).

Innocuous though the genre may seem, science fiction literature has had a history of presenting narrative paradigms that are oddly consistent with the plans of the elite. In Dope, Inc., associates of political dissident Lyndon LaRouche claim that the famous literary works of H.G. Wells and his apprentices, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, were really "'mass appeal' organizing documents on behalf of one-world order" (538).

Such would seem to be the case with Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, which presents a socialist totalitarian world government under the appellation of the Federation. Moreover, Roddenberry espoused a core precept of the ruling class religion: "As nearly as I can concentrate on the question today, I believe I am God; certainly you are, I think we intelligent beings on this planet are all a piece of God, are becoming God" (Alexander 568). This statement echoes the occult doctrine of "becoming," a belief promoted within the Masonic Lodge and disseminated on the popular level as Darwinism. According to this doctrine, man is gradually evolving towards apotheosis.

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke presented a semiotic signpost for the next step in this chimerical evolutionary ascent. Michael Hoffman explains:

2001, A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the writing of Arthur C. Clarke, is, with hindsight, a pompous, pretentious exercise. But when it debuted it sent shivers up the collective spine. It has a hallowed place in the Cryptosphere because it helped fashion what the Videodrome embodies today. At the heart of the film is the worship of the Darwinian hypothesis of evolution and the positioning of a mysterious monolith as the evolutionary battery or "sentinel" that transforms the ape into the space man (hence the "odyssey").

Clarke and Kubrick's movie, 2001, opens with a scene of the "Dawn of Man," supposedly intended to take the viewer back to the origins of humanity on earth. This lengthy sequence is vintage Darwinism, portraying our genesis as bestial and featuring man-like apes as our ancestors. In the film, the evolution of these hominids is raised to the next rung on the evolutionary ladder by the sudden appearance of a mysterious monolith. Commensurate with the new presence of this enigmatic "sentinel," our alleged simian progenitors learn to acquire a primitive form of technology; for the first time they use a bone as a weapon.

This bone is then tossed into the air by one of the ape-men. Kubrick photographs the bone in slow motion and by means of special effects, he shows it becoming an orbiting spacecraft, thus traversing "millions of years in evolutionary time."

The next evolutionary level occurs in "2(00)1" (21, i.e. the 21st century). In the year 2001, the cosmic sentinel that is the monolith reappears again, triggering an alert that man is on to the next stage of his "glorious evolution." (Hoffman 11-12)

The monolith or "sentinel" semiotically gesticulates towards the next epoch of man's "glorious evolution." Like the tabula rasa of human consciousness, the barren canvas of the monolith awaits the next brushstrokes of unseen painters. A new portrait of man is scheduled to be painted and the "glorious evolution" of humanity continues. "Coincidently," this semiotic signpost reappeared before the public eye in the actual year 2001. Michael Hoffman recounts the moment of this reappearance:

In keeping with the script, in the first dark hours of New Year's 2001, a "mystery monolith appeared on a grassy knoll in Magnuson Park in Seattle, Washington." The image of this monolith was that of an almost exact replica of the one featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Neither the media nor the police would say how the monolith got on the "grassy knoll" or who was responsible. The 2001 monolith stood for a few days while the Seattle parks department debated its fate. Then it disappeared. (Hoffman 14)

That same year, the World Trade Center attacks took place and the Bush Administration began to erect a garrison state under the auspices of "national security." The chronically recapitulated theme of exchanging freedom for security is one of the most prevalent symptoms of this transformational period. However, semiotic intimations of this emergent garrison state may be discernible in the 1997 film Starship Troopers. Based on the sci-fi novel by Robert Heinlein, the film presents a socialist totalitarian world government that owes its very existence to a threat from "beyond." Synopsizing the theme of the film, literary critic Geoffrey Whitehall makes an interesting observation:

Against, yet within, its clichéd ontological galaxy, Starship Troopers mobilizes the beyond to critique this dominant us/them narrative. It seeks to reveal how identity/difference, a relation of fear, founds a political galaxy… fear is the order word of a security discourse. Historically, a discourse of fear bridged what it meant to be human in the world under Christendom (seeking salvation) and the emergence of modernity (seeking security) as the dominant trope of political life in the sovereign state. The church relied on a discourse of fear to "establish its authority, discipline its followers and ward off its enemies," in effect creating a Christian world politics. Under modern world politics, similarly, the sovereign state relies on the creation of an external threat to author its foreign policy [emphasis - ADDED] and establish the lofty category of citizenship as the only form of modern human qualification. (182)

It is interesting that, the very same year of Starship Troopers' release, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski published The Grand Chessboard. In this overtly imperialistic tract, Brzezinski delineated the geostrategy by which America would attain global primacy. According to Brzezinski, this period of American hegemony would represent little more than a transitional period preceding her amalgamation into a one-world government. In one of the most damning portions of the text, Brzezinski reveals the catalyst for America's imperialist mobilization:

Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat. [emphasis - ADDED] (Brzezinski 211)

A "truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat" did appear. His name was Osama bin Laden. Starship Troopers was premised upon the same thesis that would underpin American foreign policy four years later… consensus facilitated by an external threat. Like Insana's Independence Day analogy, the thematic similarities between Brzezinski's Grand Chessboard and Heinlein's Starship Troopers reiterate the semiotic notion of intertextuality. The various texts comprising human discourse are not read in a cultural vacuum. On the level of consumption, "any one text is necessarily read in relationship to others and . . . a range of textual knowledges is brought to bear upon it" (Fiske 108). Likewise, "a range of textual knowledges" was brought to bear upon September 11th. Like Independence Day, Heinlein's Starship Troopers constituted part of this body of "textual knowledges."

The centrality of an external threat to the formulation of foreign policy, which thematically underpinned Brzezinski's geostrategy, was semiotically communicated to the public through Starship Troopers. In the elite's narrative paradigm for September 11th, the necessity of the external threat was illustrated by the nationalistic fervor that followed the WTC attacks. Suddenly, the appellation of "patriot," which was previously a stigma assigned to tax protesters and members of militias, regained its place in the cultural lexicon of reverential labels. The removal of the pejorative connotations previously imposed upon the "patriot" facilitated the semiotic deception that was to follow with the introduction of the Patriot Act. Connotatively, the very title of the Patriot Act suggested that those who opposed it constituted "unpatriotic" elements. Thus, acquiescence meant patriotism. This inference echoes the mantra presented in Starship Troopers: "Service guarantees citizenship." In the post-911 cultural milieu where the term "patriot" was as elastic as the term "terrorist," independent reasoning was subverted by a burgeoning epidemic of cognitive dissonance.

Starship Troopers also reiterated the narrative paradigm of "good" humans against "evil" aliens, a belief integral to the imperial mobilization of Brzezinski's geostrategy. The forces of "good," embodied by America, were mobilized against the forces of "evil," embodied by the Arab world. In keeping with the narrative paradigm of the elite, the media continued its standard practice of typecasting. Like the extraterrestrial "bugs" of Starship Troopers, Arabs were cast as hostile aliens. Meanwhile, Americans maintained their roles as humans.

Again, it is not this researcher's contention that Ron Insana was a conscious agent of this semiotic deception. Yet, as a part of the Establishment media, Insana acted as the perfect transmission belt for memes emanating from the ruling class itself. As the old adage goes, "No one knows who invented water, but you can bet it wasn't the fish." Immersed within the sea of Establishment-controlled media, Insana could not identify the larger semiotic manipulation in which he unwittingly played an integral role. Science fiction has been called "the literature of ideas." Insana's intertextual reference suggests that he had contracted an ideational contagion through exposure to sci-fi films like Independence Day and Starship Troopers.

Assembling the Picture

Ferdinand de Saussure observed that "normally we do not express ourselves by using single linguistic signs, but groups of signs, organised in complexes which themselves are signs" (Saussure 1974, 128; Saussure 1983, 127). Indeed, isolated signs say very little, if anything at all. Communication and cogent thought are contingent upon the coalescence of signs. Such coalescence constitutes the complex social interchange called discourse. Likewise, the semiotic significance of a particular scene becomes evident only once the percipient has correlated all the constituent signs comprising it. This is syntagmatic analysis, the study of a text's structure and correlating signs.

Because they are narratives, films largely depend upon sequential configurations that produce the illusion of causal relationships. Likewise, the narrative paradigm that the power elite wished to impose upon September 11th was sequenced to create a false causal connection between the WTC attacks and the Arab world. During the interview with Insana, Couric abruptly announced an "upsetting wire that just came across the wire from the West Bank" (qutd. in Gaines 126). Couric proceeded to paint a disturbing portrait of militant Muslims celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers:

Thousands of Palestinians celebrated Tuesday's terror attacks in the United States chanting 'God is great' and distributing candy to passers by even as their leader, Yasir Arafat said he was horrified. The U.S. government has become increasingly unpopular in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past year of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. (Qutd. in Gaines 126).

As the report continued, Couric read the same "upsetting wire" again, this time as a voice-over narrative to video footage of Palestinian demonstrators (Gaines 126). The footage was accompanied by a title card claiming that the event had occurred "EARLIER THIS MORNING" (Gaines 126). This researcher contends that the juxtaposition of this image with Insana's intertextual reference was intentional. It was designed to reinforce the paradigmatic template of "good" Americans against "evil" Arabs. Within the mind of the percipient, causal connections were already being made. "Behold, the face of the enemy," the subconscious declared. The syntagmatic structure of the NBC report was designed to achieve precisely this effect.

Upon closer examination, the semiotic deception grows even more sinister. Gaines elaborates on the unfolding sham:

NBC later acknowledged that it had committed a breach of ethics by using archive footage with an unverified wire report. Only through convention do we assume the indexical nature of an image grounded by the text of news. The image was not actually acquired September 11th as an authentic Palestinian celebration of the attack against the US. The image was selected from an archive as a global sign to imply Islamic extremism as the enemy. (126)

Was this an accident or a consciously engineered psychocognitive assault? Given the distinct possibility of a conspiracy to orchestrate 9-11, one cannot help but wonder if the NBC report was designed to distract attention. Gaines states: "The stereotypical images of Arab, mid-eastern-looking people celebrating on a street could be falsely anchored to a specific people from a designated time and place" (127). With the eyes of the world firmly fixed upon Islamic extremism as the enemy, the true of criminals remained hidden behind a semiotic veil.

Conclusion

Citing Richard L. Lanigan, Gaines asserts: "Fiction and nonfiction are both mediated popular texts-the convergence of human experience expressed through technology" (127). That the chief means of deception is technological in nature is intentional. The word "technology" is derived from the Greek word techne, which means "craft." Moreover, the term "craft" is also associated with witchcraft or Wicca. From the term Wicca, one derives the word wicker (Hoffman 63). Examining this word a little closer, researcher Michael Hoffman explains: "The word wicker has many denotations and connotations, one of which is 'to bend,' as in the 'bending' of reality" (63). This is especially interesting when considering the words of Mark Pesce, co-inventor of Virtual Reality Modeling Language. Pesce writes: "The enduring archetype of techne within the pre-Modern era is magic, of an environment that conforms entirely to the will of being" (Pesce). Through the magic of electronic media, the post-September 11th environment seemed to conform entirely to the will of the elite.

The Druid magicians of antiquity used to carry wands, which were made out of "holly wood." Does this sound familiar? The famous Hollywood sign is but an enormous semiotic marker for an industry that specializes in illusion. Independence Day could be considered just one more of its spells. Given the public compliance to the illusion of the so-called "War on Terror," it would seem that the spell is working. Through the alchemical sorcery of electronic media, America's consciousness remains immersed within the semiotic mirage of the post-911 culture.

Works Cited

Alexander, David. Star Trek Creator. New York: Dutton Signet, 1994.

Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Geostrategic Objectives. New York: Basic Books, 1997.

Fiske, John. Television Culture. London: Routledge, 1987.

Hoffman, Michael. Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho: Independent History & Research, 2001.

Gaines, Elliot. "The Semiotics of Media Images From Independence Day and September 11th 2001." The American Journal of Semiotics 17 (2001): 117-131.

Keller, Suzanne. Beyond The Ruling Class: Strategic Elites In Modern Society. New York: Random House, 1963.

LaRouche, Lyndon. Dope, Inc. Washington, D.C.: Executive Intelligence, Inc., 1992.

Pesce, Mark, "Ontos and Techne," Computer-Medicated Magazine, http://www.december.com/cmc/mag/1997/apr/pesce.html, April 1997.

Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics. 1916. Trans. Wade Baskin. London: Fontana/Collins, 1974.

---. Course in General Linguistics. 1916. Trans. Roy Harris. London: Duckworth, 1983.

Whitehall, Geoffrey. "The Problem of the 'World and Beyond': Encountering 'the Other' in Science Fiction." To Seek Out New Worlds: Science Fiction and World Politics, Jutta Weldes, ed. NY: Palgrave, 2003, 169-193.

About the Author

Phillip D. Collins acted as the editor for The Hidden Face of Terrorism. He has an Associate of Arts and Science. Currently, he is studying for a bachelor's degree in Communications at Wright State University. During the course of his seven-year college career, Phillip has studied philosophy, religion, and classic literature. He co-authored the book, The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship: An Examination of Epistemic Autocracy, From the 19th to the 21st Century, is available online.

Click here to comment on this article


Anti-Darwinians step up challenge in school crusade

Evangelicals take evolution fight to Supreme Court

Paul Harris in New York
The Observer
Sunday December 12, 2004

Jeff Brown is a passionate defender of the borough where he lives. Dover, tucked away in the rural hinterland of Pennsylvania, is a conservative place, he says.

It has never been the sort of place to attract attention. Until now. Dover is becoming famous, after its school board decided to introduce an alternative to evolution in parts of its biology curriculum. The furore caused Brown and his wife, Carol, to resign from the board. Extremist Christians, he believes, have taken it over with an agenda to undermine the teaching of evolution. Now he is angry. 'This community is going to rebel,' he said. 'People believe your religion is your own private business.'

Dover has been catapulted into the centre of a renewed battle over the teaching of evolution in schools. The religious right, emboldened by its spreading influence in the Republican party and an explosive growth in the number of evangelical Christians, has launched a major push to get an alternative to evolution - which they believe denies the biblical version of God's creation of the world - into the classroom. At least 40 US states have faced legal challenges in recent months.

At the forefront of the challenge is the concept of 'intelligent design', which stipulates that the universe is so complex it shows clear evidence of a 'designer'. Advocates say evolution is just another theory, not a scientific fact. Critics, however, say intelligent design is bringing religion into science. 'It is just creationism-lite,' said Nick Matzke, a spokesman for the National Centre for Science Education.

The move in Dover was led by William Buckingham, a born-again Christian. The decision has split the community and dominates conversation in diners, bars and churches.

The Browns say Buckingham and a group of evangelical Christians have hijacked the school board and imposed their views on a community, where creationism in the classroom had never been an issue. 'They are on a crusade,' Brown said. His wife added: 'Dover is just ahead of the curve. There will be a lot more things like this in other places.'

In fact, Dover is already just part of a growing phenomenon. In Cobb county, Georgia, textbooks have had stickers stuck inside them telling children that evolution is 'theory, not fact'. In Grantsburg, Wisconsin, new rules direct teachers to analyse the 'strengths and weaknesses' of evolution, as well as allow for the study of other theories. In Ohio the state school board has sought to open the way for the teaching of opposing theories to evolution. The Missouri legislature will consider bringing intelligent design into its classrooms last year.

Arguments over evolution - which has long been accepted as fact by the vast majority of scientists - arouse deep passions in America. Almost 80 years after the Scopes 'monkey trial', where Edward Scopes was tried and convicted for teaching evolu tion in Tennessee, many Americans still do not believe in it. A Gallup poll last month showed that 45 per cent believe God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years.

Now both sides are preparing to take the issue to the Supreme Court for the first time since the Eighties. A conservative law firm, the Thomas More Law Centre, has offered to represent the Dover school board members. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is looking for Dover complainants to take the case on from a pro-evolution view.

Conservatives are confident that they will prevail. 'We are going to win. It is a free speech right for students to receive alternative views,' said Richard Thompson, president of the law centre.

Thompson says intelligent design does not by its nature advocate a religious point of view, which would be against the US Constitution. 'It is based on science that shows the world is so complex it could not have happened by accident,' he said. Critics contend the very concept of a 'designer' implies a god.

Religious groups have been galvanised by the re-election of President George Bush, a born-again Christian who stated: 'On the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out on how God created the Earth.'

Christians are being encouraged to join school boards and lobby to get intelligent design on the curriculum. 'We have as much right as the evolutionists to be on our school boards,' said Dr Patricia Nason, of the Institute for Creation Research.

She and fellow creationists believe Bush's victory gave them a chance to get their agenda into schools. 'I feel that if we don't make progress in the next four years that window of opportunity will close,' she said.

Click here to comment on this article


Mystery Cloaks Couple's Firing as Risks to U.S.
By JAMES DAO
Published: December 12, 2004

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - May 5, the day that changed Aliakbar and Shahla Afshari's lives, began like most others. They shared coffee, dropped their 12-year-old son off at Cheat Lake Middle School here, then drove to their laboratories at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency that studies workplace hazards.

But that afternoon, their managers pulled the Afsharis aside and delivered a stunning message: they had failed secret background checks and were being fired. No explanations were offered and no appeals allowed. They were escorted to the door and told not to return.

Mrs. Afshari, a woman not prone to emotional flourishes, says she stood in the parking lot and wept. "I just wanted to know why," she said.

Seven months later, the Afsharis, Shiite Muslims who came from Iran 18 years ago to study, then stayed to build careers and raise three children, still have no answers.

They have been told they were fired for national security reasons that remain secret. When their lawyer requested the documents used to justify the action, he was told none existed. When he asked for copies of the agency's policies relating to the background checks, he received a generic personnel handbook.

Without any official explanations of why they failed their background checks, they came up with their own theory: their attendance, more than five years ago, at two conventions of a Persian student association that has come under F.B.I. scrutiny, once with a man who was later investigated by the bureau.

The Afsharis' case comes at time when immigrants from many nations, but particularly Islamic ones, are facing tougher scrutiny from government agencies.

Unable to clear their names or find new employment in their field, the Afsharis on Thursday resorted to that most American of recourses: they sued the institute and its parent agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services, demanding back pay and reinstatement or the chance to appeal.

The Afsharis, who passed background checks when they were hired - he in 1996, she in 1997 - were not even aware of the new reviews until they were told that they had failed.

In their suit, they do not question the government's right to conduct background checks. But their lawyers contend that the Kafkaesque nature of the process - in which the rules were unclear and perhaps unwritten - has made it impossible for them to defend themselves.

"How can we expect the people of the Middle East to emulate our democratic ideals abroad when we fail to apply those ideals to people like the Afsharis here?" asked Allan N. Karlin, a lawyer in Morgantown who, along with chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union in West Virginia and Washington, is representing the couple.

The Centers for Disease Control has said the Afsharis were not singled out because of their ethnic background, asserting that other Iranians and Muslims have faced similar background checks and passed. The agency also notes that the couple, who are not citizens and do not have protected Civil Service status, could have been fired at any time.

But the agency has declined to say anything else about the case and did not respond to questions about its policies on background checks. "All I can say is the Afsharis are no longer employed by C.D.C.," said a spokeswoman, Kathryn Harben.

Federal employees have always faced routine background checks, typically when they are hired. But experts say that since the Sept. 11 attacks, checks at certain agencies, including the disease control centers, have become more frequent and tougher as the government attempts to identify potential security leaks or spies with access to classified or dangerous materials.

Those tougher checks seem to have focused on immigrants from certain countries. A C.D.C. document obtained by the Afsharis shows that the recent background checks on them were ordered because they came from a "threat" country, Iran.

Click here to comment on this article


Travellers choose Canada to avoid US visa controls
By Bernard Simon in Toronto
Financial Times
December 12 2004 21:41

Air Canada graphicAir Canada is seeing an upsurge in business as passengers opt to fly via Canada rather than brave the tighter visa and security regime facing transit passengers at US airports.

The company says a growing number of international passengers are choosing to travel via Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal rather than US cities.

Ben Smith, Air Canada's vice-president of planning, said the airline's traffic destined for Latin America originating outside Canada had trebled in the first 11 months of this year, compared with January to November 2003. Passengers flying between Brazil and Japan made up a sizeable part of the extra traffic.

US visa restrictions and airport congestion have "certainly been a positive for us", he added. "Because of 9/11, we have got this extra traffic, which we weren't originally counting on." [...]

The new US visa requirements have also benefited Canada in other ways. Several Canadian universities are seeking to attract foreign students and researchers who might otherwise have attended US institutions.

Canada has also become a base for some offshore outsourcing companies to serve US customers without their employees needing to enter the US. [...]

Comment: Little by little, the US is isolating itself from the rest of the world. So what's next on the agenda? How about an economic collapse?

Click here to comment on this article


Dollar Running Out of Steam
By Justyna Pawlak
December 13, 2004

LONDON (Reuters) - The dollar lost ground against the euro and the yen on Monday after a brief rebound last week, as investors grew cautious ahead of U.S. data on trade, the current account deficit and investment flows later in the week.

The figures will highlight investors' biggest concern about the U.S. economy: its ability to attract enough future foreign investment to plug the rising current account deficit.

Expectations for a deteriorating reading in the deficit data undercut last week's demand for dollars, driven by profit-taking on bets on further dollar losses. They could also offset any support to the U.S. currency from a widely-expected Federal Reserve interest rate rise on Tuesday.

"There is nothing which is holding back the U.S. dollar from weakening and this is the theme for 2005. This week, the external funding needs and potential flows will be closely observed," said Hans-Guenter Redeker, chief foreign exchange strategist at BNP Paribas in London. [...]

Comment: Does anyone think that Bush and gang won't let the dollar crash? Think about it. What has he done to bolster the greenback and the US economy? Then think about what a weakened dollar would mean for the US: more lost jobs, hunger and poverty for the average worker, and a lot of anger that could be effectively channeled into support for the next stage of the imperialist agenda. To truly reshape the US, one must first tear down the old country...

As an added bonus, if the dollar crashes, other currencies and economies will probably be negatively affected. No doubt that the Neocons believe that with unending war and the expansion of the empire, the US will come out on top while other nations will sink into the void.

Click here to comment on this article


US tapped ElBaradei calls, claim officials
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington and Ian Traynor in Zagreb
The Guardian
Monday December 13, 2004

The Bush administration has been listening in on telephone conversations between the director of the international nuclear agency and Iranian diplomats with the aim of gathering evidence to remove the UN bureaucrat from his post, it was reported yesterday.

With Washington's campaign against the IAEA chief, Dr Mohammad ElBaradei, now in its second year, the administration has acquired dozens of telephone intercepts of such conversations in the hopes of finding evidence of wrongdoing, the Washington Post said. The newspaper quoted three anonymous US government officials as saying that the administration embarked on its eavesdropping mission to collect material that would discredit Dr ElBaradei in his dealings with Tehran in the crisis over its clandestine nuclear programme.

At the IAEA headquarters in Vienna it is taken for granted that Dr ElBaradei's phone calls are tapped. Officials shrug that such activities go with the territory. The CIA had no comment when contacted yesterday.

For the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration, Dr ElBaradei has been an enemy since he exposed the hollowness of Washington's claims about Saddam Hussein's nuclear arsenal during the run-up to the war on Iraq. In recent months, as global efforts to halt Iran's clandestine nuclear programme gathered pace, some US officials who were sceptical of a diplomatic resolution accused Dr ElBaradei of hiding evidence of Tehran's weapons programme from the nuclear watchdog.

Under a deal brokered by Britain, Germany and France, Tehran agreed last month to suspend uranium enrichment. However, Washington has been pressing for Iran to be taken to the UN security council.

State Department hardliners, such as the under secretary for arms control, John Bolton, have openly complained about Dr ElBaradei's differing approach. However, the wire taps produced no clear evidence of inappropriate contact between Dr ElBaradei and officials in Tehran. "Some people think he sounds way too soft on the Iranians, but that's about it," one official told the Post.

The IAEA director has said he intends to seek a third term when his current mandate at the agency expires next summer. Dr ElBaradei, a 20-year veteran of the IAEA, enjoys broad support among the agency's 35-strong executive.

Some experts argued yesterday that Washington would do better to expend its diplomatic capital on urging the IAEA to get tougher on Iran, rather than conducting a covert campaign against its chief. "I think we should be more wholeheartedly supporting the Europeans," Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser for the first President Bush, told CNN yesterday. "I think we have little to lose by reaching out, and trying to draw them [Iran] at least into freezing their programme."

During the run-up to the Iraq war, the nuclear chief was viewed as an obstacle to America's campaign to convince the international community that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The feud between Dr ElBaradei and the hawks in the Bush administration flared again during last autumn's US presidential campaign when the nuclear chief pointed out that hundreds of tons of explosives had gone missing from Iraq's nuclear complexes following the US takeover.

Earlier this year the former international development secretary, Clare Short, alleged in a BBC interview that the office of the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, had been bugged. The UN's former chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, also told the Guardian he suspected both his UN office and his home were bugged before the Iraq war.

Click here to comment on this article


Tunnel bombers kill five Israelis
AP
December 13, 2004 - 11:41AM

Palestinian militants found a way around the heavy fortifications at the Israeli-run crossing point between Egypt and Gaza - tunnelling under the base and blowing it up with more than a ton of explosives, killing five soldiers.

The attack yesterday at sundown was the bloodiest since Yasser Arafat died a month ago, negating some of the good will flowing between the two sides since then. Israel said the bombing jeopardised chances for normalisation.

Several structures at the crossing collapsed and others were damaged by the force of the blast. In a coordinated assault, Palestinian gunmen rushed the base after the blast.

A gunman who escaped said he tried to kidnap a wounded soldier, but killed him because the soldier resisted.

In a statement released early today, the military said five soldiers were killed and five injured, two seriously, in the explosion. The statement said two Palestinians charged the base and opened fire after the blast, and soldiers shot them dead. Palestinians said one of the attackers was killed and the other escaped.

Hitting back, Israeli helicopters fired at least five missiles at targets in Gaza City early today, witnesses said. There were no reports of casualties. One missile set a fire at an abandoned metal workshop, and the other target was an empty house near the Islamic University, they said.

The military said the targets were buildings where Hamas manufactured and stored weapons, including mortars and rockets.

The attack and retaliation were clear signs that a lull in violence that followed Arafat's death on November 11 is over. On Tuesday, an Israeli soldier was killed in a blast at the entrance to another tunnel near the Gaza-Israel border, setting off Israeli retaliation that killed four Palestinians.

Palestinian mortar and rocket barrages have hit Jewish settlements in Gaza daily, and militants have resumed firing homemade Qassam rockets at Israeli towns just outside Gaza. Israeli forces returned fire, wounding several Palestinians.

In another development, imprisoned Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti declared in a letter yesterday that he would throw his support to mainstream candidate Mahmoud Abbas in a January 9 election to replace Arafat, dropping out of the race.

Israeli army spokesman Captain Jacob Dallal said two explosions rocked the border terminal while it was open. "This was a very large, well coordinated, planned attack against an international crossing, used by Palestinian civilians to cross into Egypt."

Dallal said the crossing would be closed until further notice.

Palestinians said one gunman was killed in the exchange of fire, and a civilian was also killed, they said.

A Palestinian militant giving his name only as Abu Majad said gunmen attacked the Israeli position after the blast. He claimed responsibility in the name of the Fatah Hawks, an offshoot of the mainstream Fatah Party, and the violent Islamic Hamas.

A Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 1.5 tons of explosives were set off in the blast. Masked Hamas gunmen later told of the kidnap attempt and said a second, smaller bomb was detonated after the first one.

Abu Majad said the explosives-filled tunnel was 800 metres long. He said the attack was retaliation for what he called "the assassination" of Arafat, who died in a French hospital. Some Palestinians claim he was poisoned by Israel.

Raanan Gissin, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the attack could jeopardise efforts to normalise Israeli-Palestinian relations and restart peace moves after Arafat's death.

"Unless there is decisive and sustained effort taken to dismantle the terrorist organisations, it will be impossible to move toward normalisation and toward political negotiations," he said, demanding action by the Palestinian Authority.

Comment: Well, who'd have guessed it? After the calm following Arafat's death, just as the two parties seem to be moving closer to peace, conveniently Hamas stages another well-coordinated attack. Immediately, Israel retaliates and the cycle of violence begins again.

We've seen this routine too many times before to be surprised by any of it. The only party that benefits from these type of attacks is the Zionist government of Israel. There is evidence to suggest that their intelligence service, the Mossad, secretly sponsors Hamas to kill their their own soldiers, who in turn get to target Palestinian civilians.

It's bloodshed all around, and it seems the people who get blamed for it are least likely to have the means or motive to carry it out. Whereas the people who are pointing the blame are most likely the ones who are behind the attack in the first place...

And they get away with time and time again, using the same formula, because it works so well. Their media lackeys bray in compliance with state propaganda, and the public, ignorant, ill-informed and generally too lazy to ferret out the truth, tend to unconditionally believe whatever the idiot box tells them.

Welcome to the horror of this reality, where the insatiable gaping maw of self-serving power continues to suck the life force from wherever and whomever it can.

Click here to comment on this article


Israelis fire on refugee camp in Gaza Strip
By IBRAHIM BARZAK

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - The Israeli army fired three tank shells at the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday, wounding seven schoolchildren, Palestinian officials said.

The army denied firing tank shells, saying it used only light weapons to target Palestinians it said had fire a mortar shell at an Israeli target.

Associated Press Television News footage showed a large hole in the roof of a building behind the school that appeared to house a playground.

Palestinian officials said the shell wounded seven children, two of whom were treated at the scene. The others, aged eight to 12, suffered shrapnel wounds and were taken to hospital, Palestinian medical officials said.

"There is nothing to justify this random shelling," Khan Younis Gov. Hosni Zourab said.

The attack came after Palestinians fired a mortar shell at an Israeli target in the southern Gaza Strip, causing no damage or injuries, the Israeli army said. Jewish settlers said militants had fired two other projectiles at a settlement near Khan Younis overnight.

Israel often retaliates against such attacks. On Friday, Israeli troops killed a seven-year-old Palestinian girl in southern Gaza as they fired on insurgents who had launched mortar shells against a nearby Jewish settlement.

Palestinian fighters also fired three mortar shells and a homemade rocket toward Jewish settlements in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, damaging a building, but causing no injuries, the army said.

Most of the projectiles fell in open areas in the northern coastal strip just inside Israel, the army said.

One of the shells badly damaged a building in the Jewish settlement of Nissanit, settlers said. Palestinians in the area reported hearing a large explosion from the area of the settlement.

Click here to comment on this article


Police given computer spy powers
By Rob O'Neill
December 13, 2004

(Australia) - Federal and state police now have the power to use computer spyware to gather evidence in a broad range of investigations after legal changes last week.

The Surveillance Devices Act allows police to obtain a warrant to use software surveillance technologies, including systems that track and log keystrokes on a computer keyboard. The law applies to the Australian Federal Police and to state police investigating Commonwealth offences.

Critics have called the law rushed and imbalanced, saying police will be able to secretly install software to monitor email, online chats, word processor and spreadsheets entries and even bank personal identification numbers and passwords.

Irene Graham, executive director of watchdog Electronic Frontiers Australia, said the law went too far in allowing police surveillance.

"The legislation has been passed without the proper scrutiny and the ALP is too afraid to stick to their guns and oppose it," she said. [...]

In addition to redefining the kinds of surveillance devices that can be used, the Surveillance Devices Act allows surveillance for offences far less serious than those allowed under the Telecommunications Interception Act. Warrants to intercept telecommunications can only be obtained to investigate offences carrying a maximum jail term of seven years or more. However, Surveillance Devices Act warrants can be obtained for offences carrying a maximum sentence of three years.

Ms Graham said the three-year benchmark was too low and the act went too far in setting out circumstances in which police could use surveillance devices.

A warrant could be obtained under the act if an officer had reasonable grounds to suspect an offence had been or might be committed and a surveillance device was necessary to obtain evidence. They can also be obtained in child recovery cases.

The act also has secrecy provisions making it an offence to publish information on an application for, or the existence of, a surveillance warrant.

The Government said the act would consolidate and modernise the law. Mr Ruddock said the power of Commonwealth law enforcement using surveillance devices lagged behind what technology made possible and what was permitted in other jurisdictions.

However, Electronic Frontiers is concerned that key-logging software can even record words written and then deleted or changed and thoughts that are not intended for communication.

Click here to comment on this article


Blast kills at least 15 in Philippines
POSTED AT 9:04 AM EST
Sunday, Dec 12, 2004
Associated Press

Manila, Philippines — A powerful explosion ripped through an outdoor market packed with Christmas shoppers in the southern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least 15 people and injuring 58 others, the military said.

A homemade bomb or a grenade concealed in a box went off in the market's meat section in General Santos city. Officials immediately stepped up security, fearing more attacks in the port city 620 miles south of Manila.

"This is a terrorist attack by any measure," Sen. Richard Gordon, who heads the Philippine Red Cross, told ABS-CBN television. He criticized the military and police for failing to prevent the attack despite what he said was intelligence information of an imminent terror strike in the city.

"I'm getting reports from some of our people there that they knew there was a plan to pull this off but still it happened," Sen. Gordon said. "They need to bolster their spying and their surveillance of places that should be under guard."

Army Col. Medardo Geslani, who heads a regional anti-terrorism force, said no group claimed responsibility and it was not yet clear if terrorist groups were involved. "It was most possibly caused by an improvised explosive device," Col. Geslani said.

Islamic and communist rebels operate in provinces near General Santos, and despite a crackdown by the military and police, Muslim militants are believed to still have a presence in the predominantly Christian city of 500,000.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo strongly condemned the attack, saying there was no way to justify "this heinous deed."

Police investigator Capt. Maximo Sebastian said three people were instantly killed by Sunday afternoon's bomb blast and other victims died in hospitals.

"The market was packed with people because there were Christmas flea market stalls there, and the explosion was powerful," Capt. Sebastian told The Associated Press by telephone. [...]

Click here to comment on this article


Real Madrid Stadium Evacuated in ETA Bomb Threat
Sun Dec 12, 2004 07:12 PM ET
By Sergio Perez

MADRID (Reuters) - Some 70,000 people were forced to evacuate Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium minutes before the end of a league match on Sunday after a bomb threat in the name of ETA Basque separatist guerrillas.

The decision to abandon the game against Real Sociedad three minutes from time and evacuate the crowd was taken after Basque newspaper Gara said it received a warning from a caller claiming to represent ETA that there was a bomb in the ground.

The caller said the bomb would explode at 9 p.m. (3 p.m. EST) but the warning proved false. Police with sniffer dogs searched the stadium and found no bomb.

"The police have said they have completed their search and have not found anything," Real Madrid president Florentino Perez told reporters. "The best thing we can all do now is to put this nightmare behind us."

Real Madrid's star-studded team, including Brazil's Ronaldo and England's David Beckham, suddenly trooped off the pitch with the score tied at 1-1 against Real Sociedad, a team from San Sebastian in the Basque country.

An announcement over the public address system told the crowd to leave.

ORDERLY EVACUATION

Spectators left the stadium in an orderly way, clearing the ground in less than 15 minutes. Hundreds streamed across the pitch on their way to the exits.

Outside, a few people could be seen in tears due to nerves but emergency officials said no one had been treated for any injury.
The police ordered the evacuation because their priority was to ensure the safety of everyone in the ground, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. [...]

Click here to comment on this article


Bioterrorism crisis centre set for Ottawa
reuters news agency
Dec. 12, 2004. 01:00 AM

PARIS—Ottawa will be home to an international bioterrorism crisis centre set up in response to the threat of germ warfare attacks.
The crisis centre could also help manage natural disasters like the Asia bird flu outbreak, health ministers of the G-7 said after a meeting Friday.

The centre will be based at the G-7 health ministers' secretariat in Ottawa and will act as a clearinghouse for the pooling and sharing of information, intelligence and the research being carried out at government labs.

A spokesperson for federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh yesterday said officials would have more to say about the announcement tomorrow.

The move comes amidst concerns since the Sept. 11 terror attacks that militants such as Al Qaeda might use biological weapons in any future strike.

"Despite our efforts, we have to admit that `they' can still hit us at any moment," U.S. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson told Le Figaro daily in an interview published yesterday.

The U.S. has earmarked the equivalent of 80 million doses of smallpox vaccine for a 200 million-dose vaccine bank, run by the World Health Organization, to which Canada has also made pledges.

British Health Secretary John Reid said the vaccine stock created by the group, which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, plus the European Union and Mexico, would be made available to any country in need.

Click here to comment on this article


Update: Fears of oil spill disaster grow

Saturday, December 11, 2004
By LISA STIFFLER
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Heavy oil washed ashore in an Alaska wildlife refuge yesterday as huge waves, unrelenting winds and bone-chilling temperatures stymied efforts to keep a smashed-up freighter from spilling more fuel into the Bering Sea.

Last night, the search was suspended for the six missing crew members from the freighter, Coast Guard officials said.

The 738-foot freighter, the Selendang Ayu, had been headed to China carrying soybeans when its engines failed early Tuesday morning, leaving the vessel adrift. A Coast Guard helicopter plucked the six crew members off the foundering ship Wednesday, but it then crashed amid high seas and heavy winds.

The crew of the helicopter was rescued, but the six men from the ship were not found.

"We feel that if any of the men were on the surface, we would have found them by now," said Jim Lawrence, spokesman for IMC, the Singapore-based shipping company that owns the vessel.

Now cleaved in two and resting partly submerged just off Unalaska Island, about 800 miles southwest of Anchorage, the Selendang Ayu is oozing thick, sticky bunker oil that will be difficult to clean up and could harm endangered sea lions as well as sea otters, diving sea ducks, loons and salmon in the area.

Officials said there was also concern that birds would eat oil-coated soybeans, now floating in the water near the ship.

The spill in the Aleutian Islands is potentially the worst in Alaska since the Exxon Valdez spilled nearly 11 million gallons of oil in 1989. [...]

Click here to comment on this article


Update: Bad weather hampers efforts to clean massive Pearl River oil spill
12 December 2004 1109 hrs
- CNA

Strong winds and choppy seas hampered efforts of a Chinese government team trying to clean up a massive oil spill that officials have declared the worst-ever in Chinese waters.

On Tuesday, a German-registered container ship, the MSC Ilona, collided with the Panama-registered Hyundai Advance near the mouth of the Pearl River.

The collision punctured the Ilona's hull, sending about 524,000 litres (138,000 gallons) of crude oil streaming into the South China Sea.

The spill - 16 kilometres (10 miles) long and 200 metres (660 feet) wide - was the worst ever in Chinese waters, the official China Daily newspaper reported, citing an official from the Guangdong Provincial Marine Bureau.

Anti-pollution boats worked on Friday for their fourth day in a row to clean up the spill, but were fighting strong winds and high waves, the report said.

The clean-up effort was expected to last several more days, it said.
The report said both the MSC Ilona and the Hyundai Advance had been towed from the collision site for maintenance.

The 75,500-ton (tonne) MSC Ilona was on its way to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen from Shanghai when the accident occurred about 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the mouth of the Pearl River, Xinhua said.

The 21,000-ton (tonne) Hyundai Advance was departing Shenzhen for Singapore.

It was not clear what cargo the two ships were carrying or what caused the accident. No injuries were reported.

Chinese authorities intercepted the Hyundai Advance on Friday about two hours after the vessel left the site of the collision without authorisation, said officials cited by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Click here to comment on this article


Girl cuffed after scissors found at school
Sun, December 12, 2004
AP

PHILADELPHIA -- A 10-year-old girl was placed in handcuffs and taken to a Philadelphia police station because she took a pair of scissors to her elementary school. School district officials said the Grade 4 student did not threaten anyone with the 20-cm shears but violated a rule that considers scissors to be potential weapons.

Administrators said they were following Pennsylvania state law when they called police Thursday and police said they were following department rules when they handcuffed Porsche Brown and took her away in a patrol wagon.

"My daughter cried and cried," said her mother, Rose Jackson.
"She had no idea what she did was wrong. I think that was way too harsh."

Police officers decided the girl hadn't committed a crime and let her go. However, school officials suspended her for five days.

The scissors were discovered while students' belongings were being searched for property missing from a teacher's desk.

School district officials have promised a crackdown on unruly students this year. Administrators said the steps are needed to regain control over a notoriously unruly school system but some parents have complained discipline has been overly harsh.

Click here to comment on this article


Explosion and gas leak hit Edmonton
December 12, 2004

EDMONTON (CP) - An underground explosion at a gas well on the western edge of Edmonton forced hundreds of people from their homes Sunday morning.

Police said no one was hurt in the blast, but that the people were being moved because of fears the well could release poisonous sour gas. The people forced from their homes are mostly residents of the Enoch Cree Nation.

"They figure there's about 600 people that have been evacuated to local hotels," said Const. Stewart Angus of the Stony Plain RCMP.

"There's no flames, but it's still leaking." [...]

Click here to comment on this article


Mild earthquake shakes the valley
The Desert Sun
December 12th, 2004

A magnitude-3.8 earthquake centered at Big Bear Lake was felt in Palm Springs and other parts of the Coachella Valley Saturday at about 9:05 p.m.

Buildings and residences shook most intensely in northern and western Palm Springs and in parts of San Bernardino County west of Big Bear Lake, according to a Community Internet Intensity Map produced by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Nonetheless, area law enforcement -- in Indio, Palm Springs and Cathedral City reported receiving no calls for damage. And, in some areas of the Coachella Valley, like Indio and parts of La Quinta, no shaking was felt.

The USGE measured the shaking level as "Light" even in areas that felt the most shaking. The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that a magnitude 3.8 quake hit coordinates 7.4 miles south/southwest of Big Bear Lake at 9:05:52. Big Bear Lake is about 81 miles northwest of Palm Springs.

The USGS also recorded a small earthquake Saturday in Baja.
The Saturday night quake is characterized as minor, at magnitude-3.8. By comparison, the 1994 Northridge earthquake that caused extensive damage was magnitude 6.7. [...]

Click here to comment on this article


Indonesian volcano blankets town, villages with ash
Sunday, December 12, 2004. 6:46pm

A volcano in Indonesia's northernmost province of North Sulawesi on Sunday belched smoke and heatclouds and covered a town and several villages with ash.

Mount Soputan began rumbling close to midnight local time on Saturday, with increasing frequency of tremors, and finally belched heatclouds and ash at around 5:00am local time, said Yudi Juhara from the nearby vulcanology office in Tomohon.

He says the heatclouds, with temperatures reaching as high as 600 degrees Celsius, did not fall far from the crater and that there were no human settlements on the slope of the vulcano threatened. [...]

Click here to comment on this article


Volcanic lightning, very, very frightening
The Guardian
Thursday December 9, 2004

The violent electrical storms that break as a volcano erupts mystify scientists. David Adam reports on a new explanation for the explosive phenomena - and the surprising amount of water in magma

It must be the greatest light show on Earth. The most vivid demonstration of power, beauty and mystery the natural world has to offer. And it must be terrifying to witness at close quarters. In fact, the greatest mystery about the phenomenon of volcanic lightning is how, with every instinct urging them to run like the clappers in the opposite direction, anybody hangs around long enough to see it.

There are now more than 150 recorded cases of vicious electrical storms breaking out directly above craters of erupting volcanos, dating back several centuries. The 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens in Washington state, one of the most studied eruptions in recent times, produced a lightning bolt every second. The electrical activity does not pose the same hazard as a volcano's boiling lava, choking dust clouds and drowning mud slides - though there are reports of people and animals being struck as they fled - but it sets a spectacular seal on mother nature's most awesome display of destruction.

Awesome, but not really understood. Exactly what causes volcanic lightning is still hidden in the clouds spewed from the crater. Most volcanologists seem happy with the vague notion that ash particles thrown into the air rub against each other and generate enough static charge to trigger sparks. It's the boiling lava, choking dust clouds and drowning mud slides that really concern them - particularly if they are close to the action.

There is more to the lightning than shock and awe. A better understanding of processes that cause it deep within eruption debris could help predict how the giant clouds will behave. Airlines have long feared the way volcanos can suddenly fill the sky with hazardous vertical smoke columns several miles high that rise at speeds up to 400 metres per second.

Now, an intriguing new idea that could explain volcanic lightning has emerged. Earle Williams of MIT and Stephen McNutt at the University of Alaska, say it might simply be caused by a build up of ice. Because thunder and lightning in conventional storms are down to ice and water, the two claim that large volcanic eruptions are nothing more than dirty thunderstorms. [...]

Click here to comment on this article


Four drowned, 4,500 evacuated in Malaysian floods
12 December 2004 1946 hrs
- AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 4,500 people have been evacuated and at least four people drowned in the worst floods in 40 years on the east coast of peninsula Malaysia, reports and police said Sunday.

A number of roads in the eastern states of Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang have been closed after being submerged following continuous heavy rainfall during the monsoon season while rail services were partly disrupted by landslides, police said.

Three people - a 37-year-old man, a three-year-old boy and another aged six - drowned in floods Saturday.

Terengganu police chief Hussin Ismail said the body of a 16-year-old boy was found early Sunday.

Hussin said rescuers were still searching for a 30-year-old woman trapped inside a car that was swept away by a river.

Some 4,346 people have been evacuated in the state as floods spread to six districts, he said.

Hundreds more people were evacuated in the other two states Sunday, after water levels in 11 rivers in Kelantan breached the danger level, officials said.

Most government buildings, including the police headquarters and federal administrative centre, as well as shops in Kelantan had to close as the state capital Kota Baharu remained under one to two metres (three to six feet) of water, reports said.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mustapa Mohamed was quoted by Bernama news agency as saying some areas of Kelantan were experiencing the worst floods in 40 years.

He said part of the east-west highway may have to be closed to traffic if the rain persisted, but pledged the government would ensure adequate food and other supplies for flood victims moved to make-shift centres in government schools.

Click here to comment on this article


Flood returns to Riau town
December 13, 2004

PEKANBARU, Riau (Indonesia): While waters are down in the Rokan Hilir, Siak and Indragiri Hulu regions, new floods hit the Palalawang area on Saturday, officials say.

No injuries have yet been reported and the fate of many residents was not known on Saturday night.

The Riau Social Welfare Office said the floods began on Friday, submerging hundreds of homes, schools and other public buildings in 10 villages in the area.

Floodwaters reached up to 1.5 meters high in several parts of Palalawang, forcing some schools to close.

The flood also damaged roads and swept away bridges, including one that linked Ukui village to neighboring areas.

Click here to comment on this article


Flood at Chinese mine traps 36 workers
Sunday, December 12, 2004
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIJING -- A flood at a mine in southern China trapped 36 workers on Sunday, the government said, the latest in a recent string of disasters in the country's perilous coal mines.

The accident occurred around 12:30 p.m. (11:30 p.m. EST), when 80 miners were working in the Tianchi Colliery in Sinan, a county in Guizhou province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Rescuers saved 44 workers and another 36 were missing, it said.

The cause of the flood was under investigation.

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, accounting for 80 percent of all coal mining-related deaths worldwide last year, according to the government.

More than 4,500 Chinese miners were reported killed this year in fires, floods and other disasters.

Last month, a blast in a central China mine killed 166 miners - the nation's deadliest mining accident in years.

On Friday, a gas explosion at a coal mine in northern China killed 33 people.

Click here to comment on this article


Seven-Year Drought Puts Afghanistan on the Brink
By CARLOTTA GALL
Published: December 12, 2004

HAKHANSUR, Afghanistan - The Afghan farmers, coated in dust, some of them barefoot, wielded their hoes, not in the fields they are accustomed to, which lay barren, but at the bottom of a dried canal.

"For the last seven years there is no work, no water," said one old man, Muhammad Azam, after scrambling up a steep bank of crumbly soil to tell his lament. "I am 70 years old. I did not eat at all this morning. We would die if it weren't for this work."

The work is a canal-clearing project run by the United Nations World Food Program, and the farmers employed are among 6.4 million Afghan people who the agency estimates do not have enough to eat this year.

Afghanistan remains in the grip of the most debilitating drought in living memory, now in its seventh year. Government and foreign aid officials warn that despite the outside help and a good harvest last year, the country is living on the brink, with nearly 40 percent of the population below subsistence levels.

The World Food Program, which had hoped to reduce assistance, put out an appeal to donor countries in September to help Afghanistan through the winter until the harvest of 2005. The agency reports that districts in 17 provinces are in urgent need of help and that 37 percent of the population is unable to meet its basic needs.

"You have a recurring drought in Afghanistan, particularly because of deforestation and soil degradation," said Susana Rico, head of Word Food Program in Afghanistan. "There is significant underlying poverty, and a significant portion of the population that are not able to feed themselves. Any shock will push more under the threshold."

The shock this year was simply the lack of rain. Crops failed, farm laborers were left without work and food prices rose sharply, by 50 percent in some places. Wells, rivers and canals have gone dry. The World Food Program estimates that three quarters of a million people in the country are in "severe distress" because of an acute shortage of drinking water.

At least 4,000 families - 20,000 people - have abandoned their homes in search of water and jobs, said the minister of rural rehabilitation and development, Hanif Atmar. "These 4,000 families are known, but the real figure may be higher," he said.

This province, Nimruz, in the far southwestern corner of Afghanistan, bordering Iran and Pakistan, is probably the worst affected area. The World Food Program estimates that 92 percent of the Nimruz's population - 130,000 people - needs food aid or other assistance.

The great Helmand River, which descends from the Hindu Kush and, along with other rivers, feeds the traditional wetlands of the Sistan Basin, has run dry in Nimruz. A new bridge spanning the Helmand at Zaranj, at the border with Iran - built by the Iranian government and officially opened in November - crosses a dry river bed.

"For the last four or five years we have not had a drop in the river," said Hajji Qesim Khedri, the mayor of the provincial capital, Zaranj, as he stood on the bridge. "We used to use boats, now we drive our cars in it."

The province, once a cultural and rich agricultural center, is fed by the rivers that descend from the snowfields in Afghanistan's central highlands but the snow caps have shrunk to half their size and the rivers no longer reach the river basin in Nimruz. Annual rainfall, always low, was about 2 to 2.3 inches in Nimruz before the drought, but for the past three years it has been a little over a tenth of an inch, said Muhammad Akbar Sharifi, head of the government's Agriculture Department in Zaranj.

Nearly all the wells in the province are salty. The desert is advancing and huge sand dunes have smothered up to 100 villages, many fields and orchards, and even parts of Zaranj. More than 90 percent of the animals have died or been slaughtered, Mr. Sharifi said. "People are emigrating, the district bazaars are empty," he said.

The 100 men, old and young, cleaning and deepening the canal at a section in Chakhansur, about 25 miles east of Zaranj, said they had not harvested their fields for seven years, and most families are surviving on bread. For the past two months, 500 men have been employed to clean the canal. Each family gets to work one eight-day stint a month and is paid with a bag of wheat weighing about 110 pounds, which can last a small family one month.

"This is not enough for us," a farmer named Malang, 46, said. "The population is large and everyone is trying to get this job."

Another man, Lashkaran, 60, a father of 10, said: "We don't have pomegranates or vegetables, or water. We used to grow wheat, melons, vegetables. Without food, we will have to think of moving."

The district center still has sweet water in its wells, but in the outlying villages, well water has turned brackish. Lashkaran said a cow he owned had gone blind from drinking the well water.

Click here to comment on this article


Blind man found to have sixth sense
Sunday 12 December 2004, 22:02 Makka Time, 19:02 GMT

A completely blind British man has been shown to possess an apparent sixth sense which lets him recognise emotions on people's faces, British scientists said.

The 52-year-old was able to react to pictures of human faces showing emotions such as anger, happiness or fear, the researchers said on Sunday.

The man, identified only as Patient X, has suffered two strokes which damaged the brain areas that process visual signals, leaving him blind.

However, his eyes and optic nerves are intact, and brain scans showed that he appeared to somehow use a part of the brain not usually used for sight to process visual signals linked to some emotions.

When researchers from the University of Wales showed the man images of shapes such as circles and squares, he could only guess what they were, and had a similar lack of success determining the gender of emotionless male and female faces.

Detecting emotions

But when presented with angry or happy human faces, his accuracy improved to 59%, significantly better than what would be expected by random chance, with similar results for distinguishing between sad and happy or fearful and happy faces.

He was unable, however, to tell apart images of animals which appeared either threatening or non-threatening.

Brain scans showed that when the man looked at faces expressing emotion, it activated a part of his brain called the right amygdala, which is known to respond to non-verbal emotional signs.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, suggested the man was able to process information gathered by his eyes in a different part of the brain from the visual centre.

"This discovery is interesting for behavioural scientists as the right amygdala has been associated with subliminal processing of emotional stimuli in clinically healthy individuals," said Dr Alan Pegna, who led the study.

"What Patient X has assisted us in establishing is that this area undoubtedly processes visual facial signals connected with all types of emotional facial expressions."

Click here to comment on this article


UFO 'explodes' in China
13/12/2004 07:34 - (SA)

Beijing - An unidentified flying object, or UFO, passed across the large north-western Chinese city of Lanzhou and apparently exploded in the suburbs, state media said on Monday.

The unusual sighting of two bright trails of light, reported by several witnesses, took place on Saturday shortly before midnight, the China Times reported.

Police, working on the theory that it was a meteorite, went to investigate the matter, but as of early Monday they had found no evidence of what caused the nightly phenomenon, an officer said by telephone.

A taxi driver told the paper he was in his car when everything suddenly became "as bright as day."

When he pulled over, he saw a fireball with a tail of about three metres darting across the sky, he said.

One witness who was on the late shift at his company reported the courtyard outside his office was suddenly bathed in a ghostly red light as the object passed overhead, the paper said.

Others said they heard a huge explosion and felt as if an earthquake had struck.

China has been hit by several waves of UFO sighting in recent years, and the country has a research association devoted to the study of possible extraterrestrial visits.

Comment: For more stories like this one, see our new UFO Supplement and our updated Meteor Supplement.

Click here to comment on this article


And Finally...

Church outraged at devil's Christmas grotto

Monday, December 13, 2004. 10:20am (AEDT)
By Philip Williams in London

English vicars have banded together to protest against a Christmas grotto in which Santa lies beheaded, his elves have been impaled and visitors are greeted by the devil.

The York Dungeon has done away with Father Christmas and installed the devil in his place.

Operators of the tourist attraction in the northern English city thought they were just having a bit of fun when they created their macabre version of a Christmas grotto.

But it is all to much for local religious leaders.

Thirty have signed a letter outlining their fears, saying far from being harmless fun it was all about darkness and evil which could draw some people in.

The dungeon operators say it is a lighthearted dig at the commercialisation of Christmas.

It is not known if small children will be invited to sit on the devil's lap or pull his beard.

Click here to comment on this article


Readers who wish to know more about who we are and what we do may visit our portal site Cassiopaea.org



Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!

We also need help to keep the Signs of the Times online.


Check out the Signs of the Times Archives

Send your comments and article suggestions to us


Fair Use Policy

Contact Webmaster at signs-of-the-times.org
Cassiopaean materials Copyright ©1994-2014 Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk. All rights reserved. "Cassiopaea, Cassiopaean, Cassiopaeans," is a registered trademark of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.
Letters addressed to Cassiopaea, Quantum Future School, Ark or Laura, become the property of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk
Republication and re-dissemination of our copyrighted material in any manner is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.