Travel Log! The
Quantum Future Group Goes to Rennes-le-Chateau
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
Publication! 'The Wave' finally in book form!
Wave: 4 Volume Set
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and extensive previously unpublished details, at long last, Laura Knight-Jadczyk's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
is an exquisitely written first-person account of Laura's initiation at
the hands of the Cassiopaeans and demonstrates the unique nature of the
Volumes 1 and 2 now!
of the Day
GARY WEBB: THE OFFICIAL STORY
LA TIMES - Gary Webb, an investigative reporter who wrote a widely
criticized series linking the CIA to the explosion of crack cocaine
in Los Angeles, was found dead in his Sacramento-area home Friday.
He apparently killed himself, authorities said. Webb had suffered
a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Sacramento County
coroner's office. He was 49.
His 1996 San Jose Mercury News series contended that Nicaraguan
drug traffickers had sold tons of crack cocaine from Colombian cartels
in Los Angeles' black neighborhoods and then funneled millions in
profits back to the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contras. Three months
after the series was published, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's
Department said it conducted an exhaustive investigation but found
no evidence of a connection between the CIA and Southern California
Major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times
and Washington Post, wrote reports discrediting elements of Webb's
reporting. The Los Angeles Times report looked into Webb's charges
"that a CIA-related drug ring sent 'millions' of dollars to
the Contras; that it launched an epidemic of cocaine use in South-Central
Los Angeles and America's other inner cities; and that the agency
either approved the scheme or deliberately turned a blind eye."
"But the available evidence, based on an extensive review
of court documents and more than 100 interviews in San Francisco,
Los Angeles, Washington and Managua, fails to support any of those
allegations," The Times reported. Months later, the Mercury
News also backed away from the series, publishing an open letter
to its readers, admitting to flaws. "We oversimplified the
complex issue of how the crack epidemic in America grew," wrote
the paper's executive editor, Jerry Ceppos, adding, "I believe
that we fell short at every step of our process in the writing,
editing and production of our work.". . . Webb continued to
defend his reporting, most notably in a 548-page book, "Dark
Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion,"
which was published in 1999.
GARY WEBB: THE BACK STORY
CHRISTOPHER REED, GUARDIAN, 1996 - In 1992, when reports were appearing
in the alternative press about alleged drugs and arms smuggling
flights into Arkansas, I asked a senior news executive at the Los
Angeles Times if his paper had investigated. "Yes," he
replied, "but nobody in authority would confirm it." Well,
they wouldn't, would they?
The reputation of the US press for fearless muckraking has declined
severely in the quarter-century since Watergate. After the servitude
of the Reagan years, it can now be accused of compliance, and never
more so than in its response to an explosive series in August by
Gary Webb in the San Jose Mercury News of California. . .
The LA Times's series quotes drug "experts" to back its
debunking. One is University of California professor Ronald Siegel,
who says: "This was not some grand design of the drug cartels
or someone at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, who was sitting
around thinking up ways to raise money for the Contras." Webb
never made such a claim. The LA Times only mentions later that Prof
Siegel worked as a consultant to the Reagan administration, the
very people organizing the illicit Contra war.
Back in August, Katz quoted another expert, Richard Millet, a Latin
America scholar, who said: "Did some
people involved with the Contras deal drugs? Yes. Did some officials
in the US government know about it? Undoubtedly . . ."
All three papers skirt the central charge: that the
CIA must have condoned selling crack in America. When they
wish to demolish this hypothesis, they blandly quote officials and
experts to the contrary. The LA Times even resorts to asking former
CIA director Robert Gates about his agency's performance. "Did
someone turn a blind eye?" Gates asks incredulously. "I
would be quite surprised by that. To me it's inconceivable."
The paper does not mention that Gates, the
CIA deputy director for intelligence during the Contra war, pressured
staff analysts to alter intelligence estimates to conform with his
own political line. This was revealed at his own confirmation hearing
as CIA chief, when one staffer testified: "Mr Gates' role was
to corrupt the process and the ethics of intelligence." [...]
ROBERT PARRY, CONSORTIUM, 1998 - New evidence, now in the public
record, strongly suggests that the Reagan administration's tolerance
of drug trafficking by the Nicaraguan contras and other clients
in the 1980s was premeditated. With almost no notice in the national
press, a 1982 letter was introduced into the Congressional Record
revealing how CIA Director William J. Casey secretly engineered
an exemption sparing the CIA from a legal requirement to report
on drug smuggling by agency assets.
The exemption was granted by Attorney General William French Smith
on Feb. 11, 1982, only two months after President Reagan authorized
covert CIA support for the Nicaraguan contra army and some eight
months before the first known documentary evidence revealing that
the contras had started collaborating with drug traffickers.
The exemption suggests that the CIA's tolerance
of illicit drug smuggling by its clients during the 1980s was official
policy anticipated from the outset,
not just an unintended consequence followed by an ad hoc cover-up.
The newly released letter, placed into the Congressional Record
by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., on May 7, establishes that Casey
foresaw the legal dilemma which the CIA would encounter should federal
law require it to report on illicit narcotics smuggling by its agents.
The narcotics exemption is especially noteworthy in contrast to
the laundry list of crimes which the CIA was required to disclose.
Under Justice Department regulations, "reportable offenses"
included assault, homicide, kidnapping, Neutrality Act violations,
communication of classified data, illegal immigration, bribery,
obstruction of justice, possession of explosives, election contributions,
possession of firearms, illegal wiretapping, visa violations and
Yet, despite reporting requirements for many less serious offenses,
Casey fought a bureaucratic battle in early 1982 to exempt the CIA
from, as Smith wrote, "the need to add narcotics violations
to the list of reportable non-employee crimes." . . .
The first publicly known case of contra cocaine shipments appeared
in government files in an Oct. 22, 1982, cable from the CIA's Directorate
of Operations. The cable passed on word that U.S. law enforcement
agencies were aware of "links between (a U.S. religious organization)
and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups [which] involve
an exchange in (the United States) of narcotics for arms."
The material in parentheses was inserted by the CIA as part of its
declassification of the cable. The name of the religious group remains
Over the next several years, the CIA learned of other suspected
links between the contras and drug trafficking. In 1984, the CIA
even intervened with the Justice Department to block a criminal
investigation into a suspected contra role in a San Francisco-based
drug ring, according to Hitz's report.
In December 1985, Brian Barger and I wrote the first news article
disclosing that virtually every Nicaraguan contra group had links
to drug trafficking. In that Associated Press dispatch, we noted
that the CIA knew of at least one case of cocaine profits filtering
into the contra war effort, but that DEA officials in Washington
claimed they had never been told of any contra tie-in. The Casey
exemption explains why that was possible.
After the AP story ran, the Reagan administration attacked it as
unfounded and the article was largely ignored by the rest of the
Washington press corps. But it did help spark
an investigation by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who over the next
two years amassed substantial evidence of cocaine smuggling in and
around the contra war. Still, the Reagan and Bush administrations
continued to disparage Kerry's probe and its many witnesses.
Through the end of the decade, the mainstream
Washington media also denigrated the allegations. In April
1989, when Kerry released a lengthy report detailing multiple examples
of how the contra war supplied cover for major drug trafficking
operations, the nation's most prestigious newspapers -- The
New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times --
published only brief, dismissive accounts. . .
The contra-cocaine issue arose again in
1996 with an investigative series by Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury-News.
Those stories traced how one of the contra drug conduits helped
fuel the crack epidemic in Los Angeles. In
response, the major newspapers again rallied to the CIA's defense.
They denounced the series as overblown, although finally
acknowledging that the allegations raised during the 1980s were
true. Webb's series also prompted a new investigation by the CIA's
In the first volume of his investigative report, Hitz admitted
the CIA knew early on about contra drug trafficking and covered
it up. The report's second volume reportedly puts the CIA in even
a worse light.
CARL BERNSTEIN, ROLLING STONE, 1977 - In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then
one of America's leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines
to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so
by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by
the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of
Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists
who in the past twenty-five years have secretly carried out assignments
for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents
on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists' relationships
with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation,
accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of
clandestine services from simple intelligencegathering to serving
as go-betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared
their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some
of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters
who considered themselves ambassadors-without-portfolio for their
country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found
that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers
and freelancers who were as interested it the derring-do of the
spy business as in filing articles, and, the smallest category,
full-time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In
many instances, CIA documents show journalists were engaged to perform
tasks for the CIA with the consent of the management of Americas
leading news organizations.
The history of the CIA's involvement with the American press continues
to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception
. . . Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency
were William Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce
of Time Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry
Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier-Journal and James Copley of
the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with
the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National
Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Pres International,
Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek magazine, the
Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday
Evening Post and New York Herald-Tribune. By far the most valuable
of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with
the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc. . .
"Let's not pick on some poor reporters, for God's sake,"
William Colby exclaimed at one point to the Church committee's investigators.
"Let's go to the managements. They were witting."...
The CIA even ran a formal training program
in the 1950s to teach its agents to be journalists. Intelligence
officers were "taught to make noises like reporters,"
explained a high CIA official, and were then
placed in major news organizations with help from management.
"These were the guys who went through the ranks and were told,
"You're going to be a journalist," the CIA official said.
Relatively few of the 400-some relationships described in Agency
files followed that pattern, however; most involved persons who
were already bona fide journalists when they began undertaking tasks
for the Agency.
The Agency's relationships with journalists, as described in CIA
files, include the following general categories:
- Legitimate, accredited staff members of news organizations, usually
reporters. Some were paid; some worked for the Agency on a purely
voluntary basis. . . .
- Stringers and freelancers. Most were payrolled by the Agency
under standard contractual terms. . . .
- Employees of so-called CIA "proprietaries." During
the past twenty-five years, the Agency has secretly bankrolled numerous
foreign press services, periodicals and newspapers, both English
and foreign language, which provided excellent cover for CIA operatives.
. . .
- Columnists and commentators. There are perhaps a dozen well-known
columnists and broadcast commentators whose relationships with the
CIA go far beyond those normally maintained between reporters and
their sources. They are referred to at the Agency as "known
assets" and can be counted on to perform a variety of undercover
tasks; they are considered receptive to the Agency's point of view
on various subjects.
Murky details of cia relationships with individuals and news organizations
began trickling out in 1973 when it was first disclosed that the
CIA had, on occasion, employed journalists. Those reports, combined
with new information, serve as casebook studies of the Agency's
use of journalists for intelligence purposes.
- The New York Times. The Agency's relationship with the Times
was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA
officials. [It was] general Times policy . . . to provide assistance
to the CIA whenever possible. . . CIA officials cite two reasons
why the Agency's working relationship with the Times was closer
and more extensive than with any other paper: the fact that the
Times maintained the largest foreign news operation in American
daily journalism; and the close personal ties between the men who
ran both institutions.
- The Columbia Broadcasting System. CBS was unquestionably the
CIA's most valuable broadcasting asset. CBS president William Paley
and Allen Dulles enjoyed an easy working and social relationship.
Over the years, the network provided cover for CIA employees, including
at least one well-known foreign correspondent and several stringers;
it supplied outtakes of news film to the CIA; established a formal
channel of communication between the Washington bureau chief and
the Agency; gave the Agency access to the CBS news film library;
and allowed reports by CBS correspondents to the Washington and
New York newsrooms to be routinely monitored by the CIA. Once a
year during the 1950s and early 1960s, CBS correspondents joined
the CIA hierarchy for private dinners and briefings.
- Time and Newsweek magazines. According to CIA and Senate sources,
Agency files contain written agreements with former foreign correspondents
and stringers for both the weekly news magazines. The same sources
refused to say whether the CIA has ended all its associations with
individuals who work for the two publications. . . At Newsweek,
Agency sources reported, the CIA engaged the services of several
foreign correspondents and stringers under arrangements approved
by senior editors at the magazine.
When Newsweek was purchased by the Washington Post Company, publisher
Philip L. Graham was informed by Agency officials that the CIA occasionally
used the magazine for cover purposes, according to CIA sources.
"It was widely known that Phil Graham was somebody you could
get help from," said a former deputy director of the Agency.
. . . But Graham, who committed suicide in 1963, apparently knew
little of the specifics of any cover arrangements with Newsweek,
CIA sources said. . .
Information about Agency dealings with the Washington Post newspaper
is extremely sketchy. According to CIA officials, some Post stringers
have been CIA employees, but these officials say they do not know
if anyone in the Post management was aware of the arrangements.
DANIEL BRANDT - The reaction to Bernstein's piece among mainstream
media was to ignore it, or to suggest that it was sloppy and exaggerated.
Then two months later, the New York Times published the results
of their "three-month inquiry by a team of Times reporters
and researchers." This three-part series not only confirmed
Bernstein, but added a wealth of far-ranging details and contained
twice as many names. Now almost everyone
pretended not to notice. The Times reported that over the
last twenty years, the CIA owned or subsidized more than fifty newspapers,
news services, radio stations, periodicals and other communications
facilities, most of them overseas. These were used for propaganda
efforts, or even as cover for operations. Another dozen foreign
news organizations were infiltrated by paid CIA agents. At
least 22 American news organizations had employed American journalists
who were also working for the CIA, and nearly a dozen American publishing
houses printed some of the more than 1,000 books that had been produced
or subsidized by the CIA.
When asked in a 1976 interview whether the CIA
had ever told its media agents what to write, William Colby replied,
"Oh, sure, all the time."
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 - The
Pentagon is engaged in bitter, high-level debate over how far it
can and should go in managing or manipulating
information to influence opinion abroad,
senior Defense Department civilians and military officers say.
Such missions, if approved, could take the deceptive techniques
endorsed for use on the battlefield to confuse an adversary and
adopt them for covert propaganda campaigns aimed at neutral and
even allied nations.
Critics of the proposals say such deceptive missions could shatter
the Pentagon's credibility, leaving the American public and a world
audience skeptical of anything the Defense Department and military
say - a repeat of the credibility gap that roiled America during
the Vietnam War.
The efforts under consideration risk blurring the traditional lines
between public affairs programs in the Pentagon and military branches
- whose charters call for giving truthful information to the media
and the public - and the world of combat information campaigns or
The question is whether the Pentagon and military should undertake
an official program that uses disinformation to shape perceptions
abroad. But in a modern world wired by satellite
television and the Internet, any misleading information and falsehoods
could easily be repeated by American news outlets.
The military has faced these tough issues before. Nearly three
years ago, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, under intense criticism,
closed the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence, a short-lived
operation to provide news items, possibly including false ones,
to foreign journalists in an effort to influence overseas opinion.
Now, critics say, some of the proposals of that
discredited office are quietly being resurrected elsewhere in the
military and in the Pentagon.
Pentagon and military officials directly involved in the debate
say that such a secret propaganda program,
for example, could include planting news stories in the foreign
press or creating false documents and Web sites translated
into Arabic as an effort to discredit and undermine the influence
of mosques and religious schools that preach anti-American principles.
During the cold war, American intelligence
agencies had journalists on their payrolls or operatives posing
as journalists, particularly in Western Europe, with the aim of
producing pro-American articles to influence the populations of
those countries. But officials say
that no one is considering using such tactics now.
Suspicions about disinformation programs also arose in the 1980's
when the White House was accused of using such a campaign to destabilize
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya.
In the current debate, it is unclear how far along the other programs
are or to what extent they are being carried out because of their
largely classified nature.
Within the Pentagon, some of the military's most powerful figures
have expressed concerns at some of the steps taken that risk blurring
the traditional lines between public affairs and the world of combat
These tensions were cast into stark relief this summer in Iraq
when Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, approved
the combining of the command's day-to-day public affairs operations
with combat psychological and information operations into a single
"strategic communications office."
In a rare expression of senior-level questions about such decisions,
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued
a memorandum warning the military's regional combat commanders about
the risks of mingling the military public affairs too closely with
"While organizations may be inclined to create physically
integrated P.A./I.O. offices, such organizational constructs have
the potential to compromise the commander's credibility with the
media and the public," it said.
But General Myers's memorandum is not being followed, according
to officers in Iraq, largely because commanders there believe they
are safely separating the two operations and say they need all the
flexibility possible to combat the insurgency.
Indeed, senior military officials in Washington say public affairs
officers in war zones might, by choice or under pressure, issue
statements to world news media that, while having elements of truth,
are clearly devised primarily to provoke a response from the enemy.
Administration officials say they are increasingly
troubled that a nation that can so successfully market its cars
and colas around the world, even to foreigners hostile to American
policies, is failing to sell its democratic ideals, even as the
insurgents they are battling are spreading falsehoods over mass
media outlets like the Arab news satellite channel Al Jazeera.
"In the battle of perception management,
where the enemy is clearly using the media to help manage perceptions
of the general public, our job is not perception management but
to counter the enemy's perception management," said the chief
Pentagon spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita.
The battle lines in this debate have been drawn in a flurry of
classified studies, secret operational guidance statements and internal
requests from Mr. Rumsfeld. Some go to the concepts of
information warfare, and some complain about how the government's
communications are organized.
The fervent debate today is focused most directly on a secret order
signed by Mr. Rumsfeld late last year and called "Information
Operations Roadmap." The 74-page directive, which remains classified
but was described by officials who had read it, accelerated "a
plan to advance the goal of information
operations as a core military competency."
Noting the complexities and risks, Mr. Rumsfeld ordered studies
to clarify the appropriate relationship between Pentagon and military
public affairs - whose job is to educate and inform the public with
accurate and timely information - and the practitioners of secret
psychological operations and information campaigns to influence,
deter or confuse adversaries.
In response, one far-reaching study conducted at the request of
the strategic plans and policy branch of the military's Joint Staff
recently produced a proposal to create a "director of central
information." The director would have responsibility for budgeting
and "authoritative control of messages" - whether public
or covert - across all the government operations that deal with
national security and foreign policy.
The study, conducted by the National Defense University, was presented
Oct. 20 to a panel of senior Pentagon officials and military officers,
including Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy,
whose organization set up the original Office of Strategic Influence.
No senior officer today better represents the debate over a changing
world of military information than Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, an operational
commander chosen to be the military's senior spokesman in Iraq after
major combat operations shifted to counterinsurgency operations
in the spring of 2003.
His role rankled many in the military's public affairs community
who contend that the job should have gone to someone trained in
the doctrine of Army communications and public affairs, rather than
to an officer who had spent his career in combat arms.
"This is tough business," said General Kimmitt, who now
serves as deputy director of plans for the American military command
in the Middle East. "Are we trying to inform? Yes. Do we offer
perspective? Yes. Do we offer military judgment? Yes. Must
we tell the truth to stay credible? Yes. Is there a battlefield
value in deceiving the enemy? Yes. Do we intentionally deceive the
American people? No."
The rub, General Kimmitt said, is operating among those sometimes
"There is a gray area," he said. "Tactical and operational
deception are proper and legal on the battlefield." But "in
a worldwide media environment," he asked, "how
do you prevent that deception from spilling out from the battlefield
and inadvertently deceiving the American people?" [...]
At the Pentagon, that effort is managed by Ryan Henry, Mr. Feith's
principal deputy for policy.
"With the pace of technology and such, and with the nature
of the global war on terrorism, information
has become much more a part of strategic victory, and to a certain
extent tactical victory, than it ever was in the past,"
Mr. Henry said.
However, a senior military officer said that without clear guidance
from the Pentagon, the military's psychological operations, information
operations and public affairs programs are "coming together
on the battlefield like never before, and as such, the
lines are blurred." This has led to a situation where
"proponents of these elements jockey for position to lead the
overall communication effort," the officer said.
Debate also continues over proposed amendments to a classified
Defense Department directive, titled "3600.1: Information Operations,"
which would lay down Pentagon policy in coming years. Previous versions
of the directive allow aggressive information campaigns to affect
enemy leaders, but not those of allies or even neutral states. The
current debate is over proposed revisions that would widen the target
audience for such missions.
Mr. Di Rita, the Pentagon spokesman, says that even though the
government is wrestling with these issues, the standard is still
to tell to the truth.
"Our job is to put out information to the
public that is accurate," he said, "and to put it out
as quickly as we can."
KARBALA, IRAQ - At least seven people died
and a top Shia adviser was one of 31 people injured Wednesday when
a bomb went off near a gate leading to the Imam Hussein shrine in
Hospital officials say the blast took place at 5:30 p.m. local
time in the city 80 kilometres south of Baghdad.
Police confirmed that Sheik Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalayee, a close
adviser to influential Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,
was among the injured.
A spokesperson for al-Sistani, Hamed al-Khafaf, told Al-Jazeera
television that several of al-Karbalayee's bodyguards were killed
and wounded in the explosion.
Al-Khafaf said he believed the bomb was an assassination
attempt aimed at al-Karbalayee, on the first day of campaigning
for January's crucial election.
Al-Sistani helped forge a powerful coalition of parties that are
expected to do well in the election, which Iraq's Shia majority
is expected to dominate.
Shia Muslims consider the shrine one of their holiest sites. [...]
| Griping among the troops is as old as armed conflict,
illustrated most memorably by cartoonist Bill Mauldin's "Willie
and Joe" characters during World War II. But something more than
that is happening now in Iraq with what appears to be growing resistance
from the troops.
Evidence includes numbers of deserters (reportedly in the thousands),
resignations of reserve officers, lawsuits by those whose duty period
has been involuntarily extended, and a refusal to go on dangerous
missions without proper equipment. There's also been a willingness
at grunt level to publicly challenge the Pentagon - as Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld found out recently in a trip to the war zone, where
he got an earful about unarmored humvees.
While some don't see much defiance - and, in fact, have been surprised
by the depth of solidarity - others see an unusual amount of tension
surfacing for an all-volunteer military force.
"What is driving the resistance is the same thing that drove
it during Vietnam - a lack of trust in the civilian leadership and
a sense that the uniformed leaders are not standing up for the forces,"
says retired Army Col. Dan Smith, a military analyst with the Friends
Committee on National Legislation in Washington. Colonel Smith doesn't
expect the kind of "fragging" incidents that occurred
in Vietnam where soldiers attacked their own officers. "This
force is too professional," he says. "But the lack of
trust and the inequity of the tours will very likely be reflected
in the numbers of Guard and reservists who vote no-confidence with
That already appears to be happening. The Army
National Guard is short 5,000 new citizen-soldiers.
"Although generally successful in overall mission numbers,
we continue to experience difficulty in attracting and retaining
qualified individuals in certain critical wartime specialties,"
Army Reserve chief Lt. Gen. James Helmly told the House Armed Services
Committee earlier this year.
The number of officers wanting to resign from the Army Reserve
has jumped as well. And according to a recent
report on CBS's "60 Minutes," the Defense Department acknowledges
that more than 5,500 service personnel have deserted since the Iraq
While the complaints and the resistance to following some military
policies may pattern earlier conflicts, the fighting in Iraq has
a unique context, experts say. [...]
Legal challenges to military authority appear to be increasing
as well, with more use of civilian attorneys than was seen in Vietnam.
"It's very much in evidence," says Eugene Fidell, a former
military lawyer who heads the National Institute of Military Justice.
Mr. Fidell just finished teaching the first course on military issues
at Harvard Law School since 1970. [...]
It appears as though the long
knives are out in Washington. Career operatives in the CIA and State
Department who opposed the neocons’ attempt to "sex up"
the intel during the run-up to the Iraq War are being purged wholesale.
Various cliques at the CIA, who systematically leaked information
to the press about just how bad things are in Iraq, are being replaced
by yes-men or ideologues who can be relied upon to "toe the
administration line". Anyone still doubting the Trotskyite
ancestry of the neocons should finally be convinced by this housecleaning,
which is being perpetrated in a manner that would make Chairman
Mao blush (and which is also compromising our security by terminating
numerous experienced intelligence analysts).
Meanwhile, the drumbeat for an attack against Iran continues more
stridently than ever. Elements within this administration are opening
a propaganda campaign designed to sabotage the European Union’s
attempt to negotiate an agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear
weapons program. Rumors and innuendo are being spread about the
deceit of the Europeans, the duplicity of the Iranians, and the
impotence of diplomacy as a means to solve this dispute.
Given this record, it is becoming increasingly obvious that President
Bush is now wholly on-board with the neocons’ agenda and that
an Iranian conflict may be on the way. After all, Karl Rove was
famously quoted as saying that there must be "no war in ’04"
due to the impending election. This, of course, says nothing about
But before we begin the saturation bombing, antiwar Americans should
take the time to investigate the realities of Iran so as to be more
informed about the political realities of that ancient land. One
of the greatest resources I’ve found concerning Iranian politics
is The Last Great Revolution. Written by journalist Robin Wright,
who has reported for The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post,
it is a veritable treasure-trove of information.
The current pro-war narrative being spun by the administration
basically revolves around assertions that Iran is a dangerous dictatorship
run by a band of fanatical mullahs. It is claimed that the nation
is a cross between Inquisitional Spain and Soviet Russia, complete
with a military-industrial complex manufacturing WMDs which will
be passed on to Osama bin Laden for deadly terrorist attacks against
Since Americans should know by now to take everything that this
administration says about WMDs with a huge grain of salt, it behooves
us to treat this entire neocon narrative with intense skepticism.
Ms. Wright paints a much different picture than the one currently
being spoon-fed to the American public. The Islamic Republic was
officially born, she notes, in 1979 after a national referendum
accepted the constitution and created the numerous institutions
which now make up the Iranian government. That referendum, like
all subsequent Iranian elections, was reasonably free and was carried
out with a universal franchise (which included women).
The governing system was conceived by the Ayatollah Khomeini who,
despite being a religious extremist, sought to create a unique political
arrangement in Iran. Basically, he wanted to fashion a society which
blended democratic institutions with oversight by Islamic scholars.
The system includes a parliament and a president who are elected
by universal suffrage. Several seats in the parliament are reserved
for religious minorities, including the Jewish, Christian, and Zoroastrian
communities. The governing process is monitored by a supreme cleric
(the Faqih) and a body of clerics called the Council of Guardians.
The basic criticisms of the Iranian government revolve around the
powers of these religious offices. Specifically, the Council of
Guardians retains the power to disqualify candidates and parties
for membership in the parliament. In addition, this Council may
nullify laws passed by the parliament if they are deemed to be in
conflict with Islamic Law (though it should be added that these
Islamic offices were included in the constitution which was adopted
by the original referendum back in the 1970s).
But several points should be considered regarding these criticisms.
First, the Council of Guardians is often limited in its disqualifications
by practical political considerations. Mohammed Khatami, the current
president, is a reformer who is in constant conflict with the conservative
clerics and who has defeated the clerical candidate for that office
several times. The Council has never dared to declare him unfit
for office, fearing the political repercussions of such a decision.
In addition, the parliament has often been controlled by reformist
forces who oppose the strident Islamism of the mullahs.
While this system is obviously not a prototype of Jeffersonian
republicanism, it is nevertheless incorrect to call it a dictatorship.
In fact, the Iranian government is probably the most representative
and democratic government in the Muslim Middle East.
In addition, Western attacks on this system because of its nullification
of candidates and its proscription of political parties expose us
to charges of hypocrisy. After all, even after the vetting process,
the current Iranian parliament contains members from approximately
10 different political parties.
It is thus only fair to analyze our own system by this same standard.
For instance, how many parties are currently represented in our
Congress? By my count, all but 2 of the 535 members of our House
and Senate belong to either of the two dominant parties (along with
one Socialist and one Independent). Our system unabashedly discriminates
against third parties by a variety of backdoor mechanisms that are
only slightly more democratic than the Iranian Council of Guardians.
Ballot access laws and campaign finance laws are rigged to prevent
the fair participation of third parties in our elections. Participation
in presidential debates is largely restricted to the two major parties
by the shadowy maneuverings of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
In this past election, the Democratic Party also engaged in a range
of legal shenanigans to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot in numerous
states, in flagrant disregard for the democratic rights of his supporters.
Other western nations also fall far short of the stringent standard
by which Iran is being judged. Just a few weeks ago, a court in
Belgium completely outlawed the Vlaams Blok, a right-wing anti-immigration
party, because it was "espousing discriminatory ideologies".
The Blok had garnered the largest vote total of any party in the
last parliamentary elections there.
Is this behavior any more "democratic" than the Council
of Guardians? And do these facts disqualify America and Belgium
from membership in the democratic family of nations? Do they make
us fair game for "regime change"?
The second point of criticism, the nullification of parliamentary
laws by the Council of Guardians, also makes for an interesting
comparison. Basically, Western critics charge that it is unacceptably
dictatorial for a government to allow its laws to be voided by a
committee of unelected scholars.
Unfortunately, our federal government has been degenerating into
a system of judicial fiat for years. Our federal court system, which
is comprised of unelected judges, is rife with judicial activism
in which popular laws passed by elected representatives are thrown
out…often by the most tenuous of constitutional rationales.
Major aspects of our culture have been altered in an undemocratic
fashion by this judiciary. Polls show that nearly 80% of the American
voters, for instance, support prayer in public schools. Without
Roe vs. Wade, probably 20 or 30 states would ban abortion. And it
is hard to imagine that any elected body in America would ban Santa
Claus decorations or displays of the Ten Commandments from public
forums. Even more blatantly undemocratic, the federal judiciary
has been nullifying a plethora of victorious popular referendums
on topics such as recognizing English as the official language and
withholding welfare from illegal aliens.
I should add here than I am not taking a side on any of these issues
(nor am I singing the praises of untrammeled majoritarianism), but
am merely demonstrating that the decisions of the judiciary in these
instances are flagrantly against the will of the majority. Furthermore,
these decisions have been enacted by bodies which are only marginally
more "democratic" than the Iranian Council of Guardians.
The salient point here is that these criticisms of the Iranian
system are not correct in labeling it as a hopeless dictatorship.
It is a unique blend of democratic institutions monitored and fine-tuned
by several bodies of religious scholars. This system was enacted
in a free vote by the clear majority of the Iranian electorate.
It is far from ideal, but our own system is also far from ideal.
Furthermore, administration attacks on Iran suffer from one additional
dose of hypocrisy. The very same US government which is horrified
by the Islamic Republic is simultaneously supporting a variety of
nations in the Middle East which are far less democratic than Iran.
Hosni Mubarak, who rules Egypt like an ancient pharaoh, is financed
by billions of dollars of American foreign aid. American allies
like the King of Morocco and the Emir of Kuwait are nearly absolute
monarchs. The Bush administration even supports horrific despots
like Islam Karimov, the potentate of Uzbekistan (whose secret police
is as brutal as any in the world…including those of Saddam
Hussein). How can we attack a semi-democracy like Iran while supporting
violent and oppressive puppet-regimes across the breadth of the
Middle East? This sort of double standard is well-known and much-discussed
across the region, and it undermines the credibility of our foreign
My goal is not to sugar-coat the Islamic Republic. There are numerous
aspects of their governance, especially the judiciary and the police,
which are undeniably authoritarian. But how many Americans are aware
that women may vote and hold political office in Iran? How many
Americans are aware that the president of Iran is a reformer who
is intensely disliked by the conservative Islamist establishment?
How many Americans are aware that religious minorities have guaranteed
representation in the Iranian parliament, and that Judaism is far
more tolerated there than in almost all of the Muslim nations which
are currently subsidized as our "allies"? How many Americans
are aware that there are Christian members of the Iranian parliament,
while there are no Muslim members of the American Congress?
These are facts about which the American public must be made aware
before they acquiesce to yet another disastrous "nation building"
escapade in the Middle East.
If the neocons elect to attack Iran, they will be once again pouncing
on a sovereign nation based on a blatant disregard for international
law, our Constitution, and the beliefs of our Founding Fathers.
Their attack will undoubtedly be preceded by a propaganda campaign
based on lies, distortions, and fabricated intelligence (a process
that will be enormously facilitated by the new "personnel changes"
recently enacted at the CIA and the State Department).
While the Islamic Republic has its flaws, it is one of the few
governments in the region which is at least partially representative
of its people and which has the possibility of peacefully evolving
into a more democratic system. Destroying it will not only blacken
our reputation, it will also set back political liberalization in
the Middle East for decades.
| Posted on Thursday, August 5,
2004. From a prayer distributed in January 2004 by Hasidic Jews at
a demonstration in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Between 1990 and 2000 the
median monthly rent in the area increased by 67 percent, more than
anywhere else in New York City. Williamsburg is reputed to be home
to the highest density of artists in the world. Translated from the
Hebrew by Steven I. Weiss. Originally from Harper's Magazine, March
For the Protection of
Our City of Williamsburg
From the Plague of the Artists
Master of the Universe, have mercy upon us and upon the borders
of our village and do not allow the persecution to come inside our
home; please remove from upon us the plague of the artists, so that
we shall not drown in evil waters, and so that they shall not come
to our residence to ruin it.
Please place in the hearts of the homeowners that they should not
build, God forbid, for these people, and strengthen their hearts
so that they can withstand this difficult test and so that they
will not sell for the lure of money.
Please, our Father God of Mercy, have mercy upon our generation
that is weak, and remove this difficult test from these people,
these immoral antagonists that by their doing will multiply, God
forbid, the excruciating tests and the sight of the impurity and
immorality that is growing in the world.
And here we live in fear that owing to the encroachment of these
individuals upon our community we will not be able to teach our
sons and daughters according to the methods of Israel.
Please, our Father of Mercy, for the sake of our fathers and our
sages who gave their lives to allow religion to remain upon the
lowly American soil, and for the sake of their merit, preserve the
residence, do so for your love of those who came from the dust.
Please, our Father of Mercy, do not give the aggressor the portion
that you have acquired and that you have freed from slavery with
your great strength.
And we know also, we know that we have no strength other than our
mouths, and if we have brought on a decree from you, please repeal
this harsh decree, because we lack strength and may not be able
to withstand this difficult test, God forbid.
WASHINGTON - President Bush has ordered plans
for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of global positioning
satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using
the navigational technology, the White House said Wednesday.
Any shutdown of the network inside the United States would come
under only the most remarkable circumstances, said a Bush administration
official who spoke to a small group of reporters at the White House
on condition of anonymity.
The GPS system is vital to commercial aviation and marine shipping.
The president also instructed the Defense Department to develop
plans to disable, in certain areas, an enemy's access to the U.S.
navigational satellites and to similar systems operated by others.
The European Union is developing a $4.8 billion program, called
The military increasingly uses GPS technology to move troops across
large areas and direct bombs and missiles. Any government-ordered
shutdown or jamming of the GPS satellites would be done in ways
to limit disruptions to navigation and related systems outside the
affected area, the White House said. [...]
The White House said it will not reinstate that practice, but said
the president could decide to disable parts of the network for national
The directives to the Defense Department and the Homeland Security
Department were part of a space policy that Bush signed this month.
It designates the GPS network as a critical infrastructure for the
U.S. government. Part of the new policy is classified; other parts
were disclosed Wednesday.
| WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (Xinhuanet)
-- US President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that his government
still adheres to the strong-dollar policy.
"The policy of my government is a strong-dollar policy,"
Bush said while meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
in the White House.
He said that his administration will work with the US Congress
to reduce the United States' huge deficits to assure markets that
his administration supports a strong dollar.
"The best thing we can do from the executive branch of government
in America" is work with the Congress to deal with the huge
US deficits, he said. "One deficit is a short-term budget deficit.
Another deficit is the unfunded liabilities
that come with Social Security and some of the health programs for
"We're going to take this issue on seriously with the Congress,"
the US president said.
The value of US dollar has been declining since
early 2002 although the Bush administration has repeated again and
again thatit adheres to the "strong dollar" policy. The
Bush administration has not taken any action to prop up the dollar
in the past four years.
DUBAI - Osama bin Laden called on Saudi rulers
to abandon power or face a popular uprising, laying the blame for
deadly unrest gripping the country on the kingdom's own regime,
in a new purported audiotape message.
"The people have awoken," warned the message addressed
to Riyadh's rulers.
"Muslims are determined to recover their rights whatever the
price. Either you give them back what they entrusted you with (power),
by allowing them to choose their rulers, or you refuse to give power
back to them."
It also accused the regime in the ultra-conservative kingdom, which
is battling a wave of Islamist attacks, of forging an alliance with
the "infidel" world led by US President George W. Bush.
The authenticity of the tape, which was broadcast
on a main Islamist site on the Internet, could not be immediately
verified Thursday but the voice sounded like that of the Saudi-born
top terror mastermind.
The Western world's most wanted man, who has a 25-million-dollar
US bounty on his head but whose whereabouts are unknown, last
appeared on a videotape broadcast on October 29 just before the
US presidential election in which he threatened new attacks
on the United States. [...]
Australian tourists in Indonesia were warned
last night to stay away from international hotels after the Federal
Government yesterday received intelligence reports that terrorists
were plotting an imminent attack, possibly on a Hilton hotel.
The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, called an urgent press
conference during ministerial talks in Papua New Guinea to issue
the warning, stating Australia was taking the threat extremely seriously.
The intelligence had already been passed on to
Indonesia and to other Western countries, Mr Downer said.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials
were scrambling last night to contact international hotels throughout
Indonesia where Australians might be staying, after intelligence
advising of the possible attack.
There are three Hilton hotels in Indonesia - in Jakarta, Bali
The warning is unusually specific and it is the first time a particular
hotel group has been named as a target - although soon after the
September 9 attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta the Government
named an apartment complex in the city it believed could be a target.
The new warning was issued just 24 hours after the Government
warned Australians on Tuesday to be careful if travelling in Indonesia
over Christmas and the New Year.
The new advice said the Government had "received credible
new information suggesting terrorists are ready to carry out an
attack shortly in Indonesia, possibly targeting a Hilton hotel".
It warned Australians who were concerned for their safety to consider
leaving Indonesia and those who had to remain in Indonesia to "exercise
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials also warned
the terrorists could quickly change their target.
"Other targets cannot be ruled out," the advice continued.
"In light of this information, Australians in Jakarta, and
elsewhere in Indonesia, are advised to avoid all international hotels
and other places where foreigners are known to gather."
Although Mr Downer said extensive discussions
with Indonesian authorities were held throughout yesterday on the
threat, senior Indonesian officials contacted by the Herald were
unaware of it. The head of Indonesia's anti-terrorism unit, General
Pranowo Dahlan, said he knew nothing of it.
"We did not receive information about
this. But we did increase security in several places possibly
under threat," he said.
The head of the anti-terrorism desk in
the ministry for politics and security, Ansyad M'bai, also said
he had received no information about a new attack, although
he said the potential was there because the Malaysian bombers Dr
Azahari and Nurdin Mohammad Top remained at large.
A spokesman for the Jakarta Hilton, Emeraldo
Parengkuan, said he had heard nothing about the threat until
contacted by the Herald yesterday and was surprised as security
had been tight at the hotel because of several visits by the country's
The Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had been at
the hotel on Tuesday, his deputy, Jusuf Kalla, had been there yesterday
and Dr Yudhoyono was due again at the hotel today.
A spokesman for Qantas said last night flights to Indonesia would
continue as normal, but the airline would provide full refunds and
waive penalty fees for customers who wanted to cancel or change
flights to Indonesia.
AP reports that a two-day visit to Indonesia by Defence Minister
Robert Hill, who is due in Jakarta today, is to go ahead as planned.
LONDON - Nine Muslim men imprisoned without
trial will remain in jail, despite a ruling in their favor by Britain's
top court, the government said on Thursday.
"It is ultimately for parliament to decide whether and how
we should amend the law," Home Secretary Charles Clarke said
in a statement. "Accordingly, I will not be ... releasing the
detainees, whom I have reason to believe are a significant threat
to our security."
The Law Lords ruled 8-1 on Thursday in favor of the men, whose
imprisonment under draconian anti-terror legislation -- some for
as long as three years -- has become a cause celebre for rights
However, the lords' judgment does not overturn the law. That remains
the preserve of government and parliament.
Clarke hinted at some concessions but appeared
to rule out revoking the legislation, which allows for the indefinite
detention without trial of foreign terror suspects.
"I will be asking parliament to renew this legislation in
the New Year but in the meantime we will be studying the judgment
carefully to see whether it is possible to modify our legislation
to address the concerns raised by the House of Lords," he said.
Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper brought
good news to those disturbed by the relentless death toll resulting
from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; a headline that stated "IDF:
29 Palestinian civilians killed in W. Bank in 2004".
"The Israel Defense Forces released figures Wednesday showing
that since the beginning of the year," wrote Ha'aretz correspondent
Amos Harel, "148 Palestinians have been killed by IDF fire
in the West Bank, at least 29 of them, by army count, innocent bystanders,
Israel Radio reported Wednesday."
With the IDF figures showing less than 3 "innocent" West
Bank Palestinians killed each month during the year, one might conclude
that Israeli commanders have been reining in their troops on the
ground more effectively than earlier on in the 4-year-old Intifada
which, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, has cost
3,465 Palestinian deaths and 28,230 Palestinian injuries up to midnight
on December 7th.
Reading the Ha'aretz article closely, the first clue of statistical
sophistry comes in the second paragraph, where we are told that,
once the 29 innocent bystanders are subtracted from the total of
148, "the remaining 119 casualties include armed militants,
along with firebomb and rock throwers."
Having personally stood and watched young Palestinian stone throwers
gunned down outside of stone-throwing range — therefore posing
no conceivable threat to Israeli troops — I am left wondering
how many of these "included" in the figure of 119 experienced
Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem, a favourite of American
activists seeking to present "more credible" Israeli statistics
to the US public, is cited later in the article to offer alternative
figures, in which 187 (not 148) Palestinians were killed in the
West Bank, 111 (not 29) of these were not involved in any fighting,
and notes 13 cases in which the circumstances of death were unclear.
It is well known among researchers that there is a pattern of underestimating
the numbers of Palestinian casualties. A year after the September
1996 Clashes, a team including myself, several Birzeit University
staff and students, and a network of contacts around the West Bank
and Gaza embarked on a project to find the stories of the Palestinians
killed during the clashes, reduced to a negating two-digit number
in media reports.
We began by visiting two different Palestinian government departments
that keep records of Palestinians killed by Israel. The first item
of interest was that both lists had slightly different totals and
names, giving a total casualty figure in the 70-80 range. This was
already higher than the figures reported in the media and human
rights organisations outside the country, which typically put the
Palestinian death toll between 50-65.
Human Rights Watch, for example, cites "at least sixty-two"
as the number of Palestinians killed in its 1997 annual report.
On 7 October 2000, Reuters offered a comparison statistic as background
to its Intifada coverage that put the number of those killed during
the September 1996 Clashes at just 60, 61 on its AlertNet country
profile for Israel. On 1 October 2000, CNN reported that the figure
The confusion is not limited to non-Palestinian sources. In a 30
September 1996 note from Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer
of Palestine to the UN, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Al-Kidwa wrote, "...on 24 September 1996, the Israeli government
opened an entrance to a tunnel in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque
in occupied East Jerusalem, which led to tragic events resulting
in a high number of casualties among Palestinian civilians caused
by the Israeli army and police including more than 50 killed and
over one thousand injured." Similarly, the Palestinian Center
for Human Rights in Gaza wrote "throughout the Occupied Territories
a total of 64 Palestinians and 15 Israeli soldiers were killed and
an estimated 1,600 wounded."
During the Birzeit University project in 1997, after we checked
the two Palestinian Authority lists and noted the few discrepancies,
we deployed teams of people to literally visit the family of every
single person killed during the September 1996 Clashes. Each team
took testimonies from family members and friends about the lives
— not deaths — of those killed, excluded the name of
one man listed who was alive (his brother, not he, had been killed),
tracked down additional martyrs not listed on the official documents,
and corroborated this with newspaper reports and funeral notices
that families had saved. We were ultimately able to determine conclusively
that 88 Palestinians were killed.
The simple fact is that during times of intense conflict, those
who are responsible for logging death in a society, doctors and
nurses, are busy with other considerations. By 10:50PM on 25 September
1996, the first day of the clashes, the administrative director
of Ramallah Hospital told me hospital records stated 4 Palestinians
were killed and 253 injured. Two more men lay brain dead in the
intensive care unit.
The sheer scale of the violence and the desperate attempts of the
small hospital to cope with the numbers of injured — many
of whom were victims of live ammunition — meant that typical
hospital maintenance tasks such as cleaning blood off the floors
and walls were deferred to later. In such a chaotic environment,
particularly when periods of clashes and military occupations roll
on for weeks as during the current Intifada, it is easy to understand
how the dead can get lost.
In addition, Muslim burial beliefs pertaining to martyrdom sometimes
results in those killed being taken directly to the graveyard for
interment. For a variety of reasons, some practical and some cultural,
conflict zones like these are not the best environments for sober
Why was the Israeli army announcement focused only on the casualty
statistics in the West Bank? The answer was, ironically, nearby.
A related link right next to the Ha'aretz article (see screenshot
at top of page) reads "165 Palestinians, including 50 civilians,
killed in October". In one month, 30.3% of those killed across
the whole country were found by Ha'aretz itself to be civilians,
a figure almost double that which the IDF claimed for the entire
year in the West Bank!
The report, by Arnon Regular, begins "The Israel Defense Forces
killed 165 Palestinians in the territories in October, including
159 in the Gaza Strip. October was the deadliest month for the Palestinians
since operation Defensive Shield in April 2002. An inquiry by Ha'aretz
found that 50 of those killed (30.3 percent) were civilians, including
women, the elderly, children and teenage boys under age 16; 115
(69.6 percent) were killed in the IDF operation launched in the
northern Gaza Strip, on the outskirts of the Jebalya refugee camp
and in the town of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanun; and 39 percent of
those killed in the northern Strip (some 45 people) were civilians."
To further complete the wider, all-important contextual picture,
try browsing the website of Remember These Children — found
at www.rememberthesechildren.org — which records 152 Palestinian
children and 11 Israeli children killed in 2004, and a total of
652 Palestinian and 117 Israeli children since the beginning of
the Intifada. What was that Israel was saying about the West Bank?
It suddenly seems a whole lot less important.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, Israeli prime minister Ariel
Sharon was quoted today in the Jerusalem Post as saying, "IDF
soldiers are the most moral compared to any other military in the
world that I know of." In the same edition, the French ambassador
to Israel, Gerard Araud, declared that Israel "has tried to
show the utmost restraint" during the Intifada, describing
Palestinian deaths in "some operations" as "unavoidable".
Israel's public relations problems are considerable and are not
going away, whatever its leaders and international friends may believe.
The very notion of a press conference in which a military official
highlights how many people the army has killed in a single geographic
area — excluding the remainder of the country that simultaneously
saw some of the worst violence in the history of the conflict —
speaks of a deep moral void.
Even if the IDF's laughable statistics were to be accepted at face
value, what state has the Israeli establishment sunk to where it
believes an announcement that 20% of those it kills — one
person out of every five — were "innocent bystanders"
is something to make noise about?
Sydney, Australia — Australia plans
to enforce a maritime security zone more than 1,750 kilometres out
to sea, far beyond its territorial waters, in a move to boost defences
against possible terror attacks on its soil and offshore oil and
gas facilities, Prime Minister John Howard said Wednesday.
Under the new plan — due to begin in March — all
vessels that enter within 1,840 kilometres (1,150 miles) of Australia's
shores will be required to present information to defence and customs
authorities about the ship's identity, crew, location, speed and
intended port of arrival, Howard said.
“It's just a way of making doubly sure that you know who
wants to come to this country and what their business is,”
Mr. Howard told radio station 6PR in the Western Australia state
Australia's territorial waters extend about 370 kilometres off
“The protection of Australia's oil and gas facilities is
a key focus of the Australian government's priorities to enhance
offshore maritime security,” Mr. Howard said in a statement.
Legal experts warned that Australia could be breaking
international law if it tried to take further action against ships
in the new security zone.
Sydney Center for International and Global Law director Don Rothwell
said the government was free to monitor ships beyond the 370-kilometre
limit but could be violating the law if it attempted to intercept
ships in international waters.
“With the exception of pirate ships
and ships that are not flying flags and one or two very minor exceptions,
there is no real basis upon which any country can just stop any
ship at all on the high seas,” Mr. Rothwell told Australian
Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Australia's opposition Labor Party said the scheme relied too
heavily on trusting the ships' crews to tell the truth and not enough
on physical inspections.
Labor recommended the government
follow the United States' lead by introducing sea marshals empowered
to board ships.
Australia's new plans build on higher international
maritime security standards introduced in July at the insistence
of the United States.
Mr. Howard also sought to clarify state and federal government
roles in protecting coastal waters, saying defence forces and customs
agencies will be responsible for patrolling the new zone.
State and local governments would continue to be responsible for
security within ports, but the federal government would assume control
over the security of Australia's coastal waters, including offshore
oil and gas reserves, Mr. Howard said.
WELLINGTON, N.Z. (AP) - Australia has angered
its neighbour New Zealand, with a plan to impose an 1,850-kilometre
security zone around the Australian coastline.
New Zealand's acting transport minister, Harry Duynhoven, said
Thursday there had been no consultation or official approach from
Australian authorities over the counter-terror shield, which would
stretch well into New Zealand waters. He
had only heard of the plan through the news media, he said,
adding: "I think there's been a massive slip-up in communication."
Duynhoven said the zone proposed by Australia would stretch to
New Zealand's South Island, taking in both New Zealand's exclusive
economic zone and parts of its territorial waters.
He is seeking clarification from Australian officials on whether
they intend to intercept ships within New Zealand waters.
Two Albanian gunmen who hijacked a packed Greek
bus and threatened to blow it up had been bluffing because they
did not have any explosives, Greek police chief George Angelakos
Speaking after the gunmen surrendered and freed all 23 hostages
following an 18 hour siege, Angelakos told reporters:
"There were no explosives. They just claimed they had explosives
to emphasise the fact that they could do harm.
Obviously it was (a ransom) they were after. They wanted to go
to Albania but they said they wanted to go to the airport to blow
smoke in our faces."Two armed men who hijacked a bus in Greece
and threatened to blow it up surrendered just after midnight local
time and released six remaining hostages.
All left the bus from the driver's door, and heavily armed police
then searched the commuter bus, which had been hijacked about 18
"All the hostages have been freed safely and the two hijackers
have surrendered," a police spokeswoman said. [...]
BRUSSELS - EU leaders began gathering for
a summit set to make a long-awaited decision on launching entry
talks with Turkey, widely expected to give Ankara a green light
despite last-ditch haggling over the exact terms of the offer.
The EU is notably keeping pressure on Ankara to recognize the Mediterranean
island of Cyprus, a call which in theory could cloud the decision
since the Greek Cypriot government has been an EU member state since
And Turkey, which has been knocking on the European bloc's door
for over 40 years, cautioned on the eve of a two-day European Union
(EU) summit that it will not agree to start negotiations "at
But the two sides' warnings seem unlikely to change the basic decision,
expected to be made over dinner Thursday evening and put in writing
"There seems to be a 'yes' coming," said Dutch Prime
Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, hosting the EU gathering as current
holder of the bloc's rotating leadership.
The EU leaders were set to agree a date for the start of talks,
expected to be in the second half of 2005 despite calls by Turkey
for the haggling to start before next June.
They have also made clear that the negotiations will last for at
least 10 years, while warning they could be suspended in case of
serious problems, and that membership is not ultimately guaranteed.
| KIEV, Dec. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- The
two candidates in Ukraine's presidential re-run continued their negative
campaigning on Wednesday.
Opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko denied his rival's suggestion
that he was too ill to be president.
"In political terms, let me say that I am in good shape and
able to work," he told a press conference, adding: "Please
believeme that more than anyone else I would like it (my face) to
be the way it was three months ago," but "time is needed
On the same day in a tent camp on the Independence Square in the
capital, he thanked his supporters for their two-week-long demonstration
that resulted in the Supreme Court order for a re-run.
"Due to the Orange Revolution, a new nation was born in Ukraine,"
he told regional leaders.
"People not only want an honest vote, but they also are able
todefend their choices," he said.
Yushchenko's face was severely disfigured allegedly due to dioxin
poisoning, which he blamed on the government. Yushchenko earlier
called for an investigation to determine how he was poisoned, but
saying it should be conducted after the re-run on Dec. 26 to avoid
influencing the results.
Meanwhile, his competitor, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on
Wednesday said groups of volunteers supporting him across the country
will go to Kiev to prevent a possible coup after the presidential
re-run, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
While meeting with university teachers and students in the southern
city of Mykolaiyv, Yanukovych said that in order to prevent a possible
coup, some 35,000 people have joined volunteer groups in Sevastopol,
a coastal city in southwest Crimea Peninsulaand plan to go to the
capital after Dec. 26. He also said more than 300 organizations
have also been set up in the capital.
"It is impossible today to stop the people's movement protecting
their rights and the constitution. Groups of volunteersare being
formed in many regions now," he said.
"These are all volunteer organizations who want to prevent
a coup in the country," he said.
Yanukovych described the current situation in the country as anattempt
"to seize power with the interference of foreign states and
an illegitimate and anti-constitutional coup."
He also claimed that his supporters from western Ukraine and elsewhere
are being persecuted.
Ukraine was plunged into a political turmoil after the second
round of the presidential elections on Nov. 21, when both candidates
claimed victory. Pro-Russia Yanukovych drew most of hissupport in
Russian-speaking east and south, while West-leaning Yushchenko from
the nationalist west and central Ukraine.
Ukraine's Supreme Court on Dec. 3 annulled the official resultsof
the runoff in which Yanukovych emerged as the victor and ruled that
a re-run be held on Dec. 26.
Yanukovych has often accused the United States of meddling in
Ukraine's internal affairs by channeling money to Yushchenko's campaign.
Coming soon to a TV near you: Zell Miller,
The Fox News Channel confirmed Tuesday that Georgia's 72-year-old
U.S. senator has signed on as a "contributor" once he
leaves office next month.
"I am excited to be joining Fox News Channel and am eager
to contribute to the continuing success of the network," Miller
A Democrat who campaigned for President Bush in the November election,
Miller has been a frequent guest on Fox programs, including the
"Hannity & Colmes" show.
Kevin Magee, vice president of Fox News programing, said executives
were impressed by Miller's appearances on those shows and predicted
he will be a "frequent" contributor in his new role, which
begins Jan. 6.
"Zell is a terrific person," Magee said. "He's
colorful. He's an interesting guy. He's good on TV. He's strong
in his opinions. He's not wishy-washy about telling you how he feels."
|HAVANA : Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez announced formation of a trade bloc to challenge
a US bid for a free-trade area of the Americas.
Castro said the alternative to the US-backed economic system was
conceived as "a battle fought with the same rules and regulations
as those imposed by the (US) empire to divide the people."
Chavez was in Cuba to commemorate his first visit to the Communist
island 10 years ago. Castro and Chavez are each other's only close
ally in the Caribbean. Venezuela is Cuba's supplier of oil, which
Cuba pays partly in cash and partly with doctors, nurses, sports
coaches and literacy experts.
Chavez arrived in Havana late Monday, and was met by Castro, 78,
who is recovering from a broken knee and arm from a fall in October.
Chavez placed a wreath at a monument to independence hero Jose
Marti before sitting down to talks with Castro at the Palace of
Their agenda was not made public. Cuban authorities said only
that they would have a "broad program of activities."
A ceremony at Karl Marx theater marked the 10th anniversary of
Chavez's first visit to Cuba, before becoming president.
Venezuelan students and patients in Cuba were on hand as were
members of Cuban government youth and student organizations.
KHANPUR, India - Two passenger trains collided
head-on in northern India Tuesday, killing at least 27 people and
injuring 36, officials said, blaming the accident on communications
problems between stations.
Welders cut through twisted metal in search of bodies and survivors
amid the two trains' crushed hulks, while soldiers carried out the
dead. Soldiers rushed from a nearby base to help with rescue efforts.
Thirty-six injured had been found, 12 in serious condition, said
Dharam Singh, the top railway official in the area of the accident.
"We do not expect any more casualties at the site. We are
now concentrating on the seriously injured at the hospital,"
said railway spokesman Devender Sandhu.
The accident highlighted blind spots in India's huge train network,
which is often criticized for poor safety standards.
A "communications snag" between stationmasters at two
stations apparently caused the crash, with an express train and
a local train allowed to travel toward each other on the same track,
Singh said. [...]
A pregnant Tennessee woman who enrolled in
federally funded research in hopes of saving her soon-to-be-born
son from getting AIDS died last year when doctors continued to give
her an experimental drug regimen despite signs of liver failure,
government memos say.
Family members of Joyce Ann Hafford say the 33-year-old HIV-positive
woman died without ever holding her newborn boy. They also said
they never were told the National Institutes of Health concluded
the drug therapy likely caused her death.
The family first learned of NIH's conclusions when The Associated
Press obtained copies of the case file this month. For the past
year, they say they were left to believe Hafford, of Memphis, Tenn.,
died from AIDS complications but began pursuing litigation to learn
"They tried to make it sound like she was just sick. They
never connected it to the drug," said Rubbie King, Hafford's
TAIPEI : A powerful earthquake measuring 5.2
on the Richter scale rocked Taiwan on Thursday, rattling buildings
across the island, the Seismology Centre said.
The tremor hit at 08:10 am (00:10 GMT), with the epicenter 67
kilometers (42 miles) east of Hualien in the east coast. It originated
6 kilometers under the seabed. No casualties were immediately reported.
Taiwan's worst tremor, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, struck
in September 1999, leaving some 2,400 people dead.
LISBON, Portugal -- An earthquake was felt
Monday across most of mainland Portugal, but no damage or injuries
were reported, authorities said.
The epicenter the magnitude 5.4 quake was in the Atlantic Ocean,
about 60 miles southwest of Portugal, according to the National
Emergency services said they received numerous requests for information
but no calls for help.
An earthquake registering magnitude 5 can cause extensive damage
if centered in a residential area
HOLLISTER, Calif. - A minor earthquake hit
near the border of San Benito and Monterey counties on Tuesday night
but there were no immediate reports of any injuries or damage.
The magnitude-3.8 quake struck at 8:16 p.m. and was centered about
17 miles south southeast of Hollister, according to a preliminary
report from the U.S. Geological Survey.
Dispatchers for the Office of Emergency Services in both counties
said there were no immediate reports of injuries or damages.
ARCATA, Calif. -- Humboldt State University
geology professor Lori Dengler says the two earthquakes that struck
the area the past two weekends were the largest onshore North Coast
earthquakes since 1992.
Mild quakes struck the area on the evening of Dec. 4 and at 1:13
a.m. Sunday. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the Dec. 4 quake
at 4.3 on the Richter scale and Sunday's at 4.1.
Dengler said both quakes originated "from roughly the same
spot 17 miles east southeast of Eureka and about 18 miles deep underground."
She said both earthquakes were felt widely along the North Coast,
the second one waking sleepers from Myers Flat to Trinidad, and
east as far as Big Bar.
"They are the largest magnitude onshore North Coast earthquakes
since the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquake sequence," said Dengler.
"And they are the first widely felt North Coast earthquakes
since the Aug. 15, 2003, magnitude-5.1 earthquake, which was located
75 miles offshore of Trinidad." [...]
ULAN-UDE, December 16 (Itar-Tass)
- An earthquake measuring four points on the Richter scale shook
the north of Buryatia Republic overnight.
The epicentre of earth tremors was located in the Bauntovsk district
of the republic 137 kilometres off the Taksimo settlement.
There are no casualties or destruction, the Buryatian committee
for emergency situations told Itar-Tass.
Morning sunshine over Johannesburg yesterday
gave way to tumultuous afternoon rain - and another person was swept
away by another flash flood on the Jukskei River.
Yesterday afternoon, hours after the funerals of three young boys
who were swept away by the flooding of the Jukskei in Bertrams last
week, Jennifer Manale, 36, and her sons Lethabo, 7, and Tumi, 15,
headed off on foot to visit the children's grandmother, Maggie Kenosi,
56, in Parkhurst.
Manale was to have left her sons in her mother's care for the
school holidays - but tragedy was about to strike as they tried
to cross the Jukskei.
According to police, Manale and her two children had walked along
a footpath and were using stepping stones to cross the Braamfontein
Spruit, close to the intersections of Danya Road and Zonda Avenue,
at 2.30pm when they were hit by a wall of water.
Within an instant the spruit, which is normally only a trickle,
had been transformed into a deep, fast-moving torrent.
"The stream normally is just inches deep, now as you see
it's probably metres deep," said Mark Levy, a local resident
observing the search-and-rescue operation. [...]
COLOMBO : A policeman and a child have been
killed and some 625,000 people forced from their homes as severe
annual monsoon floods swept eastern and northern Sri Lanka.
The constable was washed away in floodwaters that inundated Kalmunai
in the island's east where a child also drowned Tuesday, with officials
saying that relief supplies were being rushed by boat to affected
"About 125,000 families, or 625,000 individuals have moved
out of their homes due to flooding or the threat of flooding,"
a social services department spokesman said Wednesday.
He said roofs of over 150 houses had been blown away in heavy
wind that accompanied torrential rain in the past two days in the
eastern coastal district of Ampara. [...]
Although scientists have basically cleared
us from any danger from asteroid 2002 NT7, which originally had
been reported as an impact hazard for the year 2019, a newer space
rock has been spotted, which may pose a threat even sooner.
At around 1.2 km in width, 2003 QQ47 is substantially smaller
than 2002 NT7 (2km), but has been called "an event meriting
careful monitoring" by astronomers. If an impact does occur,
it could be on March 21, 2014.
Discovered on August 24, 2003, by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid
Research Project (an MIT Lincoln Laboratory program funded by the
United States Air Force and NASA) in New Mexico, 2003 QQ47 has been
classified as a 1 on the Torino scale of impact hazards.
Scientists are urging calm, however, saying the odds of a catastrophic
collision are only around 1 in 909,000.
The orbit of this asteroid has been calculated on only 51 observations
during a seven-day period and require further observations to determine
if any danger does exist. It will be monitored closely over the
next two months. Astronomers expect the risk of impact to decrease
significantly as more data is gathered.
If it does strike Earth, the impact could have
the effect of over 20 million Hiroshima style atomic bombs. As Billy
Bob Thornton says in Armageddon, “It's what we call a Global
Killer....the end of mankind. Half the world will be incinerated
by the heat blast.....the rest will freeze to death in a nuclear
winter. Basically, the worst part of the Bible!”
Asteroids are rocks and debris which are the leftovers of the
construction of our solar system nearly 5 billions years ago. Most
are in a belt, which orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter. However,
the gravitational influence of the gas giant
planets, like Jupiter, or an impact by a comet can knock these large
rocks out of their safe orbit.
Needless to say, we will be monitoring this situation very closely.
Impact Potential in 2014 - Updated; No Threat
Once again, the planet can breathe a sigh of relief. After making
further observations of asteroid 2003 QQ47, astronomers now say
there is no threat from this rock. It has been downgraded to a zero
(0) on the Torin scale, which says, "The likelihood of a collision
is zero, or well below the chance that a random object of the same
size will strike the Earth within the next few decades. This designation
also applies to any small object that, in the event of a collision,
is unlikely to reach the Earth's surface intact."
While this particular asteroid appears to not be a threat to Earth
at this time, the Near Earth Object Program and other agencies continue
to monitor space for other threats. After
all, it is a big universe, and there are a lot of asteroids and
comets out there.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - The year 2004,
punctuated by four powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and deadly
typhoons lashing Asia, was the fourth-hottest year on record, extending
a trend that has seen the 10 warmest years beginning in the 1990s,
a UN weather agency said Wednesday.
The World Meteorological Organization said it expects Earth's
surface temperature to rise 0.4 degrees Celsius higher than the
normal 14 degrees Celsius, adding 2004 to a recent warming trend
that saw the hottest year registered in 1998 and the top three hottest
The month of October also registered as the warmest October ever
since accurate readings were first started in 1861, said the agency,
responsible for assembling data from meteorologists and climatologists
"This was a very warm year," said Michel Jarraud, the
WMO secretary general. He noted that it was also marked by an unusual
number of hurricanes and tropical storms that hit the Caribbean,
the United States and Asia.
The report's release comes as environmental ministers from some
80 countries gathered in Buenos Aires for a UN conference on climate
change, looking at ways to cut down on greenhouse gases that some
have blamed for Earth's warming.
This summer, heat waves in southern Europe pushed temperatures
to near-record highs in southern Spain, Portugal and Romania, where
thermostats peaked at 40 degrees, while the rest of Europe sweltered
through above-average temperatures.
Jarraud said the warming and increased storm activity could not
be attributed to any particular cause, but was part of a global
warming trend that was likely to continue.
Scientists have reported that global temperatures
rose an average of 0.6 degrees over the past century with the rate
of change since 1976 at roughly three times that over the past 100
This year, the hurricane season in the Caribbean spawned four
hurricanes that reached Category 4 or 5 strength - capable of causing
extreme and catastrophic damage. It was only the fourth time in
recent history that so many strong storms were recorded. They caused
more than $53 billion Cdn in damages.
The stormy season in the Caribbean inflicted the most damage on
Haiti, killing as many as 1,900 people from flooding and mudslides
caused by tropical storm Jeanne in September.
Japan and the Philippines also saw increased extreme tropical
weather, with deadly typhoons hitting both islands. Japan registered
a record number of typhoons making landfall this year with 10, while
back-to-back storms in the Philippines killed at least 740 people
in what was the wettest year since 2000, the UN agency said.
UN environmental officials released new findings that 2004 also
was the most expensive year for the insurance industry as a result
of hurricanes, typhoons and other weather-related natural disasters.
Statistics released at the climate change conference showed that
natural disasters in the first 10 months of the year cost the insurance
industry just over $43 billion, up from $19 billion in 2003.
Munich Re, one of the world's biggest insurance companies, said
the United States tallied the highest losses at more than $32 billion,
while small developing nations such as the Caribbean islands of
Grenada and Grand Cayman also were hit hard.
Other parts of the world also saw extreme weather, with droughts
hitting the western United States, parts of Africa, Afghanistan,
Australia and India. Jarraud, of the UN weather agency, said the
droughts were part of what appears to be a surge over the last decade.
The prolonged rising temperatures and deadly storms were also
matched by harsh winters in other regions.
Peru, Chile, and southern Argentina all experienced severe cold
and snow in June and July.
Still, Jarraud said the high temperatures like those seen in parts
of Europe this year were expected to inch up in the coming years.
Citing recent studies by European climatologists, Jarraud said
heat waves in Europe "could over the next 50 years become four
or five times as frequent as they are now."
WASHINGTON - About 10 percent of all bird species
face extinction by the end of the century and 15 percent more are
on the brink, according to researchers who say such extinctions
would have a widespread impact on the environment, agriculture and
"Important ecosystem processes, particularly decomposition,
pollination and seed dispersal, will likely decline as a result"
of the loss of bird species, said Cagan H. Sekercioglu of the Stanford
University Center for Conservation Biology.
The forecast of Sekercioglu and colleagues, published online Monday
by Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, comes a month
after the World Conservation Union reported a continuing loss of
species, including an estimate that 12 percent of birds are threatened
The Stanford estimate was based on a year of study and a computer
calculation of three possible scenarios.
The result was a forecast that between 6 and 14 percent of all
bird species will be extinct by 2100 and 700 to 2,500 species will
be critically endangered or extinct in the wild.
"Given the momentum of climate change, widespread habitat
loss and increasing numbers of invasive species, avian declines
and extinctions are predicted to continue unabated in the near future,"
Sekercioglu said. [...]
It was 1:30 in the afternoon.
The skies were clear of storms. It was a typical summer day. Nothing
unusual to report.
But Aug. 1, 2003, suddenly turned into a strange day for the Lowcountry.
A booming noise swept across the area, rattling windows and startling
residents, including one Reynolds Pommering of Mount Pleasant.
Pommering, who had been surfing the Internet in his apartment,
said he expected the worst: A plane crash; a terrible explosion;
a terrorist attack.
"I jumped up from what I was doing and ran out the front door.
I really thought something bad had happened," he said.
But there was nothing to see.
As suddenly as it had started, the noise had vanished. It left
behind no trace of a cause.
That deep, resonating boom was only the most recent in a string
of mystery noises that stretches back hundreds of years, perhaps
beyond. No official record apparently exists, but it seems to occur
at least every few years.
The pattern is the same each time.
Telephone calls pour in to various authorities, who have no answers.
Military officials say it wasn't a jet smashing through the sound
barrier. Emergency officials report no explosions or similar catastrophes.
Meteorologists say it's not thunder. Seismographs reveal no substantial
seismic activity, let alone a sizable earthquake. There is a theory,
The noise -- and perhaps many others like it over the years --
was an example of Seneca Guns, a folk term given to unexplained
noises frequently heard along the East Coast.
The Seneca Guns might be mysterious, but they are real, seismological
and meteorological experts agree. They have been reported as far
back as the 1700s. The name comes from Seneca Lake in New York,
where unexplained booming noises have been heard for centuries.
James Fenimore Cooper (author of "The Last of the Mohicans")
wrote about the phenomenon in a short story more than 150 years
More recently, the booms have been heard frequently along the coast
of North Carolina, particularly around Wilmington.
While experts agree that some of the noises might be Seneca Guns,
there is less agreement on what, exactly, a Seneca Gun is.
There are plenty of ideas, however. Some are outlandish, some simple.
Some involve spaceships taking off from the bottom of the ocean.
And some are really weird.
Tyler Clark, chief geologist for the North Carolina Geological
Survey, has heard them all: Sonic booms from far off that carry
over the oceans; methane gas explosions from dead material on the
sea floor bubbling up to the surface; underground limestone formations
collapsing as water tables drop from relentless human thirst; little
earthquakes; meteorites; UFOs.
"I've heard all kinds of crazy things," Clark said. "The
bottom line is that nobody's been able to come up with an explanation
Many have speculated that seismic activity, perhaps small, localized
tremors, might be causing the noises.
Clark discounts that idea. "The problem that we have is that
earthquakes, contrary to popular belief, don't make a whole lot
of noise," he said.
Earthquakes, except perhaps huge ones, don't really move air. Seneca
Guns, however, seem to travel through the air, behaving more like
sonic booms than underground tremors.
The undersea gases idea involves organic material gradually piling
up at the bottom of the ocean. A pocket of gases forms and grows.
Finally, something shakes it loose, and a bubble shoots to the top,
creating a massive blast that some say is what swallows ships in
the Bermuda Triangle.
Some suspect the noises have a clearly explainable cause; it's
just that the military doesn't want us to know what it is. This
theory has the noises coming from secret jets that can fly several
times the speed of sound.
On the other hand, that doesn't explain why Seneca Guns were heard
back in the days before the Wright brothers, let alone the Concorde.
Peter Malin, a Duke University professor of seismology, says he
knows how to tell for sure where the noises are coming from. Put
a recorder under the ground, then compare the readings to an above-ground
Malin says he's ready to do the work himself. There's a problem,
however: Money for a recording device, or lack thereof.
"I need about $15,000," he said.
In any case, Malin says he's certain the sounds come from the atmosphere.
He's heard them, and they rattle the windows, not the floor.
His guess as to the cause? A lightning-like electrical discharge
that produces a thunderous noise with no visible lightning.
Richard Thacker, a senior forecaster with the National Weather
Service, is skeptical of that theory. Seneca Guns can be heard on
perfectly clear days.
"I can't perceive of how that could occur without some kind
of cloud," he said.
Like other experts, Thacker has ideas. The booms could stem from
the first wave of cooler air to hit the warm gulf stream air. He
also mentions the underwater methane gas theory. Or they could be
taking place at the same time.
Or, well, it could be something else.
"I think that this is going to be a harder one to pin down
than the Loch Ness monster," said Thacker. "It really
is truly kind of mysterious."
The hope is that someone will feel compelled to sit down and finally
solve the mystery. That might take awhile, though.
The problem is that there's no great rush to figure out the cause
of the Seneca Guns. They don't hurt anyone and don't disrupt commerce.
Really, they don't do much other than make people curious.
"Maybe it is aliens," said Clark, not
entirely seriously. "It defies all logical explanation at this
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