Friday, December 24, 2004
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Picture of the Day

Christmas in Iraq

Dec 24/04
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through America
Not a Muslim was stirring, not even a radical shi'ite cleric(a);

The brownshirts were guarding the borders with care,
In fears that terrorists soon would be there;

The people were trembling awake in their beds,
While visions of anthrax danced in their heads;

And mamma on Prozac, and I with my Ritalin,
Medicating ourselves to become model citizens.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

And away from the window I cowered afraid,
as the search lights made patterns through my night shade

They were rounding up enemies of the Patriot Act,
to ship them to Cuba in cages like rats.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But Dubya in a jumpsuit, and his eight puppeteers,

With a face like a monkey, and brains turned to mush
I knew in a moment it must be Junior Bush.

More rapid than eagles his handlers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Condi! now, Rummy! now, Gonzo and Rover!
On, Cheney! on Wolfy! on, Boykin and Porter!

Into the heart of Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran!
We'll torch the Middle East as fast as we can!

And before the world can mount a protest,
we'll plunder their country and leave them with the mess.

So onto the Arabic countries they flew,
With an airplane full of bombs, and Democracy too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The heavy thud of his Presidential jackboot.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
He broke down the front door, and came with a bound.

He was dressed all in camoflage, from his head to his toes,
Like deer in the headlights, my family froze.

A bundle of guns he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a predator about to attack.

His eyes -- how they narrowed! his scowl in place!
His forked tongue sticking out of both sides of his face.

His evil little mouth and teeth clenched in rage,
A dog-eared Bible with blood on the page;

He said we were terrorists for not supporting the war,
And deserved to be tortured while chained to the floor;

Then he put us in handcuffs and onto a train,
said we'd never see the beauty of the fatherland again.

He was righteous and angry, a with a thundering yell,
And I cried when I saw him, in spite of myself;

I saw a vision of flames and horns on his head,
Soon gave me to know I had much more to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Rounding up citizens; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger on the button of the bomb,
invoking apocalypse was his plan all along;

He sprang to his jetplane, to his team gave orders,
And away they all flew to the next set of borders.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he flew out of sight,
"Scary Christmas to all, and to all a good-fright."

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Massive earthquake felt in Tasmania
December 24, 2004 - 7:55AM

The world's biggest earthquake in almost four years has struck 800 km off the coast of Tasmania, Australian seismological officials said.

Geoscience Australia said the quake, measuring 8.1 on the Richter Scale hit the Macquarie Rise, in the Pacific Ocean, at 1.59am.

The earthquake, which occurred half-way between Australia and Antarctica, was felt throughout Tasmania, seismologist Cvetan Sinadinovski said.

It caused buildings in parts of the state to shake for up to 15 seconds, he said.

However, no one was injured in the quake and structures were in no danger of collapsing because it struck so far off the coast.

"If it happened underneath a population centre in Australia, this would probably have destroyed a whole city," Dr Sinadinovski said.

"In terms of size, this could have been more than 30 times stronger than the Newcastle event of 1989."

It was the biggest quake since one occurred off the coast of Peru in early 2001, Dr Sinadinovski said. [...]

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This day in history:

1972: Earthquake wreaks devastation in Nicaragua

BBC News
Dec 23, 1972

Ten thousand people are feared dead after a two-hour earthquake ripped through the Nicaraguan capital of Managua.

Initial reports suggest whole communities have been wiped out as an estimated 80% of buildings have been flattened with little hope of finding survivors.

The earthquake which reached 6.5 on the Richter Scale has sparked huge fires causing fears those who survived the initial attack may not escape the flames.

Nicaragua was struck at 1240 local time when all electricity and water supplies to the country were cut.

Telegraph and telephone links have also been severed.

Aid workers are trying to clear the area to prevent the spread of diseases such as typhoid so that experts can search for survivors and get food and water to the hundreds now homeless. [...]

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Storms lash drought-hit Cape
December 23, 2004
By Melanie Gosling & Farook Khan

(South Africa) - The drought-ravaged southern Cape was battered by thunderstorms yesterday, flooding towns, cutting power supplies and washing away roads.

Last night the weather bureau issued a storm alert for southern KwaZulu-Natal, with heavy rains forecast for today.

The bureau said a "big cold system" which had brought the rains to the Cape was moving along the east coast.

"The very heavy rains are moving east and by the morning, southern KwaZulu-Natal could get a great deal of rainfall," said a forecaster. "There are likely to be some thunderstorms on Friday, but it will clear quickly. [...]

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Meteor showers to devastate planet Earth


Someone in deep black space deliberately bombards the Earth with meteorites

Residents of Jakarta and two other neighboring Indonesian towns were frightened with a series of loud explosions on December 18th overnight. Western special services warned Jakarta of possible terrorists acts in the country on Christmas Eve. The police, however, did not find any destruction either in Jakarta, or near it. Local television channels reported that several people had seen some objects, possibly meteorites, falling down from the sky. There were no meteorites found in the area either.

The Indonesian Air Force confirmed the meteorite origin of the above-mentioned explosions in Jakarta: radars registered an unidentified flying object, which was falling down on the ground at a very high speed. Astronomers supported the space version too: they said that eyewitnesses had seen meteorites, not a crashed spacecraft.

The mystery of December blasts in Jakarta has not been unveiled yet. If it was really a large meteorite that fell into pieces and exploded in the Earth's atmosphere, one may say that it was not a "timely" meteorite at all.

December is the time of meteor showers, especially the Geminids and the Ursids. The Geminids light the night sky as they fly from the constellation of Gemini on December 14th. The mysterious explosions in Jakarta occurred on December 19th - it was too late for the Geminid meteor shower, as it had flown away already on December 17th. There is another meteor shower called Ursid - these meteorites are considered to be fragments of 8P/Tuttle comet, which, as scientists believe, neared Jupiter and exploded 600 years ago. December 19th was not a good date for the Ursids either, for they appear in the sky at night of December 22nd. If there was a meteorite in Jakarta, it must have been a very unusual meteorite.

As a rule, meteorites do not fall down on inhabited localities. They prefer to hit seas, lakes, fields and even the Antarctic. There can be exceptions from the rule, of course. A large meteorite blew up above the village of Boqate Ha Sofonia in Lesotho, South Africa, two years ago. The space rock burst into thousands of small fragments (400 of them were found afterwards) and showered down on village houses. One of the pieces flew into a kitchen window and burnt a plastic container there. Local residents had to experience the invasion of scientists later, who determined that the meteorite originally weighed about one ton. It was orbiting the Sun for 4.6 million years, until it broke into the Earth's atmosphere at the speed, which exceeded the sound speed 50-100 times.

A recent research showed that the number of meteorite collectors considerably increased owing to the Internet. It is noteworthy that the black market of meteorites has been very active in 2004. Meteorite trafficking and robbery has become much more frequent; the prices on space rocks started growing too. Lunar and Martian stones are especially expensive - the prices on them can reach $30,000 per gram, which is 3,000 times as expensive as gold.

Reports about meteorites falling down on Earth appear almost every week. A strange object was seen flying across the Australian sky shortly before the above-mentioned Jakarta meteor. Unusual luminescence and roaring sounds have recently been registered in the sky above several German towns. Scientists said that those phenomena had been caused with fragments of asteroids in the Earth's atmosphere.

Doctor Valeri Rudakov from the Institute of Earth's Physics believes that one should not underestimate the meteor danger. "Meteorites might cause considerable damage to our civilization. They can destroy enterprises, level electric power stations, not to mention nuclear power plants. In addition to it, meteorites can cause tremendous earthquakes and volcano eruptions," the scientist said.

Reports about meteorites appearing in the sky of planet Earth have become much more frequent indeed. It was generally believed before that small meteorites hit the Earth once in a hundred years whereas large meteorites, the Tunguska meteorite, for example, fall down on the planet once in a thousand years. It is clear now that it was a wrong assumption. One may recollect the large Vitimsky meteorite, which fell down two years ago in Siberia - it has become the second "gift" from space in 100 years. The need in space protection programs is becoming more obvious. Russian and American scientists were going to create a joint space interception system several years ago. The governments of the two countries, however, preferred not to assign any money for the program, and the question went into the background.

The international symposium dedicated to the asteroid security took place a week ago in Tenerife. Doctor Sergei Gusyakov represented Russia at the conference - the scientist took part in the mission to explore the phenomenon of the Vitimsky meteorite. "The pictures that we took in the Siberian woods in the north of the Irkutsk region produced a sensation. It became clear that it was a huge meteorite, which could have caused a monstrous devastation in Europe, for example," Gusyakov said. When the researcher returned home from the symposium, he was informed about another incident in the Irkutsk region: a large 10-ton celestial body fell down in the northern part of the region again.

Experts do not know why incidents with meteorites have become so frequent nowadays. One of the versions says that someone in deep black space deliberately bombards the Earth with meteorites.

Spacecraft Impactor is to collide with Tempel-1 comet on 4 July 2005. Flyby spaceship, which carries the Impactor to the target, will observe the first-ever collision between the man-made craft and the celestial body. The goal of the 300-million-dollar program called "Deep Impact" is to obtain the inner substance of the comet. Scientists believe that the comet substance will be the source of extremely important information about space, for the substance has remained unchanged since the time, when the Solar System was formed.

The Flyby spacecraft is to be launched on 28 January 2005. Impactor will fly to the comet at the speed of 37,000 kilometers per hour. Flyby's scientific equipment and telescopes of astronomic laboratories on Earth will analyze the cloud of the comet substance after the impact. It is not ruled out, though, that someone will wish to explore our planet with the help of such a barbaric method too.

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Flashback: Giant meteorite wrecked huge area of Siberian forest in 2002

Friday, 25-Jul-2003
Agence France-Presse

MOSCOW, July 25 (AFP) - A giant meteorite that struck the Irkutsk region of Siberia last September had the force of a nuclear bomb of medium power and devastated a huge area of taiga, Russian scientists reported Friday.

A 10-strong expedition of scientists and doctors was unable to identify and reach the place where the meteorite landed until mid-May. It was finally located in the very remote, wooded semi-mountainous region of Bodaibo, northeast of Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.

"Over an area of 100 square kilometres (60 square miles) trees were smashed in a pattern characteristic of very powerful blast effects," expedition leader Vadim Chernobrov told a news conference.

He said that the meteorite had disintegrated before hitting the ground and had left about 20 craters, up to 20 metres (nearly 70 feet) in diameter, with an explosion " equivalent to the power of an atomic bomb of medium size".

A video made by the expedition and shown to reporters showed shattered and sometimes burnt tree stumps, charred by the high temperatures released by the explosion.

Meteorites are large rocks which tumble through space and then get caught in the Earth's gravity, becoming red-hot with the heat of the atmosphere.

Unlike meteors, which burn up completely as they fall and are occasionally visible in the night sky as shooting stars, meteorites are rocks which are so big they make it all the way to the ground.

The brighest such phenomenon ever recorded during human history also happened over Siberia. In 1908 a meteorite hit the Tunguska region, devastating the forest over an area of some 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles).

Many scientists also believe that in prehistoric times a massive meteorite that hit what is now Central America may have caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs

Comment: No, you are not imagining things, a rather large meteorite did indeed strike the earth about 2 years ago and levelled everything for 60 miles around. Strange that almost no one knows about this and it is not mentioned in reports like the following...

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Asteroid collision alert sounded for 2029

The Associated Press
Updated: 9:12 p.m. ET Dec. 23, 2004

But further observations expected to eliminate risk

LOS ANGELES - There’s a 1-in-300 chance that a recently discovered asteroid, believed to be about 1,300 feet (400 meters) long, could hit Earth in 2029, a NASA scientist said Thursday, but he added that the perceived risk probably will be eliminated once astronomers get more detail about its orbit.

There have been only a limited number of sightings of Asteroid 2004 MN4, which has been given an initial rating of 2 on the 10-point Torino Impact Hazard Scale used by astronomers to predict asteroid or comet impacts, said Donald Yeomans, manager of the Near Earth Object Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

No previously observed asteroid has been graded higher than 1.

On Friday, April 13, 2029, “we can’t yet rule out an Earth impact,” Yeomans said. “But the impact probability, as we call it, is 300-to-1 against an impact.”

The asteroid was discovered in June and rediscovered this month.

“This is not a problem for anyone and it shouldn’t be a concern to anyone, but whenever we post one of these things and ... somebody gets ahold of it, it just gets crazy,” he said.

“In the unlikely event that it did hit, it would be quite serious. We’re talking either a tsunami if it hit in the ocean, which would be likely, or significant ground damage,” Yeomans said.

Its estimated size has been inferred from its brightness, which assumes that its reflectivity is similar to other asteroids that have been observed. At about 1,320 feet in length, it would have about 1,600 megatons of energy, Yeomans said.

Comment: How fast we move, from a possible collision in the next 50,000 years, to now one colliding in 2029, but, according to NASA:

"This is not a problem for anyone and it shouldn’t be a concern to anyone, but whenever we post one of these things and ... somebody gets ahold of it, it just gets crazy." — Donald Yeomans NASA

We have to disagree with Mr Yeomans here. We don't know anyone getting "crazy" about the possibility of an meteorite strike on earth, in fact we don't know anyone who is even remotely aware that such an event is a distinct possiblity given the recent "hail" of space rocks the planet has been experiencing. It would seem then that various world governments and government organisations like NASA are doing a very good job of keeping extremely important information out of the public domain.

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The New York Times manufactures support for the Iraq war in aftermath of Mosul bombing
By Rick Kelly
23 December 2004

In response to Tuesday’s attack on a US base in Mosul, the New York Times published an extraordinary front-page article yesterday, entitled “Fighting is the only option, Americans say.” The piece quoted a number of people who expressed their full support for the ongoing occupation, and presented their views as being representative of the US population as a whole.

While the article was presented as an objective characterization of the nation’s mood following the deaths of the US soldiers, it amounted to nothing more than a crude propaganda piece, aimed at limiting any domestic political fallout from the bombing in northern Iraq. The intended effect is to create the impression that any demand for an end to the occupation is beyond the “mainstream” and illegitimate.

Published under the byline of Kirk Johnson, the article began by quoting a man named Dallas Spear, an oil and gas industry worker from Denver. “I would never have gone there from the beginning, but that’s beside the point now,” he declared. “We upset the apple cart and now there’s pretty much no choice. We have to proceed.”

“Mr. Spear’s sentiment was echoed in interviews in shopping malls, offices, sidewalks and homes on a day when the news from Iraq was bleak,” the Times continued. “With 14 American service members killed and dozens injured, it was apparently the worst one-day death toll for American forces since United States forces defeated Saddam Hussein’s regime in spring 2003.

“Many people said they were dispirited or angry, but many expressed equal unhappiness about seeing a lack of options. Whether one supported or opposed the invasion has become irrelevant, many said—there is only the road ahead now, with few signs to guide the way.”

This was all presented as a news article. In all likelihood, however, the material for the piece was gathered after the headline had been decided upon in advance. What was depicted as the typical viewpoint of ordinary people is, in reality, a reflection of the pro-war agenda of the newspaper.

A number of questions could be addressed to the Times’ public editor. Which “shopping malls, offices, sidewalks and homes” are being referred to? How and where were these people found, and on what basis was the decision made to present their views as being representative of the entire nation?

The Times’ assertion that the average American has responded to the deaths of 24 people by saying “we must press forward” is nothing short of obscene. Two dozen families have lost a loved one only days before Christmas, and more than 60 people were badly wounded in the incident.

While most people reflected on the human suffering inflicted by the bombing, the Times hurriedly concocted a story backing the war. The suffering incurred by the US forces in Iraq is of absolutely no concern to the newspapers editors, or to the political establishment as a whole. The soldiers are merely expendable instruments used for the advancement of the US’s geo-strategic interests.

The article quoted 7- year-old Air Force veteran Bob Mayo, who repeated the Bush administration’s claim that the increased violence in Iraq was an indication of the insurgents’ desperation. “It tells me that they are worried that they are going to lose,” he declared. “They are just trying to make it as painful as possible and they don’t care how they do it.”

The Times added that the veteran would not characterize the situation in Iraq as getting worse. “There is no worse in war. War is the worst thing that can happen.” Traci Sillick, a financial advisor from Colorado, added that “the nation should protect the soldiers, give them a clear mission, and then help the Iraqi people as best it can.”

Antiwar sentiments, however vague, were given short shrift. Mike Lepis, a small business owner from Oregon, stressed his support for the troops. Carolyn Jolly, a Army civilian employee Virginia, hoped to see the troops come home “as soon as possible” after the Iraqi elections. Mike Hoffman, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, noted that attacks such as the one in Mosul would continue so long as the occupation is maintained.

No one was quoted making any reference to the wider political, legal and moral questions involved in the Iraq war, nor was any criticism of the Bush administration noted.

“[W]hile some said the attack reinforced their belief that the Bush administration had failed in its goals, others found it hard to place blame,” the article declared. “Stan Joynes, a real estate lawyer and developer in Richmond, Va., said the administration was not upfront about what would be required in Iraq. But maybe, he added, the administration did not know either. ‘We know now we weren’t getting the whole picture,’ he said. ‘I don’t think they knew the whole picture.’”

Every opinion poll demonstrates that, contrary to the Times’ assessment, there is massive antiwar sentiment throughout the country and widespread hostility to the Bush administration’s policies. The latest poll conducted for ABC News and the Washington Post found that 57 percent said they disapproved of the president’s handling of the situation in Iraq, and 56 percent described the war as not worth fighting. When asked if the US should withdraw from Iraq, “even if that means civil order is not restored there,” 39 percent said yes.

The Times noted that another poll recently reported 47 percent of those surveyed thought the situation in Iraq had gotten worse in the past 12 months, compared to just 20 percent who believed the situation had improved.

But the newspaper hinted at a potential solution for such damaging findings—the elimination of opinion surveys.

“Some people said that polls themselves were part of the problem,” the article claimed. “Charlie Eubanks, a cotton farmer and lawyer from the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, said he supported President Bush but had been lukewarm about going to war. Now, he said there was no choice but to fight on, and that reports on opinion polls were only ‘aiding and abetting’ the enemy by making opponents think the American will is weak. ‘We’ve got to hang in there and get it done,’ Mr. Eubanks said.”

These comments, reported without rebuttal by the Times, can only be understood to mean that the newspaper may support, in the interests of the war effort, the blanket censorship and suppression of any antiwar expression.

The editorial line of the “liberal” newspaper of record is broadly reflective of the more farsighted layers of the American ruling class. At the same time as it issued various criticisms of the Bush administration’s tactless diplomatic machinations prior to the invasion of Iraq, it amplified the Bush administration’s lies about alleged weapons of mass destruction, and declared the country a grave threat to the security of the US.

The Times is again stepping forward at a critical juncture for the US’s fortunes in the Middle East. Coming less than two months after the destruction of Fallujah, which was heralded as a major blow against the resistance, the Mosul attack has demonstrated the fragility of the entire US operation, which now hangs in the balance.

The occupying forces confront a nationwide insurrection, with Iraqi fighters capable of striking anywhere with impunity. Enjoying broad support among the Iraqi people, the resistance has taken control of many sectors of Iraq’s major cities and provinces. The elections scheduled for January 30 are entirely bogus, and are widely recognized as such. Wide sections of the Iraqi population will view any government formed after the vote—if indeed it goes ahead as planned, which is by no means certain—as no more legitimate than Iyad Allawi’s stooge regime.

The Times’ editors are acutely aware that these developments threaten American imperialism with a catastrophic defeat.

Yesterday’s lead editorial, “Grim realities in Iraq,” noted the precariousness of the situation. “Some 21 months after the American invasion, United States military forces remain essentially alone in battling what seems to be a growing insurgency, with no clear prospect of decisive success any time in the foreseeable future.

“Washington has no significant international military partners besides Britain, and no Iraqi military support it can count on. The election that once looked as if it might produce a government with nationwide legitimacy increasingly threatens to intensify divisions between the groups that are expected to participate enthusiastically—the Shiites and Kurds—and an estranged and embattled Sunni community, which at this point appears likely to stand aloof.”

Defeat is unimaginable for the US ruling class—and for the editors of the New York Times. The editorial called for increased recruitment into the armed forces, more troops to be sent to Iraq, and for the stepping up of efforts to cultivate a pro-US Sunni layer.

The newspaper prudently avoided, however, any discussion of their strategy to manipulate and suppress popular opinion on the subject of the war.

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by: Brian Reade
Thursday 23rd December 2004

Scary world eh? A bit of an indictment of the progress homo sapiens has made these past few million years, that a man who this week stunned a press conference with the phrase: "I’m not going to negotiate with myself in public" should not only lead mankind but be hailed for that inspirational leadership by so-called intellectuals.

A man who last month said he was willing to help out with the Northern Ireland peace process, before breaking off to say he had to "go get a burger".

Call me old-fashioned but I thought this year’s heroes were people like the emergency workers of Madrid and Beslan, poisoned Ukrainian politician Viktor Yushchenko, executed aid worker Margaret Hassan, released nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu, even Bono. People whose lives are a force for good.

But no. According to America’s finest brains the person who made the biggest difference to the planet this year is the monkey-like puppet of ruthless neo-con hawks, who yelled "ah feel good," as he unleashed shock and awe on women and babies.

And he won because he edged an election victory in a land where half the voters registered their disgust at his policies which have killed thousands of people and dragged their country’s reputation into the gutter.

I know the Yanks aren’t big on irony but surely it hasn’t escaped Time’s notice that last year they gave the award to The American Soldier. More than a thousand of whom have died in Bush’s personal Iraq war, 19 this Tuesday.

Yet this year’s Man of the Year is honoured for killing last year’s in their droves? And Americans wonder why we think they’re going from dumb to dumber.

Don’t they realise when they honour the monkey they also honour his organ-grinder, Donald Rumsfeld. A man who used to visit Iraq on behalf of George Bush’s dad to flog Saddam Hussein tracking satellites, helicopter gun-ships, germ-seed for anthrax, pumps for nuclear plants and the ingredients to make chemical weapons.

The calculating monster who made the lies and the illegal invasion possible, who turned a blind eye to the torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, who plots the next phase of US colonisation and who has been signing letters of condolence to the families of dead troops using a "mechanical device".

This is a cold, hard, killing machine who couldn’t be bothered to sign letters regretting the loss of another young American life, because he cared so little about their futile deaths.

If Rumsfeld and Bush feel so little about the fate of their own people in Iraq, imagine how little they care for the fate of those they claim to be liberating?

Bush as Man of the Year? Only if the Man is short for Maniac.

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Rumsfeld Gets Friendly Questions in Iraq
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
December 24, 2004

MOSUL, Iraq - The questions from the troops for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were considerably more friendly on his Christmas Eve visit to Iraq than they were on his previous trip to the region a couple of weeks ago.

"How do we win the war in the media?" asked one soldier in Mosul. Another soldier in Tikrit wondered why there is not more coverage of reconstruction efforts going on in the country.

"I guess what's news has to be bad news to get on the press," Rumsfeld responded to the first question — after supposing, with a big grin, "that does not sound like a question that was planted by the press."

Comment: Of course the question wasn't planted by the press - it was planted by Rummy. As we have repeatedly shown on the Signs page, the only news that makes it onto the press in the US is horribly watered down, warm and fuzzy propaganda.

"I think the American people get it," he responded to the second. "I agree with you, I wish it was possible that more of the good works you're doing here ... were considered newsworthy and were reported in a way that people would understand the progress that is being made, and it is being made because of you," he told the woman in Tikrit.

But he said in Mosul that the full picture "gets through eventually" and that "people do understand the acts of kindness and that large parts of the country are peaceful."

"We are a great country and we can benefit from having a free press," said Rumsfeld. "From time to time people can be concerned about it, but look where we've come as a country because we do have a free press."

He said he has great confidence "in the center of gravity" of the American people to sort through all the coverage to come to their own conclusions, but that "what hurts most" is "vicious" misrepresentations by the Arab media.

Two weeks ago at a forward base in Kuwait, a handful of soldiers openly challenged him about inadequate equipment and long deployments.

Rumsfeld cut off their complaints by saying, "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have." That set off a wave of criticism of the defense chief's brusque manner.

It was disclosed later that a question about inadequate armor on some vehicles was arranged in advance by a reporter.

Comment: Unfortunately, Rumsfeld was embarassed by blunt questions from three soldiers - not just one media plant...

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Flashback: Disgruntled Troops Complain to Rumsfeld

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
December 8, 2004

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - Disgruntled U.S. soldiers complained to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday about the lack of armor for their vehicles and long deployments, drawing a blunt retort from the Pentagon chief.

"You go to war with the Army you have," he said in a rare public airing of rank-and-file concerns among the troops.

In his prepared remarks earlier, Rumsfeld had urged the troops — mostly National Guard and Reserve soldiers — to discount critics of the war in Iraq and to help "win the test of wills" with the insurgents.

Some of soldiers, however, had criticisms of their own — not of the war itself but of how it is being fought.

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Comment: That's the first question...

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.

"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.

Rumsfeld replied that troops should make the best of the conditions they face and said the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.

And, the defense chief added, armor is not always a savior in the kind of combat U.S. troops face in Iraq, where the insurgents' weapon of choice is the roadside bomb, or improvised explosive device that has killed and maimed hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops since the summer of 2003.

"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up," Rumsfeld said. [...]

During the question-and-answer session, another soldier complained that active-duty Army units sometimes get priority over the National Guard and Reserve units for the best equipment in Iraq.

Comment: That makes two questions...

"There's no way I can prove it, but I am told the Army is breaking its neck to see that there is not" discrimination against the National Guard and Reserve in terms of providing equipment, Rumsfeld said.

Comment: Isn't it highly likely that the simple reason why Rumsfeld cannot prove his statement is that he is lying?

Yet another soldier asked, without putting it to Rumsfeld as a direct criticism, how much longer the Army will continue using its "stop loss" power to prevent soldiers from leaving the service who are otherwise eligible to retire or quit.

Comment: And there's question number three.

Rumsfeld said that this condition was simply a fact of life for soldiers at time of war.

"It's basically a sound principle, it's nothing new, it's been well understood" by soldiers, he said. "My guess is it will continue to be used as little as possible, but that it will continue to be used." [...]

Comment: What if one question was arranged by the media? It is still a good question that deserves an honest answer from Rummy. As for the other two questions posed by soldiers, you can forget about them. They no longer exist. After this nice little bit of fancy footwork on the part of the Neocons, America will be happy again with Rummy.

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Meanwhile, cycle of violence goes on in Gaza
Conal Urquhart in Khan Yunis
Thursday December 23, 2004
The Guardian

Thirteen-year-old Yehiya Moharab got up at 5am, ate his breakfast of pitta bread with powdered thyme and olive oil, and prepared to go to school.

About an hour later, perhaps the same time as Tony Blair was waking up in Jerusalem, Yehiya heard gunfire around the Nasser hospital in the centre of Khan Yunis.

His mother told him that the Israeli army had launched an incursion, there would be no school and he was forbidden to leave the house.

"When I heard there was shooting I wanted to go... so when my mother wasn't looking I ran out of the house," he said yesterday from his hospital bed. "Then shooting started all around me. I tried to hide but I was hit in my stomach and legs."

Other boys carried him into the hospital, where doctors removed the shrapnel and left him to recover in a corridor with a dozen other wounded boys.

By Gaza standards, the raid that coincided with Mr Blair's meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah was restrained: only three people killed and about a dozen houses demolished.

The previous incursion into Khan Yunis, which ended at the weekend, left 11 dead and 39 houses demolished.

The Israeli army said it launched yesterday's raid because 15 missiles and rockets had been fired at Jewish settlements close to Khan Yunis since Saturday.

But the outcome is the expansion of no-go zones around Israeli positions and settlements, a strategy being repeated all over the Gaza Strip.

Yesterday's military activity closed schools and enveloped the town in fear, as Israeli machine gun fire echoed down the streets and drones buzzed overhead. People of all ages stood among the bullet-marked houses in the roads around the hospital. Their numbers thinned out close to the Israeli lines, near the houses that were demolished yesterday morning. All that remained among the rubble were seven white flags on sticks.

Umm Mohammad, 50, and Amna Abu Baida, 39, both mothers of five, fled to the UN-run elementary school yesterday morning after their apartment block was surrounded by tanks.

Their previous homes were demolished two years ago, and the Israelis have now moved the front line to their new apartments.

"I was here with my family for three days," said Umm Mohammad. "I went home on Sunday and then last night I heard the shooting start again. The moment it starts, the men leave because we don't know if they will be killed or arrested. It doesn't matter if they are innocent."

The school was packed with families. Some of the children played as if nothing had happened, but many looked traumatised.

"It's not just that we are losing our homes," said Umm Mohammad. "No children are getting an education. We are losing our future as well."

The school, built with money donated by the EU, was meant to restart lessons yesterday but it reverted to a refugee camp within a refugee camp instead.

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US demands Israel confiscate Chinese-owned drones
By GAVIN RABINOWITZ | Associated Press
December 22, 2004

JERUSALEM - The United States has demanded Israel confiscate Chinese-owned drone aircraft that were sent to Israel for an upgrade, an Israeli military official said Wednesday.

The demand puts Israel in the awkward position of having to either defy the United States, its main ally, or China, a growing market for Israeli high-tech and military exports.

The argument centers on a shipment of Harpy drones that Israel sold to China in the early 1990s. The planes are designed to destroy radar stations or anti-aircraft batteries. China shipped the unmanned attack planes back to Israel earlier this year for a technological upgrade.

The United States demanded Israel keep them. Israel has not yet decided whether to return the drones or give in to the American demand, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Israeli Defense Ministry had no comment.

In Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said officials were aware of the reports but had no immediate comment.

The United States, which fears the military technology could be used to threaten Taiwan and endanger U.S. forces in case of war with China, torpedoed a US$2 billion (?1.5 billion) Israeli-Chinese deal in 2000.

Although China blamed the United States for interfering in the sale of PHALCON reconnaissance planes, Israel said the botched deal caused lingering ill will between the countries that was resolved only after Israel paid China reparations.

Israeli-Chinese ties have recovered, and Israel's military industries are believed to have extensive links with China's People's Liberation Army, including help in the development of Chinese jet fighters.

Neither the Harpy system nor the PHALCON have U.S.-made parts or technology. Under American regulations, the United States can veto export of its systems to third countries, but its veto of the Israel-China deals is based only on the closeness of Israel-U.S. relations.

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Israel and US Moves in the Middle East: Pimps and Whores
Monday, December 20, 2004

Why would Israel risk its crucial life-and-death relationship with its main protector and ally in order to transfer some American secrets and classified American technology to the Chinese? Once you ask the question, the answer becomes immediately obvious.

Every single aspect of what the Israelis do can only be understood in the light of their massive project (which I'll call the 'Project'), which may take fifty or a hundred years, to create Greater Israel in a swath across the Middle East from the Nile to the Euphrates. The coalition of Likud and Labour just clarifies that there is really no democracy in Israel, just an insane government force committed to this one goal. The hundred thousand or so dead Iraqis in the Israeli-inspired attack on Iraq are just a down payment on the millions of people who are going to have to die in the Middle East and elsewhere before Greater Israel is finished. You can't kill that many people, and cause that much disruption and destruction, without having the whole world furious with you. It is therefore imperative to have the biggest motherfucker on the block to watch your back, and the United States is that motherfucker. It would be impossible for the Israelis to treat the Palestinians the criminal way they do without the aiding and abetting of the United States, and furthering the Project would be impossible without similar help.

Problem. The United States is a giant turd circling the toilet bowl, and George Bush is flushing as fast as he can. It's funny how empires at crucial junctures in their histories sometimes find themselves with inspired leaders, and sometimes find themselves with chimps, and the United States has lucked out with a chimp. The combination of religious nuttiness, disdain for the environment, crazy class-warfare tax policy, and ruinous wars would be bad enough, but the real problem is economic, and Bush's complete disinterest in even addressing the debilitating problem of the two massive deficits, budget and trade, which are bound to become progressively worse. He has no ideas for the trade deficit, and his big ideas for the budget deficit, needless to say, involve removing what few benefits poor people now receive in return for their taxes. For all intents and purposes, the United States is bankrupt, by which I mean it will never, ever, be able to pay back what it owes the rest of the world. The only reason the rest of the world continues to fund this disaster is that it needs to keep the American economy on enough life support to maintain the value of the trillions of American dollars held outside the United States, and support the American consumer demand which keeps foreign factories running to create such massive foreign prosperity.

The American economy is just a big Ponzi scheme, with its prosperity an illusion created on its ability to borrow more and more money. Like all Ponzi schemes, this can't go on forever, and eventually the rest of the world will figure a way to get out as painlessly as possible. This will cause problems all over the world, but mostly in the United States, as the drastic decline in the value of the U. S. dollar will cause the cheap Walmart consumer goods made in China - the real opium of the masses - to become expensive consumer goods made in China. When that happens, we may get to see what revolution looks like in the surprisingly passive American poor, and those semi-secret concentration camps set up by the Office of Homeland Security may see some use.

If you're a long-range Zionist planner of the Project, you have to be alive to all these things, and be ready for the handoff of imperial power. I'm not suggesting that the United States will become powerless, but only that its economic and domestic problems will reduce it to the status of a less great power, like Britain or Russia. That much power will make the U. S. an insufficiently powerful country to provide back-up against the whole world for the Project. When the British Empire officially ended at the end of the Second World War, the Americans had Britain over a financial barrel. The British literally could no longer afford their colonial empire, and Britain handed the keys for the Middle Eastern parts of that empire over to the Americans. China will soon have the United States over the same barrel, and in return for economic concessions, will be entitled to the same prize.

The current series of American wars is just the death throes of empire, as the Americans attempt to blackmail the rest of the world into continuing to finance its profligate ways by threatening to control the entire world supply of oil. It's not going to work, as the U. S. military is simply not up to the job of winning the wars it has to win, having essentially lost both Afghanistan and Iraq. While the United States wastes money on wars, money it doesn't have, China just makes stuff, and becomes ever more wealthy.

The biggest whore in the Middle East is looking for a new pimp, and the new mack daddy is China (with India on the horizon). What better way to impress your new pimp with your loyalty than to betray the secrets of your old pimp?

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Sept. 11 Conspiracy Theorist Offers $100,000 Prize
Larry Fine
Reuters December 15, 2004

What follows is a prime example of disinformation dressed up as journalism. Note that it makes no attempt whatsoever to investigate Walters claims that 9/11 was an "inside job". Nor does it attempt to spell out his accusations in any detail. Instead, Reuters blandly trots out the official version of events, without question. To compensate, this website has added a few links of its own. (Ed -

Jimmy Walter has spent more than $3 million promoting a conspiracy theory the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were "an inside job" and he is offering more cash to anyone who proves him wrong.

The millionaire activist is so convinced of a government cover-up he is offering a $100,000 reward to any engineering student who can prove the World Trade Center buildings crashed the way the government says.

"Of course, we expect no winners," Walter, 57, heir to an $11 million fortune from his father's home-building business, said in a telephone interview from California on Wednesday. He accuses figures in government, the military and business of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Walter said a panel of expert engineers would judge submissions from the students.

Next month, he also launches a nationwide contest seeking alternative theories from college and high school students about why New York's World Trade Center collapsed. The contest offers $10,000 to the best alternative theory, with 100 runner-up awards of $1,000. Winners will be chosen next June.

The World Trade Center's twin towers were destroyed after hijackers from Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda militant group slammed two commercial airliners into them. The attack in New York killed 2,749 people.

Various official investigations give no credence to Walter's theory. A Sept. 11 commission spokesman said its policy was not to comment on criticism of the report.

Walter insists there had to be explosives planted in the twin towers to cause them to fall as they did, and also rejects the official explanation for the damage done at the Pentagon.

"We have all the proof," said Walter, citing videotapes and testimony from witnesses.

"It wasn't 19 screw-ups from Saudi Arabia who couldn't pass flight school who defeated the United States with a set of box cutters," he said. He dismissed the official Sept. 11 commission report, saying, "I don't trust any of these 'facts."'

Walter has spent millions of dollars to bolster support for his case, running full-page ads in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and Newsweek, as well as alternative newspapers and 30-second TV spots.

He points to a Zogby poll he commissioned last summer that showed 66 percent of New Yorkers wanted the 9/11 investigation reopened.
Walter has spent about 30 percent of his net worth on his efforts.
"I am a patriot fighting the real traitors who are destroying our democracy. I resent it when they call me delusional," he said

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Dangerous Delusions About Iran
by Paul Craig Roberts
Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith is the neocon Likudnik who was tasked with cooking up the false "intelligence" that President Bush used to deceive the U.S. public into supporting an illegal invasion of Iraq. With the U.S. military now trapped in the Iraqi quagmire, Feith wants the U.S. to attack Iran.

President Bush falsely claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq was linked to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and that Iraq would give weapons of mass destruction to anti-American terrorists. Senior members of the Bush administration terrified the U.S. public with prospects of mushroom clouds going up over U.S. cities.

Having been proved 100% wrong about Iraq, the Bush administration now claims that the nonexistent WMD are in Iran, or maybe Syria. During recent weeks, the Bush administration worked overtime to terrify the U.S. public into believing that Iran is building nuclear weapons and missiles with which to destroy American cities.

To ward off yet another gratuitous and illegal U.S. attack on a Muslim country, Europe, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and U.S. experts such as Gordon Prather have exposed the Bush administration's false claims. But the Bush administration ignores factual truth. Bush has his own "truth," a delusional "truth" independent of all evidence.

Israel's right-wing Likud Party regards Feith as one of its own. The Jerusalem Post described Feith as "a staunch supporter of Israel." In an exclusive interview, Feith told that paper that despite the intercession of Britain, France, Germany, and the IAEA against a U.S. attack on Iran, the Bush administration has not ruled out taking military action against Iran.

In other words, the neocon Bush administration has already decided to attack Iran and Syria. The only question is what kind of lie can Bush use to get away with it.

But first Bush has to take over the IAEA, which has steadfastly refused to go along with Bush's propaganda against Iran. According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration has been tapping the telephones of the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, hoping to find damaging information with which to frame, blackmail, or taint him as an Iranian ally.

Unable to find or to manufacture any evidence against ElBaradei, the Bush administration is using an orchestrated campaign of anonymous accusations in an effort to oust the IAEA director and to replace him with a U.S. puppet. The problem is that ElBaradei is more highly regarded than any member of the tainted Bush administration, including President Bush himself. So far, Bush cannot find anyone anywhere in the world, including our British puppet, who is willing to be associated with the Bush administration's disgraceful intentions.

The important unanswered question is: why do the neocons, with their proven record of duplicity and delusion, still hold the reins of power in the Bush administration? Why isn't Feith in prison? Martha Stewart is in prison for "lying" about a non-crime. Feith's lies have killed thousands. The Iraq war is based entirely on neocon lies. The war is costing the U.S. a fortune it does not have. The war is producing U.S. casualties comparable to those of the Vietnam war and has killed a minimum of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

The neocons have destroyed Iraq's infrastructure, alienated the entire Muslim world, and made the U.S. the most hated country on the planet.

What does Douglas Feith think the effect would be on Shi'ite Iraq of a U.S. attack on Shi'ite Iran? The only reason the U.S. Army in Iraq has not been totally destroyed is the wait-and-see attitude of the majority Shi'ites, who expect to take control of Iraq once there is an election. If the U.S. attacks Iran, the Iraqi Shi'ite clerics will not be able to maintain their neutrality toward the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

The current Iraqi insurgency is drawn from Sunni ranks. Sunnis comprise only 20 percent of Iraq's population. Yet, Sunnis have tied down eight U.S. divisions while inflicting horrendous casualties on U.S. troops. If Bush escalates U.S. aggression in the Middle East, he will create a larger insurgency.

Imagine the U.S. casualty rate if the Iraqi insurgency were drawn from 80 percent of the population. The temporary Shi'ite insurgency of the minor cleric Sadr caused tremendous U.S. consternation. What would be the U.S. casualty rate if, instead of sitting on their hands, all the Shi'ites had joined the insurgency?

Iran covers almost four times the area of Iraq and has more than 2.5 times the population. If Bush attacks Iran, he will create an insurgency there as well, one that could spill over into Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

Bush's war is achieving a Shi'ite unity that will redraw Middle Eastern boundaries and eliminate secular Muslim governments. Shi'ite unity will merge with the anti-American terrorists and drive all Western expatriates out of the Middle East. Indeed, the departures are already underway. Israel will be isolated, exposed to the consequences of its aggression against the Palestinians.

Fox "News" and right-wing talk radio crazies misinform us that we are kicking terrorist butt, but in non-delusional reality, we are unifying Islam and ending forever Western influence in the Middle East.

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Putin questions Russia-U.S. relationship
Last Updated Fri, 24 Dec 2004 08:06:02 EST
MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin is winding up his year expressing doubts about his country's relationship with the United States.

Putin held his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow on Thursday in which he commented on a variety of issues including the sale of Yukos – Russia's second-largest oil company – and the upcoming Ukrainian elections.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during a press conference in the Kremlin, Moscow (CP photo)

"We are not going to predict the result of the [Ukrainian] elections because that would not be right, although we know what the polls are saying. I'm personally acquainted with [Viktor] Yushchenko from his tenure as chairman of the Ukrainian cabinet. We had dealings with each other and we had normal, business-like relations ... we're always ready to receive any leader entrusted to Moscow by the Ukrainian people."

But Putin also says he will ask U.S. President George W. Bush when they next meet whether Washington is attempting to isolate Russia. Putin made reference to U.S. criticism of Russia's approach to the recent controversial Ukrainian election.

"I don't think [isolation] is the goal of U.S. policy. In the near future, next year, we will meet with President Bush and I will ask him the question: 'Is it true?'"

The two leaders are scheduled to meet in Slovakia in February.

Putin suggested criticism of Russian involvement in the Ukrainian election is ill-placed since, he claims, intimidation was a factor in the last two U.S. elections.

Putin also offered a subtle jab at Washington's Iraq policy, saying he doubted planned elections there would be democratic while the country is under full occupation.

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13 die in air force chopper crash
From correspondents in Jakarta
December 24, 2004

ALL 13 people on board were killed when an Indonesian air force helicopter crashed and burst into flames in mountainous central Java island today, officials said.

The locally-assembled Super Puma helicopter came down in bad weather near Wonosobo, close to the Dieng plateau and 360km east of Jakarta, First Air Marshal Sagom Tamboen said.

"They flew over Mount Dieng in bad weather and the helicopter crashed into the mountain," he said. All those on board the helicopter were air force officers, including five majors, two lieutenants and three captains, he said.

Earlier, Central Java police chief Khaerul Rasyid said 14 people were killed in the accident.

Five people were killed yesterday in Indonesia's remote and mountainous Papua province when a navy helicopter crashed into a fast-flowing jungle river, also during foul weather.

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Battered dollar hits another low
Thursday, 23 December, 2004, 21:18 GMT

The dollar has fallen to a new record low against the euro after data fuelled fresh concerns about the US economy.

The greenback hit $1.3516 in thin New York trade, before rallying to $1.3509.

The dollar has weakened sharply since September when it traded about $1.20, amid continuing worries over the levels of the US trade and budget deficits.

Meanwhile, France's finance minister has said the world faced "economic catastrophe" unless the US worked with Europe and Asia on currency controls.

Herve Gaymard said he would seek action on the issue at the next meeting of G7 countries in February.

Ministers from European and Asian governments have recently called on the US to strengthen the dollar, saying the excessively high value of the euro was starting to hurt their export-driven economies.

"It's absolutely essential that at the meeting of the G7 our American friends understand that we need coordinated management at the world level," said Mr Gaymard. [...]

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Mexico explosion sends crude oil into river and Gulf of Mexico
09:49 PM EST Dec 23

MEXICO CITY (AP) - An oil line explosion sent 5,000 barrels of crude oil into a river and some of it into the Gulf of Mexico, where local beaches were affected, Mexico's state oil company said Thursday.

At least five people were injured, one of them seriously, in the explosion along an oil line early Wednesday near Santiago Tuxtla, about 420 kilometres southeast of Mexico City.

The state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, said about 798,000 litres flowed into the Coatzacoalcos River and some reached the Gulf coast city of the same name.

"Unfortunately, the current beat us," said Juan Bueno Torio, director of Pemex Refinacion, in an interview with ACIR radio. "Some of the crude went into the sea and it is beginning to affect some beaches here in Coatzacoalcos."

The oil company said in a news release that 35 boats and 1,000 people were working to clean up the oil, adding beaches should be free of petroleum by Sunday.

Bueno Torio said about 300 families had to be evacuated from the river's banks Wednesday night for fear a spark could cause a fire. They had begun to return home Thursday.

The affected line carries about 360,000 barrels of crude a day.

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Arctic lights blamed on climate change
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor 
19 December 2004
Santa and his reindeer will be able to see their way better than ever on Christmas Eve, for a mysterious light is beginning to brighten the dark polar winter. 

Eskimos and scientists report a strange "lightness at noon" that is turning the usual all-day darkness of the high Canadian Arctic into twilight, apparently in defiance of natural laws. Canadian government officials say it may be the result of an unusual atmospheric phenomenon caused by global warming. 

Inuit hunters are telling the government's weather station at Resolute Bay - Canada's second most northerly village, 1,000 miles from the North Pole - of a new light in the sky. 

And Wayne Davidson, the Canadian government official who runs the station, says he believes it it caused by climate change. 

For the past five years, Mr Davidson says, there has been a growing light along the horizon in the middle of the day in winter. "The entire horizon is raised like magic, like the hand of God is bringing it up," he says. 

But Mr Davidson's investigations, backed by other scientists, suggest a more prosaic explanation. Warmer air, from global warming, is overlaying the cold air of the Arctic and the interface between the two creates a kind of "mirror in the sky" which reflects the sun's rays from further south. 

So this Christmas Santa may be able to ignore Rudolph's red-nose and rely on pollution from the world's chimneys to find his way down them.

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