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"Misspeaking" the Truth

Bellies full of turkey and stuffing, heads turning under the bright, flashing lights, families gathered together with their attention turned to petty feuds and intrigues, Christmas is a great time to slip another one by a drugged and satiated public. And, boy, what a few days it has been! The massive earthquakes and tsunamis that killed tens of thousands in South-East Asia, another "spontaneous revolution" organised and financed by the US in the former Soviet bloc, the appearance of a comet that has gone from a 1 in 300 chance of hitting the earth in 2029 to a 1 in 37 chance. Of course, none of these events are related to one another, right? They are random happenings, unconnected, isolated incidents of local importance.

But that was not all.

On Christmas Day, we received a message from a reader pointing us to a remark made by Donald Rumsfeld during his surprise visit to Iraq to show the troops that he wasn't such a bad guy after all. Rummy had been coming up for criticism for his remarks to US soldiers on their lack of armour, his famous "you go to war with the army you have", and Bill Kristol, an important propagandist for the neocons, had been demanding Rummy's removal, though for other reasons. So off the US Secretary of Defence went to Baghdad on a PR tour to save his job.

According to the following CCN transcript, while he was addressing the troops, Rummy made the following remark:

that way of living, would strike at the very essence of our country.

And I think all of us have a sense if we imagine the kind of world we would face if the people who bombed the mess hall in Mosul, or the people who did the bombing in Spain, or the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania and attacked the Pentagon, the people who cut off peoples' heads on television to intimidate, to frighten -- indeed the word "terrorized" is just that. Its purpose is to terrorize, to alter behavior, to make people be something other than that which they want to be.

Rummy's statement is rich because for once he is telling us the truth. He tells us that Flight 93, erected in myth as the flight where the passengers struck back to prevent another "attack", was shot down. This version of events does not mesh with the official story, enshrined in The 9/11 Commission Report. Rummy's new take on events is the version recounted by those so-called "conspiracy theorists" who do not buy the official version, who have seen the holes, inconsistencies, and lies woven together to justify America's Imperial plunder, and who want something better -- the truth.

But Rummy's admission is not all.

Rumsfeld is telling us that all the events he mentions were done by the same forces, those who "shot down the plane over Pennsylvania". There is only one authority who could have shot down Flight 93 over Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001 -- members of the US military. And if elements in the US military were responsible for shooting down Flight 93.... Well, someone doesn't want us going there. However, we agree with Rumsfeld that the purpose of the people behind these events is to "intimidate, to frighten...to alter behavior, to make people be something than that which they want to be".

It sums up the Bush Administration to a "t".

Such a slip could not be left to stand. Too many people who had seen the holes in the official story were waiting to fall upon Rumsfeld's words and use them to buttress their campaign to know the truth. You know, the "conspiracy theorists".

But Rummy's words were "out there". How to do damage control? Call upon your friends at CNN. CNN would have to do because the good folks at Fox News had not reported this particular remark by Rummy. No need to disturb the great Fox-washed.

Pentagon: Rumsfeld misspoke on Flight 93 crash
Defense secretary's remark to troops fuels conspiracy theories
From Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A comment Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made during a Christmas Eve address to U.S. troops in Baghdad has sparked new conspiracy theories about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In the speech, Rumsfeld made a passing reference to United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to stop al Qaeda hijackers.

But in his remarks, Rumsfeld referred to the "the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania."

A Pentagon spokesman insisted that Rumsfeld simply misspoke, but Internet conspiracy theorists seized on the reference to the plane having been shot down.

"Was it a slip of the tongue? Was it an error? Or was it the truth, finally being dropped on the public more than three years after the tragedy" asked a posting on the Web site WorldNetDaily.com.

Some people remain skeptical of U.S. government statements that, despite a presidential authorization, no planes were shot down September 11, and rumors still circulate that a U.S. military plane shot the airliner down over Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

A Pentagon spokesman insists Rumsfeld has not changed his opinion that the plane crashed as the result of an onboard struggle between passengers and terrorists.

The independent panel charged with investigating the terrorist attacks concluded that the hijackers intentionally crashed Flight 93, apparently because they feared the passengers would overwhelm them.

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And the answer is?! "Rumsfeld simply misspoke." Really. He "has not changed his opinion". Honest. He knows how important the image of "Let's roll" is to the whole 9/11, "let's make America safer", mythology. The war against terrorism started on that flight; you can't change the story now, no matter the truth.

Poor Don. He was probably confused, suffering from jet lag. It is so hard to keep the official story straight when the body is reacting to a change of so many time zones. Maybe he forgot to take his melatonin.

What is curious is that this is not the first time that Donald Rumsfeld has "misspoken" on the subject of 9/11, that is, in the sense of telling the truth, of recounting details that go against the official version. The official story tells us that it was AA Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon and disappeared leaving no traces after passing through three rings of reinforced steel and concrete, disappeared leaving nothing but the bodies of the victims on the plane. Somehow the heat, fireball, and explosion that made the vaporized the plane didn't have the same effect upon the bodies of the victims. Readers of this page will have seen our Pentagon Strike flash presentation on the subject, as well as Laura Knight-Jadczyk's Comments on the Pentagon Strike.

On the DoD's own website, we find an interview with the Secretary of Defence where he explains what happened on that day. The interview with Parade Magazine was conducted on October 12, 2001.

Therein we find the following comment from Rumsfeld:

It is a truth that a terrorist can attack any time, any place, using any technique and it's physically impossible to defend at every time and every place against every conceivable technique. Here we're talking about plastic knives and using an American Airlines flight filed with our citizens, and the missile to damage this building and similar (inaudible) that damaged the World Trade Center.

Oops. "A missile"? That isn't in the Commission's report. Did Rumsfeld "misspeak"?

Then again, there is this statement from the questioning of Rumsfeld by 9/11 Commissioner Jamie S. Gorelick during the commission hearings:

GORELICK: Well, I expect that you would. So now I would like to talk about the aspects that were in your control. I had a conversation with Secretary Wolfowitz's -- one of his predecessors, when the 1996 Olympics were being planned about what do we do when an aircraft is being hijacked and is flying into a stadium at the Olympics? What is the military's response? What is it's role? And it has always been my assumption that even though, yes, you were looking out, that you have a responsibility to protect our airspace. So my question is: In this summer of threat, what did you do to protect, let's just say the Pentagon, from attack? Where were our aircraft when a missile is heading toward the Pentagon? Surely that is within the Pentagon's responsibility to protect -- force protection, to protect our facilities, to protect something -- our headquarters, the Pentagon. Is there anything that we did at the Pentagon to prevent that harm in the spring and summer of '01?

Oops. Was the good commissioner also "misspeaking"? It does get difficult to maintain a cover story if high-ranking officials charged with spreading disinformation go around telling the truth!

So what is "misspeak" -- if you permit us to make a noun out of this overused verb. A quick Google search on "Rumsfeld" & "misspoke" comes up with 5,210 items. Do the same for Bush, and it goes to 20,900!

As one blogger, Dusty Rhoades, wrote on the subject of "misspeaking" (the entire article is below):

Rummy is just one of a number of Administration officials who are having to "revise" some of their former statements on Iraq. Back on March 16th, Vice President Dick Cheney had this to offer on NBC’s "Meet the Press": "We believe he [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." A few Sundays ago, Cheney was back on "Meet the Press". Good ol’ Tim Russert, with the kid-gloves, please-don’t-call-us-traitors-and-cost-us-ad-revenues handling that the entire press corps has inexplicably adopted, offered Cheney an out: "You misspoke?" Russert asked. And a grateful Cheney seized the chance: "Yeah, I did misspeak. We never had any evidence that he had acquired a nuclear weapon." Ah. I get it. We believed it, but there was no evidence.

Rhoades sums up his point saying:

Now, "I misspoke" and "I should have been more precise" are not bad ways to cover up, shall we say, a departure from the truth. (No one seems to want to use the word "lie" anymore.) It’s a particularly effective tactic to do what Wolfowitz did: make an inflammatory statement on a nationally watched news show then "correct" your "inaccuracy" off the air where a lot fewer people hear it.

But "sometimes I overstate for emphasis"? Man, that is brilliant. It makes lying (oops, there’s that word again, sorry) look like some sort of roguishly endearing personal quirk. "Gosh darn it, am I overstating for emphasis again?"

The word no one dares speak -- or is that "misspeak"? Lying.

So we come to the real issue. In our 1984 world of newspeak, words take on new meanings. Politicians no longer "lie"; they "misspeak". Civilians are no longer killed in war; they are "collateral damage". There is a whole raft of terms that contain hidden meanings for Bush's fundamentalist Christian base that mean something else entirely to other Americans. These terms come forward to join the ranks of the famous "terrorist/freedom fighter" distinction that was so prevalent under the Reagan Administration.

You all remember the "freedom fighters", don't you? Those were the Islamic fundamentalists who were fighting for democracy and freedom in Afghanistan. One small group was led by a Saudi by the name of...what was his name again...the guy with the beard...oh, right: Osama bin Laden, from a family with close business ties to the US Vice President at the time...what was his name...George something or other.

And you remember the Reagan Administration. That was the one that was friendly to a Middle Eastern leader by the name of Saddam Hussein, selling him chemical weapons through salesman Donald Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld. Weren't we talking about Rumsfeld?

Let's return to September 11, 2001 and look at Rumsfeld's actions on that day.

Chronology: Donald Rumsfeld, September 11, 2001
Adapted from Réseau Voltaire

8:44: Donald Rumsfeld announces "another event" to Christopher Cox who was in his office to talk about anti-missile defence and the risk of terrorism:

"If we remain vulnerable to missile attack, a terrorist group or rogue state that demonstrates the capacity to strike the U.S. or its allies from long range could have the power to hold our entire country hostage to nuclear or other blackmail,'' he said. "And let me tell you, I've been around the block a few times. There will be another event. " He repeated it for emphasis : "There will be another event. " Within minutes of that utterance, Rumsfeld's words proved tragically prophetic.

8:46 Attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

9:02 Attack on the South Tower of the WTC.

8:46-9:02 ?: Donald Rumsfeld "wanted to make a few phone calls".

His assistant, Victoria Clarke, remembers: "Well, the terrible moment was actually earlier at about 8:40, 8:45 when we realized a plane and then a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. And immediately the crisis management process started up. A couple of us had gone into the secretary's office, Secretary Rumsfeld's office, to alert him to that, tell him that the crisis management process was starting up. He wanted to make a few phone calls."

9:02-9:37 ?: Donald Rumsfeld, who "watched the TV coverage from New York", declared: "Believe me, this isn't over yet. There's going to be another attack, and it could be us."

Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defence, was in his office on the eastern side of the building, in a meeting with Christopher Cox, the defence policy committee chairman of the House of Representatives. Mr Rumsfeld, recalls Mr Cox, watched the TV coverage from New York and said : "Believe me, this isn't over yet. There's going to be another attack, and it could be us."
Revealed : What really went on during Bush's 'missing hours', by William Langleyere, The Daily Telegraph, 16 décembre 2001.

9:37: Attack on the Pentagon

9:37-10:07 ?: Rumsfeld goes outside to "investigate and offer help".

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was in the Pentagon at the time of the crash, and he walked outside the building to investigate and offer help.
DoD Official Provides Briefing After Pentagon Attack, par Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service, 11 September 2001.

Around 10:07: Donald Rumsfeld announces that "it was most likely a plane."

When he came back in the building about half an hour later, he was the first one that told us he was quite sure it was a plane. Based on the wreckage and based on the thousands and thousands of pieces of metal. He was the one that told us, the staff that was in the room. So he was really the first one who told us that it was most likely a plane.
Official transcript of interview with Victoria Clarke to WBZ Boston Saturday, 15 September 2001 : News Transcript, US Department of Defense.

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This Rumsfeld is certainly a very well informed guy for having to deal with such inept US intelligence agencies. First he predicts there will be "another event", and then, when his words prove prophetic a mere two minutes later, he tells his guests that "it isn't over yet" and that the next target "could be us".

One wonders what sort of crystal ball Rumsfeld had on his desk that morning.

Notice, too, that it was Rummy who decided that the attack had been done by a plane. Perhaps he knew it was a plane because his crystal ball informed him the attacks were "Ariel" in nature.

For more detailed info on Madame Rummy, super clairvoyant, let's return to his Parade interview of the following month, the one where the plane has been transformed into a missile.

Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Parade Magazine
Interview with Lyric Wallwork Winik, Parade Magazine
October 12, 2001
Q: Let me start by asking you, most of us are programmed to leave a building with smoke. What made you go towards the fire here a little over a month ago, and what was going through your mind?

Rumsfeld: Well, I was sitting here and the building was struck, and you could feel the impact of it very clearly, and I don't know what made me do anything I did, to be honest with you. I just do it instinctive. I looked out the window, saw nothing here, and then went down the hall until the smoke was too bad, then to a stairwell down and went outside and saw what had happened. Asked a person who'd seen it, and he told me that a plane had flown into it.

I had been aware of a plane going into the World Trade Center, and I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances.

I was out there for awhile, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them.

Then at some moment I decided I should be in here figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that. I came back in here, came into this office. There was smoke in here by then.

We made a judgment about where people should be. The chairman was out of town, so he was separate. The vice chairman was with me. We had my deputy go out to another site. At a certain point it got too bad and we went into a room about 30 yards away here in this building, in the same general area but back that way that is sealable. But as it turns out it wasn't sealable for smoke and so forth. We worked in there, and we kept being told the building had to be evacuated completely except for the people that were in that group that were assisting me, and they kept saying you should get out of here because these people have to stay if you're here, as I recall. I said fine, we'll do that at the appropriate time.

They were able to get enough of the fire out and then move some air out that the increasing smoke stopped. It did not disappear, but it stopped. We were in there throughout the day, and never did go to (inaudible).

The advantage for me was I could be here near where the problems were and I had full communications from the area -- to the president and the vice president, the secretary of state. I guess he was out of the country, wasn't he? It was the deputy.

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As a side note to this interview, Lyric Wallwork Winik has written an article for Parade about 9/11 "Conspiracy theories". In a box on that page, it states:

The Internet, too, is a potent tool for spreading conspiracy theories. PARADE found this out after Lyric Wallwork Winik interviewed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Oct. 2001. In a transcript of Winik's interview with Rumsfeld, which was published on the Department of Defense's Web site, Rumsfeld seemed to indicate that the Pentagon was hit by a missile on 9/11 instead of a plane. It turns out that a transcription error led to the confusion, but conspiracy theorists latched onto Rumsfeld's supposed admission and spread it over the Internet.

There they go again, those pesky "conspiracy theorists". Taking poorly transcribed interviews out of context!

So here it isn't a question of "misspeaking", but of a "transcription error". Good to have friends covering your backside. The close relations between Winik and Rumsfeld are to be seen in this final exchange in the interview:

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. It was fascinating.

I have something quickly for you from my husband who I think you know. The president loved the book as (inaudible) and Secretary Cheney (inaudible) on Saturday night for dinner, and we wanted you to have a copy. I don't know when you'll get the time, but --

Q: Am I allowed to accept this?

Unfortunately, more garbled transcriptions do not allow us to piece together the precise nature of the connections between Winik, the President, and Cheney, but you get the picture.

The other interesting bit of data here is the reference to Colin Powell's being out of the country. While we have no love for Powell, the man whose career lust permits him to stand up before the UN and declare that he has proof of Saddam's WMDs, it is well-known that he had differences with Rumsfeld. And he was out of the country on September 11. Imagine that!

Must just be another of those strange coincidences. You know the ones: the plane hitting the one area of the Pentagon that had been reinforced rather than hitting the roof where the damage would have been greater. Perhaps Hani Hanjour, the incompetent pilot accused of being in the cockpit of Flight 77, was aiming for the roof and missed! Or the fact that a military jet was seen near the site of the crash of Flight 93, the one that Rumsfeld said was shot out of the sky and whose pieces were strewn over an area of many miles -- typical of dozens, er, several, er, the occasional plane, er, this crash.

Let us continue our look at Rumsfeld's actions on that morning. He is in his office, not only aware that they were being attacked, but with precognitive abilities that allowed him to foresee the attack. When the Pentagon is attacked, he runs outside where everyone can see him at the same time that Cheney is being sequestered in the White House bunker and the President is being hopped around the country in Air Force One and told not to return to Washington because it wasn't safe.

Curious, no?

Did someone forget to tell Rumsfeld that he was in danger? Given that two planes had hit the WTC, and that a fourth plane, Flight 93 was still in the air, supposedly heading for Washington, how could Rumsfeld be so certain it wouldn't come down on the Pentagon?

How did Rumsfeld know that there would be no more attacks on the building? Must have been the same intuition that told him "we could be next".

Just prior to 10:00, the Pentagon sent out a press release:

IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 11, 2001



The Department of Defense is continuing to respond to the attack that occurred this morning at 9:38 a.m. EDT. There are no casualty figures currently available. Injured personnel were taken to several area hospitals. Secretary of Defense Donald S. Rumsfeld has expressed his concern for the families of those killed and injured during this shameless attack and is directing operations from his command center in the Pentagon.

All personnel were evacuated from the building as emergency response personnel from the Department of Defense and surrounding communities responded to fire and medical emergencies. Initial estimates of the damage are significant; however, the Pentagon is expected to be reopened tomorrow morning. Alternate worksites for those affected parts of the building are currently being identified.

In this first announcement, no mention is made of the nature of the attack, no mention of a plane hitting the building. Curious, no? Also curious is the fact that this release has been removed from the DoD server and is now only available at the site indicated above.

The early reports from the Pentagon spoke of a "helicopter explosion" or the explosion of a truck. It was only many hours later that the announcement was made that it had been Flight 77. So during the period when there were still mixed reports on the nature of the attack, Rumsfeld was out and about as if there was no danger of another attempt.

After helping to give aid to some of the victims, he comes back in and says that he has been told by "someone who'd seen it" that it was a plane that struck the building. Still, no one was talking about AA Flight 77. That only came later in the day.

Questions. So many questions.

It is clear to us that 9/11 was carried off with the foreknowledge of highly placed officials in Washington. In trying to piece the clues together, even small things can be important. Was Rumsfeld's behavior on that morning significant? Does it imply Rumsfeld had foreknowledge?

We'll end this round-up with a transcript of a press conference held by Donald Rumsfeld with leaders, both Republican and Democratic, of the Senate Armed Forces Commission. In front of the international press, Rumsfeld addressed Senator Carl Levin (D - Michigan):

Senator Levin, you and other Democrats in Congress have voiced fear that you simply don't have enough money for the large increase in defense that the Pentagon is seeking, especially for missile defense, and you fear that you'll have to dip into the Social Security funds to pay for it. Does this sort of thing convince you that an emergency exists in this country to increase defense spending, to dip into Social Security, if necessary, to pay for defense spending -- increase defense spending ?

Think of this in the light of the current attack on the Social Security program in the US Congress, led by the Bush Administration.

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Rumsfeld says 9-11 plane 'shot down' in Pennsylvania
During surprise Christmas Eve trip, defense secretary contradicts official story
Posted: December 27, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
WASHINGTON – Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been questions about Flight 93, the ill-fated plane that crashed in the rural fields of Pennsylvania.

The official story has been that passengers on the United Airlines flight rushed the hijackers in an effort to prevent them from crashing the plane into a strategic target – possibly the U.S. Capitol.

During his surprise Christmas Eve trip to Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld referred to the flight being shot down – long a suspicion because of the danger the flight posed to Washington landmarks and population centers.

Was it a slip of the tongue? Was it an error? Or was it the truth, finally being dropped on the public more than three years after the tragedy of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000?

Donald Rumsfeld

Here's what Rumsfeld said Friday: "I think all of us have a sense if we imagine the kind of world we would face if the people who bombed the mess hall in Mosul, or the people who did the bombing in Spain, or the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania and attacked the Pentagon, the people who cut off peoples' heads on television to intimidate, to frighten – indeed the word 'terrorized' is just that. Its purpose is to terrorize, to alter behavior, to make people be something other than that which they want to be."

Several eyewitnesses to the crash claim they saw a "military-type" plane flying around United Airlines Flight 93 when the hijacked passenger jet crashed – prompting the once-unthinkable question of whether the U.S. military shot down the plane.

Although the onboard struggle between hijackers and passengers – immortalized by the courageous "Let's roll" call to action by Todd Beamer – became one of the enduring memories of that disastrous day, the actual cause of Flight 93's crash, of the four hijacked airliners, remains the most unclear.

Several residents in and around Shanksville, Pa., describing the crash as they saw it, claim to have seen a second plane – an unmarked military-style jet.

Well-founded uncertainty as to just what happened to Flight 93 is nothing new. Just three days after the worst terrorist attack in American history, on Sept. 14, 2001, The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record newspaper reported that five eyewitnesses reported seeing a second plane at the Flight 93 crash site.

That same day, reported the Record, FBI Special Agent William Crowley said investigators could not rule out that a second plane was nearby during the crash. He later said he had misspoken, dismissing rumors that a U.S. military jet had intercepted the plane before it could strike a target in Washington, D.C.

Although government officials insist there was never any pursuit of Flight 93, they were informed the flight was suspected of having been hijacked at 9:16 am, fully 50 minutes before the plane came down.

On the Sept. 16, 2001, edition of NBC's "Meet the Press," Vice President Dick Cheney, while not addressing Flight 93 specifically, spoke clearly to the administration's clear policy regarding shooting down hijacked jets.

Vice President Cheney: "Well, the – I suppose the toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming commercial aircraft."

NBC's Tim Russert: "And you decided?"

Cheney: "We decided to do it. We'd, in effect, put a flying combat air patrol up over the city; F-16s with an AWACS, which is an airborne radar system, and tanker support so they could stay up a long time ...

"It doesn't do any good to put up a combat air patrol if you don't give them instructions to act, if, in fact, they feel it's appropriate."

Russert: "So if the United States government became aware that a hijacked commercial airline[r] was destined for the White House or the Capitol, we would take the plane down?"

Cheney: "Yes. The president made the decision ... that if the plane would not divert ... as a last resort, our pilots were authorized to take them out. Now, people say, you know, that's a horrendous decision to make. Well, it is. You've got an airplane full of American citizens, civilians, captured by ... terrorists, headed and are you going to, in fact, shoot it down, obviously, and kill all those Americans on board?

"... It's a presidential-level decision, and the president made, I think, exactly the right call in this case, to say, I wished we'd had combat air patrol up over New York.'"

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Dusty Rhoades

Okay, I have to admit it. Donald Rumsfeld is a genius.

At a recent appearance as the luncheon speaker for the National Press Club, Rummy (as he’s endearingly known to his friends) was quizzed about his March 30th pronouncement regarding Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. In case you’ve forgotten, what he said was "We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad." So, naturally, when our military overran those areas, a lot of people were curious. Where, we asked, were 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent we were told about? Where were the stockpiles of weapons which the President himself told us had been greenlighted by Saddam himself for use against our troops? Where were the weapons the President was talking about when he said, "We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have"? Don’t get us wrong, we’re extremely relieved they weren’t used. But if we knew where they were, why haven’t they been found?

Simple, said Rummy: "Iin that instance, we had been in the country for about 15 seconds. Sometimes I overstate for emphasis." He went on to say, "I should have said, ‘I believe we're in that area. Our intelligence tells us they're in that area,’ and that was our best judgment."

Rummy is just one of a number of Administration officials who are having to "revise" some of their former statements on Iraq. Back on March 16th, Vice President Dick Cheney had this to offer on NBC’s "Meet the Press": "We believe he [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." A few Sundays ago, Cheney was back on "Meet the Press". Good ol’ Tim Russert, with the kid-gloves, please-don’t-call-us-traitors-and-cost-us-ad-revenues handling that the entire press corps has inexplicably adopted, offered Cheney an out: "You misspoke?" Russert asked. And a grateful Cheney seized the chance: "Yeah, I did misspeak. We never had any evidence that he had acquired a nuclear weapon." Ah. I get it. We believed it, but there was no evidence.

Ah, you say, but we’ve moved on from that. It’s not about weapons anymore. President Bush has told us now that it’s about terrorism. Even there, however, the Bushistas are finding themselves having to backpedal furiously. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz went on "Good Morning America" recently to state that "a great many of Osama bin Ladin’s key lieutenants are trying to organize in cooperation with loyalists from the Saddam regime to attack in Iraq." When pressed the next day on the issue, however, Wolfowitz "clarified" his statement. Turns out he was referring to a guy named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Now, Zarqawi’s a terrorist, little doubt about that. But according to U.S. Intelligence sources, his link with al-Quaeda has never been confirmed. He may be a totally independent nutcase. So Wolfowitz said: "Zarqawi is actually the guy I was referring to – should have been more precise. It's not a great many – it's one of bin Laden's key associates – probably better referred to that way than a key lieutenant." In other words, Wolfowitz was using "a great many of Osama’s top lieutenants" in its lesser known sense of "one guy who may or may not have been associated with Al-Quaeda."

Now, "I misspoke" and "I should have been more precise" are not bad ways to cover up, shall we say, a departure from the truth. (No one seems to want to use the word "lie" anymore.) It’s a particularly effective tactic to do what Wolfowitz did: make an inflammatory statement on a nationally watched news show then "correct" your "inaccuracy" off the air where a lot fewer people hear it.

But "sometimes I overstate for emphasis"? Man, that is brilliant. It makes lying (oops, there’s that word again, sorry) look like some sort of roguishly endearing personal quirk. "Gosh darn it, am I overstating for emphasis again?"

If Bill Clinton had known how easy it was to use that, the nation might have been spared a bruising impeachment battle. "I know I said, ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’ but sometimes I overstate for emphasis. What I should have said was ‘I kinda did."

I might even start using that one my ownself. If I come stumbling home at 6:00 AM, reeking of booze and stale cigar smoke, I can always just say "Honeybunch, I know I said I’d be working all night. But hey, sometimes I overstate for emphasis. What I should have said was that I’d be knocking off right after lunch so me and the boys could hit a few strip clubs."

Someday, they’ll undoubtedly be building a memorial in Washington DC for those killed, maimed and wounded in Gulf War 2. Of course, before that happens, Americans have to quit dying over there. When that happens, maybe we can engrave Rummy’s words on whatever wall or obelisk or arch we choose for that memorial to the men and women who fell: "Sometimes we overstate for emphasis."

Dusty Rhoades lives in Carthage, practices law in Aberdeen, and if he "overstates for emphasis" people don’t usually die.

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The Enemies Among Us
by Mike Whitney
12/20/04 "Progressive Trail"

The new Intelligence reform bill is a more stunning attack on the Bill of Rights than the Patriot Act. Most people have no idea how dramatically their "inalienable" rights have been savaged, or to what extent the Congress has sold them out. It's no exaggeration to say that the foundation of personal liberty, guaranteed in the law, is cracking at the base. It'll be a miracle if we can put it back together in time to pass it on to our children.

As usual, the role of the media has been pivotal in obfuscating the details of the bill. They've fed the hysteria over the establishment of a NID; (National Intelligence Director) a glamour position that has been represented as vital to stopping another 9-11. What rubbish. Teaching Condi Rice how to read a simple e-mail from bin Laden would be twice as effective.

The media has done little to expose the real nature of the conflict between the Pentagon and the 9-11 panel. That battle was a straightforward "turf war" that threatened to take a chunk of money away from Rumsfeld, who presently gets 80% of the Intelligence budget. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) defended Rumsfeld by claiming that "battlefield operations" would be endangered if the bill passed. It was nonsensical argument reflective of Hunter's indebtedness to the Defense industry (Dig around the internet and you'll find that Hunter is even more of a corporate streetwalker than most of his peers) As for Rumsfeld, he just wants his $32 billion, so that he can persist in bankrolling his clandestine detention centers, death squads and propaganda facilities (now called strategic intelligence). In reality, Rumsfeld is conducting his own secret government, and has been for some time. That takes money, and lots of it.

The creation of the NID is an appalling idea. It puts all 14 intelligence agencies UNDER A POLITICAL APPOINTEE, which is an invitation for disaster. We all know how corrupted information was before the Iraq war; imagine what it will look like after it travels through the executive sausage-making unit. It's unlikely that anything remotely resembling the truth will ever emerge from the Bush White House.

The new bill creates a new national ID card ("Let me see your papers") by federalizing driver's licenses. The plan is to establish federal guidelines in the design of licenses that can be used as a means for tracking people. These standards are unnecessary unless the government is developing a social strategy that is so heinous that it's bound to generate more enemies. The increased repression and the greater disparity in personal wealth suggest that this is the case.

Democracy Now elaborates on the new national ID: "There's all sorts of new technologies that could be incorporated into the driver's license to link it to all sorts of public and private-sector databases. And you could also imagine putting an RFID chip in the license that would allow it to be tracked remotely. So, this is something the 9/11 commission had actually recommended be done, that the driver's license should be something like an internal passport of the sort that we've seen in the Soviet Union in the past, and although the Congress wasn't willing to explicitly go that far, they have laid the groundwork for that kind of checkpoint society in the future."

Did you hear any complaints from Congress over this hallmark of fascist's regimes?

The Intel bill also creates a "Civil Liberties Board" charged with investigating whether the new legislation adversely affects civil rights.

Regrettably, the board is a complete sham. It has no subpoena power and is subordinate to the NID, the President and the Attorney General. In other words, it's merely a public relations ploy intended to conceal the bill's harsher measures (Undoubtedly, this "Board" will be used by Bush to defend his steadfast concern for civil liberties)

The powers of the FISA court have also been seriously expanded. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act basically allows the secret court to overturn the "probable cause" provision of the 4th Amendment in the investigation of terror suspects. John Ashcroft gravely abused the statute by extending it to the surveillance of identity-theft suspects and drug traffickers (Ashcroft actually boasted to Congress about the success of using the Patriot Act to apprehend criminals who were entirely unrelated to terrorism. He obviously considered the 4th Amendment nothing more than an unnecessary nuisance) Now the law has been expanded to include a "lone wolf" provision; supposedly aimed at an individual terrorist acting without the support of a foreign government. In fact, the purpose of the new provision is to allow unlimited surveillance of any American without the hassle of having to prove even the "remotest" connection to organized terror or a foreign government. It is a "blank check" for law enforcement to eschew all privacy laws without fear of reprimand. It is the end of the 4th amendment.

More importantly, if someone is arrested (as was the case with 1200 Muslims after 9-11) as a terrorist suspect, he can be refused bail and IMPRISONED INDEFINITLY WITHOUT CHARGES. The moniker of "terrorist" trumps the underlying principle of American jurisprudence, that is, the "presumption of innocence" Now, prisoners will have to prove that they aren't guilty; a difficult prospect when there is no process in place to challenge the terms of their detention. Consider the comments of Judge Antonin Scalia in this regard: "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive."

This sounds like empty rhetoric coming from Scalia, but his point is a valid one. Where arbitrary imprisonment begins, the rule of law ends. American citizens are no longer protected by "inalienable rights"; their safety depends on the discretion of the President.

This brief summary doesn't cover all the repressive elements of the new bill. It does, however, show how personal liberty is being sacrificed to enhance the power of the state. The Intelligence Reform legislation is 615 pages long. Not one was written by either a Senator or a Congressman. This entire campaign to strip Americans of their civil liberties is being orchestrated by private interests; the "silent partners" who wrote this legislation in its entirety. Think about that.

The document that will be signed into law next week is a frontal assault on the fundamental rights of man. Even Habeas Corpus, which goes back 600 years in English law, is struck down.

The enemies of freedom are among us, and they're moving quickly. But, don't take my word for it. Consider the meaning of these attacks on basic rights and make your own judgment.

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Delta plane diverted to Florida after passenger's name found on watch list
By Jennifer Babson
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Published on: 12/26/04

KEY WEST, Fla. — A 132-passenger Delta Air Lines flight from Colombia to Atlanta was abruptly diverted to a military airfield near Key West on Sunday after the name of a passenger was found to be the same as that of someone on a federal security "watch list."

About five hours later, federal agents determined that the Colombian man was a victim of "identity theft" by another person on a list that several sources said was issued by an intelligence agency.

The man — whose name authorities declined to reveal — was released late Sunday.

The Boeing 757 jet, en route from Bogota, landed about 2 p.m. at the U.S. Naval Air Station Key West's Boca Chica airfield just north of the city. There, the unidentified man and his baggage were removed from the plane by federal agents.

The plane sat on the runway for about two hours before taking off for Atlanta without the man — a Colombian citizen who lives in New York and has resident alien status in the United States, according to several federal sources.

"It was somebody on a no-fly list," Judy Orihuela, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Miami, said Sunday afternoon before the matter was resolved. "They won't really know until they get the person and ID them and make sure it's the person on the list."

That identification would take several more hours, as FBI and immigration agents tried to determine the man's identity using multiple methods.

"It was through fingerprinting and other sources of information" that officials finally determined that the man was not the man on the watch list, Orihuela said.

"It was a case of mistaken identity and identity theft," she said. "There is a person we are looking for who stole his identity, and so that's how he got on the no-fly list. They cleared him."

The plane was likely diverted to Boca Chica instead of Key West International Airport because of its large size, which the Key West airport would have had difficulty accommodating.

A Delta spokeswoman said Sunday night that the incident was fairly unusual.

"I can't say that we have this happen a lot," spokeswoman Tracey Bowen said.

In September, an international flight bound for Washington, D.C., was diverted to Bangor, Maine. On board was former pop singer Yusuf Islam, previously known as Cat Stevens, who is a Muslim.

He had been placed on the no-fly list over the summer and was eventually deported. Islam vigorously disputes the U.S. government's contention that he might have ties to terrorists.

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Suicide bomber kills 15 in Iraq
Monday, Dec 27, 2004
Associated Press

Baghdad — A suicide bomber detonated his car Monday at the gate of the home of the leader of Iraq's biggest political party, killing 15 people and injuring dozens, police said. The cleric was unharmed.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - the country's most powerful Shiite political group - was in his residence in Baghdad's Jadiriyah district when the attack occurred, said his spokesman, Haitham al-Husseini.

The blast, which shook the district and sent a cloud of smoke high above the area, killed 15 people and injured at least 50, said police Capt. Ahmed Ismail. Thirty-two cars on the street and near the gates were destroyed or damaged.

"It was a suicide attack near the gate leading to the office," Mr. al-Husseini said. "Several of the guards were killed and wounded."

Mr. Hakim also heads the candidate list of the 228-member United Iraqi Alliance coalition, which is expected to dominate Iraq's new constitutional assembly following the first free elections on Jan. 30. The coalition is supported by Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Mr. al-Hakim's son, Ammar, accused Saddam Hussein's followers of being behind the suicide attack.

"They are the remains of the dead regime and their allies who carried out similar criminal acts in the past," he said, adding that many of the blast victims were innocent civilians who happened to be on the street when the explosion occurred.

The residence, where Hakim has his home and offices, was previously the house of Tariq Aziz, a jailed former senior aide to Saddam Hussein who has been in prison since April last year.

Political and religious leaders of the Shiite community, who strongly back the holding of next month's vote, have been repeatedly targeted by the mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents since Saddam's ouster.

The Shiites, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, have traditionally been dominated by the Sunni minority, which accounts for about a fifth of the population. Their leaders are eager to translate that numerical superiority into political power after next month's ballot - the first free elections since the overthrow of the monarchy 45 years ago.

In another blow to Washington's plans for the upcoming elections, the largest Sunni Muslim political party that had planned to take part in the Jan. 30 ballot announced Monday it was pulling out of the race because of the rapidly deteriorating security situation and the lack of public awareness about the vote.

"The security situation keeps going from bad to worse and has to be dealt with," said Mohsen Abdel-Hamid, the Iraqi Islamic Party's leader.

In August 2003, a suicide bomber killed Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, elder brother of Abdul Aziz and former leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Like his late brother, Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim is a Shiite cleric who opposed Saddam Hussein from exile in Iran before returning to Iraq after last year's U.S.-led invasion.

Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier died of wounds Monday and another was injured in a roadside bomb explosion in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The latest casualty brings to at least 1,324 the number of U.S. troops who have died in Iraq since the beginning of the war in March 2003. [...]

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Pondering the slaughter of innocents
Eric Ringham
Published December 26, 2004

The day after Christmas is a good time to ponder the slaughter of innocents. Naja Salman, a girl, age 2, killed by gunfire. Razzaq Salman, a boy, age 11, also gunfire. Rafid Georgis, a boy, 10, dead from a car bomb.

It's hard to come by a good estimate of the total number of Iraqi civilians killed in the current war. But it's easy to find descriptions of individual Iraqi dead, thanks in part to Iraqbodycount.net. Name, age, gender, place and cause of death -- it's all there, a memorial to as many victims as the IBC organization can identify.

Like Nada, 6, and her sister Estabraket, 9, killed by gunfire. And Rami Qais, 4, who died with Sami Qais, 6, both boys, in a mortar attack.

In a war against insurgents, you cannot always tell a combatant from a noncombatant, which is one reason for the confusion about the number of civilian victims in Iraq. Most guesses range between 10,000 and 20,000, though other estimates run much higher. The British medical journal Lancet recently suggested the total may be close to 100,000.

Remember, though, that almost half the population of Iraq is 18 years old or younger. Whatever the overall number of civilian casualties turns out to be, it will include an awful lot of children.

Shilan Rashid, 3, a girl, killed by a car bomb. Ali Abbas, 13, a boy, also by a car bomb.

It's true enough that these kids would have faced an uncertain future under Saddam Hussein. Who knows? They might have suffered and died in some other act of violence. Instead, though, they are dying in a war the United States started, by choice, and that makes us responsible.

"War is waged by adults, but it's the children who suffer the most," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy in a statement last month. She was talking not about deaths, but about health; severe malnutrition has almost doubled since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

That's saying something. Prior to the war, one in eight Iraqi children died before the age of 5. Acute malnutrition was reported at 4 percent. Now that figure stands at 7.7 percent, and the Washington Post reports that an estimated 400,000 children are afflicted by "wasting," with chronic diarrhea and other symptoms. Experts blame dirty water.

At a pediatrics teaching hospital in Baghdad, an administrator told the Post that health officials had expected big improvements under American occupation. Instead, health care is worsening. Many international aid agencies have packed up and left.

"Oh God, help us build Iraq again," said the hospital administrator. "For our children, not for us. For our kids."

A UNICEF report points out that Iraqi 18-year-olds are living through their third war. Some of them, anyway.

But not Rabha Rekaad, 16, a girl, "gunfire or bombing." Nor the other Rekaad children who died that day: Zahra, 15, girl; Ali, 12, boy; Hamza, 6, boy, and Fatima, 4, girl. Nor Arnood Talib, 2, a girl; nor her sister (or was she a cousin?), Kholood, age 6 months on the day last May when she was killed by "gunfire or bombing," never having lived a day of peacetime, in a country we promised to liberate.

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Israel accused of obstructing Palestinian election in east Jerusalem
Conal Urquhart in Jerusalem
Tuesday December 28, 2004
The Guardian

Palestinian election workers say they are being obstructed and harassed in east Jerusalem by the Israeli security forces.

Campaigners for the seven candidates to succeed the late Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority have been summoned for questioning by the Israeli security agency, the Shin Bet, and warned not to put up posters or canvass in Jerusalem.

East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967. It has said it will allow east Jerusalemites to vote in the January 9 election, but is disturbed by anything that it sees as manifestations of Palestinian sovereignty.

On Sunday the Israeli cabinet approved measures to ensure a smooth election including a gradual withdrawal of Israel defence force soldiers from West Bank cities, granting Palestinians freedom of movement, and allowing candidates to canvass in east Jerusalem.

But campaigners say they are being obstructed by the Israeli security forces.

Nasser Dajani, the director of Ad Image, an advertising firm which was putting up bill boards for the candidacy of Mustafa Barghouti, was told to remove them and summoned for questioning by the Shin Bet. "I was told I would be held responsible for any posters that were put up. After one hour they let me go," he said.

Mr Barghouti was himself arrested by Israeli police as he campaigned in Jerusalem's Old City yesterday. He was told his presence was illegal.

It is the second time he has been arrested, and other candidates have been detained as they have attempted to move around the West Bank.

Gil Kleiman, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said deciding what electioneering was permissible in Jerusalem was a delicate matter.

"Normally electioneering without prior approval is not permitted and [neither is] anything that shows evidence of sovereignty." He said police had closed voter registration centres in November because their presence was a challenge to Israeli sovereignty.

In east Jerusalem there are some posters for Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah frontrunner to succeed Mr Arafat, but few for the other six candidates. The slogan reads: "Following the path of Yasser Arafat towards freedom, indepen dence, the rule of law and prosperity."

Zakaria Halaf, selling records at the Old City's Damascus Gate, had seen no election activity since the campaign started on Saturday. "There should be more happening. How can we have proper elections if nobody knows who the candidates are?"

Nasser Qous, Fatah's campaign manager, said he had been told by Israeli police that they were not allowed to put up posters: "They are afraid of these elections. They are an expression of Palestinian identity." Adel Abu Zneid, a Fatah campaigner, said: "The main problem in campaigning is checkpoints. They were easier to get through a week ago before the campaign started. I get delayed for up to 1 hours every day.

"This election is a challenge to Israeli authority and they will fight it in every way they can. The reality on the ground is very different from the statements they are making to the media.

"They tell the world they will make it easy for the Palestinians to have elections but in reality they are making it difficult."

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Two Israeli grannies held after robbery
December 27, 2004

JERSUALEM: Two Israeli grandmothers, one 78 the other 60, were arrested after scrapping with a grocer and his elderly mother in a bungled robbery attempt, the Maariv newspaper said on Sunday.

The grannies were spotted on closed-circuit television cameras making two sweeps around the area in Lod, near Tel Aviv, before fighting and trying to rob whisky and vodka from the "Right on time" grocery, Maariv reported.

Due to their age, the two women escaped prison and were put under house arrest until going to trial.

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At least 15 killed in French apartment blast
27 December 2004 2053 hrs

MULHOUSE, France : At least 15 people were killed in an explosion in an apartment block in Mulhouse, eastern France, that was believed caused by a gas leak, fire services said.

The blast on Sunday, which brought down part of the four-storey building and left several people missing, was the deadliest in France in 30 years.

The head of the firemen working at the site, Lieutenant-Colonel Phillipe Schultz, said five people living at the address were missing.
One hundred firemen combing the ruins with sniffer dogs pulled out 12 bodies overnight and early Monday.

"It is very unlikely survivors will be found given the scale of the damage, but we can always hope and believe there might be because in this sort of accident there is always a survival zone," one fire officer said.

Some 30 people were believed to have been living in the block's 10 apartments, which housed poor families paying rent subsidised by the state.

The city's mayor, Jean-Marie Bockel, said it appeared the explosion resulted from a gas leak on the ground floor or first floor of the building, which was built in 1964 and had been recently renovated.

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Tidal waves: Where are the children?
December 27, 2004 at 10:01 PM
S. Srinivasan,  Associated Press

CUDDALORE, INDIA -- The buzz of grim conversation in the darkened morgue was broken by a man's shriek as the small body was lowered on a bed. "My son, my king!" Venkatesh wailed.

Thousands of miles away in Indonesia, farmer Yusya Yusman aimlessly searched the beaches for his two children lost in Sunday's tsunami. "My life is over," he said emotionlessly.

In country after country, children have emerged as the biggest victims of Sunday's quake-born tidal waves -- thousands and thousands drowned, battered and washed away by huge walls of water that have decimated an entire generation of Asians.

"The power of this earthquake, and its huge geographical reach, are just staggering," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said. Thousands of children who managed to survive in the affected areas now "may be in serious jeopardy," she said.

The U.N. organization estimates at least one-third of the tens of thousands who died were children, and the proportion could be up to half, said UNICEF spokesman Alfred Ironside in New York. He said communities are suffering a double loss: dead children and orphaned boys and girls. "Our major concern is that the kids who survived the tsunami now survive the aftermath. Because children are the most vulnerable to disease and lack of proper nutrition and water."

Children make up at least half of the population in Asia. Many of them work alongside poverty-stricken parents in the fishing or related industries in coastal areas, so they were in harm's way when the tidal waves came. Many children from the more affluent families would also have been on the beaches for a stroll or for Sunday picnics.

In Sri Lanka, which suffered the biggest loss of life in the tsunami, crowds had come to the beaches to watch the sea after word spread that it was producing larger-than-normal waves.

Thousands of children joined their elders to see the spectacle. The waves brought in fish. The old and the young collected them. Many waited for more fun.

Then the 15 foot-to-20 foot waves hit the tropical island of 19 million people.

"They got caught and could not run to safety. This is the reason why we have so many child victims," said Rienzie Perera, a police spokesman who noted that reports from affected police stations indicated children made up about half of the victims in Sri Lanka.

On Monday, parents wept over the bodies of their children in streets and hospitals across the island, even as some dead children still dangled unclaimed from barbed wire fences.

The scenes of unimagined grief and mourning were repeated across Asia.

"Where are my children?" wept 41-year-old Absah as she searched for her 11 missing children in Banda Aceh, the Indonesian city closest to Sunday's epicenter. "Where are they? Why did this happen to me? I've lost everything."

On the day disaster struck, Malaysian Rosita Wan recalled watching in horror as her 5-year-old son was gulped by the sea while he swam near the shore at Penang.

"I could only watch helplessly while I heard my son screaming for help. Then he was underwater and I never saw him again," said a sobbing Rosita, 30.

About half of the nearly 400 people who perished in Cuddalore in India's Tamil Nadu state were children.

Under Hindu tradition, children are buried instead of being cremated like adults. For the grim task in Cuddalore, two pits, together about half the size of a basketball court, were dug near a river at the edge of this coconut palm-fringed town.

After one couple placed the body of their daughter in the deep pit, a bulldozer shoveled in sand and the little girl disappeared from view. They then stepped aside for others to bury their children, denied any chance for a service or private mourning.

Most of the children, ages 5-12, were buried as they were found -- in their Sunday clothes -- without the luxury of a shroud.

Local officials wanted to finish the burial quickly, and the cremation of adult victims, so they could turn their attention to helping those left alive.

"There will be a time for crying, but that will come later. Now the priority is to shelter those who survived," said fisherman Akilan, 28, who lost two nephews when waves struck their house. Akilan uses only one name.

Bodies of young and old lay unclaimed at the town morgue, awaiting identification by relatives. Doctors called them in one by one over a public address system, while vans with wailing sirens brought in newly discovered bodies.

Many emerged from the morgue shaking their heads in silence after failing to identify any of the bodies as that of their loved ones.

Venkatesh, who uses only one name, found his 11-year-old son, Suman, as his body was lowered onto a gurney.

The 37-year-old man had been in Dubai, where he went three months ago as a construction worker. When his wife called from Cuddalore to tell him their boy was missing, Venkatesh flew home immediately and went straight to the morgue.

There, he found his wife and daughter minutes before Suman's body was brought in.

"I never thought I would only see my son's body," cried Venkatesh, refusing even a sip of water.

Within moments, an identification tag was tied to the boy's hand and his body taken inside.

As one of his relatives pulled him away, Venkatesh kept asking: "How can I go, leaving behind my son?"

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Editorial: Tsunami/Tragedy in a holiday season
December 28, 2004

The bulletins poured in from Thailand, Sri Lanka and India on Sunday, each more heartbreaking than the last: a boy wrenched from his mother's grasp by a surge of seawater, impoverished fishermen watching their boats shredded by the fury of nature, a father trying to find dry ground to bury his drowned daughter.

But one of the most tragic thoughts is that much of the day's loss of life might have been averted had the victims received just a little more warning.

In 1964, after an epic earthquake in Alaska set off tsunamis across the Pacific Ocean, scientists began building an international warning system of ocean buoys and radio signals to track seismic events on land and undersea. The system became so effective that, when Sunday's earthquake erupted near Sumatra, scientists thousands of miles away in Honolulu knew about it within 15 minutes.

The global warning system, however, does not include tracking buoys in the Indian Ocean, so scientists could not chart the speed and direction of the catastrophic tsunamis that swept north and west from Sumatra on Sunday. Thousands of people hundreds of miles away, people who might have had an hour's warning or more, instead learned of their fate only when a horrific wall of water was upon them. The outpouring of medicine, food, water and other humanitarian aid from Europe and the United States already is impressive, but eventually it should also include help in extending the seismic warning system.

That said, Sunday's earthquake is a reminder of the humility of science before nature. When a 700-mile plate of ocean seabed suddenly surged like a giant sitting up in bed, millions of gallons of seawater were displaced and began rolling away with ineluctable force. Around the rim of the Indian Ocean, where millions of people are packed into coastal villages scarcely feet above sea level, a great disaster was inevitable. [...]

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Quake rattled Earth orbit, changed map of Asia: US geophysicist
Tue Dec 28,12:14 AM ET

LOS ANGELES - An earthquake that unleashed deadly tidal waves on Asia was so powerful it made the Earth wobble on its axis and permanently altered the regional map, US geophysicists said.

The 9.0-magnitude temblor that struck 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of Sumatra island Sunday may have moved small islands as much as 20 meters (66 feet), according to one expert.

"That earthquake has changed the map," US Geological Survey expert Ken Hudnut told AFP.

"Based on seismic modeling, some of the smaller islands off the southwest coast of Sumatra may have moved to the southwest by about 20 meters. That is a lot of slip."

The northwestern tip of the Indonesian territory of Sumatra may also have shifted to the southwest by around 36 meters (120 feet), Hudnut said.

In addition, the energy released as the two sides of the undersea fault slipped against each other made the Earth wobble on its axis, Hudnut said.

"We can detect very slight motions of the Earth and I would expect that the Earth wobbled in its orbit when the earthquake occurred due the massive amount of energy exerted and the sudden shift in mass," Hudnut said.

Another USGS research geophysicist agreed that the Earth would have got a "little jog," and that the islands off Sumatra would have been moved by the quake.

However, Stuart Sipkin, of the USGS National Earthquake Information Center in Golden Colorado, said it was more likely that the islands off Sumatra had risen higher out of the sea than they had moved laterally.

"In in this case, the Indian plate dived below the Burma plate, causing uplift, so most of the motion to the islands would have been vertical, not horizontal." [...]

Comment: While there may be some disagreement as to exactly what effects the enormous quake had on the planet, tens of thousands of people have been killed in an event that is supposed to be "rare". And yet, as we have repeatedly pointed out here on the Signs page, chaotic events like massive earthquakes and meteor sightings and/or strikes are not anywhere near as rare as everyone would like to believe. Sound crazy? See our recently updated Signs Meteor Supplement.

As for earthquakes, it seems that in addition to the multiple quakes that hit Japan, China and Antarctica were also rocking and rolling lately...

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SW China hit by quakes
From correspondents in Beijing
December 27, 2004

ONE person is dead, another missing, and 23 injured after a series of earthquakes in southwestern China's Yunnan province, state media and officials have reported.

A total of 47 tremors, some of them as powerful as 5.0 on the Richter scale, struck Yunnan over a 17-hour period on Sunday, the Beijing Times said. Incomplete statistics from rural Shuangbai county showed that one person had died, a Shuangbai official said.

In Binchuan county, one person was missing while collapsing roofs and crumbling walls had injured 23, two of them seriously, the Beijing Times.

The paper reported some material damage to buildings in the area, but gave no details.

Yunnan province in a quake-prone part of China experienced a tremor in August that left more than 125,000 people homeless, killed four and injured nearly 600.

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Massive quake strikes Antarctica
From correspondents in Strasbourg
December 24, 2004

A MASSIVE earthquake measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale struck the largely uninhabited area around Macquarie Island in Antarctica, French seismological officials said.

The quake hit at 1.58am Friday AEDT, the Earth Sciences Observatory in Strasbourg said in a statement.

The Macquarie archipelago, an Australian territory some 1500km south-east of Tasmania, is the only island group in the world composed entirely of oceanic crust and rocks from the mantle - deep below the earth's surface - according to the website of the Australian Government's environment ministry.

The island group, with mountains rising to 400m above sea level, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 due in part to its unique natural beauty and in part to its diversity in fauna.

Its colony of king penguins, numbering around 850,000, is one of the largest in the world.

Comment: This quake happened before the 9.0 in Asia. It seems that Antarctica is a busy place lately...

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Flashback: Small Asteroid Passes Between Satellites and Earth

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
posted: 22 December 2004
10:24 am ET

Astronomers spotted an asteroid this week after it had flown past Earth on a course that took it so close to the planet it was below the orbits of some satellites.

The space rock was relatively small, however, and would not have posed any danger had it plunged into the atmosphere.

The object, named 2004 YD5, was about 16 feet (5 meters) wide, though that's a rough estimate based on its distance and assumed reflectivity. Had it entered the atmosphere, it would have exploded high up, experts figure.

Satellite territory

The asteroid passed just under the orbits of geostationary satellites, which at 22,300 miles (36,000 kilometers) altitude are the highest manmade objects circling Earth. Most other satellites, along with the International Space Station, circle the planet at just a few hundred miles up.

2004 YD5 is the second closest pass of an asteroid ever observed by telescope, according to the Asteroid/Comet Connection, a web site that monitors space rock discoveries. The closest involved a rock that flew by last March and was not announced until August.

2004 YD5 was discovered Tuesday, Dec. 21 by Stan Pope, who volunteers his time to examine images provided by the FMO (Fast Moving Object) project, an online program run by the University of Arizona's Spacewatch Project. After the initial detection, other observers noted the object's position during the day and its path was then calculated back. Closest approach occurred on Dec. 19.

The rock approached Earth from near the Sun and so would have been nearly impossible to detect prior to close passage. It soared over Antarctica -- underneath the planet, Washington State University researcher Pasquale Tricarico told the Asteroid/Comet Connection. [...]

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Years ago, West Coast had its own giant wave
Monday, December 27, 2004
By Jim Downing
Seattle Times staff reporter

Could a tsunami like yesterday's hit the Washington Coast?
It can and, in fact, it already has.

On Jan. 26, 1700, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake buckled the ocean floor from Vancouver Island to Northern California — the Cascade subduction zone — setting off a tsunami that swamped the West Coast of North America and washed away houses in Japan.

Today, geologists and emergency agencies use the evidence left behind from that quake to design tsunami-response programs for the Pacific Coast of North America and Puget Sound.

Yesterday's earthquake off Sumatra bears an eerie similarity to the one that shook our coastlines nearly 305 years ago. The two quakes are estimated to have been about the same magnitude, both occurred on north-south faults along the western edge of an ocean and both had "rupture lengths" — the length of fault that slipped in the quake — of about 600 miles.

"The parallels are incredible," said Brian Atwater, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist based at the University of Washington.

Over the past several thousand years, the Cascade subduction zone has generated a severe earthquake about once every 500 years. Geologists put the likelihood of another major quake in the next 30 years at 5 to 10 percent.

The Sumatra quake "is a reminder for people in our region that the earth can do this here, too," Atwater said. [...]

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Volcanic island a threat to US coast
December 28, 2004

LONDON: A scientist looking to pinpoint the next big earthquake has warned the US east coast could be destroyed by a tsunami unleashed by the collapse of a volcanic island in the eastern Atlantic.

A massive chunk of La Palma, the most volcanically active island in the Canaries archipelago, is unstable, British geologist Simon Day warned yesterday.

Dr Day, of the Benfield Grieg Hazard Research Centre at University College London, said the 500 billion tonne rock could collapse the next time the volcano, Cumbre Vieja, erupts.

That would send a dome-shaped wall of water up to 100m tall - 10 times as high as the tsunamis that hit south Asia - racing across the Atlantic at 800km/h.

Waves would hit the west coast of Africa and the south coast of England within a few hours, he said.

Eight hours after the collapse, the US east coast and the Caribbean would bear the brunt. Cities from Miami to New York would be swamped by waves up to 50m high, capable of surging 20km inland, according to Dr Day's research.

Tsunamis are commonly caused by earthquakes under the sea. About three decades ago, scientists determined that such gigantic waves could also be caused by collapsing islands.

Dr Day first published his findings on Cumbre Vieja in 1999 after a two-year study into the volcano, which occupies the southern half of La Palma.

He identified dozens of volcanic vents formed by successive eruptions over the past 100,000 years and collected samples of lava to build a detailed geological picture.

He found the volcano's vents were laid out in the shape of a three-pointed "Mercedes star", the western flank of which - a mass comprising about 500 billion tonnes of rock - was gradually becoming detached as volcanic activity forced magma to the surface.

The flank is slowly falling into the sea, but a major eruption by Cumbre Vieja could cause it to fall with catastrophic effect, Dr Day said.

"Eruptions of Cumbre Vieja occur at intervals of decades to a century or so and there may be a number of eruptions before its collapse," he said.

The island has had seven known eruptions, the last of which was in 1971.

In August, one of Dr Day's colleagues, Bill McGuire, told a conference on global geophysical disasters that Cumbre Vieja could blow "any time" and warned there was insufficient watch on the volcano.

"Eventually, the whole rock will collapse into the water and the collapse will devastate the Atlantic margin," he said.

"We need to be out there now looking at when an eruption is likely to happen ... otherwise there will be no time to evacuate major cities."

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Ice and snow coat the Carolinas
December 26, 2004

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Snow, sleet and freezing rain pelted the Carolinas on Sunday, knocking out power to thousands and causing hundreds of accidents on one of the busiest travel and shopping days of the year. At least two people were killed.

Portions of eastern North Carolina received more than 20 centimetres of snow, surprising residents who often go an entire winter without seeing snow. About 10,000 people were without power. Further south, freezing rain coated trees and power lines with ice, knocking out power to more than 25,000 homes and businesses in central and northeastern South Carolina.

State troopers responded to hundreds of calls of accidents on the icy roads throughout the day. Two people were killed in North Carolina.

Police said thousands of people were on their way home from the Christmas holidays when the storm struck. It came after parts of the Carolinas received several centimetres of snow last week.

"We knew that this would be an unusual event," said Gail Hartfield, a weather service meteorologist. "It is unusual, but it's not completely unprecedented." [...]

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Blizzard, high winds, heading for Newfoundland
Last Updated Mon, 27 Dec 2004 22:26:00 EST

HALIFAX - Most parts of Atlantic Canada were hit with an intense blizzard on Monday. Now that same storm is on its way to Newfoundland.

A low pressure system off Nova Scotia began dumping snow throughout the region Sunday night . Parts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island got as much as 50 cm of snow along with winds gusting to 95 km/h.

Shoppers in Halifax brave white-out conditions Monday.

The storm led to power outages around the Maritimes, as well as flights being canceled or delayed, road closures and other traffic problems.

Even snowplows had to be pulled off the roads in some regions.

Chuck Bernard, who lives in Bouctouche, on the east coast of New Brunswick, says people are keeping an eye on rising water levels because of a possible storm surge.

The rising water has already reached some property lines.

"It's very rough," Bernard said. "The wind is a little bit down from this morning, at least we can see across the street. But the ice has moved off the bay, the fishermen's huts were all on there, the fishermen's fishing nets for the smelt are all gone. It's very scary, very rough and rugged."

The storm will move off towards Newfoundland overnight, where the western half of the island can expect blizzard-like conditions.

Environment Canada says the Port-aux-Basques area should expect winds gusting to 130 km/h, and is warning of heavy snowfalls.

The snow is expected to change over to heavy rain by the time it reaches eastern Newfoundland.

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Flash flood watch issued for SoCal coast, deserts and mountains
KESQ News 3

A strong Pacific storm system is making its way down the coast, bringing plenty of rain.

The National Weather Service is issuing a flash flood watch from 6 tonight until noon tomorrow. Affected areas include Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

A similar flood watch is being issued for Orange, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties for tomorrow through Wednesday night.

Forecasters expect heavy rainfall that could reach up to ten inches in some areas. They're warning of possible mudslides in and below burn areas

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Massive storm moves into California, causing trouble on freeways
Mon, Dec. 27, 2004
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A massive storm hammered California on Monday, causing deadly collisions on slick highways, delaying flights and flooding low-lying areas.

Snow, rain, lightning, strong wind gusts and waterspouts were forecast as the storm moved down the California coast and tapped into a tropical flow, spinning moisture into the region. The roughest weather was forecast for Tuesday.

San Francisco was hit by 3.08 inches as of 5 p.m., according to the National Weather Service, leading to some flight delays at San Francisco International Airport.

Street flooding in San Francisco brought Vince Barr out to direct traffic in hopes of keeping the water out of his business.

"We're trying to slow the traffic down so the waves don't come into our business because the water is at the door's edge right now," Barr told KGO-TV. "You have to do what you have to do to save the business. This is not the first time this has happened."

Rainfall was even heavier in Kentfield in Marin County receiving 6.01 inches of rain and Santa Rosa getting 3.92. Half Moon Bay, in Santa Clara County, was hit by 3.95 inches.

The storm pushed its way into Southern California late Monday. A trucker was killed when his big-rig went over the side of northbound Interstate 5 in the Tejon Pass near Pyramid Lake.

Treacherous conditions were forecast for travelers.

The National Weather Service posted a winter storm watch for mountains above 6,500 feet for most of Tuesday and Wednesday. More than a foot of snow could fall in the San Bernardino Mountains with the snow level dropping to 5,500 feet in some areas.

High wind warnings Tuesday through Wednesday could bring gusts to 70 mph and visibilities could be reduced dramatically in the mountains because of blowing and drifting snow.

Forecasters expect unstable, wet weather through next week - with rain possible for the Rose Parade on New Year's Day. It hasn't rained on the Rose Parade since 1955.

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PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, December 28 (RIA Novosti, Oksana Guseva) - Ashes are ejected from the crater of the Shiveluch volcano in Kamchatka to a height of up to 2,000 m.

As RIA Novosti was told on Tuesday at the Kamchatka experimental-methodological seismologic expedition, a column of gas and ashes rose to such a height at 12.39 Moscow time. The height of the ejection above sea level exceeded 5,000 m.

The seismic stations near the volcano register underground tremors from a depth of up to 5,000 m and interrupted spasmodic volcanic vibration.

For the greater part of the past 24 hours it was impossible to conduct video observation of Shiveluch because of bad weather but scientists hold the view that some ejections are accompanied by fragmentation avalanches.

Shiveluch (its height is 3,283 m) is now at the stage of active eruption. Powerful intensification of the eruption was noted on May 10. The height of the ejections of ashes reached 10,000 m over the crater, and red-hot fragmentation avalanches went down from the volcano's slopes. The Emergencies Ministry regional directorate closed the volcano and nearby territory for visits.

The volcano is not dangerous to the populated areas of the peninsula now, but the ejections of ashes and trains seriously endanger the tourists, fishermen and hunters staying in the volcano area, hamper navigation, and pose a threat to aviation. Particles of the volcanic ashes can get into the turbines of aircraft and cause major technical malfunctions.

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Mega-disasters can happen here
We're rich enough to be ready - but are we wise enough?

06:30 PM CST on Monday, December 27, 2004

A killer asteroid is on the way. Or maybe not.

As I write this column, Asteroid 2004 MN is projected to have a roughly 1-in-37 chance of striking the Earth when it passes this way in 2029. By the time you read this, the odds number – which is being continually revised as new data arrives and uncertainties about the asteroid's precise position and path are resolved – may have gone up, or may have dropped to zero.

Regardless, this is at least a close call, and should also serve as a wake-up call. Asteroid impacts aren't just the stuff of science-fiction novels and Hollywood special-effects extravaganzas. This stuff is real.

But there's worse news: The asteroids that we see may be less troubling than the ones that we're missing.

Days before Christmas, astronomers located an asteroid after it had whizzed by the Earth, coming so close it was below the orbits of some satellites.

This asteroid wouldn't have been a threat. It was too small. It serves to demonstrate that there's a lot of stuff out there, and we don't have a very good handle on it. And, as space journalist Leonard David noted a couple of years ago, smallish asteroid impacts pose another sort of risk:

"Military strategists and space scientists that wonder and worry about a run-in between Earth and a comet or asteroid have additional worries in these trying times," he wrote. "With world tensions being the way they are, even a small incoming space rock, detonating over any number of political hot spots, could trigger a country's nuclear response, convinced it was attacked by an enemy."

Of course, as I write about the potential dangers posed by asteroids, a very real event – an earthquake and tsunami that have killed large numbers of people along the coast of the Indian Ocean – has just taken place. And that raises some questions: How much effort should we put into preparing against things like asteroid strikes, versus preparation for more earthbound disasters? And, if we decide to do more to prepare against tsunamis and earthquakes, how are we to go about it?

It may actually be cheaper to prepare against an asteroid strike. The first step, monitoring the heavens for threats, is relatively cheap and promises to do some good – certainly it's likely to produce more warning than we can get before earthquakes and tsunamis. Later stages, involving the interception of dangerous asteroids, will cost more, but since as far as we know there's no way at all to prevent earthquakes or tsunamis, they'd still be comparatively cheap.

But this weekend's deaths were as much a result of poverty and inattention as of earth movement. Poverty, of course, leads people to live along the waterline in ramshackle housing. With this, as with much else, it's better to be rich.

Inattention is partly the result of poverty. Rich nations can worry about threats like asteroid impacts, while poor nations can't even worry about tsunamis. And, in fact, inattention played a role in the tsunami deaths.

None of the hardest hit nations had a warning system in place to detect the oncoming waves. And the extreme rarity of such occurrences in the Indian Ocean meant that populations had not been taught to run inland if they felt earthquake tremors. A threat that hadn't appeared recently was discounted, with tragic results. Let's not make the same mistake where asteroid impacts are concerned.

Over the longer run, the best protection against catastrophes, whether foreseen or unforeseen, is a society that is rich enough, and diverse enough, to be well prepared for all sorts of contingencies. Which means that economic growth, and the freedom that produces it, may be the best guarantor of safety for us all.

A rich society can afford to worry about things that a poorer one wouldn't have the resources to think about. A rich society can take steps to prevent disasters before they happen. A rich society is better positioned to survive disasters once they occur, even if they are completely unforeseen, or unforeseeable.

Where survival is concerned, rich is better. That's something to keep in mind when people describe economic growth as "anti-human."

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'Day After Tomorrow' scenario could play out here
New York Daly News

It could happen here.

A British researcher insists that it's only a matter of time before a killer tsunami like the one that swamped south Asia hits New York and the East Coast.

The stage was set for the mega-disaster in 1971, when an eruption loosened a 12-mile-wide chunk of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Canary Islands.

If and when the 500 billion tons of barely hanging rock finally barrels into the Atlantic, it could make the disaster flick "The Day After Tomorrow," look like a joke, experts say. Prof. Bill McGuire, of the Benfield Hazard Research Center at University College in London, said the largest tidal wave ever would race across the Atlantic at up to 600 mph and hit New York as well as shorelines from the Caribbean to Boston.

Towering waves of up to 75 feet would engulf the city, traveling miles inland, destroying everything in their path, he told the Daily News in August.

And it's not just McGuire issuing the doomsday warning.

"If you peel off a side of a volcano and let it slide into the deep ocean, yes, it's going to generate a tidal wave. And from that location it will travel to the U.S.," John Mutter, a seismologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, agreed.

It would take the wave eight to 10 hours to race across the Atlantic after the massive volcano hits lands in the ocean.

"It would be extremely difficult to evacuate all those people in time," McGuire said.

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M4.9 earthquake hit northeast Japan
www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-28 18:22:14
TOKYO, Dec. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.9 on the Richter scale jolted the Chuetsu region in northeast Japan's Niigata Prefecture Tuesday evening, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The quake also measured a lower 5 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7 in the region, the agency said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the quake, which occurred around 6:30 p.m.

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FACTBOX-Asia earthquake, tsunami death toll 36,946
28 Dec 2004 11:32:00 GMT
Source: AlertNet
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The death toll from a magnitude 9.0 earthquake near Indonesia and the resulting tsunami in the Indian Ocean rose to 36,946 people, government officials and media from affected countries said.

Officials fear the figure could rise to almost 57,000. Indonesia said its toll could hit 25,000, while Sri Lankan officials warned up to 25,000 people may have died there. Thailand said its toll may exceed 2,000.

These figures are preliminary and in some cases rough estimates by local officials:

Country Deaths Injured Bangladesh 2 India 9,499* Indonesia 7,072 up to 100,000 Kenya 1 Malaysia 59 218 Maldives 52 Myanmar 34 Somalia 38 Sri Lanka 18,706 Tanzania 10 Thailand 1,473 7,000 TOTAL 36,946

* The figure includes an estimated 5,000 feared killed in India's Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The numbers are based on comments by official sources and local media.

Numbers of injured were not available for all countries affected, but are expected to exceed the number of dead.

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Dollar Falls to New Low Vs Euro

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar fell to new lows against the euro on Monday, part of broad losses the U.S. currency suffered as traders gunned down technical targets amid thin market conditions.

Many traders and investors were on extended vacations after the Christmas holiday keeping volume relatively low and causing small orders to have exaggerated effects on prices.

"Today traders primarily went after stop-loss orders, taking advantage of thin market conditions between the Christmas holiday and the New Year and succeeding in driving the dollar lower," said Alex Beuzelin, foreign exchange analyst with Ruesch International.

"It was largely a technical move that was very consistent with the underlying fundamental concerns on the greenback," he added. [...]

Larry Brickman, currency strategist at Bank of America in New York, said there was no fresh economic reason for the euro's move and agreed that thin conditions helped magnify the market's deeper trend.

"It's more of the same, more dollar weakness and a continuation of the same theme going into the new year," Brickman said. "We don't think the ECB is going to come in," he said, referring to potential intervention from the European Central Bank to stem the euro's rise. [...]

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U.S. leads the dirty dozen spammers
By Dan Ilett
Special to CNET News.com
Published: December 24, 2004, 3:22 PM PST

The United States is in a league of its own when it comes to sending junk mail to e-mail users.

Researchers at security software company Sophos found that 42 percent of all spam sent this year came from the United States, based on a scan by its researchers of a global network of honey pots--computers designed to attract spam e-mails and viruses.

Source of spam
Share of spam (percent)
United States
South Korea
United Kingdom
Source: Sophos

Sophos said this is evidence that America's antispam legislation simply isn't working.

"When we released the first report back in February, the U.S. had the excuse that the Can-Spam Act had been in existence for only three months," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, on Friday.

"Almost a year and millions of spam messages later, it is quite evident that that the Can-Spam legislation has made very little headway in damming the flood of spam," he said. [...]

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