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Travel Log! The
Quantum Future Group Goes to Rennes-le-Chateau
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
© 2005 Pierre-Paul
| Signs Economic Commentary
January 9, 2005
Gold fell sharply on Friday, closing the week at $422.20,
down 3.5% on the week from last Friday’s close of $437.10.
The Euro closed at $1.305 down 1.3% from $1.354 . The Dow
closed at 10, 604, down about 2% from last week’s close of
10,783. The NASDAQ closed at 2089, down about 4% from last
week’s close of 2175. US interest rates were up, generally,
with the 10-year Treasury bond closing 4.27% up from last
Because of the instability of the dollar, I thought it would
be helpful to cite the price of gold in Euros and the price
of oil in Euros and gold as well as in dollars. An ounce of
gold closed at 323.53 Euros up a bit from last week’s close
of 322.32. Oil closed at $45.43 (or 34.81 Euros) a barrel
up from $43.45. An ounce of gold, then, would buy 9.29 barrels
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the US economy
created 157,000 new jobs in December 2004, creating a small
annual net rise in the number of jobs for the first time in
the Bush II years. (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm)
The official unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.4%.
The monthly gain in jobs was below the median predicted by
analysts, but not bad nonetheless.
It was, all in all, a pretty good week in which to be optimistic
for 2005, if you weren't looking at the other factors involved.
But even mainstream analysts are still worried. Stephen Roach,
analyst for Morgan Stanley, a firm whose
privately delivered forecast that the US had only a ten percent
change of avoiding “economic armageddon" was leaked to the
Boston Herald recently, writes:
For me, many of last year's lessons are interrelated —
part and parcel of the general framework of global rebalancing
that has guided my macro view over the past few years. First
is the timeworn debate over global imbalances. In many respects,
I have led the charge in arguing that imbalances matter —
especially the unprecedented disparities between the world's
current account deficits (mainly the US) and surpluses (Asia
and, to a lesser extent, Europe). I still have deep conviction
on that count. But I certainly have to confess that this
call has gained only partial traction, at best, in world financial
markets. When I speak with equity investors, they look at
me as if I have come from a different planet. Suffice it
to say, the resolution of global imbalances has hardly had
a major impact on share prices. The same can be said of bond
investors, as yields on longer-term securities barely budged
in the face of unprecedented global imbalances. Of course,
it was a different matter altogether in foreign exchange markets
as the dollar came under renewed pressure over the course
of last year. The broad dollar index fell about 7% in real
terms in the second half of 2004, bringing the cumulative
decline from the early 2002 peak to about 16%.
Of course, when speaking with the general public, they use
positive-sounding terms like “global balancing” rather than
the more alarming “economic armageddon.” Like many of us,
the healthy stock and bond markets last year puzzle Roach:
Take yourself back a year ago: If you
had known that the Fed would tighten by 125 basis points (I
publicly urged Chairman Greenspan to go by 200 bps), that
the US core inflation rate would essentially double, that
crude oil prices would shoot up into the mid-$50 range, that
the US economy would grow by nearly 4.5%, that America's twin
deficits (budget and current-account) would soar, and that
the dollar would come under renewed pressure, the bearish
call for longer-term US interest rates would have been a no-brainer.
And yet yields on 10-year Treasuries basically ended the year
where they began at approximately 4.2% — with a modest increase
in inflationary expectations largely offset by a surprising
decline in real interest rates (as captured in the inflation-indexed
TIPS market). Hard as it may be to admit, this result basically
turns the art of interest rate forecasting inside out.
Again, no mention of political factors,
the most important of which was the US election. In
order to reduce the number of votes Bush had to suppress or
steal, the Bush faction had to maintain the illusion that
things were going tolerably well in the economy and in the
war. For this, we can raise a martini glass to the non-US
In the 12 months ending October 2004 (latest US Treasury
data available), net foreign buying of long-term US securities
totalled $850.6 billion, well in excess of the cumulative current-account
deficit of $603 billion recorded over the four quarters ending
in 3Q04. Yes, there was an increase in the share of dollar-denominated
assets purchased by foreign central banks, from 18% to 27% over
the past year; this was a conscious policy choice, largely aimed
at preventing Asian currencies from rising and thereby impeding
the region's export-led growth dynamic. But the bulk of the
flows still came from non-US private investors seeking return
and/or security in dollar-denominated assets.
And we can raise another toast to the US consumer:
[Another] lesson of 2004 bears on the
power of the Asset Economy and the related resilience it has
imparted to the seemingly unflappable American consumer —
long the major engine on the demand side of the global economy.
Despite sub-par wage income growth, anemic job creation,
historical lows in personal saving, and record household sector
debt loads, US consumption growth appears to have exceeded
3.5% over the four quarters of 2004. In my view, this latest
outcome — along with comparable results that have generally
persisted since the late 1990s — is very much an outgrowth
of an asset-driven spending dynamic. First, it was the equity
wealth effect, then more recently the impetus from property
markets. In ever-rising asset markets, consumers have chosen
to substitute wealth accumulation for income-based saving.
This works for as long as asset markets do not go to excess
and for as long as the interest-rate underpinnings of such
markets remain favorable. With America's housing market now
in bubble territory and with interest rate risks likely to
tip to the upside, the staying power of its asset-driven consumer
could be tested in 2005. I was wrong on that view in 2004,
but in large part, I believe that was because the interest
rate test never occurred. If that test now comes to pass,
the long-awaited capitulation of the American consumer could
well be at hand.
Enough of the mainstream analysts, let’s hear from the alternative
ones, since they don’t have to worry about actually triggering,
by their analysis, the collapse they fear. Here’s what Al
said in his 2005 forecast:
The economic storm clouds on the horizon
continue to gather as the planet sinks into a sea of red ink.
The economic numbers are simply frightening as the scourge
of Bushonomics, i.e., negative debt finance consumption, continues
unabated, reaching all of the wrong kind of records, as it
were. Total consumer debt is now 86% of GDP, a number never
seen before, and a number, which classically cannot exist
in Smithsonian capitalism, as in James Smithson, the father
of modern day capitalism. The current regime is now consuming
84% of the planet’s entire net savings rate in order to finance
Bushonian triple deficits–current account, budgetary and trade.
Meanwhile the personal savings rate in the United States ,
is now a negative number, a statistic never before seen. Supposedly
the largest nation-state on the planet, accounting for 43%
of global GDP, has a negative savings rate. …
The speculative bubble in residential real estate shows
signs of bleeding air. The November data of “housing starts”
is down 12%, the largest drop in 11 years. New home sales
are down 13%, the sharpest 1-month decline also since 1994.
Building permits are down sharply. Median home values now
the lowest in 12 months, having fallen for 7 consecutive months.
The national foreclosure rate is now at 6.54%, the highest
since 1933 in the very depths of the Great Depression. The
national property tax arrearage rate for residential properties
is now at 8.9 months, also a record number. Never before has
the national residential property tax arrearage rate exceeded
8.6 months. And now it does for the first time in history.
There are so many historical record numbers!
A U.S. dollar, which continues to decline under a Regime who
will do nothing to support it and everything to encourage
its continuing decline under the belief, which is inherent
in classical Smithsonian capitalism, that a cheaper currency
spurs exports – this despite the fact that exports in real
terms under this regime have actually fallen.
The reason, of course, that a cheaper
dollar is not spurring exports in this economic cycle, as
they have classically done in the past, is that our major
export partners, the 10 largest trade partners that we export
to have economies which are declining at even a faster rate
now than is our own–something also that has never before happened.
This then breaks the traditional post-war cycle of economic
growth that had existed, the so-called tri-partite economic
growth scenario that had long existed between Western Europe,
the United States and Japan, where there would be revolving
While the mainstream folks keep hoping that “foreign investors
and banks” will continue to balance the imbalance, few people
are mentioning how indebted the whole world is:
This can be seen, for instance, by the
increase in global debt and the increase in the negative net
worth of the entire planet, which now stands at -$13 trillion.
The planet is, indeed, literally sinking into a sea of red
ink. In 2005, with Bushonian fiscal stimulus via tax cuts
now gone and no further fiscal stimulus in the United States
possible via more tax cuts, or nothing substantial certainly,
due to the ever-growing size of budget deficits, that removes
a stimulative factor that had existed under this Bush/Cheney
regime from 2002 to date. Furthermore, monetary stimulus that
had occurred under this regime through sharply declining interest
rates is now over. We have now entered the period of rising
As for the heroic efforts of the US consumer:
Therefore, for instance, consumption
stimuli that was coming from mortgage refinancing, which was
substantial, more than a hundred billion a year under this
regime average–that was the average amount of consumable income
that was being drawn out from refinancing mortgages into ever
lower rates with ever higher equities due to rising real estate
values–this whole scenario now has been reversed. Not only
have refi’s dropped sharply and will continue to drop as interest
rates rise, but the value of homes coming out of a speculative
bubble that have been refinanced is now also declining.
For instance, here’s a frightening, frightening thought that
former Federal Reserve Governor Lyle Gramley pointed out:
there has been so much money under this regime taken out of
home equity through refinancing or home equity lines of credit,
etc., more than 1-1/2 trillion dollars taken out, that median
equity versus mortgage debt in the United States has fallen
to an all-time low fraction of only 43%.
This means that the median value of a home owned by a US citizen
(because of refinancing and continuously taking money out
of that equity without actually selling the home) is only
43% of that home’s current value. This is an all-time low.
To give you an idea, for instance: 30 years ago in 1974, the
median equity of U.S. citizens in their home was 68%. Now
it is 43%. This IS even more nerve wracking considering the
five fold increase in median home prices which has occurred
over the past 30 years
The mainstream economic analysts, then, can be divided into
three camps. First, those who carefully and cautiously warn
about an upcoming disaster in ways so measured that their
words don’t have much effect; second, those who publicly say
all is well while privately saying and doing with their own
money something different; and third, those who truly think
things are going to keep getting better and better. But they
are all united in one thing: the fundamental assumptions of
neo-classical economics. What the Anglo world (United States,
Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand) calls
“mainstream economists,” the rest of the world calls “Anglo-Saxon,
neo-liberal economists.” And they don’t mean that is a good
way! The “liberal” in this case refers to 18th
and 19th century classic liberalism that advocated
free trade, free labor, free enterprise, and a society and
economy bound by contractual relations between freely acting
individuals. This economic ideology was discredited to an
extent for much of the twentieth century, but it came back
with a vengeance in the right-wing “neo-classical” economic
reaction instituted by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
While this type of economy has always been imposed at the
point of a gun, the gun is much more visible now. Even the
New York Times cheerleader for globalism, Thomas Friedman,
said that “"The hidden hand of the market will never
work without the hidden fist. McDonalds cannot flourish without
McDonnell Douglas”. Now, in the beginning of the 21st
century, the fist is not so hidden.
Classic liberal economics represent one branch of clear STS
or Service to Self economic relations. Corporate-Fascist
economics represents an alternate STS economic path. Both
ideologies propose an ethos of getting as much as you can
for yourself without concern for the other. The difference
is, the “you” in liberal economic ideology is the “individual”
and in corporate fascism the “you” that is maximizing personal
benefits is the Nation or the State merged with the powerful
corporations. Game Theory, with its rational self-interested
actors and two-person games, is essential to both types of
STS economic ideologies. What results, then, when societies
make these theories and ideologies their fundament, is a culture
of psychopathy, a culture where psychopathic behavior is rewarded.
(see Laura Knight-Jadczyk’s “’Official
Culture’ in America: A Natural State of Psychopathy?”
) and her Adventures
with Cassiopaea series).
What is the end result? Bourgeois liberalism has always said
that if each “rational actor” pursues his or her self interest,
the greater good will result. The spiritual tradition, however,
tells us that, while it is true that those who serve themselves
end up serving others, they often end up working for their
own ruin. The tradition also tells us that the serving of
self may not even serve the interests of the human race. Even
the standard Christian tradition would agree by saying that
sinners end up working for the good of the God’s plan while
working for their own ruin. Can this be true of whole societies?
Is there an STO or Service to Others economics? Is that what
Jesus meant by the Kingdom of Heaven? Can the cooperative
movement and “localist” economics provide a model? Argentina,
for example, has seen an explosion of cooperatives since their
economic collapse of a few years ago (this was censored story
number 23 in Project Censored’s Top
25 Censored Media Stories for 2004). Catherine Austin
Fitts is working to build that kind of movement in the United
States (see www.solari.com).
Can a distributed network like the Internet along with the
Open Source software movement provide a model? Will creating
an STO economy lead to a departure from the type of existence
we have now? What the tradition does teach is that the change
must first come from within and that it involves work. Here
may be where it has most in common with classical economics
which gave us the saying, “There is no such thing as a free
YORK — Hitler's Hit Parade is hardly a trip down memory lane.
This film's juxtaposition of romantic songs and wartime brutalities
can cause viewers to squirm or turn away in horror.
The disturbing collage of Third Reich musicals, newsreels,
home movies, cartoons and commercials, including rare segments
in color, shows how the Nazis relied
on escapist entertainment to promote their murderous ideology
and bolster the veneer of normalcy during the nightmare of Adolf
The 75-minute production, co-directed by Oliver Axer and Susanne
Benze, opened Wednesday for a two-week run in New York —
the U.S. premiere after limited screenings in Germany. It's
a provocative study of seductive propaganda
techniques, a partial explanation
of the riddle of mass German support for Hitler.
Portraying themselves as protectors
of German traditions and historic continuity,
the Nazis promised law and order and national respect
at a time of economic despair when Hitler came to power in 1933.
Lighthearted entertainment was allowed
to flourish to distract Germans from harsh realities of totalitarianism.
Sentimental songs churned out by Germany's light-music industry
were crammed with code words like "fate" and "homeland"
that served as psychological tools to
enforce mass conformity.
Allusions to discipline and obedience were reflected in seemingly
innocuous popular tunes with titles like Don't Ask How, Don't
Ask Where, Don't Let It Bother You and Everything in Life Will
"I know a miracle will happen some day and a thousand
fairy tales will come true," Zarah Leander, a wartime diva,
croons in one segment, hinting at "wonder weapons"
rumored to be in Hitler's arsenal to beat back the allies.
"Entertainment rather than propaganda
proved to be the most effective support for the regime,"
Moshe Zimmermann wrote in his Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper
review of the film. "One could whistle Eternal Spring,
take pleasure in Heinz Ruehmann's amusing films, sing along
with the pop tune "The World Isn't Collapsing" as
bombs fell, and the world seemed intact."
Hitler's Hit Parade (in German with English subtitles) plays
out without a spoken commentary, instead using Nazi catch phrases
to preface segments on idealized Third Reich society. Lyrics
from 20 popular songs serve as ironic commentaries on the sinister
policies propelling German industrial expansion for the coming
war, mass physical fitness, higher birth rates, anti-Semitism,
military training and adulation of Hitler.
The film shows "how dangerously
tempting and engaging the general mood of an era can be,"
according to co-director Axer. It serves
as a warning to "recognize the true, hidden meanings before
believing" in the brave new world promised in Nazi
Before we tune in to the
second inauguration of President George Bush, perhaps you should
read this. When we ignore history, we are condemned to repeat
it. Oh, not here in the good ol U.S.A., you say. Never here,
the land of the free and home of the brave, the bastion of democracy
for the free world. Well, open your eyes, America. We may not
relive the human catastrophe of the Holocaust on our own soil,
but were learning how to borrow from what helped it start.
Billboards in Florida extol George Bush as Our Leader, placed
by the conservative media conglomerate Clear Channel, owner/operator
of scores of TV, radio and other news media across the country.
German for leader is Fuehrer.
Our conservative government is railroading a dismantling of social
programs under the guise of economic reform, while waving the banners
of domestic safety initiatives as the best form of security for
our nation. Unfortunately, security is not closed borders, guns
on every corner and limited civil rights. We can't be secure if
our roads, bridges and schools are crumbling; if our water, air
and food are dirty; if people aren't healthy because they can't
pay to see their doctors; and if we must remain in the workforce
until were 70-plus years old with an average lifespan of mid- to
high 70s, what kind of American Dream retirement is that?
And now we have the Orwellian Patriot Act and the just passed 563-page
Intelligence Reform Bill (Have you read it? You authorized your
conservative elected officials to vote for it. ...) to shield us
from harms way and still no responsible economic solutions, no new
jobs, no health insurance for all Americans. We did get, however,
a conservative invasion of our schools to remind us of the apocalyptic
future we have in store, as the Revelations-reading religious right
proclaims at every turn, while generals and clergy boast that our
presidents re-election was through divine intervention (Gen. William
Boykin and Rev. Pat Robertson). As Hitler descended from the clouds
in the Leni Riefenstahl propaganda film Triumph of the Will ...
Let's top if off with a Cornell University poll just released and
reported by the Associated Press, warning that a near majority of
citizens favor restricting the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans.
Whats next, will they have to wear a red crescent on their clothes
like Jews wore their Stars of David during the Third Reich?
I know many of you reading this will think that this is merely
the alarmist ranting of a disgruntled liberal. But think again.
When we close our eyes to little things that happen around us,
suddenly those small steps along a dangerous path take us far
away from where we started. We are nearing the precipice. Our
nation is evolving into something very dangerous, and we have
a responsibility to stop it. Be afraid of those who follow these
principles blindly, of those who profess their allegiance to
our leader undyingly. Those who accuse my words of being anti-American
and anti-Bush have, regrettably, succumbed to the mass hysteria
being created by a new American fascism and will be held accountable
as accomplices, just as many aging Germans bear their guilt-by-silence
still to this day.
The U.S. plan to lock up
suspected terrorists for life in secret locations without evidence
is a horrifying development.
Torturing prisoners, denying them legal safeguards and essentially
refuting their existence is what rogue regimes and lawless nations
do. Reading about it in China's Xinhua News Agency is especially
disconcerting. The Bush administration is not only doing all
this now, but making systematic plans to create an American
gulag of prisons and prisoners without names and cells without
numbers. From the old Soviet Union to Communist China to the
banana republics of Latin America and Castro's Cuba, that's
what others do.
According to reports in The Washington Post, the military and
CIA have hundreds of detainees for whom they have no evidence
to hold longer or who have exhausted their usefulness as intelligence
sources, or never provided any information.
U.S. authorities refuse to let them go or put them in proximity
to U.S. civilian or military judicial systems.
The options under study include construction of a special prison
at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Another proposal would transfer
Afghan, Saudi and Yemeni detainees from Cuba back to their home
countries, where they'd reside in U.S.-built prisons.
Another option is sending detainees to U.S.-friendly third
countries where they can be held indefinitely, and tortured
if need be, completely out of sight and mind of U.S. laws and
nosy human-rights organizations.
Detainees have been held at secret locations ranging from Afghanistan
to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and on ships at sea.
Americans were shocked to learn of the torture and abuses at
Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and subsequent revelations of other,
earlier abuses. These new proposals are another departure from
the values most Americans believe symbolize their nation at
home and abroad.
So what might be the next step: the holding of political prisoners
whose views are considered an unspecified and unproven threat
to the commonweal? Certainly, that is preposterous. Except that
extreme policies predictably debase other standards.
The Post's Dana Priest reported that moving captives to friendly
third countries which hold them without question was a technique
used in the drug wars. Kingpins would be stashed away for later
delivery to U.S. courts. Since 2001, the practice has been used
to make sure detainees do not go to court or back to the streets,
Republicans and Democrats in Congress must challenge the administration
and hold the Pentagon and CIA responsible for behavior that
undermines the values and liberties they profess to protect.
These agencies do not have to operate in the public glare,
but they have to be accountable to civilian law and authority.
It's an abomination to take prisoners, hold them, and indefinitely
deny them access to civilian and military proceedings.
That is not what America stands for, and not
what it does.
TEXAS CITY, Texas -- Some
parents were up in arms Friday after 10 students were strip-searched
for a missing $10 bill at an award-winning charter school in
The incident happened Thursday at Mainland Preparatory Academy
near Texas City, The Galveston County Daily News reported.
Principal Wilma Green said seven girls and three boys -- ages
11 and 12 -- had been in study hall when they were told to strip
to their underwear.
She said the boys were sent off with a male teacher and the
girls with a female teacher for the searches.
Green said the disrobing was nothing different from what the
children would have done for gym class.
She added none of the children objected because they wanted
to prove their innocence.
But one boy's mother was so infuriated that she's filed a complaint
with police and pulled her four children from the school.
A third-grader at Haycock Elementary School
was suspended after school officials discovered she brought
a pocketknife to school Tuesday.
Scanlon said the girl brought the knife to school by accident
and was remorseful, and that at no time was a student in danger.
''Under Act 26 it's considered a weapon and under Act 26 we
are required to expel the student for not less than a year,
unless it is deemed otherwise by the superintendent,'' said
Quakertown Community School District Superintendent Jim Scanlon.
Act 26 is a Pennsylvania law that requires
any student who possesses a weapon at school, at a school activity
or on the way to school to be expelled for at least one year.
Superintendents have the option to review each case and recommend
action other than the one-year expulsion.
Scanlon wouldn't say how long the girl will be suspended for,
but said it wouldn't be a long time.
''If there had been a threat or someone had been injured we
would have elevated the suspension,'' Scanlon said. [...]
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP)
-- Police said they are investigating an incident in which an
officer pepper-sprayed an 85-year-old man during a traffic stop.
Leon Nins said officer Michael Lee also beat him after he took
too long to stop his car. Police deny that and say Nins attacked
Leaders of St. Paul's NAACP chapter and St. Paul African American
Leadership Council alleged that race was a factor. Nins is black.
Nins said at a news conference Thursday that he was bringing
sandwiches and cupcakes to his wife during his daily visit to
her nursing home December 27 when Lee tried to pull him over
for having expired license tags.
Nins, a World War II veteran who stands about 5-feet-7 and
weighs 145 pounds, claims Lee was angry that he didn't stop
his car right away.
"I told him, 'If I'd have seen you, I would have stopped,"'
Nins said earlier. "He got really mad about that. He told
me to get in his car, and he started beating me on the leg and
on the side of the arm. He pushed me down on the floor, and
he was slamming the door on my legs."
Nins was arrested and jailed for two days. The Ramsey County
Attorney's Office declined to charge him with a felony, but
prosecutors still could bring a lesser charge.
Nins said he went to a hospital for treatment after his release.
Police reports said Nins did not stop for nearly a half mile
after Lee began trying to pull him over.
St. Paul police Chief John Harrington confirmed that Lee used
pepper spray to subdue Nins, but only after Nins refused to
produce identification and began flailing at the officer.
"I do not believe (Lee) was acting with excessive force
and I don't have any intention of suspending him or moving him
to any administrative assignment at this time," Harrington
Groups who claim that race played a role cited
a 2001 shooting in which Lee was cleared of wrongdoing. Charles
Craighead had taken a gun from a man trying to carjack him.
Lee mistook Craighead, who was black, for the carjacker, and
shot him to death.
If you're ticketed by Green
Bay police, you'll get more than a fine. You'll get fingerprinted,
too. It's a new way police are cracking down on crime.
If you're caught speeding or playing your music too loud, or
other crimes for which you might receive a citation, Green Bay
police officers will ask for your drivers license and your finger.
You'll be fingerprinted right there on the spot. The fingerprint
appears right next to the amount of the fine.
Police say it's meant to protect you -- in case the person
they're citing isn't who they claim to be. But not everyone
is sold on that explanation.
"What we've seen happen for the last couple of years [is]
increasing use of false or fraudulent identification documents,"
Captain Greg Urban said.
Police say they want to prevent the identity theft problem
that Milwaukee has, where 13 percent of all violators give a
But in Green Bay, where police say they only average about
five cases in a year, drivers we talked with think the new policy
"That's going too far," Ken Scherer from Oconto said.
"You look at the ID, that's what they're there for. Either
it's you or it's not. I don't think that's a valid excuse."
"I would feel uncomfortable but I would do it," Carol
Pilgrim of Green Bay said.
Citizens do have the right to say no. "They could say
no and not have to worry about getting arrested," defense
attorney Jackson Main said. "On the other hand, I'm like
everybody else. When a police officer tells me to do something,
I'm going to do it whether I have the right to say no or not."
That's exactly why many drivers are uneasy about the fine print
in this fingerprinting policy.
Police stress that the prints are just to make sure you are
who you claim to be and do not go into any kind of database;
they simply stay on the ticket for future reference if the identity
The next day I went back
to where my house had been and surveyed the damage. One bungalow
nearby had been lifted up and dropped on top of another. The
whole beach was visible, meaning all of the two or three story
hotels that had lined it were gone. There was a jet ski just
near our house. The bottom floor of our house was gone, the
upper floor was missing a couple of walls. The only thing left,
was a plastic Jesus doll I had bought as a joke. So I was left
with nothing in the world except my own plastic Jesus.
The level of destruction is virtually impossible to describe.
On our beach we had approx. 2500 hotel rooms. It looked to me,
that maybe 50 could still be called hotel rooms. The week between
Christmas and New Year's is the busiest of the week. Without
warning, without an evacuation plan the survival rates were
minimal. The wave at our house was about 7 meters high (20 feet)
and in some places it was 10 meters (30 feet) high. It wiped
out the third floor of most resorts. The number of dead is astronomical,
several thousand on my beach alone. By the second day you could
smell it, and in the short walk to my former house, we passed
about 10 bodies just strewn about.
Our final glance of the town was a cattle truck stacked full
of wrapped up corpses. We wanted to go home.
In Bangkok most people got help pretty quick. The Swedes, Germans
and English had charted flights for their citizens to get home.
The Thai government gave free hotel rooms to survivors and there
were lists of places to get food.
EXCEPT the Americans. I went in to find out
what help I could get - I was able to get a replacement passport,
a toothbrush and a paperback book. They said it was not their
policy to arrange flights home. I was cut up, still covered
in a pretty good layer of mud, I had no home, no money, no clothing
(except some borrowed off Keith) nothing at all, and they could
do nothing to help.
They did offer to let me borrow money, but they would have
to find three people in America who would vouch for me, and
that process should take less than a week. In the mean time
I was fucked. I was destitute and rejected by the embassy. Karin
was with me (she's Swedish) and said that I could still try
and emigrate to Sweden. I was VERY tempted.
In these last days, watching politicians
go on about helping and giving aide, but they won't even take
care of their own citizens? I am very, very angry. All
the other nations of the world were taking care of their own
citizens! Eventually I got a flight home
with JAL (that would be JAPAN airlines) not even an American
company, but a JAPANESE company helped me get home.
I am still listed as neither found nor alive. Before I left
I had spoken to the embassy twice on the phone, giving my name
so I would be listed as alive so my family would not worry.
I went to the embassy twice, once to get a passport to replace
the one lost in the tsunami, and they never listed me as alive
or found. I flew out of the country using said passport and
am still not found. I went to the hospital three times, and,
as of yesterday I am now listed as injured (having been in the
states three days already). My family is now waiting to see
how long it will take before they are notified about my status.
So am I.
RENO, Nev. - Areas of the Sierra Nevada,
famous for paralyzing amounts of snowfall, have been hit with
a dumping like they haven't seen in generations, with steep
drifts stranding an Amtrak train, knocking out the Reno airport
and shutting down major highways across the mountains.
The string of moisture-laden storms has dropped up to 19 feet
of snow at elevations above 7,000 feet since Dec. 28 and 6 1/2
feet at lower elevations in the Reno area. Meteorologists
said it was the most snow the Reno-Lake Tahoe area has seen
"I've lived here for almost 40
years and I've never seen anything like it," Peter
Walenta, 69, said Sunday from his home in Stateline, on the
southern end of Lake Tahoe. "This baby just seems to be
stretching on forever. Right now I'm looking out the window
and it's dumping."
Storms also have caused flooding in Southern California and
Arizona, deadly avalanches in Utah and ice damage and flooding
in the Ohio Valley.
The weather was blamed for at least
eight weekend deaths in Southern California, including
a homeless man killed Sunday by a landslide. Along the storms'
eastward track, avalanches killed two people Saturday in Utah,
An avalanche Sunday afternoon killed a 13-year-old boy after
knocking him from a ski lift at the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard
Resort, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas. No other injuries have
A lull in the storm allowed the reopening Sunday of Interstate
80 over Donner Summit and U.S. 50 over Echo Summit after the
highways were closed off and on for more than a day. The highways
connect Sacramento, Calif., to Reno.
"The snowbanks along Interstate
80 are about 8 to 10 feet high. It's like you're going
through a maze," said Jane Dulaney, spokeswoman for the
Rainbow Lodge west of Donner Summit.
About 25 motorists were rescued by National Guard members in
Humvees after they become stranded overnight on U.S. Highway
395 about 20 miles south of Reno, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper
Jeff Bowers said. Motorists had to wait up to six hours until
rescuers could reach them after daylight Sunday.
"That would have been as scary as it gets to be out there
alone in those conditions," Bowers said.
The California Highway Patrol reported 720
crashes Sunday night, more than three times the number of accidents
during the previous Sunday when roads were dry.
More than 220 Amtrak passengers were back in Sacramento on
Sunday after spending the night stuck in their train in deep
snow west of Donner Summit, spokesman Marc Magliari said.
One car of the California Zephyr, eastbound
from Oakland, Calif., to Chicago, derailed in the snow Saturday
evening. No one was hurt. Amtrak officials moved the
passengers to other cars and the train reversed course and returned
to Sacramento about 6 a.m.
Because of the derailment, a westbound Zephyr had to stop in
Reno and its roughly 140 passengers completed their trip to
California by bus. Service from several stations in Ventura,
as well as trains from Los Angeles to Burbank, were canceled
Reno-Tahoe International Airport was
closed for 12 hours overnight for the second time in a week,
and only the third time in 40 years, because plows could not
keep up with the heavy snowfall, spokeswoman Trish Tucker said.
Flash flood warnings were posted throughout Southern California.
Residents of a mobile home park in Santa Clarita, northwest
of Los Angeles, were evacuated Sunday after 5 feet of water
spilled in from a creek.
"An eight-foot masonry wall that was protecting the structures
gave way and water is rushing into all the houses," said
Inspector John Mancha. Authorities weren't immediately sure
how many people were evacuated.
A two-story home collapsed in the Studio City area above the
San Fernando Valley. A man and his two children were pulled
from the rubble with minor injuries.
Elsewhere, flooding along the Ohio River
had chased hundreds of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky residents
from their homes. Meteorologists predicted the river
would reach its highest level in eight years at Louisville,
Ky., this week at about 5 feet above flood stage. Cincinnati
was already more than 2 feet above its 52-foot flood stage Sunday,
with forecasters expecting a crest at 57.5 feet.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft declared a state
of emergency in 28 of Ohio's 88 counties this weekend,
increasing to 49 the number of counties eligible for state assistance
cleaning up from the storms, Ohio Emergency Management Agency
spokesman Mark Patchen said Sunday. Ohio authorities believe
carbon monoxide poisoning killed five people using generators
for electricity since Friday.
Indiana officials said some of the worst flooding since 1937
had isolated pockets across the southern part of the state,
forcing hundreds of people from their homes.
The storm that fed the flooding also
knocked out power last week in parts of western and northern
Ohio. Utilities said Sunday that about 66,000 customers
remained without electricity, down from a peak of 250,000. More
than 37,000 customers were still blacked out Sunday in Pennsylvania,
and 56,500 were without power in Indiana.
LOS ANGELES - As many as 200 vehicles got
stuck in deep snow early today in the San Bernardino Mountains
as the latest in a series of storms struck California.
Snow piled up 3 to 4 feet deep along a 15-mile stretch of
state highway between the Snow Valley ski resort and Big Bear
dam, said Tracey Martinez, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino
County fire department.
"People were panicking and calling 911 on their cell
phones,'' Martinez said. "It's going to take us awhile
to get all the folks out of there.''
No injuries were reported as rescue crews used tracked vehicles
to pick up the snowbound motorists in the mountains about 90
miles east of Los Angeles. [...]
A fourth day of thrashing thunderstorms
began to take a heavier toll on Southern California on Sunday
with at least three deaths blamed on the rain, as flooding and
mudslides forced road closures and emergency crews carried out
harrowing rescue operations. [...]
The storms had stalled over an area of the Pacific Ocean on
Sunday evening, a few hundred miles off the coast of Point Conception,
west of Santa Barbara, said Bruce Rockwell, a specialist with
the National Weather Service.
"It's stationary off the coast and constantly pumps in
moist water from the south," he said.
Forecasters had originally said that some areas of Southern
California might receive more than 20 inches of precipitation
over the weekend. Although they later reduced that estimate,
a campground near Mt. Wilson, Opids Camp,
received 20.82 inches of precipitation between 4 p.m. Saturday
and 4 p.m. Sunday.
In that same time period, downtown Los Angeles received 4.49
inches of rain, Beverly Hills 7.79 inches, Santa Monica 4.7
inches, Chatsworth 5.81 inches, Claremont 7.51 inches and Lancaster
Continued downpours were expected through
Tuesday, when the jet stream airflow from the north was expected
to start pushing the storm inland toward Nevada.
Southern California has been drenched by a string of storms
that began in late December and have been only sporadically
interrupted by clear skies.
The current dousing, which began Thursday, has been the heaviest.
More than 15 inches have fallen in Los
Angeles in the first nine days of 2005, as much as the average
annual rainfall downtown.
All across the Southland, residents dealt with rockslides,
debris flows, downed trees, power outages and mandatory evacuations,
though there were few serious injuries.
Mudslides, a sinkhole and other water damage forced Metrolink
and Amtrak to cancel some train routes serving Los Angeles and
Ventura Counties today.
In Orange County, a combination of storm runoff and big surf
caused health officials to close Corona del Mar State Beach
in Newport Beach and Capistrano County Beach in Dana Point because
of sewage pipe leaks. [...]
JACKSON, Miss. - Highs winds associated
with a fast moving storm systems left behind some isolated pockets
of damage Friday night, with the National Weather Service confirming
that a small tornado touched down in the metropolitan Jackson
Damage to houses, mobile homes and farm buildings was reported
Saturday in central and south Mississippi from the storm system
that swept through the region. Rain totals ranged up to an inch
in some areas, according to the weather service.
There were no reported injuries.
Officials with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency
said small tornado touched down in Jackson about 5:30 p.m. Friday
at the height of heavy rain and winds. At least one home was
destroyed and about 10 others suffering some damage.
|LONDON : Seven people
were killed, more than 1,000 homes were flooded and 330,000 others
left without power as violent storms swept through northern Europe,
bringing hurricane force winds and heavy rain.
southern Sweden and the British Isles bore the brunt of the
conditions, with 100 people forced to spend the night on a ferry
after it ran aground in southwest Scotland, while a Dutch freighter
issued a mayday call off the Danish coast.
In northwestern England, meanwhile, the centre of the city
of Carlisle was largely underwater, with locals sheltering on
upper floors, watching cars float past
in the street below.
Four people were killed in Denmark -- two motorists who died
when trees crashed onto their cars, and two others who were
killed when a roof blew off a building, police said.
In southern Sweden, two motorists were also killed when trees
fell on their cars, and a third died when a car hit him as he
tried to remove a fallen tree from a road, media reported.
Copenhagen's Kastrup airport closed down for several hours,
as did the Malmoe Sturup airport in southern Sweden, as
hurricane force winds of up to 151 kilometers (94 miles) an
hour lashed the region and authorities urged people to
stay indoors if possible.
Danish sea rescue services reported that a Dutch freighter
off Denmark's west coast had called for assistance after reporting
a fire on board in heavy seas.
The 15 crew evacuated the ship and were in a lifeboat at 10:00
pm (2100 GMT) waiting to be picked up by rescue ships.
In southern Sweden, around 280,000
households were without electricity, while rail services
were suspended and traffic on the Oeresund bridge linking Copenhagen
to southern Sweden was stopped, as well as dozens of ferry services.
In Germany's northern state of Schleswig-Holstein which borders
Denmark train traffic was halted, while road traffic came to
a standstill on the North and Baltic Sea coasts, on the bridge
over the Kiel Canal linking the two seas, and on the one connecting
the Baltic Sea island of Fehmarn to the continent.
Firefighters said they dealt with 300 emergencies within a
few hours, 250 alone in the state capital Kiel, mainly after
trees were unrooted and billboards blown away. No injuries were
Electricity was cut in several areas after
winds gusted up to 161 kilometers per hour (100 mph).
In Ireland, more than 50,000 people
were also without electricity -- around 20,000 in the
Republic of Ireland and 30,000 in the North.
In Scotland, 43 passengers and 57 crew looked set to be spending
Saturday night on board a P and O ferry, which set off from
Larne in Northern Ireland before running aground at Cairnryan,
No one was injured, but heavy seas meant tugs would not be
able to get close to the European Highlander vessel to pull
it free from the shingle beach until Sunday morning, P and O
Around the British Isles, trucks toppled over,
river banks burst, people were evacuated from flooded houses
and uprooted trees blocked dozens of roads as gales reached
140 kilometres (85 miles) an hour.
The city of Carlisle in far northwest England was worst affected,
although local police said that the waters appeared to be receding
Around 1,000 homes in the city had been flooded, as well as
a further 100 in other areas, a spokeswoman for Britain's Environment
Agency said, with the Royal Air Force preparing for a possible
helicopter evacuation of some people.
"We've had people phoning up reporting that the water
is starting to creep up the stairs in their homes. Some houses
have been evacuated," a spokesman for Cumbria Police said,
describing the town centre as "awash".
About a dozen trucks overturned on a motorway in Cumbria and
several roads were blocked because of flooding and trees falling.
"At the moment, high-sided vehicles should not travel
at all. Our advice to drivers of ordinary vehicles is to only
travel if your journey is absolutely necessary," the police
Elsewhere, the Netherlands was also hit by storms, with a
German teenager injured as he was hang-gliding at Zeewolde,
in the centre of the country.
Experts say the giant waves could destroy
towns, submerge forests, rip up beaches and deposit millions
of tonnes of sand far inland - The Ground Shakes, and Then Hell
One day, the ocean floor 100 kilometres west of Vancouver Island
will rupture at a point where two of the moving plates that
make up the earth's crust have been stuck since 1700.
The energy will be released all at once, the ocean floor will
heave and the earth will shake for several minutes.
A tsunami will begin to spread in all directions. Then:
- Residents on the outer coast of Vancouver Island will head
for high ground when the shaking stops. There is no time for
- In the quake, the island coast falls by an average of one
metre, making structures more vulnerable to big waves.
- The tsunami reaches shore in 20 minutes or less.
- The sea may draw back for a few minutes, exposing ocean
floor that is normally covered. Then a towering wave will thunder
into the shore, only a few metres high in some places, as high
as 10 to 15 metres (33 to 50 feet) in others, as it reaches
- Anyone on the beach or on low rocky outcrops when the waves
hit is swept into the ocean.
- Beachfront homes and resorts near Tofino are swamped. Flimsier
buildings are smashed.
- Hot Springs Cove, north of Tofino, is largely destroyed.
- Zeballos, a small village at sea level in a narrowing valley,
suffers severe damage as residents huddle on the mountain slopes.
- At Gold River, Tahsis and Port Alice, some docks and wharves
are lifted above sea level, others are permanently submerged.
- The Pacific Rim Highway is swamped where it runs close to
- The waves undermine shore lines and river banks, toppling
millions of trees.
- The tsunami begins to lose energy as it rounds Vancouver
Island, especially at the south end. In the northeast, the waves
are still up to seven metres high when they crash into Port
Hardy, Port McNeill and Alert Bay.
- In the south, Esquimalt and Victoria see waves as high as
two to three metres, and Vancouver less than a metre high.
HANOI : Vietnam on Saturday officially
confirmed that two young boys had died from bird flu as state
media said two other people are suspected of contracting the
"We assert that there have been three people infected
with the H5N1 virus since December 16, of whom, two had died,"
the daily Lao Dong newspaper quoted Deputy Head of the ministry's
legal department, Tran Duc Long as saying.
On Thursday, the government said that only a 16-year-old girl
from southern Tay Ninh province, who is in critical condition
in Ho Chi Minh City, had been infected with the H5N1 strain
of the bird flu virus.
The two boys, aged six and nine, were also from the south
and died on December 30 and January 4.
Their deaths brought the total toll from bird flu in Vietnam
since late 2003 to 22. [...]
Abbas last night won a landslide victory in the Palestinian
presidential election and was today expected to outline his
vision of a post-Yasser Arafat future.
The militant Islamic group Hamas, which boycotted the elections
along with another militant group, Islamic Jihad, said today
it could work with Mr Abbas, but questioned his real margin
of victory and complained of electoral irregularities.
Election officials confirmed that Mr Abbas had won 65% of the
vote, citing partial results from 10 out of 16 voting districts.
An official said Mr Abbas's nearest rival, Mustapha Barghouti,
had secured 21%, and Mr Barghouti today conceded defeat.
Analysts said Mr Abbas's victory held
out the promise of breakthrough in the Middle East peace process
after four decades of rule by Mr Arafat, who died on November
today is a genuine problem. It is also
an illusory problem. The distinction between the two
is one of those contemporary issues that divide Europe from
the United States. The overwhelming majority of Europeans abhors
recent attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions and takes them
very seriously. But it is generally recognized
in Europe that these attacks are the product of local circumstances
and are closely tied to contemporary political developments
in Europe and elsewhere. Thus the increase in anti-Jewish
incidents in France or Belgium is correctly attributed to young
people, frequently of Muslim or Arab background, the children
or grandchildren of immigrants. This is a new and disconcerting
social challenge and it is far from clear how it should be addressed,
beyond the provision of increased police protection. But it
is not, as they say, "your grandfather's anti-Semitism."
As seen from the United States, however, Europe – especially
"old," or Western, Europe – is in the grip of
recidivism: reverting to type, as it were. Last February Rockwell
Schnabel (the U.S. ambassador to the European Union) spoke of
anti-Semitism in Europe "getting to a point where it is
as bad as it was in the '30s." In May 2002 George Will
wrote in the Washington Post that anti-Semitism among Europeans
"has become the second – and final? – phase
of the struggle for a 'final solution to the Jewish Question.'"
These are not isolated, hysterical instances: Among American
elites as well as in the population at large, it is widely assumed
that Europe, having learned nothing from its past, is once again
awash in the old anti-Semitism.
The American view clearly reflects an
exaggerated anxiety. The problem of anti-Semitism in
Europe today is real, but it needs to be kept in proportion.
According to the Stephen Roth Institute at Tel Aviv University,
there were 517 anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2002 (503
in 2003) and 51 in Belgium (twenty-nine in 2003). These ranged
from anti-Semitic graffiti on Jewish-owned shops to Molotov
cocktails thrown into synagogues in Paris, Lyons and elsewhere.
Measured by everything from graffiti to violent assaults, anti-Semitism
has indeed been on the increase in some European countries in
recent years; but then it has in America as well. The American
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported 60 anti-Semitic incidents
on U.S. college campuses alone in 1999, 106 in 2002 and 68 in
2003. The ADL recorded 1,559 anti-Semitic incidents in the United
States in 2002 (1,557 in 2003), up from 906 in 1986. Even if
anti-Semitic aggression in France, Belgium and elsewhere in
Europe has been grievously underreported, there is no evidence
to suggest that it is much more widespread in Europe than in
the United States.
As for expressions of anti-Semitic opinion: Evidence from the
European Union's Eurobarometer surveys, the French polling service
SOFRES and the ADL's own surveys all point in the same direction.
There is today in many European countries, as in the United
States, a continuing tolerance for mild verbal anti-Semitism,
as well as a continuing propensity to believe longstanding stereotypes
about Jews: e.g., that they have a disproportionate influence
in economic life. But the same polls confirm that young people
all over Europe are much less tolerant of prejudice than their
parents were. Among non-Muslim French youth, especially, anti-Semitic
sentiment has steadily declined and is now negligible. A majority
of young people questioned in France in January 2002 believed
that we should speak more, not less, about the Holocaust; and
nearly nine out of 10 of them agreed that attacks on synagogues
were "scandalous." These figures are broadly comparable
to results from similar surveys taken in the United States.
The one thing on which European and
American commentators can agree is that there is a link between
hostility to Jews and events in the Middle East. But
they draw diametrically opposed conclusions as to the meaning
of this link. It is increasingly clear
to observers in France, for example, that assaults on Jews in
working-class suburbs of big cities are typically driven by
frustration and anger at the government of Israel. Jews
and Jewish institutions are a convenient and vulnerable local
surrogate. Moreover, the rhetorical armory of traditional European
anti-Semitism – the Protocols of the Elders of Zion; Jews'
purported economic power and conspiratorial networks; even blood
libels – has been pressed into service by the media in
Damascus, Cairo and elsewhere. Thanks to satellite television,
anti-Jewish images and myths can now spread with ease across
the youthful Arab diaspora.
But whereas most Europeans believe that the problem originates
in the Middle East and must therefore be addressed there, the
ADL and many American commentators conclude rather that there
is no longer any difference between being "against"
Israel and "against" Jews: i.e., that in Europe anti-Zionism
and anti-Semitism have become synonymous. But
that is palpably false. Some of
the highest levels of pro-Palestinian sympathy in Europe today
are recorded in Denmark, a country that also registers as one
of the least anti-Semitic by the ADL's own criteria –
and the ADL has worked harder than
anyone to propagate the image of rampant European anti-Semitism.
Another country with a high level of support for the Arabs of
Palestine is the Netherlands; yet according to the ADL the Dutch
have the lowest anti-Semitic quotient in Europe, and 83 percent
of Dutch citizens believe the government should take a role
in combating anti-Semitism.
In other words, some of the most widespread
pro-Palestinian and even anti-Zionist views are to be found
in countries that have long been – and still are –
decidedly philo-Semitic. And there
is good evidence that Europeans have considerably more balanced
views than Americans on the Israel-Palestine conflict in general.
Thus, although Europeans are more likely to sympathize with
the Palestinians than with Israel, they do so only by
a ratio of 24:15, according to the ADL. Americans, by contrast,
sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians, by a
ratio of 55:18 (Gallup).
Europeans are also better placed to appreciate that old-style
European anti-Semites were, and are, frequently quite sympathetic
to Israel – and the worse Israel behaves, the fonder they
become. Thus the French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le
Pen, in an interview in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz in April
2002, expressed his "understanding" of Ariel Sharon's
harsh policies ("A war on terror is a brutal thing"),
comparable in his opinion to France's anti-terrorist practices
in Algeria 40 years earlier, which he thought were no less justified.
The source of American anxiety and confusion
is the unstinting support given by the United States to Israel
($3 billion per annum and uncritical backing for all its actions),
and the ensuing sentiment among many Americans that since criticism
of Israel is close to impermissible, anti-Zionist opinions must
be anti-Semitic in origin. Indeed,
the gap separating Europeans from Americans on the question
of Israel and the Palestinians is one of the biggest impediments
to transatlantic understanding today.
This gulf is well illustrated in a recent essay by Omer Bartov,
a distinguished professor of European history at Brown University.
In a lengthy discussion of contemporary anti-Semitism published
last February in The New Republic, Bartov argued that just as
the world failed to take Hitler at his word in the 1930s, so
we are underestimating or even ignoring the revival, today,
of similarly virulent anti-Semitism, whose consequences might
prove comparably devastating. The message of the essay was that
if anti-Zionism is a camouflage for anti-Semitism (and Bartov
thinks it often is), then we should call it by its real name
and combat it as such. In Europe especially it has become politically
correct, Bartov suggests, to ignore – or play down –
expressions of anti-Semitic opinion, particularly in the academic
community. The time has come, he concludes, to call a spade
Bartov himself does not make the mistake of tarring any and
all criticism of Israel with the brush of anti-Semitism. But
by relentlessly drawing comparisons and analogies between contemporary
anti-Zionism and the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the 1930s, he ends
up conflating past and present. If we were wrong 70 years ago
not to take Hitler's exterminationist intentions seriously,
he suggests, we are just as wrong to make any allowance for
Hamas, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (who
said at a 2003 conference that "Jews rule this world by
proxy"), renegade German politicians and novelists, misguided
American academics, the former French ambassador to Britain
(who several years ago referred to Israel as "that shitty
little country") and no doubt countless others.
In Bartov's account, people might well have good reasons to
criticize the policies of the Israeli government (Bartov himself
is no admirer of Ariel Sharon). But those are not the reasons
many of them express such criticisms. It is the hatred of Jews
– Jews in Israel, Jews in Europe, Jews everywhere and
always – that accounts for the virulence of the critique.
The trouble with this account of the matter is, as I suggested
above, that it does indeed make the relevant link between the
Middle East and modern anti-Semitism, but inverts the causality.
It is the policies of Israeli governments,
especially in the past two decades, that have provoked widespread
anti-Jewish feelings in Europe and elsewhere. This may
seem absurd, but there is a certain tragic logic to it. Zionists
have always insisted that there is no distinction between the
Jewish people and the Jewish state. The latter offers
a right of citizenship to Jews anywhere in the world. Israel
is not the state of all its citizens, much less all its residents;
it is the state of (all) Jews. Its leaders purport to speak
for Jews everywhere. They can hardly be surprised when their
own behavior provokes a backlash against ... Jews.
Thus Israel itself has made a significant
contribution to the resurgence of the anti-Semitism Bartov and
others describe. This is an outcome with which many Israeli
politicians are far from unhappy: It retroactively justifies
their own bad behavior and contributes, as they proudly assert,
to a rise in the number of European Jews leaving for Israel.
At a time when many Israelis are obsessed with the prospect
of becoming a minority in their own enlarged territory, the
inflow of Jews fleeing real or imagined persecution is an occasion
Bartov concedes a distinction between "soft-core"
and "hard-core" anti-Semitism. However, he still insists
that there is a single slippery slope leading from misguided
academics and intellectuals to pathological murderers. Historically
this may be true. But today the implications of such a conflation
of different levels of criticism and prejudice are dangerously
censorious. No doubt some of Israel's strongest critics do display
anti-Semitic propensities. But that doesn't disqualify anti-Zionism
as ipso facto anti-Semitic: As Arthur Koestler observed back
in 1948, you can't help people being right for the wrong reasons.
If those of us who think Israel is behaving
shamefully follow Bartov's reasoning, we'll be constrained to
silence for fear of being accused of complicity in anti-Semitism
What, then, is to be done? Those of us who take seriously the
problem of anti-Semitism – but who utterly reject the
suggestion that we ourselves are in danger of sympathizing with
anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Zionism – must begin
by constructing and defending a firewall between the two. Israel
does not speak for Jews; but Israel's claim to speak for Jews
everywhere is the chief reason that anti-Israel sentiments are
transposed into Judeophobia. Jews and others must learn to shed
inhibitions and criticize Israel's policies and actions just
as they would those of any other established state.
It may be easier for Jews to take their distance from Israel's
illegal acts and misguided calculations than it is for non-Jews
– the latter are always vulnerable to moral blackmail
by Zionists, especially in countries with anti-Semitic pasts.
But we shall never be able to think straight about anti-Semitism
until this firewall is in place. Once Germans, French and others
can comfortably condemn Israel without an uneasy conscience,
and can look their Muslim fellow citizens in the face, it will
be possible to deal with the real problem. For indeed there
is a problem. This is an arena in which legitimate responses
shade all too readily into familiar prejudices.
Thus, to take one notorious example: Critics
of the foreign policy of the Bush administration who claim that
it is directed in many cases by men with close ties to Israel
are not mistaken. Contemporary
U.S. foreign policy is in certain respects mortgaged to Israel.
Several very senior Bush appointees spent the 1990s advising
politicians of the Israeli far right. But
that does not mean that "Jewish interests" run the
American government, as some European and many Arab commentators
have inferred and suggested. To say that Israel and its lobbyists
have an excessive and disastrous influence on the policies of
the world's superpower is a statement of fact. But to say that
"the Jews" control America for their own ends is to
Moreover, the slippage between criticism of America and dislike
for Jews long antedates the founding of the state of Israel.
"Anti-Americanism" and anti-Semitism have been closely
interwoven at least since the 1920s, when European intellectuals
looked with nervous distaste across the Atlantic and saw a rootless,
predatory, commercial society, the incarnation of cosmopolitan
modernity, threatening the continuity and distinctiveness of
their own national cultures. Many critics of America, in Germany
or France or Russia, were all too quick to identify the shifting,
unfamiliar contours of an Americanizing world with the essential
traits of a homeless Jewry. The link with Israel is new, but
the image of "Jewish" America is an old story and
a troubling one.
Or, to take an even more sensitive instance: The Shoah is frequently
exploited in America and Israel to deflect and forbid any criticism
of Israel. Indeed, the Holocaust of Europe's Jews is nowadays
exploited thrice over: It gives American
Jews in particular a unique, retrospective "victim identity";
it allows Israel to trump any other nation's sufferings (and
justify its own excesses) with the claim that the Jewish catastrophe
was unique and incomparable; and (in contradiction to the first
two) it is adduced as an all-purpose metaphor for evil –
anywhere, everywhere and always – and taught to schoolchildren
all over America and Europe without any reference to context
This modern instrumentalization of the Holocaust for political
advantage is ethically disreputable and politically imprudent.
To deplore this abuse of other people's sufferings seems to
me an important civic duty. But to conclude that "the Jews"
have made too much of what happened in Europe between 1933 and
1945, or that it is now time to move on – that edges us
much closer to anti-Semitism.
This brings us to a related and equally sensitive issue. Among
European intellectuals and artists – in Germany, for example
– anti-Semitism occasionally surfaces in discussions of
how to speak openly about the unmanaged past. Why, people ask,
after all these years should we not speak of the burning of
Germany's cities, or the sinking of refugee boats, or even the
uncomfortable fact that life in Hitler's Germany – for
Germans – was far from unpleasant, at least until the
last years of World War II? Because of what Germany did to the
Jews? But we've spoken of this for decades – the Federal
Republic is one of the most philo-Semitic nations in the world;
for how much longer must we (Germans) look over our shoulder?
Will the Jews never just forgive us and let everyone move on?
As this last question suggests, what begins as the search for
historical honesty risks ending perilously close to resentment
at "the Jews."
In formerly communist countries one frequently encounters resentment
and perplexity, among well-informed and educated people, at
the West's failure to understand the enormity of the crimes
of communism. "Why won't you compare
Nazism to communism?" they ask. There are a number of answers
that one might offer, but the question is not unreasonable,
especially when posed by communism's victims. And it must be
addressed openly, lest the citizens of eastern Europe tell themselves
what a number of intellectuals in Romania, Hungary and elsewhere
have already openly suggested: that the reason we in the West
reject the comparison is that Nazism persecuted Jews above all,
and it is Jews who set the international agenda for remorse,
retribution and reparation. Once again, anti-Semitism emerges
as the bastard child of otherwise reasonable political preoccupations.
There is no simple answer to the dilemmas raised by such issues.
Somehow we need to juggle the need to speak honestly and openly
about present politics and past sufferings without either imposing
silences or legitimizing the resurrection of prejudices. In
my view it is incumbent upon Jews in particular – Jewish
writers, Jewish intellectuals, Jewish scholars – to address
these contested and disconcerting problems. Because
Jewish critics of Israel are less vulnerable to moral blackmail
from Israel's defenders, they should be in the forefront of
public discussion of the Middle East, in America and Europe
Similarly, Jewish commentators need to take the lead in opening
up difficult and uncomfortable conversations about the past
– and the present – in Europe. Public discussion
in Germany especially, but elsewhere too, is often trapped between
politically correct evasions and resentful "taboo-breaking."
The majority's fear of offending Jewish sensibilities arouses
a growing minority's desire to do just that. We can never "normalize"
the European history of anti-Semitism, nor should we. But if
the charge of "anti-Semitism" remains suspended like
Damocles' sword across the European public space – as
it is today across much of America – we shall all fall
silent. And between controversial debate and fearful
silence we would be well advised to choose the former. Silence
is always a mistake.
Iraqis were reported killed and five injured early yesterday
morning after an American war plane obliterated a family house
in the north of the country. The military said it was a mistake.
The American authorities promised a full investigation after
admitting that a 500lb bomb had been unleashed on entirely the
wrong target, south-east of Mosul.
Television footage had earlier shown a house in the village
of Aitha reduced to rubble, while locals inspected the damage.
Nearby there were rows of freshly dug graves where local people
said the dead were buried. They reported that American military
vehicles had surrounded part of the settlement overnight, shortly
before the strike in the early hours of the morning. An official
US statement said an F-16 jet dropped a satellite-guided bomb
on a house that was meant to be searched: "The intended
target was another location nearby." [...]
Last year, US forces mounted frequent air strikes on houses
in the western Iraqi city of Fallujah ahead of a major ground
offensive, claiming the houses were being used by insurgents.
In May, US marines outraged ordinary Iraqis when they attacked
an isolated villa in western Iraq, claiming it was an insurgent
base and killing 40. Survivors said they were all civilians.
A US military panel has found an army
sergeant innocent of killing an Iraqi
civilian, but guilty of assault for having subordinates
force him off a bridge over the Tigris River.
Army Sergeant 1st Class Tracy Perkins was cleared on Friday
of a charge of involuntary manslaughter, but found guilty on
charges of assault and obstruction of justice. He was also cleared
on a charge of making false statements.
Sentencing of Perkins, 33, a 14-year army veteran, will begin
on Saturday by the same jury panel. He faces a maximum of 11.5
years in prison on his conviction for assault and obstruction
The military panel had deliberated for more than 16 hours
before delivering its verdict late on Friday night.
Perkins was accused of killing Zaidun Hassun, 19, by having
soldiers force him and a cousin off a ledge above the Tigris
river in Samarra, Iraq in January 2004.
The cousin, Marwan Fadil, testified on Wednesday that the
soldiers tossed the two at gunpoint into the water after they
begged for mercy and then laughed as Hassun drowned.
Defence lawyer Captain Joshua Norris said the panel should
not convict Perkins because there was "no body, no evidence,
no death". Soldiers testified both
men made it safely to shore and that the death may have been
The drowning incident almost went untold until a popular online
- - posted a public appeal from Hassun's mother calling for
an investigation into her son's death.
She claimed the two cousins had been hauling toilet spare
parts from Baghdad to Samarra when their truck broke down on
After repairing it, they were stopped at a US checkpoint at
15 minutes before the beginning of the 11pm nightly curfew.
The two Iraqis were allowed to pass but were then followed by
a "mechanised vehicle".
They were stopped, forced out of their truck,
handcuffed and taken to a bridge overlooking the Tharthar Dam
where they were then allegedly forced to jump into the Tigris
Hassun's mother wrote an open letter to US President George
Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair pleading for an investigation
into her son's death.
An investigation was opened by US occupation forces on 8 January.
-- Ft. Stewart Georgia, “Rock of
the Marne” -- This morning Sergeant Kevin Benderman, U.S.
Army awoke to face what will probably be one of the most important
decisions of his life: whether or not to accept or refuse re-deployment
to Iraq to participate in a war that has been increasingly questioned
by the American public, and the world. A war that has been ruled
illegal by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and has
come under increasing fire from both Republicans and Democrats
alike who share the same concerns as Sergeant Benderman and
the U.N. Secretary General.
While conscious of the fact that this single action could
be the opening salvo of a war pitting an increasingly disgruntled
military against the Bush administration over issues such as
“stop-loss,” questionable operations, equipment
failures and casualties in Iraq and the possibility of facing
severe penalties under the Uniform Code of Military Justice
for his actions, Benderman remains firm in his resolve to do
something about it, and to do it now.
“I have both a professional and a moral obligation to
call into question why we are still in Iraq after accomplishing
the mission – in President Bush’s words –
of deposing Saddam, and why U.S. military
personnel are increasingly killing non-combatants. On
my last deployment in Iraq elements
of my unit were instructed by a Captain to fire on children
throwing rocks at us.” This
is not what he signed up for, Benderman said.
Both Benderman, 40, and his wife Monica realize the possible
ramifications of his stand.
“We have no other choice,” Benderman’s wife
said. “This is what we have to do, I have always told
my children that the right thing is the most important thing,
and doing it is the only thing that allows you to keep your
integrity, regardless of the consequences.” Their actions
are only reflecting their core beliefs she said.
Benderman’s feelings on the war run deep, and were primarily
influenced by his experiences during a previous deployment to
Iraq from March through September 2003.
“The people that we are fighting now, are for the most
part people like you and me, people that are defending themselves
against a superior military force and fighting to keep that
which is rightfully theirs” he said. Benderman
also stated that the Iraqi people have the right to choose their
own form of government, “just like we did in America after
He says that he is proud of his service to his country, but
takes no pride in what is happening in Iraq now. In addition,
Benderman states that while he signed a contract with the military
to ‘defend the Constitution of the United States from
all enemies, foreign and domestic,’ he says now that
“I am ashamed to be associated with this mess, and I certainly
did not join the Army to kill women, children and old men.
I just don’t see how these innocent
people could be a threat to the constitution of the United States:
an American soldier should not be ashamed of what they do.”
Benderman has a flawless military record and a list of meritorious
As for his combat experience in Iraq, Benderman says that
he believes that those who have not experienced war are those
who beat the war drums the loudest. “Has the video game
mentality so pervaded our country that this is how we base our
decisions on war? Some of the younger guys were totally out
of touch with reality in that respect, and I had to repeatedly
tell them to keep their heads down because there are no restart
buttons on reality,” he said.
Benderman sincerely believes that the U.S. has lost its way
in Iraq and that the best way to avoid creating more terrorists
in the world at this time is to bring our soldiers home from
Iraq and to let Iraqis sort out without interference the type
of government they prefer. “We did it for ourselves during
the American Revolution and now it is time to let the people
of Iraq do it for themselves,” he said.
Sergeant Benderman is scheduled to undergo
a psychiatric evaluation at Ft. Stewart Georgia this afternoon
after submitting a request for Conscientious Objector Status
from the Army.
U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer Lt. Colonel Kent declined
comment for this article citing privacy, and adding that “typically,
these are administrative actions we cannot comment on.”
TEHRAN (MNA) -- Iranian Navy commander
Rear Admiral Abbas Mohtaj on Thursday dismissed a report that
Israeli submarines had entered the Persian Gulf to attack the
Bushehr nuclear power plant, asserting that Iran would deliver
a strong response to any hostile action in the Persian Gulf.
"Anyone who wishes to do an evil act in the Persian Gulf
will receive a resolute and forceful response from us,"
the rear admiral told the Mehr News Agency.
Mohtaj said reports that Israeli Dolphin
submarines have entered the Persian Gulf to target the Bushehr
power plant with harpoon missiles are part of the psychological
warfare program being waged against Iran by the Zionist media.
"Such a plan may have been tentatively proposed, but
it would not be practicable in the operational stage. Today,
the Naval Forces have full control over all surface ships and
submarines which enter the Persian Gulf waters."
On the recent decision by the National Geographic Society
to use an unacceptable name for the "Persian Gulf",
he stated that the idea of changing the name of the Persian
Gulf is also part of the psychological warfare program orchestrated
by the U.S. that is meant to sow discord among Persian Gulf
littoral states because there would be no room for the U.S.
to rampage through the Persian Gulf if regional countries united.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia - More than 100 police
and security agents backed by five armored personnel carriers
surrounded a house Saturday in the restive southern Russian
region of Ingushetia and killed five alleged militants in a
shootout, the Interior Ministry said.
The suspects had resisted capture, opening fire with automatic
weapons and throwing grenades, said Yuri Smolyaninov, a spokesman
for the regional branch of the Federal Security Service, the
main successor to the Soviet KGB. He said the special operation
to eliminate the militants was completed by Saturday afternoon.
The alleged militants were suspected in the June attacks on
Ingush police installations, in which about 90 people were killed,
said a duty officer in the Russian Interior Ministry's southern
regional branch in Rostov-on-Don. No casualties were reported
among law enforcement officers or civilians, the duty officer
said on condition of anonymity.
State-controlled television showed the smoking ruins of a
brick building, the wooden planks of its roof in splinters.
A body could be seen in the wreckage. [...]
PARIS - French Foreign Minister Michel
Barnier called for a "new relationship" with the United
States but warned that a better alliance did not mean allegiance.
Barnier, in an interview published in the International Herald
Tribune, said he hoped to visit the United States "every
three to four months" to meet with administration officials,
members of Congress and others.
"We need more political dialogue - we need to talk more,"
US officials accuse France of blocking their bid to obtain
full UN backing for the US-led occupation of Iraq, a campaign
which Paris opposed.
Barnier said it was a "mistake, an error
of analysis" for the Bush administration to try to divide
the Continent into an "Old Europe," principally France
and Germany, and a new, more pro-American Europe including countries
Stressing that the European bloc would continue to grow "whether
it is pleasing or not," Barnier said Washington should
recognise that "the countries joining the European Union
will progressively and inevitably have a European reflex."
"Americans must understand that it is in their interest
that Europe get organized and have an autonomy," he said.
"It's the price to pay for an effective alliance. The alliance
between Europeans and Americans must be balanced."
Asked if an alliance with the US meant allegiance
at moments of crisis like the Iraq war, he replied that "it
is never allegiance".
"An alliance is a partnership based on
Barnier said France would support the January 30 elections
in Iraq, which he said needed to be "as credible as possible"
and sensitive to the Sunni minority.
He also urged US President George W. Bush to fulfil his "historic
responsibility" in the post-Arafat Middle East, to bring
Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, ensure a
successful Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and bring
about talks based on the road map toward peace.
AUSTIN, Texas - An audit of the state's
spending of nearly $600 million in federal anti-terrorism funds
found that some of the money was spent improperly, including
to buy a trailer that was used to haul lawn mowers to "lawn
mower drag races."
The state auditor's office pointed out several cases in which
poor monitoring by the Texas Engineering Extension Service may
have allowed abuse.
One county bought 18 radios and other
communication equipment from a company owned by one of its county
commissioners, according to the report released Thursday.
Another jurisdiction used a trailer ostensibly
bought as emergency equipment to haul lawn mowers to races,
the report says.
State auditors have forwarded the case to their special investigation
unit, which handles fraud, abuse and other criminal allegations.
The audit's findings mirror some of the weaknesses identified
in a September report by The Dallas Morning News. The
newspaper found that some cities used anti-terrorism funds to
buy equipment for traffic stops, drug investigations and even
The extension service said it agreed with many of the auditor's
recommendations but that overall it had done an excellent job
overseeing grants. It has begun requiring
some grant recipients to report how they use equipment.
BERLIN (AP) - Some 5,000 residents of a
Berlin suburb were evacuated from their homes Saturday while
explosives experts defused a 250-kilogram U.S. bomb believe
dropped during the last months of the Second World War, police
Much of downtown Potsdam was sealed off and hundreds of stores
and businesses were closed to allow for the removal of the bomb,
which was found during excavation work on the grounds of a hospital.
Nearly 500 of the hospital's patients were taken to a gymnasium
for about six hours while disposal experts defused the bomb,
police said. Other residents waited in schools and other gymnasiums.
Potsdam is the capital of Brandenburg state, which surrounds
Based on historical records, city officials believe the bomb
was dropped in April 1945, about a month before the war's end.
Nearly 60 years after the end of the Second World War, unexploded
bombs dropped during Allied air raids across Germany are still
discovered and disposed of.
ROME (AFP) - Italy's 14 million smokers
prepared for a new way of life with new legislation banning
smoking in all public places such as bars, restaurants, discotheques
Plainclothes police will patrol the country's 240,000 eating
and drinking places on the lookout for miscreants, press reports
Customers face fines of 275 euros (360
dollars) and offending landlords up to 2,200 euros.
But opposition remained to the last in this land of dedicated
subversives, extending even up to cabinet level.
Parliament is setting an example with a rigorous ban on its
premises despite protest from unreconstructed smokers in government
and on the benches.
Defence Minister Antonio Martino fumed in an interview with
the newspaper Corriere della Sera: "I've been smoking since
age 18. It's my sacred right."
"These restrictions are overdone," he expostulated
CHICAGO — Shots were fired inside
a nightclub early today, apparently by patrons angry that they
were denied entry to another part of the building, killing a
bouncer and another man and wounding at least five others, police
The gunfire took place at about 3 a.m. at Cafe Allure on the
city's North Side when four people who had left a private party
on the second floor returned and demanded to enter the main
room on the first floor, said police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak.
"The main room was closed and the employees were cleaning
and said 'You can't come in,"' said Kubiak. "The individuals
began firing into the club."
No one was in custody today. Kubiak said she did not know
how many shooters were involved or how many shots were fired.
Tamikia Charles said she was in the back of the club —
which features lounge, jazz, house and hip-hop music —
when she heard gunfire.
"People were screaming and when we looked out, people
were laid out on the floor, bleeding," said Charles, 28,
of Maywood. "We were just real scared and we were just
glad to be out of there alive."
Charles' friend, Makeda Roby, said the crowd pushed her and
others into a men's restroom where they waited for police.
She said she heard another round of gunfire that sounded as
if it came from a different weapon. "It just seemed like
the gunshots were never going to stop," said Roby, 28,
of Oak Park. [...]
HIALEAH, Fla. - Two gunmen crashed a
girl's 15th birthday party early Sunday morning, shooting two
teenagers to death and injuring another in a back yard crowded
with revelers, police said. One suspect was in custody.
The men apparently had a previous dispute with some of the
partygoers, Hialeah police spokesman Jose Caragol said. When
the two showed up at the party, some of the revelers threw beer
bottles at them to force them to leave.
One man opened fire, but when his gun jammed the other gunman
started shooting, Caragol said. [...]
MERIDIAN, Miss. - Two people were arrested
Sunday in a fatal shooting at a hospital that may have been
related to an earlier murder-suicide attempt, police said.
One of the suspects was arrested at Rush Foundation Hospital
and the other turned himself in to police, Meridian Police Chief
Benny Dubose said. Both were expected to be charged Monday.
The man fatally shot at the hospital was the son of a man who
Dubose said shot himself and a woman at a Meridian home Sunday
morning in an apparent murder-suicide attempt. Dubose said one
of the suspects is the woman's son.
The man and woman found at the home did not suffer life-threatening
Moscow - A Russian plane diverted to Iceland
on Saturday after a drunken man tried to start a fight with
the crew and his fellow passengers, an Aeroflot spokesperson
Police removed the man from the Toronto-Moscow flight, Irina
Danenberg told Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio.
"A Canadian of Russian extraction in a state of alcoholic
intoxication provoked a fight, swore wildly and shouted at the
crew and passengers. As a result the captain decided to make
a forced landing in Iceland," she said.
Ekho Moskvy quoted a passenger as saying the man punched the
HONOLULU - A nuclear submarine ran aground
about 350 miles south of Guam, injuring around 20 sailors, one
of them critically, the Navy said.
There were no reports of damage to
the USS San Francisco's reactor plant, which was operating normally,
the Navy said.
The 360-foot submarine was headed back to its home port in
Guam, and the Friday afternoon incident was under investigation,
said Jon Yoshishige, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet based
at Pearl Harbor.
He said there was no information yet on what the submarine
Details on the sailors' injuries were not immediately available,
but Yoshishige said an initial assessment put the number injured
at around 20. The sub has a crew of 137, officials said.
Navy and Coast Guard aircraft from Guam were en route to monitor
the submarine and assist if needed, the Navy said.
Guam is a U.S. territory about 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.
Scientist sleuths say noises
were caused by 'micro-earthquakes'
It now appears that it wasn't boys with "bottle bombs"
that caused the big booms that mystified North Richmond during
the past two months.
More likely, it was their mother.
Mother Earth, that is.
A series of "micro-earthquakes" probably produced
the booms, said Martin C. Chapman, a seismologist and professor
of geophysics at Virginia Tech.
"There are hundreds of them happening all the time in
Virginia," Chapman told 60 North Side residents during
a public hearing last night at Linwood Holton Elementary School.
"The ground is always moving."
Now the city is buying is own earthquake-detecting equipment
to avoid another long-troubling mystery. That equipment should
be up and running in 90 days, said Ben Johnson, Richmond's emergency
Virginia Tech was called in last month to help unravel the
mystery that began in earnest on election night and continued,
off and on, through Christmas.
Compounding and - as it now appears - confusing the BOOM mystery
were the arrests over the Thanksgiving holiday of two teenage
boys who admitted to making a couple of small booming devices
in late September and early October by mixing household chemicals
in 20-ounce plastic bottles. That fueled speculation that the
continuing booms were the work of young pranksters who became
known as the "Bellevue Bombers."
Three seismographs installed in North Side last month by Virginia
Tech's earthmoving experts detected a minus-1 magnitude tremor
during the boom heard on Christmas Day. (Previous booms, many
of them more pronounced, couldn't be measured because the nearest
detecting equipment was in Fredericksburg and Charlottesville.)
That evidence, along with anecdotal information gathered from
residents and some key comparative data from a 1986 quake in
the same area, led Virginia Tech's sleuths to blame tiny shifts
in the earth's crust less than a mile beneath the surface. While
not conclusive, Chapman said, the quake theory is the most logical
During the past couple of months, Chapman told the crowd, it
appears there has been a "series of these events happening
Why does that cause a boom? asked one resident.
Seismic waves created from rock sliding past rock radiate from
the point of friction and convert to sound waves as they reach
the earth's surface, Chapman said.
It typically makes a booming sound and sensation, he added,
very similar to a truck rumbling by just outside your house.
That description caused roughly half of those present to nod
in complete understanding.
Chapman explained that these micro-quakes tend to "flare
up and die off," although they can sometimes precede a
Usually, though, they're "just a nuisance," he said,
which produced a ripple of sardonic laughter in the crowd.
Virginia Tech research assistant Jake Beale showed a mapping
of a 1986 quake in North Side, which he said is almost identical
to recent activity.
North Side resident Bill Britton recalled that'86 quake. "I
was in bed . . . BOOM! My first thought was the furnace had
exploded. Second thought, the Yankees were back."
He said the biggest of the recent booms reminded him of that
Some residents clearly weren't ready to give up on the serial
But Capt. William "Mike" Martin with the Richmond
Fire Department said the nature of the mystery booms and the
type of bangs from bottle bombs didn't seem to match from the
start of the investigation.
But once the two boys were arrested, the prankster
theory "unfortunately took on a life of its own,"
"The slant in the media all along is the
kids did [the booms]," complained one resident.
In that regard, Martin said, the boys "probably caught
a bum rap. . . . The timing was horrible."
The two boys were convicted Thursday. They made and detonated
bottle bombs well before the booms became an issue.
The boys and their parents cooperated fully from the start,
"I have to praise the families involved and the juveniles
involved," Martin said. "They stepped up to the plate."
Nearby resident Hampton Carver drew applause when he said the
community now has to realize that the two boys had nothing to
do with the booms. "We've got to be fair to these kids,"
HONG KONG : A strong earthquake
was recorded off Indonesia Monday close to the site of a massive
quake two weeks ago that unleashed tsunamis that killed thousands
of people across Asia, the Hong Kong Observatory said.
The earthquake was recorded off Sumatra at 6:18 am (2218 GMT
Sunday) and estimated to measure 6.2 on the Richter scale, the
observatory said in a statement.
Its epicentre was initially determined to be at sea about
60 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of Banda Aceh, the capital
of Aceh province, it said.
Aceh has been rattled by a series of aftershocks since a 9.0-strong
earthquake off Sumatra on December 26 produced tsunamis that
killed more than 150,000 people around the Indian Ocean.
About 104,000 people were killed in north Sumatra which took
the full force of the quake and tsunamis. - AFP
Moderate volcanic earthquakes
rocked Taal Volcano on Sunday, causing some residents to flee
the area for fear of a possible tsunami, ABS-CBN News learned
A Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology report
said the first earthquake occurred at 7:45 p.m. and registered
intensity 3 on the Richter scale. An intensity 2 quake was also
recorded a minute later.
Phivolcs official Allan Luz advised the public to remain calm,
adding that volcanic quakes do not usually result in tsunamis.
The quakes drove some 300 families to flee to the Pulo public
market and Balas High
School in Talisay town.
Alert status of Taal Volcano has been raised to Level 1 due
to increased level of earthquake activity. Phivolcs added that
there has been no intensification of seismic activity that may
indicate an imminent eruption.
Phivolcs advised the public that the entire volcano island
is a permanent danger zone and permanent settlement in the area
is strictly prohibited.
| Business idea blogger, Dan Sherman,
used his blog to predict a major seismic event 4 months before
the southeast Asian tsunami. Reading his words now, in light of
what has happened, is eerie.
On September 2, 2004, business blogger Dan Sherman posted the
following on his blog, "I just hope
the intensity of the [seismic event doesn't directly correlate
with the intensity of the physical manifestation I've been experiencing.
If it does, it will be absolutely devastating. Let's hope I'm
As we know now, he wasn't wrong.
But how does Sherman explain his ability to predict seismic
"It's a sensation I feel in my ears. While the sensation
is happening, my hearing in that particular ear is affected
until it subsides. The stronger or louder the sensation, the
stronger the seismic activity seems to be once it occurs."
Sherman first associated this physical reaction to seismic
activity when he was in high school in the late 1970s while
living in the central valley of California.
"I started to notice that an earthquake would be reported
in the news shortly after I had experienced this hearing sensation,"
Sherman says. "So I began to write down dates when I would
feel this sensation and then log when earthquakes would be reported
in the news. Because I was relying on my local paper and television
news for the reporting of any seismic event, they would have
to be large enough to make it to the news. About
70% of the time there would be an earthquake of 6.5 or larger
somewhere in the world within 5 days of hearing sensation occurring.
They are typically always 6.5 and above. Although, if one is
close to me geographically, they can be in the 5's."
After all these years of experiencing this physical manifestation,
why did Sherman risk his reputation as a respectable business
blogger to go off-topic and go so far as to predict a major
seismic event in the near future?
Sherman says, "I had to get it in the public domain because
I knew with 100% certainty that there was going be a major event.
In the 24 years that I've been experiencing this physical sensation,
I had never experienced the intensity as I had in the last few
days of August of 2004. First major indicator was that it lasted
for almost 2 days. Previously, it's only lasted for no more
than 10 minutes. So of course, that was odd. But the biggest
tip was the absolute intensity of the sensation. Typically,
it will feel like there is a electrical transformer near my
ear and it'll just tingle and feel weird. This time, it overpowered
my hearing in one of my ears to where I was completely deaf
in that ear for more than 2 days. I was just about to go to
the doctor when it subsided. I just knew this was going to be
a big one. So I posted it on my blog on September 2nd."
The blog entry he's talking about is titled, "I'm
Predicting an Earthquake - Literally!" In it, he writes
this ominous statement, "I just hope the intensity of the
[seismic event doesn't directly correlate with the intensity
of the physical manifestation I've been experiencing. If it
does, it will be absolutely devastating. Let's hope I'm wrong."
Two days after that ominous post, there were two back-to-back
earthquakes in Japan. They occurred 5 hours apart and were 6.8
and 7.3 in magnitude, respectively.
Sherman reported this in his blog.
However, because the sensation he experienced wasn't like his
normal sensations prior to seismic activity, he wrote this in
that follow-up blog post, "But, for some reason, because
of the intensity of the 'thing' that happens to me before earthquakes,
I don't think those two earthquakes are going to be the end
of it. I believe we have some more coming up in the next 24
hours or so. But because seismic activity is so dependent on
many things, it could be that what I experienced is the set
up for something really major in the near future. Who knows...
it's such an inexact science. But don't be surprised if we get
another big jolt somewhere before it quiets down."
It's already well known that animals are able to sense seismic
activity. Indeed, there are reports of animals in a game reserve
on Sri Lanka were all spared because they sought higher ground
prior to the tsunami's arrival. Perhaps Sherman's ability is
related in some way. The science community should test Sherman's
abilities and try to understand what it is he experiences.
Dan Sherman writes about his unorthodox and off the wall business
ideas on DanSherman.com.
evolves and the chips get smaller and more efficient, someone's
going to build a flying apparatus that will be WiMax enabled
with a really small video camera mounted on it. Something like
only on a much smaller scale.
What good is that? Imagine this...
Having a very small flying device, equipped with a small survellience
type of camera and a WiMax chip. The WiMax ability will allow
it to transmit a live video feed, wirelessly to the base unit
that could be 20 or 30 miles away. Using the camera, you could
effectively control the little device like you were actually
sitting in it while flying.
With this little flying "eyes in the sky" you could rent your
services to spy on suspected cheating spouses... etc. You're
hired by a suspecting spouse. You get details from that spouse
as to when the cheating spouse usually leaves. You fly your
little spy device to their house and you land on a roof adjacent
to the target house and you sit there and wait for the target
car to leave the driveway. You then follow the car with your
spying device, hovering 100 feet or whatever over the car, following
it to wherever they go. Meanwhile, the video feed can be fed
through your website live to the spouse that hired you. She
(he) could watch in real time where their spouse goes. If the
spouse stops, you land somewhere where you can maintain visual
on the car or perhaps even be able to see through open windows...
This same thing can be hired out by parents who are suspicious
of where their teens are going.
There are going to be sooooo many uses that we've not even thought
of yet, for the WiMax technology. It has so much potential.
The bandwidth, coupled with the non line of sight range, just
opens it up to so many uses.
| A Taichung County resident who
has experienced tinnitus before earthquakes, including Friday's
magnitude 7 temblor, should be studied by the Central Weather
Bureau and medical practitioners, an ear-nose-throat specialist
Lee Cheng-chi said on Saturday that he has
experienced tinnitus in his right ear before strong earthquakes
since the September 21, 1999 quake caused serious damage in
his hometown and throughout central Taiwan.
The tinnitus - a ringing in the ears not caused
by an external noise source - surfaces before any quake of a
magnitude of 4 or higher on the Richter scale and then stops
as soon as the earthquake ends, Lee was quoted as saying by
Apple Daily in a report published yesterday.
The Taichung County resident had a ringing sound in his right
ear on Friday morning, just four hours before the strongest
earthquake since the 9-21 disaster rocked Taiwan, and he sent
an e-mail to the Central Weather Bureau to warn earthquake specialists
"I can feel that an earthquake is coming, but I can't
predict its scale and epicenter. I only pass the information
to an acquaintance at the weather bureau because I don't want
to be viewed as a man with supernatural powers," Lee was
quoted as saying in the report.
Tien Huei-shun, an ENT doctor at Taichung's
Veterans General Hospital, suggested that Lee's case was similar
to the bizarre case of American Charlotte King, and was worth
King, an Oregonian, is able to "hear"
the earth and discovered that she would get an earache and even
severe migraines when earthquakes of 7 or higher on the Richter
Scale were about to hit. Her service as a human earthquake warning
system helped coin the term "The Charlotte King Effect."
She has been studied for 14 years by scientific and earthquake
research institutes in the U.S., which tried to produce models
imitating her sensitivity to signals indicating earthquakes
were imminent. Scientists found that she was particularly sensitive
to electromagnetic fields and the radiation they gave off prior
to large quakes.
Some scientists continue to hope that by studying King's signals,
they could obtain real-time warnings of large earthquakes and
volcanic eruptions. Her Web site includes a story describing
her many accurate predictions.
Tien believes that Lee may have the same predictive powers
and suggested it would be worthwhile for local weather forecasters
and researchers at hospitals to study Lee as American scientists
Lee said he sometimes receives responses to his e-mails from
Central Weather Bureau officials who told him his warning would
be taken into account.
But Kuo Kai-wen, director of the CWB's earthquake prediction
center, explained that they could not attach importance to Lee's
warnings because "an earthquake prediction must include
time, scale, epicenter and intensity."
Lee' warnings have been limited to simple predictions that
an earthquake was coming, Kuo said, which from a strictly scientific
point of view could only be described as "coincidences."
National Central University professor Ma Guo-feng nevertheless
encouraged Lee to further explore his predictive powers.
"A study on such an ability by compiling statistics on
the predictions from now on could add value to the study of
when earthquakes might occur," Ma was quoted as saying
in the report.
VICTORIA -- Aboriginals who
live in the villages that dot the rugged, fjord-like west coast
of Vancouver Island believe one day they'll face an earthquake
and tidal wave similar in destructive force to the quake and
tsunami that hit southeast Asia on Boxing Day. It happened before
on Vancouver Island more than 300 years ago and it will happen
again, say aboriginals and scientists.
"It's in our oral history," says Chief Robert Dennis
about the violent earthquake and massive tsunami that struck
the west coast of Vancouver Island.
"There was an earthquake and they felt the ground shake
and then shortly after the tidal wave came and it washed up
all the sand onto the houses," he said. "All the dwellings
were destroyed and people by the thousands drowned. They didn't
even have time to get into their canoes."
The island quake and tsunami are more than a legend to scientists,
says Garry Rogers, a seismologist with Victoria's Pacific Geoscience
Centre, a federal research facility that studies the earth's
He can actually pinpoint the date and time of day when the
west coast of Vancouver Island was hit by an earthquake and
"Three hundred years ago, Jan. 26, the year 1700, there
was a massive tsunami caused by a magnitude nine earthquake,
the same size that was in Sumatra," said Rogers. "The
difference is it occurred at night time rather than the daytime.
"The reason we can put it to the date is because the tsunami
went across the Pacific and it impacted Japan," he said.
"At that time, Japan had a good timing system and a good
recording system. It damaged the rice store houses in several
ports along the east coast of Japan."
Island aboriginals who live in the Cowichan Valley, about 60
kilometres north of Victoria, tell stories of the ground shaking
in the night, causing landslides and massive damage, Rogers
West Coast aboriginals who lived on a hillside overlooking
the ocean tell a story of continuous shaking and survival, but
their neighbours who lived on the water at what is now called
Pacheena Bay were wiped out, he said.
"The whole village was gone," Rogers said. "The
buildings were gone. The canoes were gone. The people were gone,
taken away by the tsunami like we're seeing in Sumatra."
Dennis, elected chief of the Hu-ay-aht First Nation of Bamfield,
a fishing and tourism village located about 300 kilometres northwest
of Victoria, said he knows of at least 10 different aboriginal
accounts passed down over time that tell of the destruction
wrought by the island earthquake and tsunami.
The quake and tsunami of 300 years ago have become ingrained
in the culture of the West Coast aboriginals and what happened
in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India on Boxing Day is a stark reminder
of what is lurking in the Pacific Ocean, he said.
| BERLIN - Germany aims to seek
a leading role in efforts to improve the globe's international
earthquake early warning system, with the geophysical research
centre GFZ in Potsdam being commissioned to carry out the work.
The Foreign Ministry indirectly confirmed reports that Germany
wants to lead the way in international efforts.
It was noted that in December, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
had proposed to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
that Germany host the third international conference on prevention
of natural catastrophes. The meeting would be held in the second
half of 2005, ministry undersecretary Klaus Scharioth
"The work of the institute (GFZ) in Potsdam will play
a very large role in this," Scharioth said after a meeting
of the German emergency group reviewing the situation in Asia.
He said the GFZ had been working many years
in the area of earthquake early warning research and was "very
much ahead" of other such research bodies.
"I can imagine that ahead of the conference everything
will combine so that they will give Potsdam a very active role,"
According to a report in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
Science and Technology Research Minister Edelgard Bulman has
asked the Potsdam-based GFZ to develop plans for an early warning
"We can have a functioning early warning system in place
in one to three years' time with our concept," Bulman told
The paper said the GFZ work is initially to focus on an early
warning system for the Indian Ocean, where the devastating quake
of occurred on 26 December, with early warning systems then
to be set up for the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
"The Greek and Turkish coasts are also highly-endangered
earthquake regions," Bulman told the paper.
The GFZ operates its own seismological research unit and has
50 monitoring stations around the world. It also cooperates
closely with such centres in other countries.
The GFZ currently has only a few stations in the Indian Ocean.
Under the German plans, the GFZ would establish 30 to 40 new
monitoring stations in the region as part of an effort with
other donor countries to set up around 250 stations.
Scharioth, in his daily briefing about the relief work in Asia
and the search for German victims, said that by latest count
the number of Germans reported missing had decreased by eight
to 716. But he said that the final official figure was expected
to be higher.
Unofficial calculations by relief experts put the number of
missing Germans at more than 1,000.
DOWNEY -- Three men, one wearing a black,
hooded cloak. A black kitten in a bag with its legs tied together
and a puncture wound in its hip. A knife, candles, a wax skull,
daggers, four roosters in boxes.
Painted in red on a nearby animal skin were the words "Beelzebub
That's the scene police came upon in a cemetery early New
Now, authorities are trying to find a home for the kitten
they call Nuevo and three men are facing time behind bars. [...]
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A cigar maker
in Puerto Rico has hand-rolled a 62-foot-long stogie, which
would be the world's largest if confirmed by the Guinness Book
of World Records.
Patricio Pena, 43, took about four days to manufacture the
cigar in a plaza outside a farmer's market in the Santurce district
of San Juan, finishing the project late Saturday.
"A friend of mine came up to me recently, and said why
don't you try and make the world's largest cigar?" Pena
said standing over the cigar, which spanned the length of about
a dozen tables.
Pena is attempting to displace Cuba — the king of cigar-making
— as the home of the world's largest cigar. The current
Guinness record-holder is Jose Castelar Cairo of Havana who
made a 45-foot-long cigar in August of 2003.
Pena, originally from Santiago, Dominican Republic, first started
rolling cigars at the age of 7, and has continued the practice
in Puerto Rico, where he has lived for the past three decades.
He has a stand outside the market where he rolls regular-sized
It took 20 pounds of tobacco from Puerto Rico and Pennsylvania
and 100 leaves to roll the huge cigar, Pena said. The materials
cost about US$2,000 but he was sponsored by San Juan's city
government, Bacardi rum company and Telemundo television station,
he said. [...]
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