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Quantum Future Group Goes to Rennes-le-Chateau
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of the Day
© 2005 Pierre-Paul
Four members of the CBS television
network were fired yesterday after an independent investigation
into the station's story about George Bush's military service
found "myopic zeal" led them
to rely on documents later shown to be false. Dan Rather,
who narrated the broadcast, has already announced he is stepping
down as anchor of the network's evening news.
The network fired Mary Mapes, producer of the 60 Minutes report.
Also fired were Josh Howard, an executive producer, and his
senior deputy along with a senior vice-president. A senior CBS
executive, Leslie Moonves, said that because Mr Rather had apologised
profusely and already announced his retirement, further action
against him was not warranted.
The investigation was launched after CBS was forced to admit
that a story it broadcast last September claiming President
Bush had received special treatment when he was serving with
the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War could no
longer be relied upon.
In the 12 days between the initial broadcast of the programme
and CBS's statement, a flood of commentators questioned the
authenticity of the documents on which the claims were based.
CBS claimed one document was from one of Mr Bush's commanders
in the Guard, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, who
had ordered Mr Bush to take a medical exam which he did not
take. It also claimed that Mr Killian felt pressured to "sugarcoat"
an evaluation of the young lieutenant. Many pointed out that
the documents appeared to have been prepared on a computer not
available at the time they were supposed to have been written.
Mr Killian's widow, Marjorie Connell, told reporters she believed
the records were "a farce" and her husband did not
"keep files". She added: "I don't think there
were any documents." It later emerged Ms Mapes had obtained
the documents from another retired National Guard officer, Lieutenant
Colonel Bill Burkett. CBS said it had been misled by Mr Burkett,
a longtime critic of Mr Bush, about the documents' origins.
Yesterday's independent report said that while it could not
prove conclusively the documents were forged, it said CBS News
failed to authenticate them and falsely claimed an expert had
"These problems were caused primarily by a myopic zeal
to be the first news organisation to broadcast what was believed
to be a new story," said the report by a panel led by the
former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi,
retired head of the Associated Press.
The broadcast and subsequent retraction only
further solidified Mr Rather's reputation among right-wing critics
as an unreliable liberal out to attack the Bush administration.
It also distracted from valid scrutiny
of Mr Bush's record with the Guard at a time when the
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was being attacked
over his record in Vietnam by the largely discredited and Republican-funded
group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. To date, the White House
has failed to produce evidence that Mr Bush attended National
Guard duties for much of the time that he was working in a political
campaign in Oklahoma between 1972-73.
The week after CBS broadcast the story, Yoshi Tsurumi, a Harvard
business school professor who taught Mr Bush in the 1970s, told
CNN that the future president had once told him that family
friends had pulled strings to get him into the Guard.
He said: "He admitted to me that to avoid the Vietnam
draft, he had his dad - he said 'dad's friends' - skip him through
the long waiting list to get him into the Texas National Guard,"
he said. "He thought that was a smart thing to do."
I am bewildered by the world
reaction to the tsunami tragedy. Why are newspapers, television
and politicians making such a fuss? Why has the British public
forked out more than £100m to help the survivors, and
why is Tony Blair now promising "hundreds of millions of
pounds"? Why has Australia pledged £435m and Germany
£360m? And why has Mr Bush pledged £187m?
Of course it's wonderful to see the human race rallying to
the aid of disaster victims, but it's the inconsistency that
has me foxed. Nobody is making this sort of fuss about all the
people killed in Iraq, and yet it's a human catastrophe of comparable
According to the only scientific estimate attempted, Iraqi
deaths since the war began number more than 100,000. The tsunami
death toll is in the region of 150,000. Yet in the case of Iraq,
the media seems reluctant to impress on the public the scale
of the carnage.
I haven't seen many TV reporters standing in the ruins of Falluja,
breathlessly describing how, in 30 years of reporting, they've
never seen a human tragedy on this scale. The Pope hasn't appealed
for everyone to remember the Iraqi dead in their prayers, and
MTV hasn't gone silent in their memory.
Nor are Blair and Bush falling over each other to show they
recognise the scale of the disaster in Iraq. On the contrary,
they have been doing their best to conceal the numbers killed.
When the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated
the figure of 100,000 killed in Iraq and published their findings
in one of the world's leading scientific journals, the Lancet,
Downing Street questioned their methodology, saying "the
researchers used an extrapolation technique, which they considered
inappropriate, rather than a detailed body count". Of course
"a detailed body count" is the one thing the US military
will not allow anyone to do.
What is so odd is the way in which so much of the media has
fallen into line, downplaying the only authoritative estimate
of casualties in Iraq with the same unanimity with which they
have impressed upon us the death toll of the tsunami.
One of the authors of the forenamed report, Dr Gilbert Burnham,
said: "Our data have been back and forth between many reviewers
at the Lancet and here in the school, so we have the scientific
strength to say what we have said with great certainty."
So, are deaths caused by bombs and gunfire less worthy of our
pity than deaths caused by a giant wave? Or are Iraqi lives
less worth counting than Indonesian, Thai, Indian and Swedish?
Why aren't our TV companies and newspapers running fundraisers
to help Iraqis whose lives have been wrecked by the invasion?
Why aren't they screaming with outrage at the man-made tsunami
that we have created in the Middle East? It truly is baffling.
On November 8, the American
army launched its biggest ever assault on the Iraqi city of
Falluja, considered a stronghold for rebel fighters. The US
said the raid had been a huge success, killing 1,200 insurgents.
Most of the city's 300,000 residents, meanwhile, had fled for
their lives. What really happened in the siege of Falluja? In
a joint investigation for the Guardian and Channel 4 News, Iraqi
doctor Ali Fadhil compiled the first independent reports from
the devastated city, where he found scores of unburied corpses,
rabid dogs - and a dangerously embittered population
an extract from the documentary
December 22 2004
It all started at my house in Baghdad. I packed my equipment,
the camera and the tripod. Tariq, my friend, told me not to
take it with us. "The fighters might search the car and
think that we are spies." Tariq was frightened about our
trip, even though he is from Falluja and we had permission from
one group of fighters to enter under their protection. But Tariq,
more than anyone, understands that the fighters are no longer
just one group. He is quite a character, Tariq: 32 and an engineer
with a masters degree in embryo implantation, he works now at
a human rights institute called the Democratic Studies Institute
for Human Rights and Democracy in Baghdad. He is also deeply
into animal rights.
Foolishly, I took a pill to try to keep down the flu, which
made me sleepy. It was 9am when we crossed the main southern
gate out of Baghdad, taking care to stay well clear of American
convoys. The southern gate is the scene of daily attacks on
the Americans by the insurgents - either a car-bomb or an ambush
with rocket-propelled grenades.
It took just 20 minutes from Baghdad to reach the area known
as the "triangle of death", where the kidnapped British
contractor Kenneth Bigley was held and finally beheaded in the
town of Latifya. It is supposed to be a US military-controlled
zone, but insurgents set up checkpoints here. As the road became
more rural and more isolated, I got nervous that at any moment
we would be stopped by carjackers and robbed of our expensive
equipment. At a checkpoint a hooded face came to the window;
he was carrying an old AK47 on his shoulder and looking for
a donation towards the jihad. There were six fighters in total,
all hooded. The driver and Tariq both made a donation; I was
frightened he would search the car and find the camera, so I
gave him my Iraqi doctor's ID card, hoping that would work.
He apologised and asked that we excuse him.
Now, there was nothing ahead but the sky and the desert. It
was 1.30pm and a bad time to use this road; we had been told
that carjackers were particularly active at this time of day.
Tariq pointed out four young men dressed in red, their two motorbikes
parked by the side of the road. They were planting a small,
improvised explosive device made out of a tin of cooking oil
for the next American convoy to leave the base outside Falluja.
It was 3.30pm before we got to Habbanya, a tourist resort on
a lake supplied with fresh water by the Euphrates, which was
once controlled by Uday, Saddam's oldest son. It was here that
Fallujans, who used to be wealthy as they supplied a lot of
the top military for Saddam's army, came for holidays.
Now the place was freezing, and full of refugees. All the holiday
houses were crammed with people, sometimes two families to a
room. The first family we came across had been there since a
month before the attack started. A man called Abu Rabe'e came
up. He was 59 and used to be a builder; he said he had a message
for our camera. "We're not looking for this sort of democracy,
this attacking of the city and the people with planes and tanks
and Humvees." He had also fled Falluja with his family.
They were all living in a former mechanic's garage in Habbanya.
Most of the people we spoke to in Habbanya were poor and uneducated,
and had fled Falluja in anticipation of the US attack. Some
were in tents; others were sharing the old honeymoon suites
where newlyweds used to come when this was a holiday resort.
They squabbled among themselves to persuade me to film the conditions
they were living in. There was still a fairground in Habbanya,
but nothing was working. In the middle of the bumper cars an
old lady had pitched a tent with bricks, where she was living
with her son. I tried to talk to her but she told me to go away.
There was no cooking gas in Habbanya, so the Fallujan refugees
were cutting down trees to keep warm and cook food.
Then someone came up and said the resistance fighters had heard
we were asking questions. We decided to put the camera away
and go to a friendly village that our driver knew. It was also
filled with refugees from Falluja.
One 50-year-old man, a major in the Iraqi Republican Guards
under the former regime, took us in. There were four families
squeezed into one apartment, all of them once wealthy. The major,
like the others, was sacked after the liberation when the US
disbanded the army and police. Now jobless, his house in Falluja
was wrecked and he was a refugee with his five children and
wife near the town where he used to spend his holidays. He was
angry with the Americans, but also with the Iraqi rebels, whom
he blamed, alongside the clerics in the mosques, for causing
Falluja to be wrecked.
"The mujahideen and the clerics are responsible for the
destruction that happened to our city; no one will forgive them
for that," he said with bitterness.
"Why are you blaming them - why don't you blame the Americans
and Allawi?" said Omar, the owner of the apartment.
"We told the mujahideen to leave it to us ordinary Fallujans,
but those bloody bastards, the sheikhs and the clerics, are
busy painting some bloody mad picture of heaven and martyrs
and the victory of the mujahideen," said Ali, another refugee.
"And, of course, the kids believe every word those clerics
say. They're young and naive, and they forget that this is a
war against the might of the machine of the American army. So
they let those kids die like this and our city gets blown up
with the wind."
I wanted to ask the tough old Republican guard why they had
let these young muj have the run of the city, but I actually
didn't have to. I remember being in Falluja just before the
fighting started and seeing a crowd gathered around a sack that
was leaking blood. A piece of white A4 paper was stuck on to
the sack, which read: "Here is the body of the traitor.
He has confessed to acting as a spotter for American planes
and was paid $100 a day."
At the same time as we were standing looking at the sack, I
knew I would be able to buy a CD of the man in this sack making
his confession before he was beheaded in any CD shop in Falluja.
These were the people who controlled Falluja now - not old majors
from Saddam's army.
In the morning we went back towards Falluja and heard that
there were queues of people waiting to try to get back into
the city. The government had made an announcement saying that
the people from some districts could start to go back home;
they promised compensation. About midday we got a mile east
of the city and saw that four queues had formed near the American
base. They were mostly men, waiting for US military ID to allow
them back home.
The men were angry: "This is a humiliation. I say no more
than that. These IDs are to make us bow Fallujan heads in shame,"
one of them said.
I met Major Paul Hackett, a marine officer in the Falluja liaison
base. He said that the US military was not trying to humiliate
anyone, but that the IDs were necessary for security. "I
mean, my understanding is that ultimately they can hang this
ID card on a wall and keep it as a souvenir," he said.
They took prints of all my fingers, two pictures of my face
in profile, and then photographed my iris. I was now eligible
to go into Falluja, just like any other Fallujan.
But it was late by then, somewhere near 5pm (the curfew is
at 6pm). After that anyone who moves inside the city will be
shot on sight by the US military. Tomorrow, we would try again
to get into the city.
At around 8am, Tariq and I drove towards Falluja. We didn't
believe that we might actually get into the city.
The American soldiers at the checkpoint were nervous. The approach
to the checkpoint was covered in pebbles so we had to drive
very slowly. The soldiers spent 20 minutes searching my car,
then they bodysearched Tariq and me. They gave me a yellow tape
to put on to the windscreen of the car, showing I had been searched
and was a contractor. If I didn't have this stripe of yellow,
a US sniper would shoot me as an enemy car.
By 10am we were inside the city. It was completely devastated,
destruction everywhere. It looked like a city of ghosts. Falluja
used to be a modern city; now there was nothing. We spent the
day going through the rubble that had been the centre of the
city; I didn't see a single building that was functioning.
The Americans had put a white tape across the roads to stop
people wandering into areas that they still weren't allowed
to enter. I remembered the market from before the war, when
you couldn't walk through it because of the crowds. Now all
the shops were marked with a cross, meaning that they had been
searched and secured by the US military. But the bodies, some
of them civilians and some of them insurgents, were still rotting
There were dead dogs everywhere in this area, lying in the
middle of the streets. Reports of rabies in Falluja had reached
Baghdad, but I needed to find a doctor.
Fallujans are suspicious of outsiders, so I found it surprising
when Nihida Kadhim, a housewife, beckoned me into her home.
She had just arrived back in the city to check out her house;
the government had told the people three days earlier that they
should start going home. She called me into her living room.
On her mirror she pointed to a message that had been written
in her lipstick. She couldn't read English. It said: "Fuck
Iraq and every Iraqi in it!"
"They are insulting me, aren't they?" she asked.
I left her and walked towards the cemetery. I noticed the dead
dogs again. I had been told in Baghdad by a friend of mine,
Dr Marwan Elawi, that the Baghdad Hospital for Infectious Diseases
admits one case of rabies every week. The problem is that infected
dogs are eating the corpses and spreading the disease.
As I was walking by the cemetery, I caught the smell of death
coming from one of the houses. The door was open and the first
thing I saw was a white car parked in the driveway and on top
of it a launcher for an RPG.
I went inside, and the sound of the rain on the roof and the
darkness inside made me very afraid. The door was open, all
the windows were broken and there were bullet holes running
down the hall to a bathroom at the end - as if the bullets were
chasing something or somebody. The bathroom led on to a bedroom
and I stepped inside and saw the body of a fighter.
The leg was missing, the hand was missing and the furniture
in the house had been destroyed. I couldn't breathe with the
smell. I realised that Tariq wasn't with me, and I panicked
and ran. As I got out of the house I saw a white teddy bear
lying in the rain, and a green boobytrap bomb.
Some of the worst fighting took place here in the centre of
the city, but there was no sign of the 1,200 to 1,600 fighters
the Americans said they had killed. I had heard that there was
a graveyard for the fighters somewhere in the city but people
said that most of them had withdrawn from the city after the
first week of fighting. I needed to find one of the insurgents
to tell me the real story of what had happened in the city.
The Americans had said that there had been a big military victory,
but I couldn't understand where all the fighters were buried.
After I saw the body I felt uncomfortable about sleeping in
Falluja. The place was deserted and polluted with death and
all kinds of weapons. Imagine sleeping in a place where any
of the surrounding houses might have one, two or three bodies.
I wanted out.
We went back to my friend the old Republican guard officer.
I was so tired I could hardly take my clothes off to go to sleep
but I couldn't sleep with the smell of death on my clothes.
In the morning, I went back to find the cemetery and look for
evidence of the fighters who had been killed. It was about 4pm
before I got inside the martyrs' cemetery; people kept waylaying
me, wanting to show me their destroyed houses and asking why
the journalists didn't come and show what the Americans had
done to Falluja. They were also angry at the interim President
Allawi for sending in the mainly Shia National Guard to help
At the entrance to the fighters' graveyard a sign read: "This
cemetery is being given by the people of Falluja to the heroic
martyrs of the battle against the Americans and to the martyrs
of the jihadi operations against the Americans, assigned and
approved by the Mujahideen Shura council in Falluja."
As I went into the graveyard, the bodies of two young men were
arriving. The faces were rotting. The ambulance driver lifted
the bones of one of the hands; the skin had rotted away. "God
is the greatest. What kind of times are we living through that
we are holding the bones and hands of our brothers?"
Then he began cursing the National Guard, calling them even
worse things than the Americans: "Those bastards, those
sons of dogs." It wasn't the first time I had heard this.
It was the National Guard the Americans used to search the houses;
they were seen by the Fallujans as brutal stooges. Most of the
volunteers for the National Guard are poor Shias from the south.
They are jobless and desperate enough to volunteer for a job
that makes them assassination targets. "National infidels",
they were also called.
I counted the graves: there were 74. The two young men made
it 76. The names on the headstones were written in chalk and
some had been washed away. One read: "Here lies the heroic
Tunisian martyr who died", but I didn't see any other evidence
of the hundreds of foreign fighters that the US had said were
using Falluja as their headquarters. People told me there were
some Yemenis and Saudis, some volunteers from Tunisia and Egypt,
but most of the fighters were Fallujan. The US military say
they have hundreds of bodies frozen in a potato chip factory
5km south of the city, but nobody has been allowed to go there
in the past two months, including the Red Crescent.
Salman Hashim was crying beside the grave of his son, who had
been a fighter in Falluja.
"He is 18 years old. He wanted to be a doctor or engineer
after this year; it was his last year in high school."
At the same grave, the boy's mother was crying and remembering
her dead son, who was called Ahmed. "I blame Ayad Allawi.
If I could I would cut his throat into pieces." Then, to
the mound of earth covering her son's body, she said: "I
told you those fighters would get you killed." The boy's
father told her to be quiet in front of the camera.
On the next grave was written the name of a woman called Harbyah.
She had refused to leave the city for the camps with her family.
One of her relatives was standing by her grave. He said that
he found her dead in her bed with at least 20 bullets in her
I saw other rotting bodies that showed no signs of being fighters.
In one house in the market there were four bodies inside the
guest room. One of the bodies had its chest and part of its
stomach opened, as if the dogs had been eating it. The wrists
were missing, the flesh of the arm was missing, and parts of
I tried to figure out who these four men were. It was obvious
which houses the fighters were in: they were totally destroyed.
But in this house there were no bullets in the walls, just four
dead men lying curled up beside each other, with bullet holes
in the mosquito nets that covered the windows. It seemed to
me as if they had been asleep and were shot through the windows.
It is the young men of the family who are usually given the
job of staying behind to guard the house. This is the way in
Iraq - we never leave the house empty. The four men were sleeping
the way we sleep when we have guests - we roll out the best
carpet in the guest room and the men lie down beside each other.
"Its Abu Faris's house. I think that the fat dead body
belongs to his son, Faris," said Abu Salah, whose chip
shop was also destroyed in the bombing.
It was getting dark and it was time to go, but I needed some
overview shots of the city. There was a half-built tower, so
I climbed it and looked around. I couldn't see a single building
that hadn't been hit.
After a few minutes I got the sense that this wasn't a good
place for me to be hanging around, but I had to pee urgently.
I found a place on the roof of the building. While I was doing
that a warning shot passed so close to my head that I ducked
and didn't even wait to pull up my zip, but ran to the half-destroyed
stairs to climb down the building. I felt as if the American
sniper was playing with me; he had had plenty of time to kill
me if he wanted to.
For the rest of the day people were pulling on me to come and
see their houses. Again, they asked where all the journalists
were. Why were they not coming to report on what has happened
in Falluja? But I have worked with journalists for 18 months
and I knew it would be too dangerous for them to come to the
city, that they are seen as spies and could end up in a sack.
So since I was the only one there with a camera, everyone wanted
to show me what happened to their house. It took hours.
Back in Baghdad that night, I changed my clothes and decided
to send them to the public laundry. I was worried about contaminating
my family with Falluja. I was thinking that nobody was going
to be able to live there for months. Then, I took a very long
I woke up at home in Baghdad around 9am. I had had enough of
Falluja, but I still felt that I didn't understand what had
happened. The city was completely devastated - but where were
the bodies of all the dead fighters the Americans had killed?
I wanted to ask Dr Adnan Chaichan about the wounded. I found
him at the main hospital in Falluja at midday. He told me that
all the doctors and medical staff were locked into the hospital
at the beginning of the attack and not allowed out to treat
anyone. The Iraqi National Guard, acting under US orders, had
tied him and all the other doctors up inside the main hospital.
The US had surrounded the hospital, while the National Guard
had seized all their mobile phones and satellite phones, and
left them with no way of communicating with the outside world.
Chaichan seemed angrier with the National Guards than with anyone
He said that the phone lines inside the town were working,
so wounded people in Falluja were calling the hospital and crying,
and he was trying to give instructions over the phone to the
local clinics and the mosques on how to treat the wounds. But
nobody could get to the main hospital where all the supplies
were and people were bleeding to death in the city.
It was late afternoon when I drove out of Falluja and back
to Baghdad, feeling that I had just scratched the surface of
what really happened there. But it is clear that by completely
destroying this Sunni city, with the help of a mostly Shia National
Guard, the US military has fanned the seeds of a civil war that
is definitely coming. If there are elections now and the Shia
win, that war is certain. The people I spoke to had no plans
to vote. No one I met in those five days had a ballot paper.
A week after I arrived in London to make the film for Channel
4 News, the tape of the final interview arrived by Federal Express.
It was the interview with Alzaim Abu, who had led the fighters
in the Shuhada district of Falluja and fought the Americans
in the early battles in the city centre. We had been been trying
to track him down for nearly three weeks. Then Tariq had got
a call from him the night I had left for London saying that
he would talk.
There was a lot of bullshit in the interview; lots of bravado
about how many Americans they had killed and about never surrendering
and how Fallujans would win. He said that there were a few foreign
fighters in the city, but none in his units; mostly, they were
But one thing stood out for me that explained the empty graveyard
and the lack of bodies. He said that most of the fighters had
been given orders to abandon the city by November 17, nine days
after the assault began. "The withdrawal of the fighters
was carried out following an order by our senior leadership.
We did not pull out because we did not want to fight. We needed
to regroup; it was a tactical move. The fighters decided to
redeploy to Amiriya and some went to Abu Ghraib," he said.
The US military destroyed Falluja, but simply spread the fighters
out around the country. They also increased the chance of civil
war in Iraq by using their new national guard of Shias to suppress
Sunnis. Once, when a foreign journalist, an Irish guy, asked
me whether I was Shia or Sunni - the way the Irish do because
they have that thing about the IRA - I said I was Sushi. My
father is Sunni and my mother is Shia. I never cared about these
things. Now, after Falluja, it matters.
The number of Britons likely
to have died in the tsunami disaster now stands at 453, Tony
Blair said yesterday, adding that he is raising the initial
British direct aid to the region to £75m.
his first statement to MPs since the tsunami, he admitted he
had been moved to tears by the disaster and praised the
generosity of the British people. The Queen will attend a memorial
service, conducted in consultation with bereaved families, later
Mr Blair said 871 Britons were still unaccounted for in the
region, down from 7,000 in the immediate wake of the disaster
and from 2,000 last week.
Minister Tony Blair finally returned from his family vacation
in Egypt on Monday January 3, more than a week after the Asian
tsunami first struck, leaving a catastrophic trail of death and
destruction in its wake.
Blair’s cavalier indifference
to the terrible events in the Indian Ocean has been even more
apparent than that of President George W. Bush. Whilst the latter
was finally forced out of his Texas ranch some three days after
the tsunami hit to make a perfunctory statement on the disaster,
Blair resisted any demands that he should cut short his holiday
in order to lead the UK’s emergency aid effort.
The prime minister’s contempt for the plight of tens
of millions of people is all the more striking when one considers
Foremost amongst world leaders, Blair has sought to portray
his every action as being shaped by humanitarian impulses and
concern for what he terms “global interdependence.”
From Kosovo to Iraq, the prime minister has insisted that “ethics”
and “morality” must be at the heart of British foreign
According to reports, Blair was given news about the tsunami
just before he took his flight to the Sharm el-Sheik resort
on December 26, but decided to continue with his vacation regardless.
| WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (Xinhuanet)
-- US President George W. Bush will have a most heavily guarded
inauguration in history on Jan. 20 when he takes the oath of office
for his second term, a Washington Post report said Monday.
The noontime swearing-in at the Capitol and the parade that
will follow will draw tens of thousands of people, including
a large number of protesters.
Led by the Secret Service, authorities began planning eight
months ago for the first post-Sept. 11 inauguration, and they
have an array of resources that were not available four years
ago, including new communications technology and advanced methods
of screening, according to the report.
Before, during and after the inauguration, Washington D.C.
police and US Park Police helicopters will hover overhead, able
to beam live images from the scene, and the surveillance will
be monitored by authorities at various command centers run by
the many agencies working on security.
The main one is the Multi-Agency Coordination Center in Fairfax
County, Northern Virginia, a gleaming steel-and-marble complex,
where the Secret Service and 50 federal, state and local agencies
will monitor action in the sky, on the ground and in the subway
More than 4,600 law enforcement officers will be posted along
the parade route, including hundreds of undercover officers
in the crowd, as well as sharpshooters with rifles on rooftops.
Officials say they know of no specific threats
relating to the inauguration and the evening balls. Homeland
Security Secretary Tom Ridge said last week that intelligence
monitors are picking up less terrorist threat chatter, in general,
than a year ago.
Security officials say the most likely terrorist threat is
a truck bomb -- one of the reasons they are barring vehicles
from a wide swath of downtown Washington on Inauguration Day.
D.C. police plan to erect roadblocks and screen pedestrians
around an area covering more than 100 square blocks in the center
of official Washington. People will have to pass through at
least one of the 22 checkpoints along the parade route and through
Protesters will be allowed to demonstrate in seven areas,
but signs cannot be attached to anything that could be used
as a weapon. No large backpacks, camera bags, thermos bottles,
coolers, picnic baskets, strollers or umbrellas will be allowed
on the parade route or the Capitol grounds.
The military will have bomb jammers -- devices that have been
used in Iraq and can block or delay someone using a cell
phone or other remote gadget from detonating an explosive, and
anti-terror preparations include the use of mobile and stationary
chemical and biological sensors that will sniff the air in subway
stations, on the National Mall, in buildings and on the streets.
Military radar will monitor the sky from ground stations throughout
the city and aircraft aloft.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it will
triple the no-fly zone over Washington that now prohibits small
aircraft within 16 miles of the Washington Monument, and the
North American Aerospace Defense Command will have increased
air patrols over Washington by multiple jet fighters.
Officers Keep a Keen Eye on Riders
New Behavioral Profiling Techniques, TSA Training Help Target
Suspicious Subway Passengers
| By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2005; Page A06
Metro police officers are using new behavioral
profiling techniques as they patrol subway stations, identifying
suspicious riders and pulling them aside for questioning.
The officers are targeting people who
avoid eye contact, loiter or appear to be looking around transit
stations more than other passengers, officials said.
Anyone identified as suspicious will be stopped and questioned
about what they are doing and where they are going.
As part of their preparations for tighter security during the
presidential inauguration, the officers have been trained by
the Transportation Security Administration to take notice of
the same behavioral characteristics and patterns that airport
security officials watch for.
"It is effective," said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein,
who noted that a few pickpockets have been caught over the past
six months as officers in uniform and plain clothes have been
applying their special observation skills. [...]
"You can't use this very subjective
sense of who's suspicious as a substitute for what the law would
otherwise require . . . such as a basis for suspicion that someone
is engaged in criminal conduct," said John Reinstein, legal
director for the ACLU of Massachusetts. [...]
Security experts say such techniques can be useful in a transit
system if deployed by well-trained law enforcement officers,
but they must be able to explain to travelers why they are being
questioned. "If a police officer
asks you a question, they have to have a reasonable suspicion
that they can articulate. . . . We don't live in a national
ID-requirement society," said Charles Slepian, chief
executive of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center, a security-related
think tank for the public and private sectors. [...]
|WASHINGTON- With no fanfare, the U.S. House
has passed a controversial doomsday provision that would allow
a handful of lawmakers to run Congress if a terrorist attack or
major disaster killed or incapacitated large numbers of congressmen.
"I think (the new rule) is terrible in a whole host of ways
- first, I think it's unconstitutional,'' said Norm Ornstein,
a counselor to the independent Continuity of Government Commission,
a bipartisan panel created to study the issue. "It's a
very foolish thing to do, I believe, and the way in which it
was done was more foolish.''
But supporters say the rule provides a stopgap measure to allow
the government to continue functioning at a time of national
GOP House leaders pushed the provision as part of a larger
rules package that drew attention instead for its proposed ethics
changes, most of which were dropped.
Usually, 218 lawmakers - a majority of the 435 members of Congress
- are required to conduct House business, such as passing laws
or declaring war.
But under the new rule, a majority of living
congressmen no longer will be needed to do business under "catastrophic
Instead, a majority of the congressmen able to show up at the
House would be enough to conduct business, conceivably
a dozen lawmakers or less.
The House speaker would announce the number after a report
by the House Sergeant at Arms. Any lawmaker unable to make it
to the chamber would effectively not be counted as a congressman.
The circumstances include "natural disaster,
attack, contagion or similar calamity rendering Representatives
incapable of attending the proceedings of the House.''
The House could be run by a small number
of lawmakers for months, because House vacancies must be filled
by special elections. Governors can make temporary appointments
to the Senate.
Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), one of few lawmakers active on
the issue, argued the rule change contradicts the U.S. Constitution,
which states that "a majority of each (House) shall constitute
a quorum to do business. "
"Changing what constitutes a quorum in this way would allow
less than a dozen lawmakers to declare war on another nation,''
FORT HOOD, Texas - A lawyer for Charles
Graner, accused ringleader in the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal,
on Monday compared piling naked prisoners into pyramids to cheerleader
shows and said leashing inmates was also acceptable prisoner
"Don't cheerleaders all over America
form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?"
Guy Womack, Graner's attorney, said in opening arguments to
the 10-member U.S. military jury at the reservist sergeant's
Graner and Pvt. Lynndie England, with whom he fathered a child
and who is also facing a court-martial, became the faces of
the Abu Ghraib prison scandal after they appeared in photographs
that showed degraded, naked prisoners.
The prosecution showed some of those pictures in their opening
argument, including several of naked Iraqi men piled on each
other and another of England holding a crawling naked Iraqi
man on a leash.
Womack said using a tether was a valid method
of controlling detainees, especially those who might be soiled
"You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control
to be used in corrections," he said. "In
Texas we'd lasso them and drag them out of there."
He compared the leash to parents who place
tethers on their toddlers while walking in shopping malls.
Pictures of the humiliating treatment of the prisoners at the
Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad prompted outrage around the
world and further eroded the credibility of the United States
already damaged in many countries by the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Apart from arguing that the methods
were not illegal, Graner's defense is that he was following
orders. "He was doing his job. Following orders
and being praised for it," Womack told the court, adding
later that Graner would testify in the case.
The chief prosecutor, Maj. Michael Holley,
asked rhetorically: "Did the accused honestly believe that
was a lawful order?"
Initial witnesses described how Graner, wearing gloves, led
several guards in stacking naked prisoners accused of leading
a prison riot into a pyramid on November 8, 2003.
"That's Corp. Graner right there," Pvt. Jeremy Sivits,
who is serving a year prison sentence for his role in the abuse,
said as he pointed out Graner organizing naked prisoners into
That night Graner also knocked out one of the hooded prisoners,
an accused boy rapist, by punching the temple of his head, he
said. "I told Corp. Graner, 'I think you knocked him out
sir,"' said Sivits, who pleaded guilty at his court martial
last year. "He obviously had to hit him pretty hard to
knock him out."
He said Graner also commented out loud about how the punch
had impacted his hand. "Oh, damn,
that hurt," Sivits quoted Graner as saying.
Graner was later demoted to that of specialist.
Sivits also testified that Graner beat a prisoner
recovering from a gunshot wound in December 2003. "Please
mister, please, please, please stop," was the Iraqi's response,
PART OF WIDER ABUSE QUESTIONS
The Bush administration has said the actions were those of
a small group and were not part of a policy or condoned by senior
But investigations have shown many prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan
and at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba also suffered
abusive treatment after the government considered ways to obtain
information in the war against terrorism.
The trial of Graner, a former Pennsylvania
civilian prison guard who chatted and joked with his defense
attorneys before the hearing opened, was expected to
last at least a week.
Defense attorney Womack said U.S. embarrassment over the Abu
Ghraib photographs had prompted the charges against his client.
"The embarrassment puts pressure
on the government: how do we mollify the world and make them
like us again?" he said.
Graner, 36, faces up to 17 1/2 years in prison on charges that
include mistreating detainees, dereliction of duty and assault.
He has pleaded not guilty.
Four of seven accused members of Graner's unit have already
pleaded guilty to abuse charges and three have been sentenced
to prison. Pvt. Ivan Frederick, who was sentenced to eight years
in prison in the case, was scheduled to testify on Monday afternoon.
BAGHDAD -- A day after Iraqi civilians
were killed in a mistaken U.S. bombing near Mosul, more civilians
died Sunday in a shooting incident near Baghdad in which circumstances
were unclear but American troops initially were blamed.
Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, a spokesman for Iraq's Interior
Ministry, said early Sunday that a U.S. convoy was struck
by a roadside bomb near a checkpoint in Yussifiyah, about
10 miles south of Baghdad, and U.S.
forces responded by opening fire, mistakenly killing two Iraqi
police officers and three civilians.
But Rahman later told The New York Times that he had not
blamed the deaths on American fire and that it was not yet
clear who fired the fatal shots. Early Monday, a U.S. military
spokeswoman said she had no information about the incident.
U.S. military officials acknowledged Saturday that their
forces had dropped a 500-pound bomb on the wrong house near
Mosul, killing at least five Iraqi civilians.
Ten soldiers from the U.S.-led coalition died Sunday. Seven
from Ukraine and one from Kazakhstan were killed in an ammunition
dump accident, and an American soldier and a Marine were killed
in separate attacks. In addition, the police chief in north-central
Samarra was assassinated.
While Rahman said five Iraqis were killed
in the checkpoint shooting Sunday, Dr. Anmar Abdul-Hadi, a
physician at the al-Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, said eight
people were killed and 12 were wounded, The Associated Press
House bombing toll disputed
There was a dispute as well regarding the casualty figures
in Saturday's erroneous bombing. U.S.
military officials acknowledged that five people were killed
in the incident near Mosul, but some reports indicated that
as many as 14 people may have died.
The reports of mistaken attacks on civilians come at a delicate
time, with millions of Iraqis considering whether to vote
in the Jan. 30 election. U.S. and Iraqi leaders have been
trying to emphasize that the security situation in most of
the country is such that it will be safe to cast a ballot.
Col. Dana Pittard, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st
Infantry Division, which oversees operations in heavily Sunni-populated
Baqouba, said he has been making personal pleas to Sunni leaders
to take part in the election. The largest Sunni party in Iraq
has called for a boycott of the vote.
"They don't think this election offers
them anything to vote for," Pittard said of the Sunni
Pittard said the election will be success in his area of
operation if 200,000 of the 1.8 million people living in Baqouba
and the surrounding area cast a vote. [...]
soldiers grappling with a young Palestinian child
Amidst the euphoria of Mahmoud Abbas's presidential election
victory has elicited, the EU's Coordinator of Foreign
and Security Policies Javier
Peres Solana, lambasted the Israeli government for impeding
the Palestinian presidential election Sunday.
"We expected the Israelis to offer more facilities for the
Palestinian election process but they did not live up to promises,"
he explained. However, he remained hopeful that the new leader
of the Palestinians would lay down the foundations for democracy
on what many analysts believe is a society on the verge of
stepping into a new political stage.
Several members of the Israeli parliament welcomed Abbas's
victory heralding it as an opportunity for peace as he was
a 'moderate'. While head of the Labour Party, Shimon Peres,
stated that the PA election was disciplined and proceeded
under international supervision.
It has been reported that the Israeli prime minister Ariel
Sharon would make his first 'request' of Abbas by calling
on him to halt the firing of Qassim rockets in return for
the release of several Palestinian prisoners.
A senior political source said that Sharon would ask for "specific
steps that he (Abbas) could perform".
Analysts believe this statement to mean
that Sharon would demand of Abbas to wage war on resistance
fighters in return for the promise of the release of imprisoned
Palestinians whose jail terms are about to come to an end
or those whose crime is not deemed to be 'threatening' to
Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian children
It's been reported that Israeli forces opened heavy fire
at a group of children in the Jabalia refugee camp.
No reason has been given by the Israeli army for the shooting.
Eye witnesses reported that the children
were playing when the Israeli soldiers, stationed to the northeast
of the camp, opened fire at them, wounding one. They then
proceeded to chase the children, arresting the one wounded
by their bullets who was taken to an unknown destination.
Ambulance cars were blocked from
reaching the area by the soldiers.
"Hope springs eternal
in the human breast," Alexander Pope wrote in 1733, but
even he might have given up after more than half a century of
"peace talks" between Israelis and Palestinians.
Yet here we are again, coming into a brand new year, with supposedly
really, really serious discussions just around the corner, as
soon as the Palestinians elect a leader to replace the late
Indeed, it has quickly become conventional wisdom in the United
States - across all party lines - that a true peace built around
a Palestinian state may now be possible because Arafat is no
longer around to obstruct the process.
In American political circles, the idea has
become firmly embedded that peace could have been achieved in
2000, then president Bill Clinton's last year, had it not been
for the hard-headed stubbornness of Arafat.
At the crunch at the Camp David meetings arranged by Clinton,
the courageous Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak had gone further
than any other Israeli leader in offering a generous settlement
that even gave Arafat major concessions on the status of Jerusalem.
And Arafat turned him down and walked away.
The story of what really happened in the summer of 2000 has
now been told by a young American in a book that should be read
by all the participants in the coming peace talks.
Clayton Swisher, not yet 30-years old, was in graduate school
in 2000. In the summer of 2001, he wrote a paper for his class
on the Arab-Israeli conflict, concluding:
"The biggest missed opportunity was Camp David 2000. At
Camp David, both parties were ready for conflict resolution.
Ehud Barak showed the ability to think in abstract terms - outside
of conventional wisdom.
"Barak's bold move toward territorial compromise belongs
in a category with [Egyptian President] Anwar Sadat's 1977 visit
"What was lacking at Camp David was a Palestinian leader
with the ability to take risks and accept that he would not
get 100% of concessions.
"Barak's honourable intentions of settling all claims
came as a shock to Arafat."
In fact, this was my view at the time, because it was the universal
account that I had read about in the American press.
It was not until I read an account by two
of the negotiators at Camp David in the New York Review of Books
on 13 June 2002 that I realised my belief was almost certainly
As a result, I wrote a brief defence of Yasir
Arafat on my website, having come to the conclusion that he
was almost certainly not the villain of the piece as he had
Swisher read the same account, but went much further than I
did, devoting much of his next two years doing first-hand research
and producing his new book, The Truth About Camp David: The
Untold Story about the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process.
I had heard about the book several weeks ago from a mutual
friend and was most sceptical that an unknown young man could
produce a credible work to match the title.
After reading it, though, I realised his youth and status as
a graduate student, not a journalist, made it work.
The several dozen key people involved in the Camp David talks
and others in the Middle East who were important to its outcome
would probably not have talked so openly to reporters working
But high-level officials such as then secretary of state Madeleine
Albright, chief US negotiator Dennis Ross, and senior negotiators
for the Israelis and Palestinians were clearly open and happy
to talk to a student who seemed interested only in getting to
the bottom of things.
His book, 455 pages long, is not only thoroughly documented
and persuasive, but as well written and gripping as a detective
And if Arafat is not the villain, who is? The simple answer
is, there is none. The talks broke down because they were not
carefully prepared in the way president Carter's Camp David
summit with Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachim Began
They could not have succeeded because Barak
was not prepared to make a critical concession to Arafat regarding
The closest Swisher comes to blaming anyone for the collapse
is in his accounts of the behaviour of president Clinton himself,
who refused to accept the fact that Arafat was in no position
to accept the deal offered by Barak.
After all, Arafat was only representing the interests of the
Palestinians and could not speak for the Islamic world on the
holy places of Jerusalem.
Clinton was dazzled by Barak's offer to "put Jerusalem
on the table" - the first time that had ever been done
by an Israeli leader - and tried to browbeat Arafat into accepting.
But in only offering "custodial control"
of the Temple Mount to Arafat, ie the
right to collect garbage and run security patrols in
that part of Jerusalem, Barak had to know Arafat could not possibly
have accepted it, and if he had, his own people would have assassinated
Swisher quotes from notes taken at one session, with Arafat
horrified that Barak had persuaded Dennis
Ross - who spent 90% of his private time at Camp David
with Barak - to alter the wording on
Instead of stating: "The Jerusalem municipal area will
host the national capitals of both Israel and the Palestinian
state," Ross crossed out "municipal area" and
wrote in: "The expanded area of Jerusalem will host the
national capitals of both Israel and the Palestinian state."
"Expanded area", of course, meant
giving the Palestinians a capital in the suburbs.
Clinton still thought this was a good deal and hammered at
Arafat to accept. Swisher quotes the notes taken of Arafat's
"The Palestinian leader who will give
up Jerusalem has not yet been born. I will not betray my people
or the trust they have placed in me. Don't
look to me to legitimise the occupation.
"No on can continue indefinitely to impose domination
by military force - look at South Africa. Our people will not
accept less than their rights as stated by international resolutions
and international legality."
President Clinton could see time was running out on his administration
and a chance of leaving the Oval Office with an Arab/Israeli
deal dwindling. If he could not get a deal, it could not be
Even though in order to get Arafat to the slapdash summit,
the president had promised that if there could be no deal, there
would be no blame assessed, Clinton went back on his word.
He did so by announcing to the world that there was no deal
even though Barak had been courageous in offering Arafat a great
In Swisher's account, Arafat's big mistake was to fly back
to Ram Allah without holding a press conference to challenge
Clinton's assessment of why the talks failed:
"For these reasons, Barak's government
and its supporters in the United States unleashed one of the
greatest PR frauds in history, still dominating the US and Israeli
media to this day." There is nobody in the book
who comes out as bad as Dennis Ross, however.
After the talks failed and Arafat flew home, there still seemed
time to work something out in the last three months of 2000,
with Clinton still eager to make a deal. The problem was Ariel
Sharon and his Likud Party, who knew the deal-breaker was the
Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Sharon knew Arafat could never accept a "generous deal"
on the West Bank and Gaza - which he was clearly prepared to
offer - if he could not give the Islamic world of 1.2 billion
people assurances that they would not have to go through Jewish
checkpoints to visit their holy places.
In this high stakes chess game, Sharon then
made it known that he would make a personal visit to the Temple
Mount, a clear signal that it was Israel's and all the Palestinians
could expect in any deal was to be able to collect the garbage,
Barak's "custodial" offer.
It is part of conventional wisdom that Arafat was responsible
for the second intifada, when he returned to Ram Allah empty-handed.
But The Truth About Camp David makes it clear
Arafat did everything he could to prevent Sharon's visit to
the Temple Mount, knowing it would incite violence.
The myth that Arafat cultivated the intifada
and was psychologically unable to make peace with Israel took
deep root in America too, of course.
A 35-year veteran clandestine CIA officer
and adviser to former director George Tenet told me, first,
that Arafat did not plan the second intifada; second, that the
status quo theory that "he couldn't get what he wanted
so he chose the path of violence" is a lie. [...]
Jude Wanniski is a former associate editor of The Wall
Street Journal, expert on supply-side economics and founder
of Polyconomics, which helps to interpret the impact of political
events on financial markets.
year, old atrocities
| Israel greeted the new year by killing
seven children in the Gaza Strip, reports Khaled Amayreh from
On 4 January an Israeli Abrams tank stationed
in Beit Lahya in northern Gaza fired one or two huge artillery
shells at a group of Palestinian children harvesting strawberry
crops. The shells killed six children
from the same family, three brothers and three cousins, all
aged between 10 and 14. A seventh boy, aged 19, was also killed
in the shelling. The bodies of the victims were mutilated
The Israeli army immediately switched into "hasbara mode",
concocting lies aimed at absolving itself of blame for the
Initially, Israeli radio and TV stations, as well as newspaper
websites, declared that "the IDF killed between six and seven
terrorists who were trying to plant bombs."
An hour or so later, the army spokesman modified his tone,
saying that "it appeared that a Hamas cell was operating in
Then, after it became clear that the victims were children
and that no "terrorists were operating in the area" the spokesman
resorted to the ultimate defensive tactic, blaming the victims
for their own death.
It is all too familiar to the Palestinians of the area.
Mohamed Sultan, who lives not far from the site where the
killings occurred, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Israeli army
would never condemn itself by telling the truth.
"The Israeli army lies as mush as
it breathes. When they murder children, knowingly and deliberately,
they concoct a narrative about Hamas or terror groups. The
truth of the matter is that the Israeli army embodies terror
in its ugliest form. Israel is terror placed between two mirrors,
it is infinitely evil."
The seven victims follow 12 Palestinians murdered by Israel
since the beginning of 2005, all of them in the Gaza Strip.
In Khan Yunis Israeli occupation forces
have over two weeks left more than 27 dead and destroyed hundreds
of homes and farms.
According to the annual report released on 1 January by
the Israeli human rights organisation B'tselem, which monitors
human rights violations in the occupied territories, the majority
of Palestinians killed and maimed by the Israeli occupation
army in the past 12 months played no part in the resistance.
B'tselem said it was not clear if 19 additional victims killed
in the same period were involved in the resistance.
According to the report, the number of Palestinians killed
by the Israeli army and paramilitary settlers since the outbreak
of the second Intifada in September 2000 stands at 3,185,
including 626 children. Of these, the report said, 1,712 were
not involved in the resistance.
The latest killings in Gaza, suggest some Palestinian and
Israeli observers, might have been intended to appease the
Jewish settlers' camp whose messianic followers are putting
up stiff resistance to Ariel Sharon's unilateral plan to withdraw
from the Gaza Strip.
Settler leaders have been demanding the Israeli government
"kill the terrorists" instead of uprooting Jews from "their
A quiet weekend: The Israel Defense
Forces managed to conduct two operations in Gaza during a
four-day period starting last Thursday and continuing through
this past Sunday. This is how the New
Year's celebration there looked: 10 Palestinians killed, including
two teenagers, one of whom was mentally disabled; 30 Palestinians
injured, including a cameraman from Channel 10; and another
14 homes demolished. While Israel
was collecting food contributions for Sri Lanka, residents
of Khan Yunis sat on the sand near their destroyed homes,
eating a paltry lunch.
On Sunday, after the operations ended, five Qassam rockets
hit Sderot and mortar shells were fired at the Erez industrial
zone, seriously injuring a 25-year-old worker, Nissim Arbib.
Operation "Purple Iron" had not ended yet and "Autumn Wind"
had not yet begun to blow, and suddenly "Purple Rain" poured
down upon the Erez checkpoint. There was a faint boom and
then a mortar shell fell near us, in the adjacent industrial
zone. Shlomi Eldar, a reporter for Channel 10, was on his
way to meet with the Palestinians who were firing the mortars
from Rafah, and we were going to meet the victims of "Purple
Iron" in Khan Yunis. "See you this evening," we said, but
by the time evening came, Eldar had already brought his cameraman,
Majdi al-Arbid, to the hospital in serious condition.
An IDF sniper shot him from a range of 300 meters in Jabalya,
despite the fact that he held a television camera in his hand--or
perhaps because of this. Eldar, an experienced and
honest reporter, is convinced that the photographer did not
pose a risk to the sniper, who saw the camera and nonetheless
shot without warning, intending only to injure the cameraman.
He was hit by a bullet in the groin, two steps away from Eldar.
Long hours passed before Eldar and the Channel 10 team managed
to persuade the IDF to allow the bleeding photographer, whose
life was at risk, to be rushed to a hospital in Israel. The
IDF is investigating.
On the way out of Erez, near Beit Hanun, there is a tank
and a bulldozer, digging up the only access road. It is hard
to know whether this is the end of "Purple Iron" or the beginning
of "Autumn Wind," which began and ended on Sunday. How are
people supposed to enter and exit Erez now? [...]
Palestinian militants in
the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of home-made rockets and mortar
rounds at Israeli towns and settlements today, but nobody was
reported injured after the attacks.
A settler spokesman said five mortar rounds hit a number of
the illegal outposts in the Gaza Strip, shattering windows on
a crowded synagogue in one settlement.
A home-made rocket also landed in the Israeli town of Sderot,
damaging several buildings and cars.
The attacks came just hours after PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas,
who opposes armed resistance and has vowed to tackle militants,
was confirmed as the new president of the Palestinian Authority.
A report published in an Israeli newspaper
claims that Egyptian passenger planes have been penetrating
Israeli airspace near Eilat.
The report also said that the flyovers are unauthorised
and have prompted the Israeli government to intensify its
counter-measures using anti-aircraft missiles and fighter
planes and having them on stand-by. Furthermore,
Israel has stepped up the air security aimed at Saudi Arabia
following rumours that Al Qaeda has recruited Saudi pilots
in a bid to launch an attack similar to the September 11 strikes.
According to anonymous Israeli officials, Tel Aviv has asked
Egypt to prevent its planes from entering Israeli air space
near the southern port of Eilat, issuing
a dire warning that if they suspect an attack to occur the
plane could be shot down.
Only four people have the authority to order a passenger
aircraft shot down, the prime minister, defense minister,
chief of General Staff and commander of the air force.
Egyptians planes have the right to use some corridors in
Israeli airspace; however the shortcut route over Eilat is
not on the list. The usual flight paths of Egyptian planes
heading for Jordan cross near Eilat.
The sources claim that there have been at least 25 incidents
involving Egyptian civilian planes flying in unauthorized
areas in the past six months and in some cases fighter jets
were ordered into the air and then quietly returned to base.
Israel has been on high alert for similar September 11 strikes,
like the ones that struck New York and Washington, to hit
Eilat especially as is has a row of high-rise buildings.
Israeli officials claim that Egypt hasn't responded to its
urgent messages and that overflights continue.
Eilat is at Israel's southernmost tip, at a place where the
borders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia converge.
Israel dismissed six reservist military
officers on Sunday for threatening to disobey an order to
evacuate Jewish settlements under a Gaza pullout plan.
Generals acted to quell the threat of dissent in military
ranks over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to remove Jewish
settlements from Gaza and the northern West Bank this year
as part of "disengagement" from conflict with the Palestinians.
The six dismissed officers were the highest ranking of a
group of 34, all Jewish settlers living in the West Bank,
who had a letter published in a newspaper last week describing
any order to implement the Gaza plan as illegal.
The officers had refused to renounce the letter "and were
dismissed" from their command, although they retained their
ranks, a military spokeswoman said. The other signatories
would be disciplined at a later time.
"The Israeli army regards very seriously every call to refuse
an order and any use of rank for political purpose," the spokeswoman
Colonel Chaim Morad, one of those dismissed, said he thought
the measure would not stop other soldiers from threatening
to disobey orders to remove settlers.
Jewish settlement leaders have said thousands of soldiers
would refuse to remove more than 8000 settlers from Gaza and
the northern West Bank as Mr Sharon plans. Some have circulated
petitions against the withdrawal for soldiers to sign.
Opinion polls show strong public support in Israel for the
plan to quit Gaza, where settlements built on occupied land
have come under constant attack in a four-year-old Palestinian
Army chief Moshe Yaalon had threatened last week to dismiss
the officers behind the letter, published only a day after
Mr Sharon had visited an army base to condemn calls to disobey
pullout orders as a threat to Israel's existence.
In Israel, where military service is compulsory for Jewish
males and most of the nation's leaders have served, the army
is traditionally viewed as a unifying force and threats to
its cohesiveness tend to evoke strong emotions.
The military last week jailed a soldier for 28 days for
urging colleagues to defy orders to remove a Jewish settler
outpost in the West Bank.
| Palestinian Presidential Elections
by Omar Barghouti
January 07, 2005
| Many Palestinians are boasting that they
will soon enjoy, again, the most free and democratic elections
in the entire Arab World. The only problem
is that electing a Palestinian president while still under the
boot of the occupier is an oxymoron. Sovereignty and occupation
are mutually exclusive. The world, including many well-informed
readers, seem to think that the Palestinian people is actually
practicing the ultimate form of sovereignty by freely choosing
its own president. This is easily extrapolated in the heads
of many to mean that Palestinians are in a way free. So what’s
all this talk about occupation? Notice,
for example, how little media attention is given now to the
almost daily killings of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli
occupation forces. Of course, the only thing that matters
is who is running; who is not; what Mahmoud Abbas might have
intended to say; or what Marwan Barghouti could have done only
if … . Bulldozing houses in Rafah, expanding
colonies in Hebron and killing innocent children in Beit Lahya
is simply a bore, a peripheral story, an ordinary occurrence
in the midst of an election extraordinaire.
There are several things wrong in this picture, least of which
is the fact that it is false. [...]
TRURO, Mass., Jan. 7 - In an unusual
last-ditch move to find clues to the three-year-old killing
of a freelance fashion writer, police investigators are trying
to get DNA samples from every man in this Cape Cod hamlet,
all 790 or so, or as many as will agree.
Raising concerns among civil libertarians and prompting
both resistance and support from men in Truro, the state and
local police began collecting the genetic samples last week,
visiting delicatessens, the post office and even the town
dump to politely ask men to cooperate. Legal experts said
the sweeping approach had been used only in limited instances
before in the United States - although it is more widely used
in Europe - and in at least one of those cases it prompted
Sgt. David Perry of the Truro Police Department and other
law enforcement authorities here say
that the program is voluntary but that they will pay close
attention to those who refuse to provide DNA.
"We're trying to find that person
who has something to hide," Sergeant Perry said. [...]
MOSCOW - The six crew members killed
when a cargo plane crashed after takeoff in Uganda were Russian
citizens, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing the Russian
owner of the Congo-based company the plane belonged to.
The Antonov An-24 plane, which crashed Saturday a few kilometers
(miles) from Entebbe International Airport, belonged Congo-registered
Service Air, ITAR-Tass quoted its owner Yevgeny Zakharov as
saying in a report late Saturday.
Zakharov said all six men were killed and gave their names
and the Russian cities they came from. He said he would travel
to Uganda to deal with the crash and send the remains of the
crew members to Russia, ITAR-Tass reported.
Eliane Nabaa, a spokeswoman for the U.N. mission in Congo,
said Saturday that after takeoff, the crew radioed back to
Entebbe's control tower, reporting
engine trouble and asking to land. But the plane crashed
into a field before making it to the runway. She said the
plane was a private charter carrying two vehicles. Its fuel
tank was full, causing a very large fire with the crash, she
Zakharov said the crash was apparently caused by engine
trouble but denied there was a fire on board the plane, ITAR-Tass
So nobody has downed an airplane with
a blinding laser beam, yet. But the task could get a little
easier, if research
at the University of New Hampshire pans out.
For decades, the world's militaries have been developing
laser "dazzlers" -- bright pulses of coherent light, meant
to render someone sightless, temporarily. The Chinese (and,
maybe, the North Koreans) have working
models. And while U.S. research has dampened, ever since
the Clinton administration signed an international
protocol banning the blinding weapons, work on the devices
never stopped completely.
In recent years, the Air Force Research Laboratory put together
a pair of laser
that "tended to dazzle" people in their path, according to
lab spokesman Rich Garcia. "It was like they were looking
into the headlights of a car late at night." But the dazzlers
were either too strong running the risk of permanent eye
damage, at some distances -- or they were "put into mothballs"
after being outpaced by newer technology.
The Air Force remains interested in dazzlers, Garcia says.
But the problem (from a military point of view) is that the
devices, as currently configured, are pretty easy to stop.
goggles can filter out the laser light. New-fangled anti-laser
contact lenses might even be able to do the trick, as
A group of scientists at the University of New Hampshire
may have found a way to get around the specs and the contacts,
however. With money from the Defense Department-backed Non-lethal
Technology Innovation Center (NTIC), they've developed
than can sense the defenses, and adapt to overcome them.
The machine sends out an inital laser pulse, to look for
where a lens is, and how much it's being shielded. The reflected
glint from the lens gives away both its position and its level
of protection. The device then changes the power and direction
of its second blast, so that the lens is overwhelmed.
"It someone puts on sunglasses on, it measures the reflection,"
says NTIC director Glenn Shwaery, "and then it gives off a
brighter flash, to compensate."
But, Shwaery wants to make clear, "this has nothing to do
with shining lasers into cockpits... It's not the intent of
this project whatsoever."
Instead, the idea is for police to use the dazzler, now in
an early lab prototype, to disorient a perp, or for a military
flier to disrupt the mechanical lens on an incoming missile's
Besides, to zap a jet or a helicopter, you "don't need anything
that complicated," Shwaery observes. Kids having been using
off-the-shelf laser pointers for years to wig pilots out.
Not that Shwaery wouldn't be interested in something
that could take down a plane. In an (as yet unfunded) request
for proposal, NTIC asks for ideas on "NL [non-lethal] disruption
of aircraft. Investigate techniques to non-destructively force
the aircraft to land or render it ineffectual as an asset
when on the ground. Techniques shall not cause the catastrophic
failure of aircraft in flight."
THERE'S MORE: Over at Salon, Patrick Smith
tries to put
to bed -- once and for all -- the tin-hat notion that
the recent round of cockpit illuminations is somehow a terrorist
To accept the proposition that terrorists are behind
these events is to assume that gangs of al-Qaida operatives
are hunkered down in neighborhoods throughout America, openly
risking capture in their attempts to test out obvious, traceable
devices that even when used accurately are exceptionally
unlikely to bring forth an accident. I submit that terrorists
do not undertake operations with such high probabilities
of exposure and failure. They have little to gain and everything
to lose. With respect to bang for the buck, why waste time
with lasers when you could hide in a patch of trees with
an assault rifle and inflict greater damage?
AND MORE: "Geeks,
kids and copycats armed with a new type of laser pointer
appear to be behind increasing reports of laser beams pointed
at commercial aircraft," according to MSNBC.
- from the FBI to those in the laser industry - believe the
most recent incidents do not stem from illicit use of powerful
military laser weapons or the less powerful lasers used by
the entertainment industry, both of which require high power
supplies and bulky cooling mediums.
AND MORE: The genius who lased
a couple of planes over Jersey has finally been arrested.
Rather, they think the mischief is being caused by laser
pointers that project a green beam of light that have recently
been imported from China and Russia. They are increasingly
available on the Internet.
The hand-held lasers, powered by batteries, project a green
beam that can be 50 times brighter than the more common
red-beam pointers and can travel 8,000 to 10,000 feet into
Although the federal Food and Drug Administration limits
the power of laser pointers, there are several Web sites
and electronic bulletin boards that explain how laser enthusiasts
can easily double the power of the green lasers, which sell
for as little as $50 and as much as $600. One company boasts
it can increase the power of its green pointer so the beam
of light can travel 25,000 feet into the sky.
Enthusiasts visiting one Web bulletin board said they use
the laser pointers to identify stars, create simple holographs
and even burn holes into plastic cups. One participant said
he used his laser pointer to help his family spot a UFO.
Army explosive experts tonight defused
four firebombs found at a Royal Mail sorting centre near Belfast.
Staff at the Mallusk plant in Newtownabbey discovered a
crude device in a suspicious package and immediately carried
Another three incendiaries were uncovered and military experts
were called in.
Mail services across Northern Ireland are not expected to
be disrupted by the incident which followed a firebombing
campaign targeting retail premises in towns across the province.
Meanwhile a blast bomb exploded tonight at a police station
in County Armagh.
The device was thrown over a back gate at the barracks in
Lurgan but caused no damage. No injuries were reported.
PENSACOLA, Fla. - A man who burst uninvited
into a home Saturday morning died after fighting with frightened
residents and Escambia County sheriff's deputies who shocked
him twice with a Taser stun gun.
The intruder smashed a garage window of the Pensacola home
at 8:55 a.m., sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ted Roy said. It was
unclear why he broke in.
Neighbors said he was yelling during the confrontation at
Kristy and Kent Bodily's home. Neighbors also said a child
in the home called the sheriff's office and ran out seeking
When deputies arrived, the suspect was fighting with family
members, Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman
Lisa Lagergren told the Pensacola News Journal. Deputies tried
to handcuff the man but he resisted, so they fired a Taser
twice to stop him, officials said.
"The confrontation spilled out into the front yard, where
the suspect collapsed and died during the struggle," Roy said.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- With two crucial
assets -- helicopters and organizational skills -- the U.S.
military is likely to stay on the devastated coast of Indonesia's
tsunami-stricken Sumatra island for
an extended period, U.S. officers said Sunday.
During the past nine days, U.S. Navy helicopters have rushed
food, water and medical supplies to areas that are likely
to remain inaccessible and in desperate need for weeks, such
as the hard-hit coast of Sumatra.
''I don't see an end to this for
a long, long time,'' said Capt. Larry Burt. ''The biggest
shortage is still airlift to the coast.'' [...]
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) - A
helicopter crash and a powerful tremor in Indonesia hindered
relief operations on Monday for the millions of victims of
the tsunami and earthquake that rocked Asia more than two
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center
of the Defense Department warned that a cyclone was moving
toward the southern coast of Sri Lanka could disrupt relief
work there. Residents in the area said the sky was
gray but no rain had fallen yet.
A U.S. military Seahawk crashed near the crowded airport
in the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh, the hub of a huge effort
to help millions of people whose lives were crippled by the
most widespread natural disaster in living memory.
Officials said all on board the helicopter were taken to
hospital but no one had died. The U.S. military briefly halted
all helicopter flights taking aid to the interior, and although
operations soon resumed, they were not at the usual scale.
Earlier in the morning, panic-stricken people in the devastated
city fled from their homes and shelters after a 6.2 magnitude
aftershock hit at 5 a.m. (2200 GMT Sunday), officials and
"There has been no report of casualties and we're still
gathering more data," said Sutiono, an official at Indonesia's
meteorological bureau. [...]
Add China's banking system
to the mix, Eric Margolis writes, and it's a recipe for disaster
Here are what will be the big stories of 2005, according to
my cloudy crystal ball: - The killer tsunami that struck Indonesia,
Sri Lanka, and India a week ago will cause years of ongoing
economic damage and human tragedy. Damage to Thailand will be
quickly repaired. But Indonesia and Sri Lanka, both rent by
decade-old civil wars, will particularly suffer.
- The biggest problem the world faces this new year is the
continuing fall of the U.S. dollar. The Bush administration's
reckless spending, ruinously expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
(now costing as much as the Vietnam War), America's galloping
trade deficit and credit spending frenzy are creating the perfect
Japan and China's central banks may give up trying to artificially
shore up the U.S. dollar by buying U.S. currency and securities.
A plunging dollar could cause foreign investors to start dumping
U.S. securities and assets. The result: A potential worldwide
financial crisis that could collapse the housing bubble, cause
interest rates to soar, and send securities markets into freefall.
- China's banking system is a house of cards. Uncontrolled
credit expansion has fuelled China's property boom and international
buying spree. Banks are swamped by bad, non-performing loans
made to huge, money-losing state-owned corporations. Collapse
of China's insolvent banking system would threaten world financial
- The U.S.-led occupation of Iraq is a disaster for all concerned.
The war is slowly being lost. The big question in 2005 is if
and how President George W. Bush will extricate the U.S. from
this catastrophe, which is costing $6 billion US per month.
The elections in Iraq four weeks from today won't resolve this
- "Terrorism" -- the insurgency against U.S. domination
of the Muslim world and its resources -- will intensify even
after Osama bin Laden is killed. He has created a new, powerful
ideological movement that will continue to shake the Muslim
world and challenge its corrupt, autocratic rulers and their
- As the U.S. gets sucked ever deeper into its disastrous crusade
against the Muslim world, it may -- possibly with Israel --
attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure, or invade Syria. An attack
on Iran would leave the U.S. garrison in Iraq trapped amid a
sea of hostile Shia -- as well as Sunnis.
- A real, viable peace between Israel and the Palestinians
seems unlikely. Israel's PM Ariel Sharon already has everything
he wants, and, according to U.S. National Security Adviser Brent
Scowcroft, has "wrapped Bush around his little finger."
So why make concessions? Palestinians will remain trapped in
their giant open-air prison.
- Now that Vladimir Putin has crushed all domestic political
and business opposition, his control over Russia is absolute.
Only the courageous Chechen mujahadeen have resisted Putin's
restoration of Kremlin autocracy. Putin is determined to rebuild
the old Soviet Union. Watch for him to put increasing pressure
on Ukraine in the wake of last week's election.
The Bush-Putin alliance will strengthen. By regaining state
control of Russia's oil industry, Putin is poised to become
a kingpin of world oil, even an equal to the Saudi royals --
if he can raise enough cash to tap his nation's vast but remote
- The European Union, for all its growing pains, economic doldrums,
and bureaucratic obesity, has replaced the United States as
the world's champion of human rights and support for civilized
By contrast, under Bush, the U.S. has become a reactionary
power devoted to protecting the status quo in league with Britain,
Russia, China and India. In short, a re-run of the Holy Alliance
of 1815 in which Europe's autocrats sought to protect their
power and privileges, and halt the rise of bourgeois democracy.
- Look for an increasingly independent-minded Europe and China
to draw closer strategically as a result of the Bush administration's
aggressive policies. Russia will play both sides, backing the
U.S. in its "anti-terror" campaigns, and, discreetly,
China, in opposing U.S. influence in East Asia. European arms
may begin to flow to China in 2005.
- Revolution is under way in Saudi Arabia. The U.S.-backed
royal family will be increasingly besieged in 2005. As for U.S.
claims it will promote democracy in the Muslim world, any honest
votes there will produce pro-Islamic parties advocating opposition
to Israel, higher oil prices, and eviction of U.S. influence
from the region.
So no true democracy, just U.S.-implemented "guided democracy"
in Iraq, meaning a Vichy regime that keeps U.S. bases, sells
oil cheap, makes nice to Israel, and allows U.S. firms to exploit
Following the stock market
crash of 1929, the Great Depression took hold of America. Poverty
and unemployment were rampant. No economic sector escaped the
ravages of the depression. The decline of purchasing power in
the market commodities staggered agriculture, which already
had been suffering the effects of production surpluses. The
prices of agricultural products fell off rapidly, and farmers
responded by upping production. National wheat production, for
example, was 35 million bushels higher in 1930 than it was in
1929, while prices fell from $1.09 to $0.71 per bushel. The
results were disastrous.
In 1930, average farm income slid to the lowest it had been
since 1921. Many farmers could not afford to pay their mortgages
and lost their land. In 1933, 5 percent of the nation's farms
underwent mortgage foreclosures. Nowhere was the situation worse
than in the area known as the Dust Bowl, an area of about 150,000
square miles in the Midwest. As a result of excessive farming
during the 1920s and before, this region suffered from massive
soil erosion and dust storms which made it impossible to continue
farming there in the 1930s. Millions of farmers migrated west
to find new land or, in most cases, become temporary workers
or sharecroppers. This helped the farm economy in some ways
by cutting down production, but it brought misery to the people
of the formerly fertile Dust Bowl.
The sluggish economy drastically reduced the quantity of goods
and services bought and sold. The industrial and financial urban
centers suffered from vast numbers of business failures, which
came to a head in 1932 with over 30,000 failures nationwide.
Banks closed their doors because of a lack of liquid assets.
Almost 2500 banks suspended operation in 1931. Production fell
off in the industrial sector as a result of falling investment
and an inability to pay workers.
The massive numbers of closures and shut downs led to similarly
huge unemployment. Unemployment reached an unheard of high of
25 percent in 1933, and hovered between 15 and 20 percent for
the majority of the 1930s. Small towns and villages were hit
the hardest, as were unskilled workers and minorities. Employment
in the fields of construction and the manufacture of durable
goods was especially hard hit, with 10 percent of engineers
simultaneously unemployed in 1932. Abject poverty resulted.
Children received inadequate nutrition and healthcare, and starvation
became an everyday occurrence.
The unemployed were evicted from their
homes and left to wander the nation in search of jobs and charity.
Ashamed of their degraded status, many committed suicide; the
suicide rate in the US rose 30 percent between 1928 and 1932.
Some of these wandering unemployed took action, most notably
in organizing the demonstration known as the Shame of Anacostia
At the beginning of the summer of 1932 more than 15,000 people,
destitute and unemployed, converged on Washington D.C., to the
Anacostia Flats area. Most of them were veterans of World War
I who were demanding face value payment of their adjusted service
certificates, bonds which were set to mature in 1945. On Hoover's
orders, the army drove the demonstrators away.
The onset of the depression in both rural and urban areas demonstrated
the inability of the US economy to cope with the impact of the
stock market crash. To the citizen living in America in the
1930s, it seemed that everything that could go wrong did for
business and agriculture alike. Economists differ in their explanations
of the conditions that kept the economy from quickly recovering,
as many at the time expected it would. There are three main
strains of argument which seek to explain the causes of the
prolonged tailspin of the economy during the Great Depression:
Inequality of income and wealth led to instability in the
prosperity of the 1920s and set the stage for the heavy impact
of the depression on those at the bottom of the economic heap.
NAZRAN. Jan 9 - An earthquake measuring
3.5 points on the Richter scale has hit Ingushetia. The quake
epicenter was 4 kilometers from Magas, a spokesman for the
republic Emergency Situations Ministry told Interfax.
The earthquake struck at about 8:37 p.m. on Saturday. In
Nazran tremors measured 2 points. Neither loss of life, nor
destruction was reported, the official said.
He said it was the second earthquake to
have been registered in Ingushetia over the past 48 hours.
(Australia) - THREE beaches were closed
on the Sunshine Coast yesterday as rough seas and strong winds
combined to make hell-raising conditions for lifeguards and
At Caloundra, Coolum and Maroochydore, lifeguards reported
strong southeasterly winds and choppier than usual seas as
cyclone activity off the central Queensland coast swept up
demanding beach conditions.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, severe tropical
cyclone Kerry was slowly moving west last night after being
located about 1050km east of Mackay at 6pm.
The storm was about 1100km north-northeast of the Sunshine
Coast but its effects were being felt on local beaches.
Forecaster Rao Nagulapalli said gale force wind gusts of
up to 190km/h were being generated near the centre of the
cyclone, which is expected to remain severe for the next two
(UK) - TWO elderly women died and families
were evacuated by RAF helicopters yesterday after floods engulfed
Carlisle. Torrential rain and high winds which hit Scotland
over the weekend also lashed the city.
Some parts of Carlisle were under up to 8ft of water.
Police said several thousand people had abandoned their
Among them was Alan Hargraves, 45, who had to throw his
front door keys to a man in a rescue boat so they could open
the door and get him out.
He said: ' Water started seeping up through the carpets
and coming in through the air vents.
'By about 11 or 12am, it had got up to about four feet.
'The fridge had toppled over and bags of vegetables were
floating round the kitchen.
'Outside, you could see car roofs glistening on the surface
and rescue boats picking people up.'
Two elderly women were found dead in their flood-affected
homes while a 63year-old man was also killed when a barn blew
down near the Scottish Border.
A Red Cross spokesman said 150 people were seen at two reception
centres in the city and 17 people had been treated for cut
Environment minister Elliot Morley visited Carlisle yesterday
and compared the floods to the deluge that hit Boscastle,
Cornwall, last August.
Damage He said: 'There has been two months' worth of rain
in 24 hours, or something like that.
'The extensive amount of rain in such a short period has
The cost of damage in Carlisle could run into tens of millions
of pounds, the Association of British Insurers said. [...]
LA CONCHITA, Calif. (AP) -- A huge mudslide
crashed down on homes in a coastal hamlet with terrifying
force Monday, killing at least one person and leaving up to
12 missing as a Pacific storm hammered Southern California
for a fourth straight day.
Ventura County Fire Department Chief Bob Roper said at least
six and as many as a dozen residents were missing in the mudslide
that pummeled a four-block area of homes in tiny La Conchita,
about 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Nine people were
injured, including a 60-year-old man who was buried for three
"It lasted a long time. It was slow-moving. The roofs of
the houses were crashing and creaking real loud and there
was a huge rumble sound," said Robert Cardoza, a construction
worker who was clearing debris from a nearby highway.
The mudslide brought the number of dead from the latest
wave of California storms to 10. The storms have sent rainfall
totals to astonishing levels, turning normally mild Southern
California into a giant flood zone.
The hillside in La Conchita cascaded down like a brown river
as authorities were evacuating about 200 residents from the
area. Trees and vegetation were carried away, leaving huge
gashes of raw earth on the bluff.
Some residents made their way from the area clutching pets,
luggage or clothing as the huge mass of mud bore down. Some
huddled together or cried as they talked on cell phones. Fifteen
to 20 houses were hit by the slide. [...]
The percentage of Earth's land area
stricken by serious drought more than doubled from the 1970s
to the early 2000s, according to a new analysis by scientists
at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Widespread
drying occurred over much of Europe and Asia, Canada, western
and southern Africa, and eastern Australia. Rising global
temperatures appear to be a major factor, says NCAR's Aiguo
Dai, lead author of the study.
Dai will present the new findings on January 12 at the American
Meteorological Society's annual meeting in San Diego. The
work also appears in the December issue of the Journal of
Hydrometeorology in a paper also authored by NCAR's Kevin
Trenberth and Taotao Qian. The study was supported by the
National Science Foundation, NCAR's primary sponsor.
Dai and colleagues found that the fraction of global land
experiencing very dry conditions (defined as -3 or less on
the Palmer Drought Severity Index) rose from about 10-15%
in the early 1970s to about 30% by 2002. Almost half of that
change is due to rising temperatures rather than decreases
in rainfall or snowfall, according to Dai.
"Global climate models predict increased drying over most
land areas during their warm season, as carbon dioxide and
other greenhouse gases increase," says Dai. "Our analyses
suggest that this drying may have already begun."
Even as drought has expanded across Earth's land areas,
the amount of water vapor in the air has increased over the
past few decades. The average global precipitation has also
risen slightly. However, as Dai notes, "surface air temperatures
over global land areas have increased sharply since the 1970s."
The large warming increases the tendency for moisture to evaporate
from land areas. Together, the overall area experiencing either
very dry or very wet conditions could occupy a greater fraction
of Earth's land areas in a warmer world, Dai says.
Though most of the Northern Hemisphere has shown a drying
in recent decades, the United States has bucked that trend,
becoming wetter overall during the last 50 years, says Dai.
The moistening is especially notable between the Rocky Mountains
and Mississippi River. Other parts of the world showing a
moistening trend include Argentina and parts of western Australia.
These trends are related more to increased precipitation than
to temperature, says Dai.
"Droughts and floods are extreme climate events that are
likely to change more rapidly than the average climate," says
Dai. "Because they are among the world's costliest natural
disasters and affect a very large number of people each year,
it is important to monitor them and perhaps predict their
Los Alamos National Laboratory is watching
the sky for tsunamis.
While most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes or landslides,
the potential for an asteroid-caused
tsunami remains a threat the world should watch out for,
said Galen Gisler, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist.
"Every 10,000 years or so, we should get a tsunami from
an asteroid, and we haven't had one in about that amount of
time," Gisler said. "It's a hard thing to calculate, because
we don't know how many asteroids are out there, but some international
groups are starting to do surveys to quantify that."
On lab computers, Gisler is modeling the potential impacts
of such a strike. The hope is that the modeling will help
give warning of where tsunamis would go and how they would
propagate if a large asteroid struck one of the world's oceans,
That warning could become part of a larger series of monitoring
systems that would prevent another disaster like the recent
tsunami in the Indian Ocean, he said.
It would cost a few million dollars to set up those systems
for asteroids, earthquakes and landslides in each of the world's
seas and oceans, but the warning systems could save thousands
of lives, Gisler said.
"If we had a monitoring system in the Indian Ocean, maybe
75,000 lives could have been saved in this recent disaster,"
Gisler said. "It's just ridiculous when you look back that
the money wasn't spent."
Asteroids are one of several under-monitored events that
could cause a disaster, Gisler said.
An asteroid the width of a half-mile
or bigger could cause tsunami waves to propagate across an
entire ocean. If something like that happened in the
Pacific, the world would get warning because of the monitoring
system there. Not so in the Atlantic, where there is no system,
"There's a danger of tsunamis in all oceans," Gisler said.
"Earthquakes are a danger in the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian
Ocean, but landslides, volcanoes and asteroids can also cause
The Caribbean and Indian Ocean also don't have systems,
Gisler's model grew out of his work at the lab analyzing
how bomb blasts will travel through water. After the tragedy
in the Indian Ocean, it has taken on new meaning, he said.
"My personal feeling is that all the world's oceans should
be monitored against these types of things," Gisler said.
Other factors than earthquakes could cause significant damage
in areas where people might think they're safe, said Sue Bilek,
a New Mexico Tech scientist who studies earthquake related
"There's not much danger in the Atlantic Ocean of a tsunami
from an earthquake, but many scientists have theorized you
could get a significant tsunami from a landslide or volcanic
eruption," Bilek said.
And a strike by a half-mile wide asteroid in the Atlantic
near Florida could cause a 10-foot-tall tsunami that could
kill thousands and create massive property destruction, Gisler
Even the Gulf of Mexico isn't completely safe, he said.
"The Caribbean has active volcanoes and faults where the
Caribbean plate is sliding into the Atlantic plate," Gisler
said. "Tsunamis could easily propagate from that area into
Scientists are doing what they can to learn from the disaster,
by modeling it to understand the devastating waves more clearly,
Gisler said. The international community is also finally talking
about setting up tsunami warning systems in the Caribbean
and Indian Ocean, he added.
"All you can hope for when something like this happens is
that some good can come out of it," Gisler said.
An earthquake measuring 5.8
on the Richter scale has shook northern Iran, but no casualties
were reported, an interior ministry spokesman said.
"The earthquake hit in a region near the city of Agh Ghala
between the Turkmen border and the Caspian Sea, but did not
claim any victims according to initial reports we have received,"
Jahanbaksh Khanjani said on Monday night.
The quake struck early on Tuesday morning and was followed
by two weaker aftershocks.
"Inhabitants were frightened and emerged onto the streets
of the main cities of the region," state news agency IRNA
Authorities warned residents of the region to take precautions
for possible further tremors.
An earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale devastated
the southeastern Iranian city of Bam in December 2003, killing
more than 30,000 people.
The Dec. 26th Indonesian megathrust
earthquake quickened Earth's rotation and changed our planet's
January 10, 2005: NASA scientists studying the Indonesian earthquake
of Dec. 26, 2004, have calculated that it slightly changed our
planet's shape, shaved almost 3 microseconds from the length
of the day, and shifted the North Pole by centimeters.
Dr. Benjamin Fong Chao of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
and Dr. Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said
all earthquakes have some effect on Earth's rotation. It's just
that the effects are, usually, barely noticeable.
This one was not usual: The devastating megathrust earthquake
registered nine on the new "moment" scale (modified
Richter scale), making it the fourth largest 'quake in one hundred
Chao and Gross routinely calculate earthquakes' effects on
Earth's shape and rotation. They also study changes in polar
motion--that is, the shifting of the North Pole.
According to their latest calculations, the Dec. 26th earthquake
shifted Earth's "mean North Pole" by about 2.5 centimeters
(1 inch) in the direction of 145 degrees east longitude, more
or less toward Guam in the Pacific Ocean. This shift is continuing
a long-term seismic trend identified in previous studies.
The quake also affected Earth's shape. Chao and Gross calculated
that Earth's oblateness (flattening on the top and bulging at
the equator) decreased by a small amount--about one part in
10 billion. This continues the trend of earthquakes making Earth
less oblate. Less oblate means more round.
They also found the earthquake decreased the length of the
day by 2.68 microseconds. (A microsecond is one millionth of
a second.) In other words, Earth spins a little faster than
it did before. This change in spin is related to the change
in oblateness. It's like a spinning skater drawing arms closer
to the body resulting in a faster spin.
None of these changes have yet been measured--only calculated.
But Chao and Gross hope to detect the changes when Earth rotation
data from ground based and space-borne sensors are reviewed.
It is an event so large that the best
seat in the house is in space: a massive iceberg is on a collision
course with a floating glacier near the McMurdo Research Station
in Antarctica. NASA satellites have witnessed the 100-mile-long
B-15A iceberg moving steadily towards the Drygalski Ice Tongue.
Though the iceberg's pace has slowed in recent days, NASA scientists
expect a collision to occur no later than January 15, 2005.
"It's a clash of the titans, a radical and uncommon event,"
says Robert Bindshadler, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center, and if the two giant slabs of ice collide, we
could see one of the best demolition derbies on the planet.
"Even a 'tap' from a giant can be powerful. It will certainly
be a blow far larger than anything else the ice tongue has ever
experienced," says Bindshadler.
When the iceberg and the ice tongue collide, the impact will
likely "dent their bumpers," says Bindshadler. The
edges could crumple and ice could pile or drift into the Ross
Sea. But if the B-15A iceberg picks up enough speed before the
two collide, the results could be more spectacular. The Drygalski
Ice Tongue could break off. [...]
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