Wednesday, January 19, 2005

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Yahweh's "fiery chariot"

YHWH's A Member Of The GOP


Think about it, he has to be. Anger, Jealously, covetousness, vengeance, extreme bias towards his 'chosen people' in the Israel-Palestine conflict, all these are hallmarks of the politics of a die hard Republican. Well, we should probably say "were" hallmarks of a die-hard Republican. Nowadays they are also the hallmarks of die-hard Democrats, the two-party system having apparently given way to the unifying power of "Christo-Judaism" and the influence of their representatives on earth - the Washington Neocons.

If you're still not convinced of the far right-leaning politics of the almighty, consider the fact that the current Republican president has admitted that he enjoys the benefits of a personal hotline to our lord and savior. By all accounts, Bush uses his direct connection to the occupants of the flying, fiery, metal chariot for consultations on the more difficult aspects of governance - like which country to invade next.

In fact, it was just last year that Bush revealed that God had told him to invade Iraq (for the sake of Israel of course). It was notable that he choose a meeting with then Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas to make his shocking declaration. The problem however was that he failed to tell Abbas who this "god" was. But perhaps it was better that he chose not to reveal to the Muslim Arab world that he was receiving instructions on Middle East policy directly from Jehovah. It probably wouldn't have gone down well.

All of this poses a slight problem for the 120 million avowed Christians in America and a really big problem for the other 40 million "fundie" Christians - the distinction being that an ordinary Christian is not 'overcome with the love of Jesus' quite as often as a fundie Christian.

The fact that Bush's God and mentor is obviously the same as the one that spoke from the "pillar of cloud", coupled with the fact that the policies of the US government will most likely end up ushering in the "end times", tends to suggest that the 40 million fundie Christians in the US (and all others around the world) may be looking at "ruptured" (see 3.a) rather than "raptured".

That just leaves the Jews; were they right all along? Are they the 'Chosen People' that will lead the world into a new dawn of peace and joy? Well, "chosen" is a rather ambiguous term, and when your God is, by his own admission, jealous and violent, we have to wonder just what he means by "peace and joy". Currently, things do not look good or peaceful for anyone on the planet, least of all the Semitic peoples of the Middle East region. Furthermore, there is a strong case for the fact that the "Zionist" leaders that are shaping the future of the Jewish people are Jewish in name only, and their intentions towards their "own people", are somewhat less than wholesome.

When all is considered, we are left with the distinct impression that each of the major religions are right to assert that their god is "the one true god". Jehovah, Jesus, Mohammed, Barney, call him whatever you want. It doesn't really matter. When you look at that which has been wrought in the name of any of the "gods" over the past 5 thousand years, it is not hard to deduce that we are talking about the same violent and jealous identity who thrives on conflict and the pain and suffering of his "children".

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Iran on Guard Palestinian Civil War Looms

Middle East Realities
Jan 18 2005

In Palestine the Israelis -- with still increasing American help and support and having successfully assassinated the senior credible leaders including Ahmed Yassin and Yasser Arafat -- are now quite literally forcing Abu Mazen to end the Intifada and acquiesce to Israeli dictate. The likely result if Abu Mazen attempts to fully comply is the Palestinian Civil War the Israelis have been manuevering for some time to bring about, regardless of all the verbal smokescreens designed to obfuscate the actual realities of the situation.

But in a sense Palestine is now a sideshow, for no real two-state solution is any longer possible west of the Jordan and most certainly Ariel Sharon has not spent a lifetime vanquishing and killing the Palestinians only to turn around now when he has them everywhere surrounded, cowering, and bleeding.

Now, in the aftermath of 9/11 and the new American/Israeli crusade to remake the Middle East as they want it, the whole region is in play and at stake.

On one side are the forces aligned with the American Empire, technologically and militarily vastly superior to their opponents. Much of Europe and other U.S. clients in the world remain in uneasy alliance with the Americans despite stylistic and policy differences.

On the other side is now an uneasy but extraordinarily determined coalition of Muslim-inspired fighters hardened by religious zeal coupled with Arab nationalists together fighting desperately to throw off the new shackles of what they see as re-imposed colonialism and imperialism -- now constantly termed 'freedom' and 'democracy' by the American President who continues to assert God choose him and guides him.

The firepower plus the huge technological and financial advantage available to the Americans is far beyond anything the world has ever seen. Yet already, rather amazing to many observers, is how much opposition the 'insurgents' have been able to muster against the colonial invading armies regardless of all their disadvantages.

With the Arab world still largely co-opted and in the ruling hands of American-backed 'client regimes' and CIA-taught police states, regional power has shifted to Iran whose 1979 revolution continues to shake the very foundations of Western control of the vast and rich region.

While the much in the news Palestinian situation is manipulated by Washington largely for public relations reasons in coordination with the Israelis, the growing power of Iran -- in a new embryonic alliance with China as well as with Russia -- is what the U.S. and Israel have decided they must suppress and cripple one way or another.

Indeed the situation with Iran is getting more and more dangerous by the week with an explosion possible now at any time. Top Iranian political and military leaders have already gone public with threats to devastatingly counter-attack against Israel or even 'pre-empt' against American troops in the region. They have vowed not to let happen to them what has been done to Iraq. Already the public threatening -- not to even mention all that is going on behind-the-scenes out of view -- is of a very unusual and
extraordinarily dangerous kind.

Think back just a few years now. For quite some time the U.S. insisted that the 'decision to attack' Iraq had not yet been taken. The U.S. went loudly to the Security Council with that message in 2002, then again with Colin Powell in 2003 -- though all the while preparations for invading and occupying Iraq were covertly underway. Then, shortly after the Iraq invasion began, non other than Ariel Sharon in Israel publicly and loudly proclaimed that after Iraq must soon come Iran.

Whether the Iranians have sufficiently secret and hardened weapons facilities, and whether or not they have at this time sufficient deterrent weapons capabilities of the chemical and biological kind, is unknown. The betting in Washington and in Israel seems to be that now is the time to strike and take control, before they do.

They may be right about that. But even so the kind of military attack that would be needed to neutralize and disarm Iran would be like none other before. And the possible tsunami-like wave of political, economic, and military ramifications that might flow from such an expansion of the American/Israeli crusade might also be like none other before; potentially sweeping the world into a real World War III if not "just" a lingering lower-grade world-wide conflagation with no end in sight.

Beyond devasting more of the Middle East such a wave of aftershocks could very well further drain the U.S. of its resources, it's energies, and it's remaining credibility; and further isolate Israel until some day in the future when Arab and Muslim revenge would become possible.

Bottom line: There are substantial unforseen ramifications likely to what the American Neocons and their Israeli allies have planned; far far greater and more dangerous than what has so far resulted from the Invasion of Iraq and the defeat of the Palestinians

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Bush's Grand Plan? Incite Civil War in Iraq


The Bush Administration is intentionally steering Iraq towards civil war. The elections are merely the catalyst for igniting, what could be, a massive social upheaval. This explains the bizarre insistence on voting when security is nearly nonexistent and where a mere 7% of the people can even identify the candidates. (This figure gleaned from Allawi's Baghdad newspaper, Al-Sabah) Rumsfeld is using the elections as a springboard for aggravating tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and for diverting attention away from the troops. It's a foolhardy move that only magnifies the desperation of the present situation. The Pentagon brass expected a "cakewalk" and, instead, they've found themselves mired in a guerilla war.

Everyone from Brent Scowcroft to Tom Friedman has speculated on the likelihood of civil war. Their comments are more reflective of the hopes of American elites than they are of realities on the ground. Sure, Friedman would like to see Muslims killing Muslims, but it won't happen. Tom hasn't guessed right on the war yet, and that's not about to change. The same could be said for Rumsfeld. For a Sec-Def who regards "information as power", Rumsfeld seems woefully blinkered by the true nature of the fighting. He seems incapable of grasping even the most basic elements of the conflict or the psychology that fuels it. Whatever happened to the military mantra, "Know your enemy"?

When you destroy a man's home and kill and disgrace his friends, he'll fight back. And, when you rob a man of everything he has, including his dignity, you leave him with one, solitary passion rage. This rage is now animating the resistance in ways that no one had previously anticipated. The world's lone superpower is roped to the ground like Gulliver and the Pentagon high-command is getting increasingly agitated.

Civil war can be messy. Inciting religious and sectarian hatreds tends to disrupt the smooth execution of business; like the purging of potential enemies and the extracting of vital resources. Never the less, Rumsfeld is nearly out of options; "divide and conquer" may be all that's left. If we glance at the last 3 imperial projects; Kosovo, Haiti and Afghanistan, the very same strategy was applied. All three nations have been effectively carved up, delivered to US multi-national corporations, and reduced to warlordism or anarchy. Their outcome sets the precedent for similar results in Iraq.
Will Iraq be Balkenized along ethnic and religious lines?

That's what the Generals are hoping, and their plan is already in full swing. The Marines deployed Shiite National Guards during the siege of Falluja with the obvious intention of exacerbating tensions between the two factions. The Kurdish Peshmerga was utilized in Mosul for the very same purpose. Also, there have been a number of suspicious bombings (particularly the attacks on Sunni clerics in Najaf and Kerbala) that are not at all consistent with the insurgent pattern, but suggest a clandestine (CIA?) operation to incite hostilities. Add to this the projected election results, which will tilt heavily towards the Shiites, and there's a real potential for internecine violence. It's easy to see how Pentagon planners might think that these provocations could auger a massive internal struggle. It won't happen, though.

Whatever we may think of the Iraqis at this point, one thing is certain; they know who their enemy is. The element of surprise or deception has evaporated like the plumes of smoke dispersing over Falluja. They know who we are, and they know they want us out.

Deteriorating Security

Rumsfeld finally seems to be grasping the seriousness of the predicament. The security situation has deteriorated so dramatically that even his support among elites is eroding. Last week foreign policy Gurus, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, fired off a salvo of criticism directed at the mishandling of the occupation. The normally circumspect Brzezinski was particularly savage, slamming the war as a sign of "moral decay"; a euphemism that will undoubtedly send shock waves through America's boardrooms and think-tanks.

James Dobbins of the conservative Rand Corporation was equally ferocious, stating bluntly that "The beginning of wisdom is to realize that the United States can't win."

"Can't win?"

Dobbins probably should have added, "Can't win, but won't leave," as the appropriate adjunct to his first observation. American elites may disparage the conduct of the occupation, but they've tied the nation's future to its success and won't give up easily.

Rumsfeld Shifts Gears

There are signs that the recalcitrant Rumsfeld is beginning to get the message. Last week he dispatched retired General Gary Luck to Iraq to produce a detailed breakdown of force strength and vulnerabilities. When Luck returns he will appear before Congress and make an energetic appeal for more troops and stiffer resolve. He can be expected to draw a dismal picture of a failed state that threatens to destabilize the entire region unless America makes a greater commitment. Both the Congress and the media will play a role in calling on the American people for steadfastness in the face of a very long and bloody occupation. Many believe that Luck's assessment will determine whether Bush will approach Congress to reinstate the draft.

Enlisting the skills of General Luck is an indication that Rumsfeld is giving ground to his critics; that he is no longer elevating his judgment above all others. His bungling of every aspect of the war has limited his ability to act unilaterally. He will either have to demonstrate some level of cooperation or step down. The war's two main debacles so far can be directly pinned on Rumsfeld. First, he went in "too light" (without sufficient manpower to secure the peace) and second, he dismissed the 400,000 strong Iraqi military, the majority of whom now comprise the resistance. The final outcome in Iraq will certainly rest heavily on those two foolish choices.

Leveling Falluja

The siege of a Falluja was a crossroads for the American occupation. The right-wing punditocracy insisted that the resistance in Falluja be crushed by any means possible; preferably overwhelming force. The Baghdad enclave of 250,000 was decimated by the relentless pounding of US aerial bombardment and a full-fledged ground assault that left over 700 civilians dead; 70% of whom were women and children.

In the first attack on Falluja Lt. Col. B. P. McCoy noted that, "We don't want to rubblize, the city. That will give the enemy more places to hide." McCoy's injunction was ignored during the second (Nov 8) siege. The city has been both "rubblized" and rendered "uninhabitable". (according to the Red Crescent)

The Bush administration applied the "nuclear option" to Falluja; leveling the city to send a message that future resistance would be dealt with accordingly. The message was faithfully rejected.

If anything, Falluja has only strengthened the resolve of the anti-American forces and increased recruitment for the resistance. The violence has spread and intensified throughout the Sunni Triangle, with the number of attacks skyrocketing to 75 per day. Falluja has removed any doubt from the minds of young Iraqi men that a nonviolent settlement is possible. The flattening of a city of 250,000 confirms, in stark terms, that the war will be decided by force of arms. Falluja has removed whatever "gray area" there may have been before.

The numbers of insurgents are steadily on the rise since the siege. The strength of the current rebellion was estimated last week by Iraq's Intelligence Chief, General Mohammed Shahwani. Shahwani told a Saudi newspaper that the "US was facing 40,000 hard-core fighters" and a support group of as "many as 150,000 to 200,000".

Predictably, the story was buried in the western press, but the implications are clear. The Pentagon has been intentionally misleading the American people about the size and strength of the insurgency. (previous estimates were between 5,000 to 20,000) These new figures, which are now supported by many independent defense analysts, point to an insurgency which is numerically larger than the occupation and fully prepared to fight a long and gory guerilla war. This brings us back to James Dobbins observation "The beginning of wisdom is to realize that the United States can't win."


Falluja's failure means that the prospect of destroying the rest of Iraq's cities is more remote. Rather, success will depend on increasing the number of US troops and developing a long term strategy for "incrementally" establishing security. The only other option is to deflect attention from the occupation forces by inciting widespread instability. A civil war may serve the short term interests of the administration, but it could also provoke region-wide turmoil. It's a risk that no sane person would consider. The determination to carry out the Jan 30 elections further proves that the administration has not veered from the reckless and delusional strategies that have thrust the mission to the brink of disaster.

Months ago, Baghdad correspondent, Patrick Cockburn warned that the United States was "in danger of losing the war" in Iraq. Since then the security situation has steadily worsened and vast swaths of the country have come under rebel control. Every promotional device the administration has used (the forming of the Coalition Provisional Authority; the transfer of sovereignty and, now, the elections) has backfired; bringing on larger attacks and stiffer resistance. Rumsfeld's "high-tech" warfare has degenerated into death squads and torture chambers; a pitiable return to medieval combat. The civilian leadership, drunk with hubris and greed, never noticed the wave of insurgency looming in the distance. Now, they,re facing daily trauma and death without a clear plan for success. The Iraq mission is like a 21st century Striker-vehicle buried up to its axels and lolling in the dessert sand. As the Jan 30 deadline approaches, there's little sign that things will improve.

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Official: Iran isn't afraid of U.S.
Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has acquired a strong military capability and will deter any attacks against it, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said.

Shamkhani, speaking Monday at a technology conference, said Iran did not fear the United States, which has already toppled the fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan and dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

"We can say we have developed a might that no country can attack us because they do not have accurate information about our military capabilities," said Shamkhani, whose comments were released Tuesday.

"We have produced equipment at a rapid pace with the minimum investment that has resulted in the greatest deterrent force," the ministry quoted Shamkhani as saying.

Shamkhani's defiant stance came the same day President Bush said on NBC's "Today" show that he wants to resolve a potential nuclear threat from Iran through diplomacy.

"I hope we can solve it diplomatically but I will never take any option off the table," the president said without elaborating.

Also Monday, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker magazine that the Bush administration had been "conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer" for the purpose of gathering intelligence and targeting information.

White House officials rejected the report in Monday editions of the magazine, saying it was inaccurate.

Shamkhani did not say what sort of military hardware Iran has produced. In November, he announced that Iran was able to mass produce its Shahab-3 missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Iran last successfully tested the medium-range missile in 2002 before equipping its elite Revolutionary Guards with it in July 2003. Shamkhani has repeatedly said Iran is constantly improving the range and accuracy of its missiles in response to efforts by Israel to upgrade its missile systems.

Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said in October that the missiles now have a range of more than 1,200 miles.

The toppling of Saddam and the Taliban have worried many Iranians about the possibility that Iran would be next on America's list. Bush has accused Iran of being part of an "axis of evil" with North Korea and prewar Iraq.

The United States has accused Iran of seeking a covert nuclear weapons program. Iran has denied the charge, saying its nuclear program is geared only toward generating electricity, not producing a bomb.

Hersh, who broke the story about the Abu Ghraib prisoner torture scandal in Iraq, wrote that he had repeatedly been told by intelligence and military officials, on condition of anonymity, that "the next strategic target was Iran."

European Union officials said Tuesday they would oppose a military strike against Iran. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU presidency, said they hoped to persuade Bush during a summit later this month that the only solution a standoff over Iran's nuclear program was through diplomacy.

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Poll: World more dangerous with Bush
SWednesday 19 January 2005, 14:39 Makka Time, 11:39 GMT

A large majority of people questioned in a BBC World Service global opinion poll think US President George Bush has made the world more dangerous.

Almost half of the nearly 21,000 people in 21 countries who responded to the poll published on Wednesday made no distinction between the Bush administration and the US itself.

They saw US influence in the world as largely negative and viewed Americans negatively as well.

In none of the countries polled was there support for contributing troops to Iraq.

"Negative feelings about Bush are high and are generalising to
the American people who re-elected him," said Steven Kull, director of the programme on international policy attitudes at the University of Maryland, which carried out the poll in collaboration with international polling company GlobalScan.

"This is quite a grim picture for the US," he added.

Need for diplomacy

In US Senate confirmation hearings, Bush's nominee as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, on Tuesday acknowledged the need for more diplomacy and for the rebuilding of alliances.

She said US interaction with the world "must be a conversation, not a monologue".

Comment: Yeah, right. Sure. We believe you, Condi.

Typically, one British contributor to the World Service website on Wednesday said Bush's re-election "means more pollution, war and social injustice [particularly in America]".

"Whatever happened to the freedom-loving, forward-thinking, right-minded people that made America the envy of the rest of us?" he asked.

More dangerous

On average across all countries, the BBC poll indicated that 58% of people think Bush's re-election has made the world more dangerous.

Only in three countries, Poland, India and the Philippines, was there a majority of support for Bush.

Even in traditional US allies such as Germany, France and
Britain, as well as in neighbouring Canada and Mexico, sentiment was predominantly anti-Bush.

In Turkey, a US ally and the only Muslim member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, 82% of those polled said Bush's re-election was bad for world peace.

Anti-Bush sentiment was also strong in Latin America, with 79% of those polled in Argentina and 78% in Brazil describing his re-election in negative terms.

In the poll, which took place from 15 November to 5 January,
500 to 1800 people were surveyed in each country.

The margin of error in extrapolating the results to the entire population was placed between 2.5 and four percentage points, depending on the country.

Comment: The results of this poll are not a surprise. Today's news, as that of any day pulled at random off a calendar, gives ample evidence that the world is in a far sorrier state than before GW took office four years ago this week.

Unfortunately, the numbers in this poll will not stop the Bush juggernaut; they will not cause those Americans who back GW to reflect upon their leader, his lies, the devastation he has brought upon the Middle East, not to mention the surprises his team has in store for us during the next four years. For reasons we have looked at before, some of which are discussed in the article by George Monbiot below, reports of the poll in the US media, if it is mentioned at all, will portray it as more of a rising tide of "anti-Americanism", a sort of irrational and inexplicable hatred of any and all things American that arises when the US tries to help out the oppressed of the world. These news reports will be isolated from the political context and the policies of the US government abroad, the real effects of the US presence in other countries, whether military or economic, and this fiction can be maintained because many people are content to live in their illusion. They do not wish to know the truth. They choose to remain ignorant.

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US official confirms Allawi shot six dead

Sydney Morning Herald
January 19, 2005

A former Jordanian government minister has told The New Yorker that an American official confirmed to him that the Iraqi interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, executed six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station last year.

The claim is in an extensive profile of Dr Allawi written for this week's issue of the magazine by an American journalist, Jon Lee Anderson, the author of The Fall of Baghdad and a regular Baghdad correspondent for The New Yorker.

Writing about his research in Jordan in December, Anderson says: "A well-known former government minister told me that an American official had confirmed that the killings took place, saying to him, 'What a mess we're in - we got rid of one son of a bitch only to get another one'."

The New Yorker also revealed that Anderson was present during an interview conducted by the Herald's chief correspondent, Paul McGeough, in late June, with a man who said he witnessed the executions by Dr Allawi.

Dr Allawi denied the allegations when they were published in the Herald last July.

Anderson writes: "The man ... described how Allawi had been taken to seven suspects, who were made to stand against a wall in a courtyard of the police station, their faces covered. After being told of their alleged crimes by a police official, Allawi had asked for a pistol, and then shot each prisoner in the head. [One of the men survived.] Afterward, the witness said, Allawi had declared to those present, 'This is how we must deal with the terrorists.' The witness said he approved of Allawi's act, adding that, in any case, the terrorists were better off dead, for they had been tortured for days."

Comment: Search the mainstream media news sites and any mainstream printed media for evidence of this story and you will find two - both outside the US. The American public are being kept in what amounts to solitary confinement from the reality of the world, and they are then asked to voice their opinion the war in Iraq. Allawi is CIA-trained US-sponsored puppet that Bush has vouched for to lead Iraq towards freedom and democracy. He is the man who received a rapturous standing ovation from the elected officials in the US congress. Sick yet? We hope so.

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Abuse pictures that shame British Army


PHOTOGRAPHS of British troops abusing Iraqi looters at their base in Iraq were shown at the soldiers’ court martial in Germany yesterday.

The photos taken on 15 May 2003 at a supply depot in Basra show naked Iraqis being forced to simulate degrading sex acts.

They show one blindfolded Iraqi man trussed up like a chicken suspended from the prongs of a forklift truck. And they show one soldier standing on a prostrate captive like a hunter with his prey.

The 22 colour photos form the case against three soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who face lengthy jail terms and dismissal with disgrace from the army if found guilty.

The photos come as British troops still struggle for hearts and minds in Iraq ahead of democratic elections. There are fears that incident will be compared around the world to the abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad, where US troops degraded and humiliated their prisoners.

In an attempt to limit the damage, the head of the army, General Sir Mike Jackson, said yesterday he condemned utterly all acts of abuse.

Lt-Col Nick Clapham, prosecuting in the case that opened at Roberts Barracks in Osnabrueck, said: "It cannot be said that these pictures are of incidents that are anything other than shocking and appalling."

The soldiers were guarding the camp, which had been plagued by looters.

The prosecution says the accused - L-Cpl Mark Cooley, 25, L-Cpl Darren Larkin, 30, and Cpl Daniel Kenyon, 33 - took the law into their own hands after an unauthorised order issued to them by their commander.

Major Dan Taylor, in charge of the facility, called Camp Bread Basket - a food centre - was fed up with the stores being looted nightly by raiders.

After requesting extra staff - which he received - he issued an edict that the looters stealing were to be rounded up "and worked hard". But Maj Taylor’s order contravened both military law and the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of civilians in an occupied country.

"He was not authorised to issue such an order," said Lt-Col Clapham. "Even though the order to make them work was unlawful, had these defendants done no more than what that order envisaged they would not be facing these charges. These charges are a long way outside that order.

"In no way did that order envisage conduct of the type that I have described."

Lt-Col Clapham told the seven officers sitting in judgment on the three men that the order to catch and punish the Iraqi looters was called "Operation Ali Baba".

It involved men dressed in training kit armed with camouflage poles - long sticks used to erect netting around parked military vehicles - going hunting for looters.

Once they were brought back with their plunder they were made to run in searing heat with boxes of dried milk on their heads.

But then this "beasting", in army parlance, turned worse when the Iraqis were split into small groups.

Cpl Kenyon, who was part of a platoon drafted into Camp Bread Basket specifically to boost security, was in charge of men who took three or four Iraqis away from the main body of captives.

The army alleges that he, as a senior man, aided and abetted in the abuse that was his duty to stop.

The court heard that L-Cpl Cooley drove the forklift truck and that most of the photos were taken by a fusilier convicted in an earlier case relating to the abuse.

The pictures will send shockwaves through the British Army, which still has 9,000 soldiers around Basra in the run-up to Iraqi elections.

Among the images are photos of two naked Iraqi men simulating anal sex with their thumbs raised up to the cameras and a close-up photograph of two Iraqi men simulating oral sex.

A grinning L-Cpl Cooley is also seen driving a forklift truck with an Iraqi male suspended from the forks, which are raised about two metres.

The court heard that L-Cpl Cooley admitted driving the truck, but that he claimed it was "to move the man out of the sun".

A statement from Emma Louise Blackie, who works in a photo developing shop in Tamworth, Staffordshire, was read into court about the day when Fusilier Gary Barclam came into the store with the "trophy snaps" which led to the court martial.

She told police that she was shocked by the content of the photos, which she thought "looked like PoWs being abused.

"I remember the man who brought them in as being very polite," Ms Blackie said. "But I called the police straight away. I knew something was very wrong."

Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the Chief of the General Staff, said yesterday that all such allegations of abuse were investigated immediately.

In a statement, he stressed that only a "small number" of the 65,000 servicemen and women who had served in Iraq were alleged to have been involved in such incidents.

And he promised that the outcome of the court martial would be studied to see if it raised any further issues for the army.

Sir Mike said that for legal reasons he could not comment directly on the photographs while the hearing was continuing in Germany. "In the meantime, we can only repeat what we have said in the past about abuse," he said.

"We condemn utterly all acts of abuse. Where there is evidence of abuse, this is investigated immediately.

"We have always made clear that the proper way of dealing with allegations of abuse by the armed forces is for them to be investigated by the service police and, as appropriate, prosecuted by the independent service authorities.

"I have every confidence in the military investigative and judicial system."

Cpl Kenyon faces six charges in total, including two of aiding and abetting a person to force two naked males being detained by British troops to simulate a sex act.

L-Cpl Cooley faces three charges, including tying an unknown male prisoner to a forklift truck, as well as simulating punching and kicking another unknown male also being detained by the army.

Both entered not-guilty pleas to the abuse charges.

L-Cpl Larkin, 30, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, admitted one charge of assaulting an unknown male at the camp, but denied another charge of forcing two Iraqi males to undress in front of others.

William England, representing L-Cpl Larkin, said his client was ashamed of the offence to which he had pleaded guilty.

He said: "He knows he has brought shame on his proud regiment, his name and his family."

All the men have been allowed to continue to serve with their regiment until the commencement of the trial, but they are facing between four and ten years in prison if found guilty of all the charges.

The trial is expected to last a month.

Comment: So are we to take it that deliberately abusing and torturing Iraqis "brings shame on a proud regiment" while "lighting up" innocent Iraqi families does not? It would appear that the only real shame being felt by the British or American military or their task masters in government is the fact that such stories of abuse actually become public knowlege.

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Four killed by Shiite election office bomb

A suicide driver detonated a car bomb today outside the offices of Iraq’s largest Shiite political party, killing three other people.

The attacker drove his vehicle to a checkpoint in front of offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as SCIRI, and claimed to be one of the party’s security guards.

"The guards did not recognise him and the driver stepped back and detonated his car," Lt Col Kendall Penn told reporters at the scene.

Penn said four people, including the driver, were killed and four were injured.

The attack occurred in the capital’s Jadriyah district and left the two vehicles in flames.

Shredded debris littered the street in front of the SCIRI offices.

SCIRI was at the forefront of the Shiite struggle against Saddam Hussein and many of its key figures fled to Iran, returning after the US-led invasion toppled the regime in April 2003.

It is expected to run strong in the election on January 30, when Iraqis choose a 275-member National Assembly.

Sunni Muslim clerics have called for an election boycott and Sunni insurgents have threatened to attack voting stations to disrupt the ballot, expected to transfer political power to the Shiite majority.

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Two candidates assassinated in Iraq
January 19, 2005 - 6:24AM

Assailants in southern Iraq gunned down two candidates running in the January 30 elections for the political coalition of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a member of the group has said.

Alaa Hamid, who was running on Allawi's slate of candidates for the 275-member National Assembly, was shot dead Monday in the southern port city of Basra in front of his family, a member of Allawi's Iraqi National Accord said. Hamid was also the deputy chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee in Basra.

The other slain candidate was Riad Radi, who was running in the local race for Basra's provincial council on a list supported by Allawi's INC, the official said on condition of anonymity. Masked gunmen fired on his car Sunday as he was driving with his family, the official said.

Sunni Muslim militants who oppose holding the elections have warned candidates not to run. With less than two weeks until the vote, many candidates haven't even announced they're running for fear of attack.

Basra, a predominantly Shi'ite Muslim city, has been relatively calm in recent weeks. In central Iraq, meanwhile, there have been numerous attacks on polling offices in the past days.

There was violence in Basra on Sunday, as insurgents fired four mortar rounds at schools slated to serve as polling centres.

In Baghdad on Monday, masked gunmen shot dead another candidate, Shaker Jabbar Sahla, a Shi'ite Muslim who was running in the National Assembly election for the Constitutional Monarchy Movement. The party is headed by Sharif Ali bin Hussein, a cousin of Iraq's last king.

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Update: Church leader released unharmed
January 19, 2005

A Catholic archbishop kidnapped at gunpoint from outside his church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was freed yesterday, a day after his abduction, the Vatican said yesterday.

Pope John Paul II, who had prayed for Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa's release, was told immediately of the release, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said.

"He changed his prayer to one of thanks," he said.

A ransom of $US200,000 ($265,026) initially had been demanded, but the Syrian Catholic Church bishop was released without the payment of any money, the Vatican said.

The Vatican had branded the kidnapping a "despicable terrorist act" and demanded his immediate release.

The archbishop was walking in front of the Al-Bishara church in Mosul's eastern neighbourhood of Muhandeseen when gunmen forced him into a car and drove away, witnesses said. [...]

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Eight Chinese kidnapped in Iraq, rescue underway
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-19 08:56

Eight Chinese hostages including two teenagers have been taken hostage by insurgents in Iraq.

A video was released yesterday that claimed the eight would be killed within 48 hours if the Chinese Government did not clarify its position on the war.

Insurgents, their faces covered by chequered headdresses, identified themselves as fighters from the Movement of the Islamic Resistance Nuamaan Brigade, apparently named after an ancient Islamic warrior.

They released the video and a statement to the pan-Arabic television network al-Jazeera yesterday.

"We captured these Chinese as they were trying to leave Iraq. Interrogations showed they worked for one of the Chinese companies helping to build American facilities in Iraq," said one of the gunmen, holding a pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle next to the hostages.

Dressed in winter coats, they pointed their weapons at the eight men, who stood silently on a dirt floor in front of a cement wall.

"The position of the Chinese Government towards our cause was clear - not taking part in invasion forces and their aggression against our country," said a voice on the tape.

"We call on the Chinese Government to clarify its position on them and other Chinese. We will kill them 48 hours after their pictures are televised unless that is done," the gunman said on the video.

Along with the video, al-Jazeera also released a statement, although the network did not release it all at once.

Part of the statement indicated that the group could free the hostages on condition they "will quit their work with the occupation forces." [...]

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Media Training Now Required for Iraq-Bound Soldiers

By Joe Strupp
Published: January 18, 2005 12:00 PM ET

NEW YORK As the U.S. military approaches nearly two years in the Iraq conflict, media training for soldiers going into the war zone has been stepped up, becoming mandatory for Army troops since October, E&P has learned.

"Talking point" cards for military personnel, meanwhile, are being updated regularly as the war progresses -- often as much as once a week -- to keep up with the conflict's changing issues and the proximity of embedded reporters. Among the current talking points: "We are a values-based, people-focused team that strives to uphold the dignity and respect of all."

Soldiers preparing for deployment in hostile or critical areas have received some kind of media training in handling press inquiries since as far back as the first Persian Gulf War, according to several military press officers. Such training has also included pocket cards with suggested talking points for the combatants, which advise them how best to promote the military operation and avoid awkward or confrontational interviews.

"As situations happen, you will have ever-changing talking points, as much as every week," said Capt. Jeff Landis, a Marine Corps public-affairs spokesman. "They are tailored to the situation."

The media training consists of one or two hours of briefings by public-affairs specialists from the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md. In the past, such training was provided only to those Army units who requested it, according to Sgt. Don Dees, an Army spokesman based at the Baghdad press center. But, since October, it has become a mandatory requirement for all deploying Army troops.

"The Army just recently made it a common soldier task; it is one of the requirements they go through," Dees said. "It is in our best interest to provide them that training."

While the Marine Corps has made such training a requirement for years, it has taken on more importance in recent months as well. "There is more heightened awareness with this particular conflict," Capt. Landis told E&P, referring to the Iraq operation. "It has taken a higher priority."

During training, soldiers are urged to speak with the press as a way of promoting the positive elements of the operation, but not to lie or speak about issues with which they are not familiar.

"It is a standard part of deployment preparation," said Lt. Col. Gerard Healy, an Army spokesman based at the Pentagon.

Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Department of Defense spokesman, compared it to any other basic training. "It is a common task, much like firing your rifle," he said. "It has emerged over the past 10 years as a necessary skill."

The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., noted this week that the first talking point in a slide show for troops at Fort Bragg was: "We are not an occupying force."

A list of "wallet-card" talking points given to a group of Marines heading to Iraq, obtained by that newspaper, included:

• The Marine Corps is trained, resourced, and ready to accomplish its missions. We are committed to the cause and will remain in Iraq as long as we are needed.
• The fight in Iraq is tough, but we will remain steadfast and not lose heart.
• We are moving forward together with the Iraqi government as partners in building a future for the sons and daughters of Iraq.
• Coalition forces will help our Iraqi partners as they build their new and independent country and take their rightful place in the world community.
• Our troopers and their families are our greatest and most treasured resource.
• The Corps is a national institution -- it has never failed to do the will of the American people.

In media training, meanwhile, soldiers are advised not to discuss classified information, to confine comments to their area of knowledge, and to stay on the record. Other advice includes talking to the interviewer, not the camera; avoiding acronyms, profanity, or a "no comment"; and not arguing or answering a question they do not want to answer. [...]

Comment: The war is being fought in the media in the United States. If the American people support the war, the war will continue, if they don't, then the pressure will build, a strong anti-war movement will emerge, and the policy could be forced to change. This lesson came from the war in Vietnam.

Unfortunately, the American propaganda machine has learned the lesson better than the anti-war movement. The media is locked up by owners who support Bush and the whole neocon agenda. But just to be on the safe side, to make certain that nothing slips out, the soldiers are being turned into spin doctors. Maybe they'll talk to some reporter from one of those countries where the population does not support the occupation a plundering of Iraq -- Poland, the Philippines, and India.

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U.S. Military Resorting to Collective Punishment
Dahr Jamail
Jan 18/05 (IPS)

BAGHDAD, - The U.S. military is resorting to collective punishment tactics in Iraq similar to those used by Israeli troops in the occupied territories of Palestine, residents say.

Military bulldozers have mown down palm groves in the rural al-Dora farming area on the outskirts of Baghdad, residents say. Electricity has been cut, the local fuel station destroyed and the access road blocked.

The U.S. action comes after resistance fighters attacked soldiers from this area several weeks back.

"The Americans were attacked from this field, then they returned and started cutting down all the trees," says Kareem, a local mechanic, pointing to a pile of burnt date palms in a bulldozed field. "None of us knows any fighters, we all know they are coming here from other areas to attack the Americans, but we are the people who suffer from this."

The military action follows a similar round of attacks and retaliation earlier this month.

U.S. Army Brigadier-General Mark Kimmit told reporters then that the military had launched 'Operation Iron Grip' in the area to send "a very clear message to anybody who thinks that they can run around Baghdad without worrying about the consequences of firing RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), firing mortars."

Gen. Kimmit said "there is a capability in the air that can quickly respond against anybody who would want to harm Iraqi citizens or coalition forces." Then as now, local people denied any knowledge of harbouring resistance fighters.

And now, as then, they say they have to pay the price.

"They destroyed our fences, and now there are wolves attacking our animals," said Mohammed, a schoolboy. "They destroyed much of our farming equipment, and the worst is they cut our electricity. They come by here every night and fire their weapons to frighten us."

People need electricity to run pumps to irrigate the farms, he said. "Now we are carrying water in buckets from the river, and this is very difficult for us," Mohammed said. "They say they are going to make things better for us, but they are worse."

Going into fields littered with unexploded mortar shells after the U.S. retaliation has become hazardous now. "We asked them the first time and they said okay, we'll come take care of it," said a farmer who called himself Sharkr. "But they never came."

Other residents say soldiers beat them up during random home raids. "I was beaten by the Americans," said Ihsan, a 17 year-old secondary school student. "They asked me who attacked them, but I do not know. My home was raided, our furniture destroyed, and one of my uncles was arrested."

People in Abu Hishma village in the area spoke of similar experiences earlier. After U.S.. soldiers were attacked, the entire village was encircled with razor wire. Residents were forced to acquire military identity badges and enter through a military controlled checkpoint.

The main farm road was blocked by four large concrete slabs after attacks several weeks ago. Residents used tractors to remove the blocks, but last week they say the military installed four larger blocks.

"They humiliate us when we talk to them," said Hamoud Abid, a 50-year-old farmer. "They would not tell us when they will remove these blocks, so we are all walking now."

A military spokesperson in Baghdad declined to comment on the statements by the people in al-Dora, and declined a request for his name. But he said there were ongoing security operations in al-Dora.

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Hamas claims responsibility for blast as Abbas starts ceasefire talks
Last Updated Tue, 18 Jan 2005 13:46:00 EST
CBC News

GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP - Hamas is claiming responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, just hours after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived to press militant leaders for a ceasefire.

Rescue workers said as many as six Israelis and a Palestinian were wounded in the attack near a Jewish settlement and an army outpost at the Kissufim border crossing. Israel closed it last week after a deadly assault hit another crossing.

Hamas claimed responsibility in an electronic message sent to the Associated Press, which identified the bomber as a 21-year-old man who lived near a Palestinian refugee camp.

The attack came shortly after Abbas arrived in Gaza to negotiate with leaders from Hamas and other militant groups, to try to persuade them to lay down their weapons.

Abbas, who was sworn in as president of the Palestinian Authority on Saturday, has publicly condemned the armed uprising against Israel but has so far refused to use force against groups such as Hamas.

Israel has threatened major military action if Abbas fails to rein in the militants. [...]

Comment: It seems strange that Hamas would deliberately attempt to scupper the chance for peace and security for the Palestinian people in whose name they claim to act. But it is "strange" only until one becomes aware of the truth...

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Flashback: Israeli Roots of Hamas Are Being Exposed

by Dean Andromidas

Speaking in Jerusalem Dec. 20, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer made the connection between the growth of the Islamic fundamentalist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Israel's promotion of the Islamic movement as a counter to the Palestinian nationalist movement. Kurtzer's comments come very close to EIR's own presentation of the evidence of Israel's instrumental role in establishing Hamas, and its ongoing control of that organization.

Kurtzer said that the growth of the Islamic movement in the Palestinian territories in recent decades—"with the tacit support of Israel"—was "not totally unrelated" to the emergence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and their terrorist attacks against Israel. Kurtzer explained that during the 1980s, when the Islamic movement began to flourish in the West Bank and Gaza, "Israel perceived it to be better to have people turning toward religion rather than toward a nationalistic cause [the Palestinian Liberation Organization—ed.]." It therefore did little to stop the flow of money to mosques and other religious institutions, rather than to schools.

According to the Dec. 21 Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Kurtzer made these extraordinary statements at a seminar on religion and politics sponsored by Oz V'Shalom-Netivot Shalom, a largely Anglo-American organization that promotes peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, the head of Har Etzion Yeshiva in Alon Shvut, who is an active advocate of a just regional peace, also spoke. Kurtzer said that as a result of the growth of Islam at the expense of education, there are now Palestinians who are "determined terrorists that use religious beliefs in a perverted way to appeal to the masses."

Kurtzer said that cultural and religious interaction is potentially a way to "build bridges." But instead, "the perverted use of religion in the region is today becoming one of the great challenges for the years ahead." He said that there is no "inherent component" in Islam that advocates violence. But one of the five principles of Islam, jihad—resistance—"in classic religious associations connotes religious belief and fervor, not violence." But extremists have distorted the meaning of jihad, so it now has a connotation of violence in the service of a religious purpose.

The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend

This statement is extraordinary given the fact that Kurtzer is a very senior diplomat, having held the post of Ambassador to Egypt just prior to going on to Tel Aviv. He is also an Orthodox Jew who is not shy of criticizing the extreme anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic views held by certain Arab circles. But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rarely grants the United States' highest representative in Israel an official audience.

The ambassador's comments are an acknowledgment of what any serious Middle East observers knows: Hamas has always been seen as a tool by which Israel could undermine the nationalist movement led by Palestinian Authority President and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat. Similar statements by Arafat have been dismissed by Israel as "cranky" propaganda. In an interview with the Dec. 11 Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Arafat said, "We are doing everything to stop the violence. But Hamas is a creature of Israel which at the time of Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Shamir [the late 1980s, when Hamas arose], gave them money and more than 700 institutions, among them schools, universities and mosques. Even [former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin ended up admitting it, when I charged him with it, in the presence of [Egpytian President Hosni] Mubarak." [...]

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Israel Denies Any Link to Car Bombing in Lebanon
Xinhuanet 2002-05-20 23:57:24

JEURSALEM, May 20 (Xinhuanet) -- An Israeli official closed to
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer denied Monday afternoon any
connection to a car bombing that killed a Palestinian guerrilla
leader's son in Beirut, Lebanon.

"Israel had no connection" to the killing, the official said, adding that the defense minister had also denied any link.

The 38-year-old Mohammad Jihad Ahmed Jibril, the son of the
Popular Front for Liberation of Palestinian-General Command (PFLP-
GC)'s head Ahmed Jibril, was killed in a car bombing attack in
Beirut Monday morning.

Lebanese police said the explosion was caused by a bomb placed
under the driver's seat,
but the details of the explosion was still
under investigation.

The PFLP-GC, a separate group from the PFLP headquartered in the
West Bank, accused Israel of sketching the targeted assassination.

The group is opposed to peace negotiations with Israel which
began when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed the 1993 Oslo
accords, and keeps close ties with the Lebanese resistance groups
of Hezbollah, or Party of God.

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FLASHBACK! Signs of the Times January 15, 2003

Israel to kill in U.S., allied nations

By Richard Sale
UPI Intelligence Correspondent
Published 1/15/2003 7:14 PM

Israel is embarking upon a more aggressive approach to the war on terror that will include staging targeted killings in the United States and other friendly countries, former Israeli intelligence officials told United Press International.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has forbidden the practice until now, these sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Israeli statements were confirmed by more than a half dozen former and currently serving U.S. foreign policy and intelligence officials in interviews with United Press International.

But an official at the Israeli Embassy in Washington told UPI: "That is rubbish. It is completely untrue. Israel and the United States have such a close and co-operative intelligence relationship, especially in the field of counter-terrorism, that the assertion is ludicrous."

With the appointment of Meir Dagan, the new director of Israel's Mossad secret intelligence service, Sharon is preparing "a huge budget" increase for the spy agency as part of "a tougher stance in fighting global jihad (or holy war)," one Israeli official said.

Since Sharon became Israeli prime minister, Tel Aviv has mainly limited its practice of targeted killings to the West Bank and Gaza because "no one wanted such operations on their territory," a former Israeli intelligence official said.

Another former Israeli government official said that under Sharon, "diplomatic constraints have prevented the Mossad from carrying out 'preventive operations' (targeted killings) on the soil of friendly countries until now."

He said Sharon is "reversing that policy, even if it risks complications to Israel's bilateral relations."

A former Israeli military intelligence source agreed: "What Sharon wants is a much more extensive and tough approach to global terrorism, and this includes greater operational maneuverability."

Does this mean assassinations on the soil of allies?

"It does," he said.

"Mossad is definitely being beefed up," a U.S. government official said of the Israeli agency's budget increase. He declined to comment on the Tel Aviv's geographic expansion of targeted killings.

An FBI spokesman also declined to comment, saying: "This is a policy matter. We only enforce federal laws."

A congressional staff member with deep knowledge of intelligence matters said, "I don't know on what basis we would be able to protest Israel's actions." He referred to the recent killing of Qaed Salim Sinan al Harethi, a top al Qaida leader, in Yemen by a remotely controlled CIA drone.

"That was done on the soil of a friendly ally," the staffer said.

But the complications posed by Israel's new policy are real.

"Israel does not have a good record at doing this sort of thing," said former CIA counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson.

He cited the 1997 fiasco where two Mossad agents were captured after they tried to assassinate Khaled Mashaal, a Hamas political leader, by injecting him with poison.

According to Johnson, the attempt, made in Amman, Jordan, caused a political crisis in Israeli-Jordan relations. In addition, because the Israeli agents carried Canadian passports, Canada withdrew its ambassador in protest, he said. Jordan is one of two Arab nations to recognize Israel. The other is Egypt.

At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, "I have no intention of stopping the activities of this government against terror," according to a CNN report.

Former CIA officials say Israel was forced to free jailed Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and 70 other Jordanian and Palestinian prisoner being held in Israeli jails to secure the release of the two would-be Mossad assassins.

Phil Stoddard, former director of the Middle East Institute, cited a botched plot to kill Ali Hassan Salemeh, the mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. The 1974 attempt severely embarrassed Mossad when the Israeli hit team mistakenly assassinated a Moroccan waiter in Lillehammer, Norway.

Salemeh, later a CIA asset, was killed in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1976 by a car bomb placed by an Israeli assassination team, former U.S. intelligence officials said.

"Israel knew Salemeh was providing us with preventive intelligence on the Palestinians and his being killed pissed off a lot of people," said a former senior CIA official.

But some Israeli operations have been successful.

Gerald Bull, an Ontario-born U.S. citizen and designer of the Iraqi supergun -- a massive artillery system capable of launching satellites into orbit, and of delivering nuclear chemical or biological payloads from Baghdad to Israel -- was killed in Belgium in March 1990. The killing is still unsolved, but former CIA officials said a Mossad hit team is the most likely suspect.

Bull worked on the supergun design -- codenamed Project Babylon -- for 10 years, and helped the Iraqis develop many smaller artillery systems. He was found with five bullets in his head outside his Brussels apartment.

Israeli hit teams, which consist of units or squadrons of the Kidon, a sub-unit for Mossad's highly secret Metsada department, would stage the operations, former Israeli intelligence sources said. Kidon is a Hebrew word meaning "bayonet," one former Israeli intelligence source said.

This Israeli government source explained that in the past Israel has not staged targeted killings in friendly countries because "no one wanted such operations on their territory."

This has become irrelevant, he said.

Dagan, the new hard-driving director of Mossad, will implement the new changes, former Israeli government officials said.

Dagan, nicknamed "the gun," was Sharon's adviser on counter-terrorism during the government of Netanyahu in 1996, former Israeli government officials say. A former military man, Dagan has also undertaken extremely sensitive diplomatic missions for several of Israel's prime ministers, former Israeli government sources said.

Former Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Gal Luft, who served under Dagan, described him as an "extremely creative individual -- creative to the point of recklessness."

A former CIA official who knows Dagan said the new Mossad director knows "his foreign affairs inside and out," and has a "real killer instinct."

Dagan is also "an intelligence natural" who has "a superb analyst not afraid to act on gut instinct," the former CIA official said.

Dagan has already removed Mossad officials whom he regards as "being too conservative or too cautious" and is building up "a constituency of senior people of the same mentality," one former long-time Israeli operative said.

Dagan is also urging that Mossad operatives rely less on secret sources and rely more on open information that is so plentifully provided on the Internet and newspapers.

"It's a cultural thing," one former Israeli intelligence operative explained. "Mossad in the past has put its emphasis on Humint (human intelligence) and secret operations and has neglected the whole field of open media, which has become extremely important."

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Israelis on Gaza border are defiant: our blood is not for sale

By Donald Macintyre in Sderot
18 January 2005

The slogans fixed to the big black banners told their own story as dozens of local residents gathered in warm sunshine in front of the town hall at the start of a day of mourning and protest yesterday: "Wake up Sharon", "Conquer Gaza Now", "Seven dead in seven months", "Enough Qassams" and "Our blood is not for sale". [...]

Comment: While not belittling the suffering of the Israeli settlers, the fact is that they are living on land that was stolen for them by their government and hence they themselves are in breach of international law. It is also instructive to juxtapose the message on the Israeli settlers' banner which decries, "seven dead in seven months" with the following story from the previous day...

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13 Palestinians killed this weekend

Palestine Monitor
17 January 2005

Thirteen Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip this weekend in a rash of Israeli violence, including a Palestinian mother and her son who were shot by snipers while on their roof. According to an eyewitness, Israeli soldiers attacked Palestinian homes in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday. Shells were fired at a family’s home, and its roof began to burn. The family and fire brigade managed to put out the fire, and then Feda Aram, 50, her husband Suleiman, 54, their son Abdullah, and other relatives went to the roof to see what damage had been done.

They were surprised by a hail of Israeli sniper fire, which killed Feda and her son, severely injured Suleiman, and moderately injured other family members. These Israeli offensives come at a time when prospects for peace are hopeful but tenuous. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced on Sunday that he was authorizing his forces to hit Gaza, a mostly civilian area, “with no restrictions,” i.e. without the restraints imposed by national or international law.

The Palestinian leadership has called for a halt to attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants. But government-sanctioned Israeli attacks against Palestinian non-combatants make newly-elected Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s task of negotiating with and reigning in Palestinian militants much more difficult.

Comment: What seems to be true is that there are several different agendas being served by the current phony war on terror.

Just as many Americans continue to believe that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks and US troops think they are fighting for freedom and democracy, it is quite possible that Bush is unaware of the real reasons why US troops are currently engaged in the Iraq quagmire. He may believe (or have been told) that it has to do with "peak oil" or the shifting balance of global power, but this is but one reason. Other major players in the global game of survivor may have been initiated into a yet deeper level of understanding and told of upcoming cataclysmic "earth changes", the prospect of which necessitates the strategic placement of US forces around the world.

None of these explanations however can really explain why the Muslim world, and in particular the Middle East, has been singled out to receive the full force of US 'concern', both in terms of the actions of Israel over the past 50 years and the current 'war on terror', which, despite its alleged global nature, seems to be concerned only with the landmass of historic Arabia. All other posturing, towards Asia or anywhere else, is just that, and should be seen as a sideshow for public consumption only.

In a world where hierarchy is the name of the game and knowledge is power, it is not unreasonable to assume that the 'ultimate secret' would be the purview of a very small and select group of people and that most of those who think they are 'in the know' are simply being used by those 'above' them. The result of our analysis, which spans many decades of research into diverse fields, points to the fact that the 'ultimate secret' involves the very nature of life on earth itself and the real meaning behind and potential for human evolution. Essentially, we are not who or what we think we are. Any serious investigation into the meaning of life on earth must take into consideration ALL aspects that constitute human existence, regardless of the spin and propaganda that has been employed over the centuries to sideline and ridicule certain subjects.

Such is the controlled nature of knowledge and its dissemination in our world and the marked tendency to self-service that defines those that rule it, it can be plausibly argued that, the best for any truth seeker to start their search would be in those areas that have come in for the most scorn and derision from those who have most to loose from the emergence of a truly informed public.

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Washington on alert as al-Qaida document threatens limo bombs
By Victoria Ward, New York

A NEW security threat has emerged as Washington gears up for an extravaganza to swear in President George Bush for a second term - limousines containing bombs.

US intelligence sources admit the fears were partially prompted by a 39-page document seized from al-Qaida. The paper details a mechanism for using limousines to deliver bombs equipped with cylinders of a flammable gas, according to Time magazine.

Bombs can be concealed in limos because the vehicles "blend in" and "do not require special driving skills", it says.

The paper, titled Rough Presentation for Gas Limo Protection, is thought to have been written by Issa al-Hindi, an al-Qaida operative captured in Britain last year. It details how limos can access underground parking structures and "have tinted windows that can hide an improvised explosive device".

Although the fast approaching inauguration is not specifically mentioned, it is understood to suggest the deployment of three limos, each carrying 12 or more compressed-gas cylinders to create a "full fuel-air explosion".

The cylinders should be painted yellow to falsely "signify toxic gases to spread terror and chaos when emergency and haz-mat teams arrive" it reads.

Parts of the document began circulating among US intelligence authorities earlier this month and with hundreds of limos expected to block the capital’s streets this week, barriers have reportedly been set up to block any potentially-destructive vehicle.

The inauguration ceremony launching Mr Bush’s second term on Thursday will be marked by a frenzy of extravagant dinners, balls and parties, all shrouded in unprecedented levels of security. The four-day fiesta is estimated to cost $40m (€31m), making it the most expensive inauguration in American history. Themed "Celebrating Freedom, Honouring Service", it will focus on troop deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the lavish gala has attracted widespread criticism.

Comment: No, wait, we heard another really good one. You see, there are lots of McDonald restaurants in DC, so the story goes that "al-Qaeda operatives" are planning to dress up as Ronald McDonald and distribute "inauguration Big Macs" to the public. But here's the catch, the burgers will be laced with liquid Nitrous Oxide, thereby inducing uncontrollable laughter in the attendees. Every time Bush opens his mouth to speak he will be greeted with raucous laughter! Now that's just pure evil!

Seriously though, how much more BS are people going to be asked to swallow? This recent "limo alert" by Ridge truly is laughable, but the real cause for hysterics are to be found in the report that states that:

"The shift in rhetoric about the dangers posed by terrorists during the inauguration marks the latest retreat from last year's terrorism warnings, which, in retrospect, were based largely on faulty intelligence, dated information or -- as with the inauguration -- an educated guess."

An "educated guess"?? We're sorry, but there is nothing "educated" about this particular bunch of power mad nut jobs. Feast your senses on the following stories designed to scare the bejesus out of the American public so that they accept further draconian measures from their fuhrer.

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FBI Director Says Suicide Bombers to Hit U.S. Inevitably
Xinhuanet 2002-05-21 01:47:05

WASHINGTON, May 20 (Xinhuanet) -- U.S. Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller warned on Monday that
walk-in suicide bombers like those in Israel will inevitably hit
the United States.

"I think we will see that in the future, I think it's inevitable," Mueller said while responding to a question after a speech in Alexandria, Virginia.

"I wish I could be more optimistic," he added.

Mueller admitted that it is difficult for law-enforcement agencies to penetrate into the inner circle of a suicide bomber terrorist group and get information to prevent such attacks.

Mueller's warning came one day after U.S. Vice President Dick
Chenney said it is almost certain that al-Qaeda networks would
attack U.S. targets again although it is unclear when and where
the attacks might occur.

"I think that the prospects of a future attack on the U.S. are almost a certainty," Cheney told "Fox News Sunday." "It could happen tomorrow, it could happen next week, it could happen next year. And we have to be prepared," he said.

Cheney also said on Sunday that he sees "a real possibility" that walk-in suicide bombers may hit the United States, if those who have attacked Israel succeed in changing the political situation in the Middle East.

The U.S. government has recently intercepted a series of vague
but menacing messages that appear to be communications among Al
Qaeda terrorists who could be planning a strike in the U.S.,
government officials said.

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FBI says man threatens to blow up van near White House over child custody case
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
(01-18) 13:54 PST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A distraught man threatened to blow up his van a block from the White House on Tuesday, prompting a standoff with police.

Debra Weierman, spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office, said the man driving the red van claimed to have 15 gallons of gasoline.

He said he would "blow it up if he doesn't get his child back," she said.

Police attempted to negotiate with the man.

The incident occurred at the corner of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue along the parade route that President Bush will travel on Thursday after his inauguration.

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A televisual fairyland

The US media is disciplined by corporate America into promoting the Republican cause

George Monbiot
Tuesday January 18, 2005

On Thursday, the fairy king of fairyland will be recrowned. He was elected on a platform suspended in midair by the power of imagination. He is the leader of a band of men who walk through ghostly realms unvisited by reality. And he remains the most powerful person on earth.

How did this happen? How did a fantasy president from a world of make believe come to govern a country whose power was built on hard-headed materialism? To find out, take a look at two squalid little stories which have been concluded over the past 10 days.

The first involves the broadcaster CBS. In September, its 60 Minutes programme ran an investigation into how George Bush avoided the Vietnam draft. It produced memos which appeared to show that his squadron commander in the Texas National Guard had been persuaded to "sugarcoat" his service record. The programme's allegations were immediately and convincingly refuted: Republicans were able to point to evidence suggesting the memos had been faked. Last week, following an inquiry into the programme, the producer was sacked, and three CBS executives were forced to resign.

The incident couldn't have been more helpful to Bush. Though there is no question that he managed to avoid serving in Vietnam, the collapse of CBS's story suggested that all the allegations made about his war record were false, and the issue dropped out of the news. CBS was furiously denounced by the rightwing pundits, with the result that between then and the election, hardly any broadcaster dared to criticise George Bush. Mary Mapes, the producer whom CBS fired, was the network's most effective investigative journalist: she was the person who helped bring the Abu Ghraib photos to public attention. If the memos were faked, the forger was either a moron or a very smart operator.

It's true, of course, that CBS should have taken more care. But I think it is safe to assume that if the network had instead broadcast unsustainable allegations about John Kerry, none of its executives would now be looking for work. How many people have lost their jobs, at CBS or anywhere else, for repeating bogus stories released by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about Kerry's record in Vietnam? How many were sacked for misreporting the Jessica Lynch affair? Or for claiming that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons programme in 2003? Or that he was buying uranium from Niger, or using mobile biological weapons labs, or had a hand in 9/11? How many people were sacked, during Clinton's presidency, for broadcasting outright lies about the Whitewater affair? The answer, in all cases, is none.

You can say what you like in the US media, as long as it helps a Republican president. But slip up once while questioning him, and you will be torn to shreds. Even the most grovelling affirmations of loyalty won't help. The presenter of 60 Minutes, Dan Rather, is the man who once told his audience" "George Bush is the president, he makes the decisions and, you know, as just one American, he wants me to line up, just tell me where." CBS is owned by the conglomerate Viacom, whose chairman told reporters: "We believe the election of a Republican administration is better for our company." But for Fox News and the shockjocks syndicated by Clear Channel, Rather's faltering attempt at investigative journalism is further evidence of "a liberal media conspiracy".

This is not the first time something like this has happened. In 1998, CNN made a programme which claimed that, during the Vietnam war, US special forces dropped sarin gas on defectors who had fled to Laos. In this case, there was plenty of evidence to support the story. But after four weeks of furious denunciations, the network's owner, Ted Turner, publicly apologised in terms you would expect to hear during a show trial in North Korea: "I'll take my shirt off and beat myself bloody on the back." CNN had erred, he said, by broadcasting the allegations when "we didn't have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt". As the website has pointed out, it's hard to think of a single investigative story - Watergate, the My Lai massacre, Britain's arms to Iraq scandal - which could have been proved at the time by journalists "beyond a reasonable doubt". But Turner did what was demanded of him, with the result that, in media fairyland, the atrocity is now deemed not to have happened.

The other squalid little story broke three days before the CBS people were sacked. A US newspaper discovered that Armstrong Williams, a television presenter who (among other jobs) had a weekly slot on a syndicated TV show called America's Black Forum, had secretly signed a $240,000 contract with the US Department of Education. The contract required him "to regularly comment" on George Bush's education bill "during the course of his broadcasts" and to ensure that "Secretary Paige [the education secretary] and other department officials shall have the option of appearing from time to time as studio guests".

It's hard to see why the administration bothered to pay him. Williams has described as his "mentors" Lee Atwater - the man who, under Reagan's presidency, brought a new viciousness to Republican campaigning - and the segregationist senator Strom Thurmond. His broadcasting career has been dedicated to promoting extreme Republican causes and attacking civil rights campaigns.

What makes this story interesting is that the show he worked on was founded, in 1977, by the radical black activists Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, to "allow black reporters to hold politicians and activists of all persuasions accountable to black people". They sold their shares in 1980, and the programme was later bought by the Uniworld Group. With Williams's help, the new owners have reversed its politics, and turned it into a recruitment vehicle for the Republican party. Williams appears to have been taking money for doing what he was doing anyway.

These stories, in other words, are illustrations of the ways in which the US media is disciplined by corporate America. In the first case the other corporate broadcasters joined forces to punish a dissenter in their ranks. In the second case a corporation captured what was once a dissenting programme and turned it into another means of engineering conformity.

The role of the media corporations in the US is similar to that of repressive state regimes elsewhere: they decide what the public will and won't be allowed to hear, and either punish or recruit the social deviants who insist on telling a different story. The journalists they employ do what almost all journalists working under repressive regimes do: they internalise the demands of the censor, and understand, before anyone has told them, what is permissible and what is not.

So, when they are faced with a choice between a fable which helps the Republicans, and a reality which hurts them, they choose the fable. As their fantasies accumulate, the story they tell about the world veers further and further from reality. Anyone who tries to bring the people back down to earth is denounced as a traitor and a fantasist. And anyone who seeks to become president must first learn to live in fairyland.

Comment: Is it clear yet? It is getting through? How do the people around you maintain the illusion? Do they simply shut off the news? What self-calming mechanisms are people putting into place as their world veers further and further from reality?

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Kabul Street Vendors Swept Away in City Cleanup
By Mohammad Jawad Sharifzada
January 18, 2005 (ENS)

KABUL, Afghanistan, - A traditional way of life on Kabul's streets is slowly being swept away.

The stalls and kiosks dotted along the streets in practically every neighborhood of the city are being removed as part of a major cleanup operation.

A wide variety of goods, ranging from apples to zinc baths, were sold by numerous vendors either from pushcarts or kiosks.

"We are removing the kiosks on the grounds of sanitation, and in order to expand the roads for the benefit of pedestrians and motorists," said Mohammad Faqir Bahram, Kabulís deputy mayor.

He said that the majority of residents were pleased with the changes and that displaced merchants were being given the chance to open shops.

But most of the affected merchants are unhappy with the move.

"I have to support a family of 11, and now I am unemployed," said Khudadad, 54. For the past five years, he has been selling toiletries from a handcart.

He says he is too poor to open a shop. "I was unable to buy firewood so I have to burn newspapers and boxes,î he said. ìHow can I afford a shop?"

Khudadad said local traders are important to the community.

"Customers come to us because we provide a service," he said. "The authorities should have established these shops and let the traders move in before knocking down the kiosks."

Haji Hafizullah, 60, agreed, saying, "They should have set up a market first. Everyone round here used to shop locally. Now we have to go to the city centre and pay higher prices."

Hamidullah, 35, who sells glass and building materials from a stall in the centre of Kabul, now operates his business out of a shop. But he worries what will happen to fellow merchants.

"Two or three people, feeding families of eight to 10, used to work in each of these kiosks," he said. "Now they are unemployed."

He added, "I think the authorities took the right action but at the wrong time. It's the middle of winter and many people are in financial difficulties."

Navid, who supports 11 members of his family, sold toiletries from his stall but is now unemployed. Still, he believes the government took the right action in the interests of sanitation.

"And it makes the city look tidier," he added. "But after they pulled down the stalls, I would have liked them to widen the road and ease the congestion."

City center flower shop owner Dost Mohammad said, "Since the stalls have disappeared, prices in the shops have increased by almost 50 percent."

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Spain Car Bomb Crushes Hopes of ETA Truce
Tuesday, January 18, 2005 12:29:19 PM ET
By Vincent West

GETXO, Spain (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded in a seaside town in northern Spain on Tuesday, injuring a police officer, in an apparent hardline response from Basque guerrilla group ETA that quashed growing expectations of a cease-fire.

The blast destroyed the car and damaged a nearby house in Las Arenas, a wealthy district of the Basque town of Getxo that is home to captains of industry and often targeted by ETA.

The 40 kilo (88 pound) bomb blew up soon after Basque newspaper Gara received a warning call in the name of the outlawed group, which only three days earlier said it backed a negotiated end to violence.

The newspaper passed the warning to police who cordoned off the area, but one officer was caught by the blast, he said.

"They (the police) were putting up barriers and putting on their flak jackets when it exploded," a witness told Reuters.

The explosion snuffed out hopes that a weakened ETA might be on the brink of a cease-fire in its 37-year-old campaign to carve an independent Basque state out of France and Spain, in which some 850 people have been killed.

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Toddler found alone with loaded gun
Tribune staff reports
Published January 18, 2005, 12:11 PM CST

A toddler has been returned to his mother and a 20-year-old Chicago man who was supposed to be babysitting faces multiple charges today after police allegedly found the child home alone, playing with a loaded handgun.

The incident began Sunday night when police arrested Jamie Kindred on a South Side street for allegedly dealing marijuana, WGN-AM 720 reported. The man reportedly told police he could not be taken into custody because he had left the child alone at his home nearby, in the 7700 block of South Shore Drive.

Officers went to the apartment and found a 2-year-old boy there with a gun in his hands.

"Because he did have his hand on the trigger, I knew at any time accidentally it could have just gone off, (and) myself and my partner could have been shot, or he could have shot himself," Chicago police Officer Frank Mack told CLTV.

Police got the gun away from the child, and no one was injured.

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Computer virus targets tsunami donations
January 19, 2005 - 7:12AM

Malicious internet hackers have sunk to a new low with a virus that was spreading across the internet today.

The W32/VBSun-A is a mass-mailing worm masquerading as a plea for donations to help with the tsunami disaster. But instead of bringing help to millions of disaster victims, the e-mail takes over the target computers to launch a denial-of-service attack against a German hacker website.

Computer security experts said the attack could stem from a rivalry between hacker groups.

The virus arrives as an e-mail with the subject line "Tsunami Donation, Please Help!" and comes with an attachment, tsunami.exe, which launches the malicious software.

Security experts reiterated that computer users should never open attachments unless they are sure of their content. Suspicious e-mails should be deleted, without opening the attachments.

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Tremor jolts northeast, triggering panic:
[India News]: Jan 18/05

Guwahati: An earthquake measuring 5 on the Richter scale shook India's northeast Tuesday, causing panic in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

Police in the region and residents of Manipur's capital Imphal said people ran out of their homes following the morning tremor. There were no reports of damage or casualties, officials said.

S. Chanda, an official with the seismological centre in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, said the epicentre of Tuesday's earthquake was plotted along the India-Myanmar border and had its impact in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh besides parts of Myanmar.

The region has already experienced at least half-a-dozen moderate tremors in the last two months.

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Earthquake in Wellington and upper South Island
18.01.05 3.00pm

An earthquake measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale shook the Wellington region and Marlborough Sounds this afternoon.

The quake, which struck at 1.38pm, was centred 30km northwest of Porirua and was 50km deep.

The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences said it was likely to have been felt widely in the Wellington region and Marlborough Sounds.

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Scientists analyse impact of quake swarm
19.01.05 1.00pm
by Hannah Lawrence

The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences is looking at what a swarm of earthquakes that shook the lower North Island and upper South Island yesterday means for the regions.

Nine earthquakes were recorded within nine hours from yesterday afternoon, with the biggest reaching 5.3 on the Richter scale. Seven of the quakes were centred 40km southeast of Martinborough in Wairarapa.

Dr Martin Reyners, duty seismologist at the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences told NZPA yesterday's events were uncommon but had happened before.

"It's uncommon but there was a similar sequence about 15 years ago near Cape Palliser in Southern Wairarapa ... (in which) a 5.3 magnitude event was the largest of them," he said.

"That's very similar to what we had last night."

Dr Reyners said there was no need for concern and the institute was investigating.

"In terms of energy release these are very small, but having said that we are looking into what they mean in terms of what the plates are doing under the Wellington region."

Today the institute would look at the mechanisms of the events, he said.

"Each earthquake is a little fault break and we can work out the mechanisms reasonably quickly -- so we can say whether the fault went up or down or sideways," he said.

After that the institute would look at the bigger picture.

"Every earthquake, when it happens, changes the stress field in the immediate vicinity and what that can do is move some nearby faults closer to failure and some away from failure," Dr Reyners said.

"So we're interested in what effect this might have on plate interface as a whole."

Dr Reyners said recent events in Asia -- notably Boxing Day's high magnitude quake and subsequent deadly tsunami -- had led to a heightened public interest in earthquakes.

This became clear after yesterday's first earthquake, he said.

"One thing we noticed yesterday is we had the event west of Porirua in the afternoon, and we have a facility now on the GeoNet website where people can give information on how they felt the earthquake, and I think in the first three hours we had over 500 people doing that," he said.

"There is definitely a heightened interest in earthquakes in terms of the public response that we see."

Small aftershocks were likely today, he said.

"People living on the Wairarapa coast may feel one or two, but just looking at the seismographs this morning they seem to be dying away."

The quakes:

The first, at 1.38pm, measured 4.4 on the Richter scale and was centred 30km northwest of Porirua at a depth of 50km.

The second, at 5.19pm, measured 3.6 and was centred 20km west of Hastings at a depth of 20km.

The next seven were centred 40km southeast of Martinborough and were at a depth of 15km to 25km:

* 6.54pm -- 3.8 magnitude
* 7.24pm -- 3.7 magnitude
* 9.36pm -- 5.3 magnitude
* 9.46pm -- 3.8 magnitude
* 9.49pm -- 2.8 magnitude
* 10.00pm -- 3.1 magnitude
* 10.26pm -- 5.2 magnitude

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Evening Leader

A BEWILDERED man claims he saw a meteorite with a bright blue tail racing across the sky over Wrexham.

Paul Davies, of Rhosddu, was enjoying a break with four colleagues at Kellogg’s, Wrexham Industrial Estate, at 4am on Friday when two of them spotted a ball with a flaming tail shooting across the night sky.
Mr Davies said it was the strangest thing he had ever seen and watched in awe before it disappeared in a flash.

He said: “The only way I can describe it was a ball moving across the sky, obviously under the cloud cover because it was so plain. It was moving so fast it was unbelievable and it was gone in half a second.
“It went across the sky with this fabulous bright blue trail behind it. It was a very short trail and looked intensely hot. I would love to find out what it was.”

Met Office spokesman Wayne Elliott confirmed it was a meteorite, known more commonly as a shooting star.

He said the brightness creates an illusion that it is close to the earth, but in reality it is much further away.

Comment: Sure. The only problem is the fact that many meteorites have actually been hitting home, so to speak. Everything from human beings to cars and houses have been having very close encounters with these extra-terrestrial bodies.

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Record rainfall expected for Lower Mainland
Last Updated Tue, 18 Jan 2005 22:10:24 EST
CBC News

VANCOUVER - While other parts of Canada suffer through deep freezes, blizzards and ice, British Columbia is being pounded by what meteorologists are calling a 'tropical punch,' warm, wet air coming from the western Pacific.

"The consecutive days of rain is the key to this storm," said David Jones of Environment Canada.

People on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland are struggling to cope with the deluge, which has dumped as much as 100 millimetres of rain in the past few days in some areas.

Environment Canada warns there's more to come. Forecasters say twice the rain that would normally fall during the entire month of January might pelt down over the next three days – as much as 300 mm.

Some communities, including Richmond, outside Vancouver, handed out sandbags so people could build dikes around their homes.

"We're not floating away just yet," said Ted Townsend, a spokesperson for the City of Richmond. "But the flooding is widespread throughout the community."

The downpour shut down many roads in the Lower Mainland, while winter storms further inland caused numerous problems.

A mudslide shut down a Vancouver Island highway Tuesday and submerged some parts ramps onto the Trans-Canada Highway near Burnaby. Several major streets closed in Vancouver, Surrey and Langley.

The storm dumped freezing rain and heavy snow on the B.C. Interior, forcing highway closures around Prince George, Revelstoke and the Kootenay Pass in the province's southeast corner.

Environment Canada says the rain isn't expected to taper off until Friday afternoon.

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Southern Labrador bears brunt of storm
WebPosted Jan 18 2005 07:44 AM NST
CBC News
ST. JOHN'S  —  Many communities throughout western and central Newfoundland are digging out from Monday's storm, while blizzard warnings remain in effect for the top of the Northern Peninsula and across southern Labrador.

Winds topping 100 kilometres per hour and large snowfalls – often more than 30 centimetres in some areas – made navigation impossible on many roads Monday.

Some schools on the west coast were closed Tuesday morning.
Marine Atlantic reported its ferries have resumed service after high winds kept them dockside Monday.

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The future of lying

By Chris Summers
BBC News
Friday, 14 January, 2005

As the British government unveils plans to make lie detector tests mandatory for convicted paedophiles, some scientists in the US are working on more advanced technology which might be better equipped at detecting deception.

Imagine the Pentagon equipped with a machine which can read minds. Sound like the plot of a Hollywood thriller?

Well, it might not be that far away.

How conventional lie detectors work

The US Department of Defense has given Dr Jennifer Vendemia a $5m grant to work on her theory that by monitoring brainwaves she can detect whether someone is lying.

She claims the system has an accuracy of between 94% and 100% and is an improvement on the existing polygraph tests, which rely on heart rate and blood pressure, respiratory rate and sweatiness.

Her system involves placing 128 electrodes on the face and scalp, which translate brainwaves in under a second. Subjects only have to hear interrogators' questions to give a response.

But the system has a long way to go before it replaces polygraphs, which were invented almost a century ago and remain a tried and tested system of deception detection.

But some critics believe the polygraph is flawed.

"The idea with polygraphs is that there is a tell-tale physical response associated with deception and I just don't accept that is true.

"Even if it were true for the normal person then I don't think it's true for psychopaths, or others with mental abnormalities," says Steven Aftergood, of the Federation American Sciences.

Mr Aftergood says he doesn't know about Dr Vendemia's invention but "if there was a machine which was able to read people's minds, it would give greater urgency to questions of people's privacy.

"In the United States it could even be unconstitutional because, under the Fifth Amendment, citizens have a right not to self-incriminate themselves."

In the US a specific piece of legislation, the Employee Polygraph Protection Law, forbids firms from using lie detectors to vet workers.

The one exception is the intelligence community, where polygraphs are a ubiquitous form of checking on existing and potential employees.

Dr Vendemia says her system would be an improvement on polygraphs.

"If you are examined by a good interrogator a polygraph will be 85 to 90% accurate," she says. "But others have less than 50% accuracy. My technology has levels of accuracy around 94 to 100%."

Dr Vendemia says her research has found it takes longer for the brain to process lies, than to process the truth and this, she says, can be tested by monitoring the brainwaves.

Could it be used, for example, to help in the interrogation of innocent people accused of being al-Qaeda terrorists?

"Anything can be misused. As a researcher working with technology which has huge implications you have a responsibility to make sure that what you are doing is ethical and make sure there is someone more objective than you looking at what you do," says Dr Vendemia.

Professor Paul Matthews, a neuroscientist at Oxford University, says a mind-reading machine is pure science fiction. "There is no technology which can tell somebody what you are thinking. But you can see what sort of areas of the brain are active. It is the same sort of technology which is used in hospitals with MRI and EEG scanners."

Tor Butler-Cole, a philosopher and ethicist from King's College, London, thinks we should be wary of allowing this technology to be used if it is not 100% accurate.

"The recent controversy with cot deaths has taught us that we should be aware of relying on science which may turn out to be wrong," she says.

Ms Butler-Cole believes there is also the danger jurors would give it a lot of credibility simply because it was "scientific evidence".

Comment: Now if we can only get Bush and the gang strapped into it...

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