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Sir, Yes Sir!

Shooting in Tal Afar


On this, the inauguration, or rather coronation, day of the self-styled "leader of the free world", 10,000 miles to the East, a very different world is unfolding in Iraq. It is a world far removed from the regailia and fanfare of Washington DC, a world where violent death at the hands of brave US troops awaits every Iraqi man, woman or child unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Upon "winning" the November election, George Bush claimed that his victory meant that the American people had presented him with "political capital", and that he was damn well going to spend it. Just last week, when asked about the missing WMDs in Iraq and why no member of his administration had been held to account, he again referred to his election "victory" claiming that election day was the "accountability moment" and that the American people had made their choice. Well, just two days ago, the voice of the American people rang our loud and clear in Iraq, as a hail of bullets literally tore apart the life of an innocent Iraqi family.

US soldiers in Iraq approach a car after opening fire when it failed to stop at a checkpoint. Despite warning shots it continued to drive towards their dusk patrol in Tal Afar on 18 January.

Chris Hondros a photographer with Getty News was on hand to record these pictures.

At the checkpoint a US soldier examines the car.

A US military statement said troops trying to stop the car used hand signals and fired warning shots before firing directly at the car, killing the driver and front seat passenger.

(Note: Driver's face obscured)

Note from Ed: What we are not told is that the driver's face has been obscured because he "was penetrated by so many bullets that his skull had collapsed, leaving his body grotesquely disfigured."

Inside the car were an Iraqi family of seven. The mother and father were killed but their five children in the backseat survived, one with a non-life threatening wound.

As the children get out of the car one of them screams, her hands covered in blood...

…others cry or just stand bewildered.

What is one expected to say or think when confronted with such barbarity disguised as freedom and democracy? The terrible truth is that this event is just one of many similar events that have transpired in the course of the illegal US occupation of Iraq. As has always been the case on our planet, the innocent and most vulnerable are the first to preyed upon by bloodthirsty megalomaniacs like Bush and his handlers. By claiming to be acting out the will of the American people, Bush has made every single Bush supporter, and indeed every person that believes the lie that is the "war on terrorism", directly responsible for acts such as these. Do not doubt that there will be a day of reckoning. It is coming.

Until then, as Bush himself might put it, "Let us prey together".

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'Why did they shoot? We have no weapons'

By Chris Hondros in Tal Afar, Iraq
20 January 2005

It was a routine foot patrol. As we made our way up a broad boulevard, in the distance I could see a car making its way toward us. As a defence against potential car bombs, it is now standard practice for foot patrols to stop oncoming vehicles, particularly after dark.

"We have a car coming," someone called out, as we entered an intersection. We could see the car about 100 metres away. It kept coming; I could hear its engine now, a high whine that sounded more like acceleration than slowing down. It was maybe 50 yards away now. "Stop that car!" someone shouted out, seemingly simultaneously with someone firing what sounded like warning shots - a staccato measured burst.

The car continued coming. And then, perhaps less than a second later, a cacophony of fire, shots rattling off in a chaotic overlapping din. The car entered the intersection on its momentum and still shots were penetrating it and slicing it. Finally the shooting stopped, the car drifted listlessly, clearly no longer being steered, and came to a rest on a kerb. Soldiers began to approach it warily. The sound of children crying came from the car. I walked up to the car and a teenaged girl with her head covered emerged from the back, wailing and gesturing wildly. After her came a boy, tumbling on to the ground from the seat, already leaving a pool of blood.

"Civilians!" someone shouted, and soldiers ran up. More children - it ended up being six all told - started emerging, crying, their faces mottled with blood in long streaks. The troops carried them all off to a nearby sidewalk.

It was by now almost completely dark. There, working only by lights mounted on ends of their rifles, an Army medic began assessing the children's injuries, running his hands up and down their bodies, looking for wounds.

Incredibly, the only injuries were to a girl who suffered a cut hand and a boy with a superficial gash in the small of his back that was bleeding heavily but was not life-threatening. The medic immediately began to bind it, while the boy crouched against a wall.

From the pavement I could see into the bullet-mottled windshield more clearly, the driver of the car, a man, was penetrated by so many bullets that his skull had collapsed, leaving his body grotesquely disfigured. A woman also lay dead in the front, still covered in her Muslim clothing and harder to see.

Meanwhile, the children continued to wail and scream, huddled against a wall, sandwiched between soldiers either binding their wounds or trying to comfort them. The Army's translator later told me that this was a Turkoman family and that the teenaged girl kept shouting, "Why did they shoot us? We have no weapons! We were just going home!" After a delay in getting the armoured vehicles lined up and ready, the convoy moved to the main Tal Afar hospital.

The young children were carried in by soldiers and by their teenaged sister. Only the boy with the gash on his back needed any further medical attention, and the Army medic and an Iraqi doctor quickly chatted over his prognosis, deciding that his wound would be easily repaired. The Army told me that it would probably launch a full investigation.

Comment: And the result of the investigation? The killers will be exonerated and the blame will be laid at the door of nonexistent "terrorists". It's all about "freedom and democracy" don't ya know.

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Coronation of Corruption - Celebration of Exploitation
By Manuel Valenzuela

At the apex of the highest mountain stand the facilitators of human corruption, in proud self-adulation, glorification and ego-driven debasement readying themselves with a forty million dollar celebration of pomp and circumstance, enjoying the comforts of luxury and unfettered power spun by the web of exploitation, for victorious do they see each other, this power-addicted and profit-hungry cabal of corporatist and elitist vermin, extolling both the virtues of immorality and policies of unscrupulous undertakings that have laid waste billions of lives in the present while condemning billions that have yet to exist. For like vultures attacking a dead carcass they have descended upon Washington to further empower humankind’s enduring romance with its self-corruption and the continuing decline into our moral abyss.

Basking in the glow of power, partying to the tunes of extravagance, rubbing shoulders with their fellow immoral brethren, this minority of humanity exclusively invited to descend upon the realm of political prostitution in order to mingle, cajole, bid, wage, bribe and buy the services of the legions of whores in governance could care less about the shattered world they have both created and profited from. Dressed in the pageantry of tuxedos and designer gowns, feasting and entertained with the best money can buy, surrounded by lavish environments and barren morality, expensive taste and indigent honor, the small entity known as the Establishment continues riding the chariot of flourishing circumstances while trampling the lives of billions of humans not granted the luck of being born into privilege and fortuitous circumstances, silver-spoon fed, from the cradle to the grave destined to grip the whips of power, wealth and perpetual exploitation.

At the expense of the corporations and the royal executives they sell their souls to, these members of aristocracy will continue experiencing life without knowledge of what their actions help unleash upon the globe or without a care in the world of the effects on billions of human energies, including 290 million Americans. They are in Washington to crown the corruption of humanity, after all, in lavish celebration to the debauchery their kind have wrought to all corners of the globe, their institutions, tentacles, tools, policies, businesses, actions, laws, military might and power hijacking the world entire, corrupting the minds and bodies of American soldiers subjected to the horrors of war; corrupting the very foundations of society of one of the oldest civilizations to ever exist; corrupting and making bereft of honor, integrity and truth the media, once a shining beacon and protector of democracy, now but a blatant propaganda mechanism; corrupting, polluting and making toxic the environment we inhabit and the bodies we own through the products they manufacture and sell; corrupting and destroying billions of lives worldwide and at home for billions in profits using the centuries old exploitative tools of feudalism and slavery; and corrupting the future lives of our children through the abandonment of long-term foresight, short-term concern and historical hindsight.

Through the crowning of an emperor with no clothes, the crowning of Establishment failure and mediocrity, and the crowning of the corporatist controlled marionette smearing an entire world with the feces-stained incompetence of the elite, the Establishment can once again be seen for what it has systematically done for thousands of years, since the dawn of civilization enriching and empowering itself through the exploitation and suppression of the rest of us, genetically passing down through the generations the torch of diluted blood saturated with the oils of entrenched power.

Corruption Through Control

At the expense of the masses and the common plebian, namely you, me and billions more, the elite of society, those few at the top, whether in ancient Egypt or Sumeria, imperial Greece or Rome, whether in feudal Europe or medieval Arabia, in Renaissance times or Enlightenment eras, whether in dictatorships, tyrannies, fascist regimes, communist systems, democracy charades or fictional freedoms, have maintained power through the overthrow of the will of the people, through the evisceration of the communal interests of the many as well as through the control of all aspects of governance and society.

For what is society composed of but the mechanisms of control the Establishment places at our feet, shackling our ability to rebel and revolt under the oppression and exploitation befalling our ancestors, ourselves and our descendents to come? Since humankind rose to perceived greatness castes and social classes have been in place, forever condemning untold human beings to a hierarchical system of perpetual exploitation that robs talent, ability and opportunity. From ancient times the priest classes deemed themselves conduits of the gods, proclaiming themselves direct manifestations of unseen deities, exploiting the ignorance and primitiveness of the masses who were made to cater to high priests and their families, thereby enriching, empowering and forever setting apart this group of corrupters from those now ruled and exploited. In time rose kings and royalty classes, again conniving the people into subservience by proclaiming direct relation with gods and metaphysical manifestations of fantasy, using the blood, sweat and tears of the masses for the abundant and ever-growing power and wealth destined for the ruling nobility.

Whether Caesars or emperors or pharaohs or popes or kings or nobility or generals or politicians or corporations or capitalists the exploitation by the ruling class of the masses has never stopped. It has breathed life since our beginning, living inside our society, giving rise to the vast number of inequalities, injustices and wasted lives now ruining our civilization. The control the Establishment uses is all encompassing, from the religions that inculcate in us primitive ideology no longer useful to the world of modern man, conditioning us to believe in invisible fantasy and obey the false prophets who preach them, controlling and oppressing the mind and maintaining ignorance; to the education that brainwashes, dumbs down and fosters allegiance to the ruling elite; to the social classes that segregate, alienate and exasperate; to laws that serve to benefit those in power and wealth; to the work we must perform in order to survive which robs us of energy to care or the will to fight and resist; to the television that manipulates and re-wires human brains to the dictates of government and the corporate world, creating the escapism of entertainment to divert attention away from the exploitation that is our lives; to the charade of democracy and elections that serves only to distract and divide; to the media designed to confuse, manipulate and disseminate propaganda; to the credit card, mortgage and loan whose sole purpose is to control through debt and interest payments; to social security numbers that make of you but a mere number to the government, your entire history easily traceable and apparent; to the launching of wars to create enemies, thus taking our eyes away from the real enemy; to jingoism designed to foster rabid nationalism and blind patriotism; to government itself which is a mechanism of, by and for the ruling elite; to the exploitation of fear planned so that we acquiesce to the erosion of freedoms and rights at home and the immoral wars of aggression and war crimes abroad.

Everywhere one looks control can be seen. Everywhere one stares corruption of humanity by the Establishment can be found. The pyramid of exploitation, where the elite stand alone at the top while the masses suffocate together at the bottom must be maintained, lest the elite lose power and control. Social classes are purposefully kept the way they are because from the poor and working classes the elite find their serfs, slaves and automatons. From the middle class they find their buffers and protection from the lower classes, as those in the middle, whether lower middle to upper middle, become easily controlled through the illusion of dreams and the complacency of materialism.

Capitalists need minimum wage earners from which to exploit, paying cheaply to profit mightily. They need undereducated masses to fill dead-end jobs and assembly-line chores, transforming a plethora of blue-eyed babies into blue-collar workers and brown-eyed humans into burger flipper slaves. The corporate world of today’s crony capitalism thrives on social engineering, depending on the masses for labor, production and mass consumption. The masses cannot be allowed to find liberation through education, nor free-thinking minds through enlightenment, nor be allowed to escape the caste predetermined for them, for they are needed to push the buttons and the levers of the capitalist division of labor and operate the tools and the machines of the corporation. Thus, real education, as emancipating to the mind as it is, will never reach the mass of society, for in knowledge there is power and in ignorance there is control. This is the story of organized religion throughout history, and now it is the sad chapter of modern man’s dive into the abyss called capitalism.

Feudalism revisited, or feudalism evolved?

Threats to the Establishment are never allowed to prosper lest the majority stand up and expropriate power away from those few at the top. Yet, in the end, we remain slaves and serfs, terms now marketed under different names whose exploitations are controlled under different functions. Most of us live in worlds of corporate feudalism, working for corporations, toiling endless hours and sacrificing most valuable time for the profit of those who employ us. We are given ‘wages’ that must, inevitably, be returned to the same corporate world that ‘pays’ us as we are forced to purchase the food, shelter and clothing we produce, not to mention the vast assortment of products of escapism designed to placate and control us.

The seven day week is designed to exploit as much labor from our energy as possible, granting us two days of rest and escapism before the same routine yields its debilitating momentum month after month and year after year, until finally, after years of servitude and sacrifice to those who exploit us, we awaken in old age, our energy gone and our time spent, becoming raisins in the sun asking ourselves where a life worth living has disappeared to. The seven day week is a mechanism of control, a tool of elitist exploitation of the masses, one we never seek to question, or alter. Instead, we are conditioned to its acceptance seemingly from birth, taught to blindly follow five days of labor in exchange for two of rest, never asking ourselves why in times of over-abundance and over consumption so much of our lives is devoted sacrificing to our employers when life is too short to not enjoy and experience.

The genius is in the illusion that we own and have control over our lives, in the cascade of charades, mirages and fictions we adamantly believe in and seldom question. Yet we live in homes and property that are overpriced, forced to pay mortgages and interest to the corporate world that until the end retains control over them. We must buy the products the corporate world decides to sell us, needing their stores and goods for our nutrition, wants and needs. Through the television the corporate world tells us what to think, how to think, how to behave, interact and communicate. It conditions us to consume its products and services, creating fantasy in order to manipulate the still primitive human brain. It creates trends, dictates changes, force-feeds styles, manufactures fragile psychologies and concocts peer-pressures so that we never stop consuming in our quest to attain the fantasy we are bombarded with yet can never attain. In the end, our feudal lords give us labor, food, shelter, protection and security, all in exchange for our freedom, our valuable time left living and our ever-dwindling reserves of energy. Feudalism revisited, or feudalism evolved?

Our feudal lords, through years of methodical conditioning, establish in us and throughout society a dependency on them for survival. We cannot escape their grip, as we are forever indebted to them and addicted to what our labor helps produce. Molded into obedience and subservience, acquiescence and conformity, from cradle to grave becoming robotic producers and mass consumers, our energies methodically engineered like slaves of the past, our minds transformed to those of the automatons of the future, we cling to our feudal masters like babies to their mother’s breasts as society has been created with all the mechanisms needed for the Establishment to continue exploiting the mass of humanity.

Billions of us live in a Matrix-type fantasy; to the elite we are nothing more than an Energizer battery harvested to produce and consume, voraciously exploited for our energy and easily controlled animal passions, behaviors and instincts. The society we believe in and help protect is nothing more than one vast control mechanism, designed for exploitation, manipulation and the further corruption of humankind. It is created to maintain the status quo, where few bask in wealth and power while the many linger in virtual serfdom.

In this world the fantasy we have since birth been made to believe in hides an ominous reality we are afraid to confront. It is a world where those born in privilege prosper while the many at the bottom linger in perpetual limbo, forced to live life in a man-made purgatory full of exploitation, subjugation and oppression that is as old as civilization itself. In every era, in every corner of the globe this hierarchical scheme has ruined more human life than any war or disease, robbing individuals of talent, ability, opportunity and a chance to push themselves out of the caste the system systematically places them in since birth, unable to escape their inherited bondage, unable to enjoy the pleasures of the life of members of the Establishment and unable to experience life beyond the day to day subsistence that marks their existence on Earth. [...]

Corruption of Social Engineering

It is from the ghettos and rural areas, comprised of mostly poor and working families, that the Establishment finds the cannon fodder needed to wage war. It is these sons and daughters of misfortune, trapped in urban reservations or rural wastelands, hindered by wretched educational institutions and severe shortages of work and opportunity that are forced by social engineering to become the killing machines pushing the triggers, buttons and levers of the instruments of death so profitable to the military industrial complex. It is these young men and women whose anemic opportunity in life, thanks to decrepit environments and government abandonment, makes them the marching army of the corporate world, sacrificing the rest of their lives, forever living haunted by demons and/or the maimed horrors of man fighting man, for nothing more than profits, revenues, power and the ego of the Establishment. Through training innocent and moral boys and girls are transformed into cold-blooded killers and destroyers of life, obeying the dictates of greed addicts and warmongers.

Yet the soldiers now in Iraq and Afghanistan -- whom Bush ironically praises while helping to seal their fates – fighting men and women of similar circumstances and situation, also exploited and from birth condemned, are but the latest in a long line of humans fighting the wars of the elite. From the beginning of time, in societies ruled by divisions, classes and castes, where there are segregations of poor and rich, it has always been the poor, those without power and control, who are the ones sacrificing life, mind and limb, not to mention wages, taxes, blood, sweat and tears, for the warmongering aspirations of the Establishment. It is usually the working and middle classes that must bear the sacrifice of the war effort, while the rich are content to live in their infallible bubble of supremacy, their lives neither altered nor molested by the realities and horrors befalling those at war and those faced with the necessity of burying their loved ones.

As has always been the case, the elite can circumvent having to serve in war, for many years able to bypass duties reserved for all others thanks to influence, power, connections and wealth, while the poor and middle class must be sacrificed, either through social engineering or conscription, because they lack the parameters that wealth and power spring forth. Through time and regardless of society or race or region, when divisions in socioeconomic status penetrate the core of human interaction, it is the children of wealth who escape the wickedness created by their fathers, whose actions condemn those born in the lower echelons of a caste system. Whether slave or serf or soldier, regardless of time or place, the corruption of humanity assures the lower classes will continue fighting for the so-called honor, the mistakes, the greed, the incompetence, the malice, the warmongering aspirations and the sought-after land, labor and resources of another. This has never ceased to be the case, and will most likely continue deep into the remaining years of humanity.

The story of war is the story of one side’s poor fighting another side’s poor, for the benefit of the Establishment and the detriment of those mothers and fathers who must do what no parent should have to do, bury their son or daughter. The exploitation of the masses functions thanks to the corruption of society, imposed by the implementation of control mechanisms designed to rob the people of power, knowledge, and of the will to fight a system which only acts to betray illusions and charades. Telling the troops they fight for freedom and democracy and against tyranny while providing nothing but pillaged profits to the corporate world and human hell to Iraqis is one such illusion told by the elite to their army of killing machines.

While 150,000 under funded, unarmored and undersupplied American troops do battle with an entire nation of 25 million Iraqis, for no other reason than to further expand the pockets of the Establishment and the power of the corporatist elite, the distinguished ladies and gentlemen attending the coronation of corruption, adorned with the fruits of our labor, our blood, sweat and tears, will wine and dine until the early hours of the morning, laughing, joking, conversing, living in their sheltered bubble of endowed wealth and inherited position, in one night wasting forty million dollars, enough money to save the lives of countless soldiers in need of armor and innocent Iraqi civilians in need of humanity. Is there any doubt ghetto soldiers born in concrete jungles and rural grunts living in isolated abandon are simply considered expendable cannon fodder doing the slave work of the elite when those that send them to war, based on lies, deceits and under false pretenses, celebrate fraudulent election triumphs and the pleasures endowed to privilege, at a cost of $40,000,000, while dozens of troops are killed and hundreds maimed for life on a weekly basis in Iraq? [...]

Into the Nest of Corruption

Remember, celebrating the coronation of corruption are members of the military-industrial complex, the oil oligarchy, the ruling elite, the corporate Leviathan and the political class. Chief Executive Officers and executives of Fortune 500 companies, Establishment patriarchs and their loving juniors believing themselves nobility by blood if not by high crimes and misdemeanors, greedy bankers and immoral corporatists always seeking more, energy magnates controlling the strings of the Puppet in Chief, media moguls and their army of journalist minions, those Likud-loving, Israel-first neocons, prostitute politicians and their lackey yes men and women, legions of defense contractors and corporate lobbyists trained in the fine art of buying politicians and writing laws, former military brass exchanging the uniform for an Armani, and the unmistakable lovers of revolving doors who always place the interests of their employers before those of the nation can be found cruising Washington in stretched limos and walking on red carpets.

Without corruption of humanity, this distinguished group has no serfs, no slaves and no control. It has no power, no profit, and no wealth. It has no war, no conquest and no soldiers or army to kill, destroy and devastate. It has no feudal domination of land and man, no control over daily lives. Without the degradation of millions in the United States and billions worldwide, the elite cannot maintain an imbalance that has existed for thousands of years, where the few at the top live lavishly through the fruits of our sweat and the exigencies of our toil while the rest subsist on the measly crumbs that like emaciated dogs we oftentimes find ourselves fighting over. [...]

The coronation of corruption shows us how a few at the top can control the vast majority of the people. It shows us that the same patterns emerge throughout history, without fail, thus allowing us to peer into the future. Warlike leaders create warlike people, immoral, arrogant and selfish elites create the same vices in the citizens they control. Their ideologies become our realities; their fictions become our truths. All they have to do to push society in a certain direction is use the tools at their disposal, orchestrating social and mental engineering by conducting various apparatuses at once, thereby shaping views and beliefs from a multitude of platforms. For example, if the people begin questioning the system that exploits them, overcoming purposely placed barriers and divisions, becoming blind and deaf to propaganda, becoming riled and questioning, new Pearl Harbors can always be concocted, new wars of aggression conjured up and new enemies created to distract us away from the real war taking place against us by the real enemy of the people. We are easily toyed with, for society is a matrix geniusly run by the Establishment, full of fantasy and brainwashing and mental conditioning to the dictates of those in power. [...]

No ideology or belief can be allowed to be birthed that may threaten the system now in place. No idea or rebellion or revolt that may change the balance of power will be tolerated, even if it may give rise to the salvation of humanity and the planet. The communal interests of the masses be damned, it is the power of the elite that must be retained, oftentimes using the citizenry itself to achieve these purposes. While the majority succumbs to the growing threats of perpetual war, biological plague, dwindling resources, overpopulation and global warming, it is the elite that prosper and remain protected. In order to achieve long sought goals, we have become, to those holding the reigns of power, quite literally, easily expendable entities. Whether the interests sought cost 3,000 lives, or 100,000 dead or 5,000 soldiers killed or one million lives extinguished, to the elite, the bottom line of profit and power over people rules and, in cost benefit analysis, we have become the means to an end.

Today, into the nest of corruption can the rest of humanity see into, watching as $40,000,000 is wasted to celebrate the triumphant victory over the American people. The coronation of corruption is upon us, full of splendor and arrogance and apathy. When nothing has changed for centuries, even millennia, when the elite possess the confidence that they will continue to rule today and into the future while we continue to drool in kneeling subservience, who can blame them for partying in resplendent accomplishment? To them the system works like magic, and if the best we can do is a few hundred full moon risings directed at their Puppet in Chief, then perhaps we deserve what our ancestors and ourselves are subjected to and our future generations will undoubtedly experience.

To do nothing is to live in denial and accept the lie of our existence. To sit in silent complacency is to welcome the domination over our lives. The failure to act is an act in failure, and a warm embrace to an unmitigated corruption befalling humankind.

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Massive police presence for Bush inauguration
By Jamie Chapman
19 January 2005

The second inauguration of George W. Bush will be held Thursday under a massive and pervasive police/military presence. The conditions of virtual martial law that are being imposed for the event bespeak more the coronation of a besieged autocrat than the swearing in of a democratically elected president.

Some 6,000 police are being deployed, backed by 7,000 troops who will be placed on alert. Sniper teams will be stationed on rooftops. Plainclothes specialists looking for chemical, biological or radiological agents will mingle through the crowd, carrying hand-held detectors. Twenty-two checkpoints will be set up to search spectators and screen them with metal detectors.

Police will not allow backpacks, packages, any bags larger than 8 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches, or thermoses and coolers of any size. Umbrellas will be prohibited so as to allow authorities a clear view of the crowd. Even miniature American flags that Bush supporters wanted to wave as the motorcade passed will be banned.

No poles or other supports will be permitted for signs or placards—a measure that cannot by any stretch of the imagination be justified on the grounds of a potential terrorist attack. Rather, it is aimed at inhibiting the constitutionally protected right of peaceful assembly and political expression.

Vehicles will be banned from more than 100 square blocks of downtown Washington DC. Residents of the area will have to submit to searches and show identification to get into their homes. Hotel and office parking garages in the vicinity will be inspected and closed.

Government workers will be sent home for the day. Those who stay in their offices along the parade route in an attempt to get a view of the proceedings will be ordered away from windows.

The Federal Aviation Administration will impose a 23-mile radius no-fly zone around the three area airports. Coast guard boats will patrol the Potomac River, which runs through the city. DC police will weld shut manhole covers on nearby streets. Streetlights will also be removed.

Calling the inaugural “the most visible manifestation of our democracy,” outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge held a press conference last week to announce the security measures. In front of the media, he surrounded himself with federal law enforcement personnel, members of the military and local police chiefs. They were flanked by bomb-sniffing dogs and US Park police officers on horseback.

He also showed off mobile command centers belonging to the joint military command for Washington, the Secret Service, the Federal Protective Service, and the DC Emergency Management Agency. Combat-ready troops from the 3rd Infantry Regiment displayed M-4 assault rifles and night vision goggles.

Ridge declared, “Protective measures will be seen. There will be quite a few that are not seen. Our goal is that any attempt on the part of anyone or any group to disrupt the inaugural will be repelled by multiple layers of security.”

All of this is far more designed to intimidate the American population, discourage dissent and create an atmosphere of fear than to deter would-be terrorists. Ridge admitted that his department had no evidence of a specific terrorist threat against the inauguration, and that the “chatter” detected by Washington’s far-flung spy networks had receded.

When Ridge speaks about “disrupting the inaugural,” he is deliberately conflating in the public mind terrorist violence and political dissent. His description of an inauguration held under such conditions as “the most visible manifestation of our democracy” is an apt, if unintentional, bit of irony. The lock-down of the city indeed expresses the debased and imperiled state of American democracy.

Protesters will be confined to a 200-foot patch along the parade route, which stretches several miles. Bush supporters have been allocated the rest of the bleacher space along Pennsylvania Avenue, at a cost of up to $125 a seat.

One group of Bush opponents, concerned that they will not be allowed to hold up protest signs, plans to get its supporters to station themselves between the bleachers and express their dissent by turning their backs to Bush’s motorcade as it passes by. Another group will stage a “die-in” in Lafayette Park across from the White House, with over 1,000 cardboard coffins symbolizing the American troops killed in Iraq.

Such protests are but a pale reflection of the actual opposition within the population to Bush’s policies of war and social reaction. Notwithstanding Bush’s claim to have won a mandate for his policies from the electorate, his moves to militarize the nation’s capital reflect the enormous social and political crisis gripping the US.

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Security includes 50 separate agencies
The Associated Press
Updated: 1:24 p.m. ET Jan. 18, 2005

High-tech command center will monitor activities

WASHINGTON - Miles from the Capitol where President Bush will take the oath of office, dozens of officials from 50 federal, state and local agencies will work side by side in a high-tech command center keeping close tabs on the security situation for the first presidential inauguration since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

At 120 work stations in the northern Virginia center and using giant video screens, law enforcement and security personnel will be able to watch from cameras that monitor downtown Washington streets, keep track of aerial surveillance flights and check sensors scanning for evidence of deadly biological or chemical agents.

“If there is a piece of technology that exists, we’ve put it to use for this event,” said Jim Rice, the FBI supervisory agent for Thursday’s inauguration.

For the first time, all the federal agencies that deal with security, law enforcement and crisis response will be housed in a single Joint Field Office for a presidential inauguration. Also new this time, under a post-Sept. 11 presidential order, the federal agencies will be under the command of a “principle federal officer” reporting directly to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

For this event, that officer is Tim Koerner, a top deputy in the Secret Service, which is the lead agency for the inaugural security effort.

The idea is to improve coordination among the various federal agencies, especially if there is a terrorist attack or other major disruption and there is an immediate need for such things as medical attention for casualties, hostage rescue or SWAT teams and investigative specialists such as FBI bomb technicians.

Law enforcement officials say that locating all officials under one roof will eliminate confusion and duplication, as well as enable them to quickly determine whether there’s a real threat or problem or if it’s just a false alarm.

“When an incident first happens, in the first 30 minutes probably about 75 percent of the information you get is wrong,” Rice said. “Being able to look the guy in the eye that you’re talking to, that eliminates a lot of problems.”

The field office will command Coast Guard cutters and helicopters, canine bomb-sniffing units, customs aircraft, bicycle patrols, crowd control and a host of other security and law enforcement assets.

Immigration, terrorism and criminal databases will be closely watched for any suspicious matches of people arriving in the United States or placed under arrest somewhere in the country. Commercial air traffic will be watched closely.

No specific threat

Despite all the preparation, U.S. officials say they have no indications that al-Qaida or any other terror group intends to attack Bush’s inauguration. If anything, officials have been saying that terrorist “chatter” picked up in intelligence channels about potential attacks is at a low point compared with previous major events.

A bulletin circulated within the U.S. government on Jan. 11 by the FBI, Homeland Security Department and Defense Department cited “no credible information domestic or international terrorists” are planning to attack the inauguration, according to a federal security official with access to the bulletin.

The bulletin goes on to say, however, that al-Qaida remains determined to mount another major attack on the U.S. homeland and that Washington is obviously a prime potential target. As a high-profile symbol of American democracy, officials involved in the inauguration’s security are taking no chances when it comes to preparing for the worst.

The FBI, for example, has stationed command personnel and other assets in concentric circles around Washington, each a greater distance from the nation’s capital, in case terrorists manage to detonate a nuclear device or other weapon of mass destruction. That would enable the FBI, which has about 1,500 agents working the inaugural event, to remain operational to respond to such a disaster if its headquarters were wiped out.

“There are contingencies for everything,” Rice said.

Officials also have thought about the possibility that terrorists might try to strike a more lightly guarded target or targets outside Washington. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, for example, has disaster teams activated around the nation and the FBI is on greater alert as well.

Even so, the goal is to make the inaugural event appear much as it has in the past, with an open-air swearing-in ceremony and an opportunity for the president to get out of his armored limousine along the parade route from the Capitol to the White House.

“This is probably the heaviest security we have ever had in D.C.,” Rice said. “The president is going to get out and walk down the middle of the street, and we’re at war. Security is going to be airtight.”

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Anxious Iraqis Are Leaving Before Elections
By Jackie Spinner and Naseer Nouri
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 17, 2005

BAGHDAD -- Abu Muhanned, a former Iraqi army officer, fished into his back pocket and pulled out a black leather wallet stuffed with $100 bills.

He had brought his wife and 12-year-old son to a busy travel agency in downtown Baghdad last week to buy airplane tickets to Egypt. Sudad, the owner of the agency, a petite woman whose desk was stacked with green Iraqi passports, asked Abu Muhanned when he wanted to leave.

"As soon as possible," he replied.

Sudad, who asked that her last name and the location of her agency not be disclosed, nodded knowingly. She had been hearing similar requests for weeks, as many members of Iraq's educated upper middle class flee the country in advance of the Jan. 30 elections.

Iraqi officials have said they were encouraged by the millions of people checking to make sure they were registered to vote. This is one of the few tangible, statistical signs that the populace is gearing up to participate.

An estimated 15 million Iraqis are eligible to vote in the elections, which will choose 18 provincial councils and a 275-member National Assembly. The assembly will appoint a central government and draft a constitution.

But despite the significance of the elections -- the first democratic vote in the country in nearly half a century -- a growing number of Iraqis are making plans to get as far from the voting booths as possible.

Abu Muhanned, for example, does not plan to stick around for Jan. 30. At the travel agency, he asked Sudad to make a reservation at a five-star hotel in Cairo, where he said the family would wait out the election period.

Abu Muhanned, who declined to give his full name, said he lost his job when the U.S.-led occupation disbanded the Iraqi army in May 2003. He has since become a merchant, but it is hard, competitive work in a capital filled with former military officers and government officials-turned-salesmen.

"This no longer feels like my country," said Abu Muhanned, 45, who was dressed in a gray suit and tie. "We will come back on the 3rd of February, when everything will be finished."

His wife, Um Muhanned, her tiger-print scarf tucked into a black wool jacket, sat at his side. They looked like a fashionable, well-heeled couple about to go on holiday. But Um Muhanned said they were leaving to escape violence -- the suicide bombers, the gunmen, the insurgents who have vowed to hunt down and kill anyone who votes.

"It is getting worse and worse," she said. "I am afraid now even when I am sitting here that a car bomb will explode in any minute and all of us will die."

Um Muhanned, who also declined to give her full name, said she wished she could stay home. But even if she did, she said, she would not vote.

"I am not crazy," she said. "I just want to stay alive until I can leave the country for good. My husband works here in Baghdad; otherwise, I would take him and live outside of Iraq." In the past, she added, "I would have been proud if my husband died in the war, as he was an officer. . . . I hate this country now."

Comment: Some may consider middle and upper class Iraqi citizens lucky enough to be able to afford to escape the ever-increasing level of violence as the Jan 30th election approaches. Unfortunately for the vast majority of lower class and impoverished citizens, there are no such options as they are forced to remain behind and hide out until the voting is over, or risk getting killed if they try and participate in this obvious sham of an election.

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4 car bombs in Baghdad kill 26 2005-01-19 19:04:07

BAGHDAD, Jan. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Four car bombs blew up Wednesday morning in Baghdad, killing 26 people and wounding 21 others, the US military said in a statement.

"Four vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices detonated in the Iraqi capital in the span of 90 minutes this morning," the statement said, adding "initial reports indicate 26 people died in the blasts, with at least 21 more wounded."

It said two Australian soldiers were among the wounded in the first car bombing that went off at approximately 7:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) near the Australian Embassy.

At least one Iraqi was killed and "an unknown number of Iraqis were also wounded in the attack," the statement said.

Half an hour later, another car bombing took place near the Al Alahi Hospital in central Baghdad, leaving 18 people dead and 15 others wounded, according to the statement.

At about 8:15 a.m. (0515 GMT), two Iraqi security guards were killed, and three others wounded in a third car bomb blast, southwest of the Baghdad International Airport, the statement added.

The fourth car bombing came at 8:30 a.m. (0530 GMT) near the Muthana Airfield, killing two Iraqi soldiers and two civilians, the statement said, adding that one US soldier was also wounded.

However, the military said "despite loss of life, none of the suicide bombers hit their intended targets."

Insurgents bent on disrupting the Jan. 30 polls have intensified attacks against US forces, Iraqi police, national guards and civilians working for foreign forces.

Comment: Isn't that nice of the American military to inform the world that "none of the suicide bombers hit their intended target", as if that is any consolation to the 26 victims of today's latest round of bombings.

With all the bloodshed happening daily in Iraq, fresh bodies adding to the ever growing mountain of corpses, sometimes it's hard not to become desensitized to it all, and even lose track of how many are killed from one day to the next.

That is why it seems important to look at each event as if seeing the true horror of it all for the very first time. To let the reality of dozens and dozens killed every week really sink in and experience it as if it were happening directly to oneself, one's family, one's neighbours, and in one's own town.

It is so easy to gaze upon the carnage in Iraq from the comfort of our living rooms as if it's all happening somewhere far away and "over there". To stare stupidly at the hypnotic flickering blue light of the television screen and be disconnected from the true terror that the Iraqi people must deal with every day.

The war rages on and we dare not become complacent to the suffering of others, no matter what their religion or skin colour, for it seems if Dubya has his way, the war on terror will inevitably be brought home to roost, coming soon to an American city near you.

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General: Each Fallujah family to get $200
By Pamela Hess
Pentagon correspondent

Washington, DC, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. military is going to pay the citizens of the devastated city of Fallujah, Iraq, $6.4 million -- $200 to each head of household -- to jump-start the local economy, a top U.S. official said Tuesday.

That money is in addition to compensation payments for death and injury, and money to help rebuild homes destroyed in the massive November battle, in which the United States destroyed most of the city.

"We (figure) there is somewhere between 32,000 and 34,000 heads of household within the town, (and we will) go ahead and pay each one of them $200," said Lt. Gen. John Sattler, the commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. "It's not to offset any of the damage that was done to their home, but it gives them some money in their pocket so they can go ahead and buy the necessities as they move back in to reestablish themselves within the town." [...]

Comment: A city in ruins, decomposing corpses littering the streets, the rubble of buildings, the stench of open running sewers, undrinkable water, the lack of even the basic necessities of life and the U.S. military has the audacity to offer these people a measly $200 in aide???

Try to keep this paltry monetary figure in mind when reading the story below and you will have some idea of the true face of American military charity.

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Odd Happenings in Fallujah
Dahr Jamail, Electronic Iraq, 18 January 2005

"The soldiers are doing strange things in Fallujah," said one of my contacts in Fallujah who just returned. He was in his city checking on his home and just returned to Baghdad this evening.

Speaking on condition of anonymity he continued, "In the center of the Julan Quarter they are removing entire homes which have been bombed, meanwhile most of the homes that were bombed are left as they were. Why are they doing this?"

According to him, this was also done in the Nazal, Mualmeen, Jubail and Shuhada'a districts, and the military began to do this after Eid, which was after November 20th.

He told me he has watched the military use bulldozers to push the soil into piles and load it onto trucks to carry away. This was done in the Julan and Jimouriya quarters of the city, which is of course where the heaviest fighting occurred during the siege, as this was where resistance was the fiercest.

"At least two kilometers of soil were removed," he explained, "Exactly as they did at Baghdad Airport after the heavy battles there during the invasion and the Americans used their special weapons."

He explained that in certain areas where the military used "special munitions" 200 square meters of soil was being removed from each blast site.

In addition, many of his friends have told him that the military brought in water tanker trucks to power blast the streets, although he hadn't seen this himself.

"They went around to every house and have shot the water tanks," he continued, "As if they are trying to hide the evidence of chemical weapons in the water, but they only did this in some areas, such as Julan and in the souk (market) there as well."

He first saw this having been done after December 20th.

Again, this is reflective of stories I've been told by several refugees from Fallujah.

Just last December, a 35 year-old merchant from Fallujah, Abu Hammad, told me what he'd experienced when he was still in the city during the siege.

"The American warplanes came continuously through the night and bombed everywhere in Fallujah! It did not stop even for a moment! If the American forces did not find a target to bomb, they used sound bombs just to terrorize the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I cannot give a picture of how panicked everyone was."

"In the mornings I found Fallujah empty, as if nobody lives in it," he'd said, "Even poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah-they used everything-tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground. Nothing is left."

In Amiriyat al-Fallujah, a small city just outside Fallujah where many doctors from Fallujah have been practicing since they were unable to do so at Fallujah General Hospital, similar stories are being told.

Last month one refugee who had just arrived at the hospital in the small city explained that he'd watched the military bring in water tanker trucks to power blast some of the streets in Fallujah.

"Why are they doing this," explained Ahmed (name changed for his protection), "To beautify Fallujah? No! They are covering their tracks from the horrible weapons they used in my city."

Also last November, another Fallujah refugee from the Julan area, Abu Sabah told me, "They (US military) used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces feel from the air with long tails of smoke behind them."

He explained that pieces of these bombs exploded into large fires that burnt peoples skin even when water was dumped on their bodies, which is the effect of phosphorous weapons, as well as napalm. "People suffered so much from these, both civilians and fighters alike," he said.

My friend Suthir (name changed to protect identity) was a member of one of the Iraqi Red Crescent relief convoys that was allowed into Fallujah at the end of November.

"I'm sure the Americans committed bad things there, but who can discover and say this," she said when speaking of what she saw of the devastated city, "They didn't allow us to go to the Julan area or any of the others where there was heavy fighting, and I'm sure that is where the horrible things took place."

"The Americans didn't let us in the places where everyone said there was napalm used," she added, "Julan and those places where the heaviest fighting was, nobody is allowed to go there."

On 30 November the US military prevented an aid convoy from reaching Fallujah. This aid convoy was sent by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, but was told by soldiers at a checkpoint to return in "8 or 9 days," reported AP.

Dr. Ibrahim al-Kubaisi who was with the relief team told reporters at that time, "There is a terrible crime going in Fallujah and they do not want anybody to know."

With the military maintaining strict control over who enters Fallujah, the truth of what weapons were used remains difficult to find.

Meanwhile, people who lived in different districts of Fallujah continue to tell the same stories.

Comment: How different the reality of Fallujah in the picture painted above in comparison to the sanitized and wholly inaccurate picture portrayed by the American mainstream media. It's as if the U.S. populace is living in a vacuum of awareness where not even the slightest hint of truth is allowed in to disturb the illusion of consensus reality.

Baseball games and apple pie, freedom and democracy, land of the free and home of the brave, these are the stuff of dreams.

The bubble has got to burst sometime.

As long as the truth of their government's heinous crimes in Iraq and elsewhere remain hidden from the majority of people back home, the overwhelming shock felt by ordinary U.S. citizens will be all that much greater when the true intentions of the Bush Reich are finally revealed and his campaign of terror and intimidation land on American soil.

But by then, for most anyway, it will be too late.

Consider the following two articles on the massive and unprecedented security preparations for today's inauguration to get an idea of what life will soon be like in Bush's 21st century Amerika.

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FBI Launches Manhunt Amid Boston Threat Report
Wed Jan 19, 2005 08:43 PM ET
By Daisuke Wakabayashi

BOSTON (Reuters) - The FBI is seeking to question four Chinese nationals amid unconfirmed reports that they are headed to Boston as part of a possible "dirty bomb" plot, authorities said on Wednesday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. prosecutors in Boston released photographs of four Chinese nationals identified as Zengrong Lin, Wen Quin Zheng, Xiujin Chen and Guozhi Lin, and said the four individuals were being sought in connection with an unspecified, uncorroborated threat.

"Information was received by federal law enforcement in Boston today originating from an unknown and uncorroborated source regarding an unspecified potential threat," federal prosecutors and the FBI said in a joint statement.

"There is no further specific information regarding the City of Boston nor is there any degree of specificity on the type of potential threat," the statement said. "As is done whenever we receive this type of information, all appropriate investigative steps are taken."

None of the individuals' names had previously appeared on any kind of "watch list," the statement said.

Authorities first learned of the potential threat from an anonymous tip, Boston Mayor Tom Menino told reporters.

Although not confirmed, the information in the tip was serious enough to prompt Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to cut short his visit to Washington, where he had been due to attend President Bush's inauguration on Thursday.

Romney told reporters in Washington he had decided to return to reassure Massachusetts residents that it was safe to be at home. He said the four individuals being sought were not thought to be in Massachusetts but may be headed there.

"It (the threat) is specific in that it mentions a location where the individuals were dropped off. That location is New York. It identifies also a location where a threat might be directed and that location is Boston," Romney said.

The release of the photographs came after ABC News reported on Wednesday that teams equipped with radiological sensors were patrolling Boston amid a possible "dirty bomb" threat.

Boston FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said she was not aware of such patrols, and that the information used in the report was not corroborated. She added that the FBI routinely receives such reports and investigates them.

Menino reiterated that there was no evidence of a "dirty bomb" plot in Boston.

Witnesses in downtown Boston reported few if any signs of heightened police presence on city streets, although one witness said a train conductor on the city's subway system urged commuters to be vigilant and report any suspicious packages.

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FBI stops using Carnivore program
January 18, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI has effectively abandoned its custom-built Internet surveillance technology, once known as Carnivore, designed to read e-mails and other online communications among suspected criminals, terrorists and spies, bureau oversight reports submitted to Congress said.

Instead, the FBI said it has switched to unspecified commercial software to eavesdrop on computer traffic during such investigations and has increasingly asked Internet providers to conduct wiretaps on targeted customers on the government's behalf, reimbursing companies for their costs.

The FBI performed only eight Internet wiretaps in the fiscal year 2003 and five in 2002; none used the software initially called Carnivore and later renamed the DCS-1000, said FBI documents submitted to U.S. Senate and House of Representatives oversight committees. The FBI, which once said Carnivore was "far better" than commercial products, said previously it had used the technology about 25 times between 1998 and 2000.

The FBI said it could not disclose how much it spent to produce the surveillance software it no longer uses, saying part of its budget was classified. Outside experts said the government probably spent between $6 million and $15 million.

The congressional oversight reports were obtained last week under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act by the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group that criticized the surveillance software after it was first disclosed in 2000.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the bureau moved to popular commercial wiretap software because it was less expensive and had improved in its ability to copy e-mails and other communications of a targeted Internet account without affecting other subscribers.

"We see the value in the commercially available software; we're using it more now and we're asking the Internet service providers that have the capabilities to collect data in compliance with court orders," Bresson said. [...]

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Warren Buffett sees no way but down for US dollar
Thursday January 20, 3:28 AM

The dollar cannot avoid further declines against other major currencies unless the US trade and current account deficits improve, legendary investor and businessman Warren Buffett said.

"I think, over time, unless we have a major change in trade policies, I don't see how the dollar avoids going down," the world's second-richest individual told CNBC television.

"I don't know when it happens. I don't have any idea whether it will be this month or this year or next year, but we are force-feeding dollars on to the rest of the world at the rate of close to a couple billion dollars a day, and that's going to weigh on the dollar."

Buffett noted the record US deficit of 164.7 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2004 in the current account, which measures trade and investment flows.

Buffett, nicknamed the Oracle of Omaha for his investment acumen, has a net worth of some 41 billion dollars, second only to Microsoft chief Bill Gates, according to Forbes magazine. But he said he saw few opportunities in the near term. [...]

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MIA sees another diplomatic dust-up
Posted on Tue, Jan. 18, 2005

A federal air marshal detained and questioned Argentina's foreign minister last week at Miami International Airport, an episode touched off by a four-hour flight delay in New York.

The U.S. State Department has apologized and is investigating the events involving Argentine Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa, who stopped in Miami en route to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on diplomatic business.

The events touched off a flurry of Argentine newspaper headlines, the latest smudge on international relations in Miami. In April, the Spanish crown prince's trip through airport security turned into a diplomatic flap. In October 2003, the governor-general of the Bahamas was required to remove her shoes, which resulted in a complaint to the State Department.

Bielsa and his entourage were on American Airlines Flight 2031, scheduled to leave New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at 6:20 p.m. Thursday and arrive in Miami at 9:32 p.m.

However, because of bad weather and mechanical issues, the foreign minister's plane did not leave New York until 10:25 p.m. and arrived in Miami at 1:05 a.m. Friday, said Dave Adams, a spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service.


''The bottom line is, everybody was tired,'' Adams said. ``They had been on the plane for several hours, and they were getting a little antsy, wondering why is this plane being delayed and why are we still sitting at the gate at JFK?''

According to Adams, Bielsa rose from his first-class seat while the plane was taxiing and told the flight attendant he wanted to enter the cockpit and ask the captain what caused the delay.

She told him to remain seated, but he argued and would not listen to her directives, Adams said. The flight attendant passed on Bielsa's concerns to the pilot.

Gregorio Dupont, Argentina's consul general in Miami who was at Miami International Airport awaiting Bielsa's flight, disputes that account, saying the foreign minister did not leave his seat while the plane was taxiing. Before the plane took off, Dupont said, Bielsa rose from his seat, wanting to see about taking another flight and ask the captain about the delay. Dupont said Bielsa did not try to enter the cockpit.

Federal air marshals on the flight witnessed the incident but did not get up and identify themselves while it was taking place because they were not summoned by the flight crew, Adams said.

American spokesman Tim Wagner said the airline did not receive a report of any disturbance or event on the flight.

The federal air marshals told the flight attendant they wanted to interview Bielsa when the plane landed.


So after Bielsa left the plane, an air marshal asked to see his passport and questioned him at the gate. Adams said the process, which included checking to see whether Bielsa had a criminal background, took no more than 10 minutes.

Dupont said the questioning lasted 45 minutes and that the air marshal was rude and told Bielsa only to speak when he was he was told to do so. Dupont said he told the air marshal that Bielsa was the Argentine foreign minister and asked him whether he knew about diplomatic immunity.

Dupont called the Argentine ambassador to tell him about the episode.

''We regret any unnecessary inconvenience that the foreign minister and his party may have experienced,'' said Steven Pike, a spokesman for the State Department. ``We are looking into this to ascertain the facts. The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for airport security.''

The next morning, Bielsa and his group traveled to Port-au-Prince. On Saturday, he returned to Miami, where federal officials greeted Bielsa and offered their apologies, Dupont said. Then Bielsa left for Buenos Aires.

''Our federal air marshal acted professionally,'' Adams said. ``And it's the same way he would have acted with any individual under the circumstances.''

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Israeli security cabinet approves military operation against Hezbollah 2005-01-20 06:31:28

JERUSALEM, Jan. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- The Israeli security cabinet on Wednesday approved in principle of launching a military operation against Hezbollah.

The decision was made in response to three incidents in recent weeks, including one in which Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants detonated explosive devices in Lebanon's northern Har Dov region, killing an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer on Jan. 9.

"By its actions, Hezbollah is trying to torpedo any progress between Israel and Abu Mazen (Palestinian National Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas)," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said at a security cabinet meeting.

"Hezbollah, Syria and Iran are doing everything to thwart any progress," he added.

The meeting authorized the inner core of the Israeli security cabinet to order an operation at any time. The inner core includes Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

Last week, two explosive devices went off near the Israeli border area with Lebanon, killing one Israeli IDF officer. On Monday, an explosive device burst out near an IDF bulldozer as Israeli troops from the engineering corps were searching for explosives.

Israel's responses have been limited to artillery and airstrikes on Hezbollah headquarters and targets in southern Lebanon.The Israeli army has recently warned the Syrian and Lebanese governments that if they do not restrain Hezbollah, Israel will respond.

Comment: And so it goes in the twisted world of Zionist logic where black is white and up is down. Regardless of the scads of evidence clearly showing that the Israeli government, time and time again, has bent over backwards to scuttle any chance of a peaceful settlement with the Palestinian people, all the Israeli Defense Minister has to do is blame his "enemies" for the exact same thing his government is doing in order to justify an all new attack on an independent nation.

It seems every time the Neocons and Zionists get to together to invade one country, they immediately start threatening others, as if to give warning as who is the next potential target further on down the road.

We saw them rally against Iraq while bombing the bejeezus out of Afghanistan, and presently the focus is on Iran while they finish the job of slaughtering the people of Iraq. Now with Iran in their sights they begin to rattle their swords towards Syria and Lebanon. It seems there will be no end to this continual provocation until the entire Middle East is either under Zionist control or completely decimated in some kind of climatic war of Armageddon.

Bleak times indeed when one can accurately read the Signs.

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Israeli forces raid Nablus
Wednesday 19 January 2005, 18:40 Makka Time, 15:40 GMT

The Israeli army, backed by tanks and dozens of military vehicles, has entered the West Bank city of Nablus in the largest operation there in weeks, arresting 14 Palestinians, witnesses said.

The Israeli occupation army confirmed the arrest of 14 suspected resistance fighters in the operation that ended before dawn on Wednesday.
Palestinians said the arrested included a senior member of Hamas, an injured man and a woman.
Another man was lightly injured by Israeli fire.
Residents of the West Bank's largest city heard explosions and exchanges of fire throughout the night.
Aljazeera reported that several buildings were demolished by Israeli forces.

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Rafah crossing closure takes tragic toll
By Laila El-Haddad in Cairo & Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Tuesday 18 January 2005, 15:31 Makka Time, 12:31 GMT  

At least seven Palestinian refugees stranded at the Egypt-Rafah border crossing closed by Israel for the past six weeks have succumbed to various illnesses.

The dead men were part of 7000 people stranded somewhere between Cairo and the Rafah border crossing - the only crossing they can use to travel in and out of Gaza - since an explosion in a tunnel beneath the border killed six Israeli occupation soldiers on 12 December.

Medical sources in Gaza and security sources in Egypt have spoken of families waiting to bury their dead in their hometown of Gaza, but forced to resort to the Egyptian border town of al-Arish after being turned back at the crossing.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Palestinian patients who are badly in need of medical treatment abroad have likewise been prevented from travelling through the crossing point, in violation of their basic rights.

The rights group says the closure is a form of collective punishment under international law.

No protection

Lutfi Beldjelti, protection officer at the Cairo office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), visited the border crossing last week to assess the status of thousands of stranded Palestinians who have now effectively become refugees, many for a second time. 

According to Beldjelti, there are at least 23 cases of Palestinians not allowed to leave the terminal hall itself into other Egyptian cities for what was cited as "security reasons".

"Until yesterday 23 people were still there, not allowed to stay on Egyptian soil. We are trying with the authorities to help them stay in Egyptian soil. We even found a UN staff member with whom he can stay, but the Egyptian government refused," he said.

Palestinian refugees ordinarily fall under UNRWA's mandate, which has no offices in Egypt. As a result, the UNHCR has been doing what it can to assist the thousands of stranded Palestinians on a case-by-case basis. It has been unable to reach stranded Palestinians scattered throughout bordering towns, however.

"The [stranded Palestinians] do not have a protection programme, but we have shown the willingness to assist the government [in] assisting these people. It is limited but we are trying to do our best. We are mainly concerned that people are not allowed to move about the country," Beldjelti said.

Reduced to begging

Families have been torn apart as a result of the closure, which comes just one week before Palestinians celebrate a major Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha.

Wisam Abu Shariya, a physician, spoke to from a motel on the Egyptian side of the crossing. "I came to attend a four-day course in Cairo University, and I have been stuck here for 40 days now," she said.

"In these two months I have seen only bitterness and despair. I left my 15-month-old son at home with his father. My son, who is still nursing, is sick, and I have run out of the money I had brought with me.
"Yet my situation remains better than most," she added. "I met a Palestinian woman begging with no money yesterday, she just wanted some money to buy food."

'Horrible situation'

Wisam Abu Shariya's roommate, Dr Manal Muhsin, who works in the Palestinian environment ministry, has likewise been stranded for 40 days.

"It is a horrible situation. You can highlight one or two cases, but there are thousands upon thousands. And what will 150 do for people who have nothing?" Muhsin said, referring to a token sum of money the Palestinian embassy in Cairo provided to some stranded families.

Abd Allah Abd Allah, director-general of the Palestinian foreign ministry, told that Egypt, Jordan, the EU, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international bodies were contacted in an effort to get them to pressure Israel to allow the Palestinians to be repatriated, "but apparently to no avail". 

The Israeli government insists "Palestinian terrorists" are to blame for the ongoing ordeal, alluding to the 12 December explosion at the Rafah crossing.

But Palestinian officials dismiss the Israeli justification as a pretext to punish and torment innocent people.

Forgotten plight?

On Sunday, a high-ranking Israeli foreign ministry official visited Cairo to discuss "bilateral relations" and the latest crisis in Israel-Palestinian Authority relations.

However, it was not clear if the plight of the stranded Palestinians came up during the talks.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokeswoman, Amira Oron, told that while she was aware of the problem, she did not know of any ongoing efforts to bring back the stranded Palestinians anytime soon.

The Egyptian government declined to comment on the subject when approached by

Motives questioned

For its part, the Arab League said Israeli actions "raise a series of question" about the true intentions of the Israeli government and its desire to reach a just and lasting peace.

"The truth is, what's happening is just another expression of the Israeli policy of aggression against the Palestinian people. The closure of the crossing is just one facet of these ongoing policies," Arab League spokesperson Hisham Yusuf told

Asked what steps were being taken, if any, to bring an end to the closure, Yusuf said there are ongoing discussions between Arab countries and their foreign ministries on the subject, among others, and that Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath is currently holding meetings in Cairo.

At least 2000 more Palestinians will join those stranded in Egypt next week, when Muslim pilgrims will begin to journey back from Saudi Arabia to Gaza.

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U.S. Punishes 8 Chinese Firms for Aiding Iran
Published: January 18, 2005

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 - The Bush administration imposed penalties this month against some of China's largest companies for aiding Iran's efforts to improve its ballistic missiles. The move is part of an effort by the White House and American intelligence agencies to identify and slow important elements of Iran's weapons programs.

The White House made no public announcement of the penalties, and the State Department placed a one-page notice on page 133 of The Federal Register early this month listing eight Chinese companies affected. The notice kept classified the nature of the technology they had exported.

Since the Federal Register announcement, the penalties have been noted on some Web sites that concentrate on China and proliferation issues.

President Bush has repeatedly praised China for its help in seeking a diplomatic end to the North Korean nuclear standoff. Some officials in the administration speculated in the past week that the decision not to publicize the penalties might have been part of an effort not to jeopardize Chinese cooperation at a critical moment in the administration's effort to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

China has repeatedly vowed to curb its sales of missile technology, starting with an agreement with the first Bush administration in 1992, and expanded with the Clinton administration in 2000. [...]

American officials said the list of exports to Iran was classified, but they described them as high-performance metals and components that are banned under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 because they could aid the country's efforts to extend the range of its missile fleet. It was unclear whether some of the technology was "dual use," meaning that it could be used for civilian or military purposes.

Iran's efforts to develop longer-distance missiles that are capable of ever larger payloads are increasingly of concern among intelligence officials. American officials have charged that Iran is trying to develop nuclear warheads, which its leadership denies.

"We suspect that the Iranians also have the Chinese bomb design," a former senior American official said several months ago, referring to a design that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, acquired from China, sold to Libya and was suspected of peddling elsewhere. "What everyone is looking for is the missile that matches up with the design."

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Report: India tests sophisticated surface-to-air short-range missile
07:02 PM EST Jan 19

NEW DELHI (AP) - India tested its most sophisticated short-range missile on Wednesday, a news agency reported.

The surface-to-air missile was test-fired from a range in India's main testing centre in Chandipur-on-Sea in the eastern state of Orissa, Press Trust of India said. With a range of 9.6 kilometres, the solid fuel-propelled missile known as "Trishul" is capable of targeting aircraft and sea-skimming missiles. It can carry a warhead of up to 15 kilograms. Trishul means trident, the weapon favoured by Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.

Wednesday's test firing came as India accused nuclear-armed rival Pakistan of violating a 14-month ceasefire in disputed Kashmir, over which the two have fought two of their three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Pakistan denied the charge.

India and Pakistan routinely test-fire missiles for military use. When they test long-range missiles, India and Pakistan give advance notice to each other.

India's missile arsenal includes the short-range ballistic missile Prithvi, the medium-range Agni and Akash missiles, the anti-tank Nag missile and the supersonic Brahmos missile.

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Two letter bombs explode in Portugal, no injuries reported
19 January 2005 1829 hrs

LISBON : A letter bomb exploded at the home of an evangelical pastor in Portugal while another device addressed to a businesswoman went off outside a postal office, causing no injuries, Portuguese radio reported.

Both letter bombs went off after they were picked up from postal stations in central Portugal Tuesday, Radio Renascenca said citing a police source.

The letter addressed to the pastor was claimed from a post office in the central town of Sangalhos, located some 300 kilometres (185 miles) northeast of Lisbon, while the second bomb exploded shortly after it was taken from a mail station in the nearby town of Curia. Police said they were investigating.

Last month a postal worker in Lisbon was slightly injured after a letter bomb exploded in his hands. The letter had a return address belonging to a non-existent firm and had been mailed to a private residence in central Portugal, close to the towns targeted by the bombs on Tuesday.

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Air Force jet collides with small plane
Wednesday, January 19, 2005 Posted: 8:40 AM EST (1340 GMT)

FREDERICK, Oklahoma (AP) -- An Air Force training jet and a small plane collided Tuesday over southwestern Oklahoma, killing the private plane's pilot, authorities said. Both military pilots parachuted to safety.

The T-37 training jet from Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, struck the plane over a rural area southeast of Frederick, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman John Clabes said.

The two military pilots suffered only minor injuries after parachuting to the ground. Officials at the Air Force base said a nearby landowner picked them up and helped them get medical care.

A base spokesman said he did not know what caused the collision, which happened at about 5,000 feet. The National Transportation Safety Board was to investigate. [...]

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5 killed in light plane crash in S. Africa 2005-01-19 20:00:37

JOHANNESBURG, Jan. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Five people were killed when their light aircraft crashed near Cornelia in northern Free State, South Africa, after disappearing on Tuesday on a flight from Pretoria to Harrismith, local media reported Wednesday.

Fred Slippers, a local emergency services spokesman, confirmed to the SAPA news agency that the aircraft had been found and that all five passengers were dead.

An early report of the SAPA said there were four occupants on the Aerostar, a US-registered light aircraft.

A SABC news report said the plane went down on a farm near Cornelia, with the cause of the crash unknown at present stage.

The plane left the Wonderboom airdrome near Pretoria at about 4:30 p.m. (1430 GMT) on Tuesday and was due to land at Harrismith at 5:30 p.m. (1530 GMT).

About 20 minutes before landing, a passenger on the aircraft told a family member through cellphone to collect them at the airport. But that was the last word from the group and the aircraft never landed.

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Plane crash in S. Utah kills two people, seriously injures a third
01/19/2005 01:21:13 PM
The Salt Lake Tribune

Two people died and a third was critically injured in a plane crash near Hatch, police reported on Wednesday.

The plane, a single engine Aero Commander 200 D, went down about 5:12 a.m. Tuesday just south of Hatch.

Pilot George Gautier, 49, of Hatch, and passenger Michael Hansen, 34, of Lehi, were believed to have died on impact. A second passenger, Alexander Walton, 35, of Alpine, was taken to Garfield Memorial Hospital   then flown by helicopter to LDS Hospital, where he was in critical condition Wednesday.

It was not known what caused the accident but according to the Garfield County sheriff's office, a witness reported hearing a
Advertisement   plane with a "sputtering" and "spitting" shortly before the crash.

The witness is an employee at Cherokee Springs Golf Course, where the three men were headed.

The accident on Wednesday remained under   investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation and Safety Board.  

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Plane crash victims identified
By Amy L. Edwards | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted January 18, 2005, 4:08 PM EST

Police identified the two men who died in an airplane crash on Friday as a pilot and doctor from Polk County.

Donald G. Palas, 55, a Lakeland pilot, was flying doctor Jose Martinez, 48, to a pharmaceutical conference in Tallahassee, said Lakeland police spokesman Jack Gillen. Martinez, also of Lakeland, was a physician at the Watson Clinic, a medical center with several locations in Polk County.

Palas was flying a Cessna 337 Skymaster that crashed and burst into flames immediately after takeoff from Lakeland Linder Regional Airport about 3:30 p.m. Investigators do not know what caused the plane to crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

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Two Survive Plane Crash onto Busy Cincinnati Street
Posted 6:10am, Tuesday, January 18, 2005

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A man says his 11-year-old daughter's calm demeanor after his experimental plane's engine conked out helped him stay calm as he maneuvered the small plane through a maze of electrical wires and landed it on a Cincinnati street. Dan Hayden and his daughter Amanda walked away from the plane unhurt Monday.

The 37-year-old suburban Anderson Township man says Amanda didn't cry, didn't get upset. He says her staying calm helped him stay calm. The plane quickly lost altitude and Hayden aimed for Interstate 75, but electrical wires blocked his path. Then he spotted a school, but he couldn't turn in time to land in the open space behind it.

Reading Road was the only option. Hayden said he had to go over the top of one set of wires, then nose it down underneath the next set. The plane glided down the road and hit a telephone pole, taking off the left wing, then bounced up on the curb in front of an apartment complex.

Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are reviewing the crash. Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Kurt Byrd says it was a good thing it was a holiday, because the road would be much more crowded otherwise.

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Pilot OK after emergency landing on lake
By Jeff Long
Tribune staff reporter
Published January 19, 2005

An Algonquin man escaped injury Tuesday when the small vintage plane he was piloting broke through thin ice during an emergency landing on a Wisconsin lake, police said.

Lee D. Hilbert, 38, walked away from Delavan Lake, where he landed the single-engine 1946 Aeronca Champ at 7:30 a.m. after losing power, said Delavan Police Chief Andrew Mayer.

Hilbert was the plane's only occupant, Mayer said. [...]

Mayer said the cause of the plane's power failure is still under investigation, but the problem wasn't lack of fuel: Hilbert's plane still had 11 gallons in the tank.

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Bird flu claims fifth Vietnamese victim in three weeks
19 January 2005 1205 hrs

HANOI : A 35-year-old woman has died of bird flu in Vietnam, becoming the communist nation's fifth fatality from the disease since late December, a doctor said.

The patient, from southern Tra Vinh province, was admitted to Ho Chi Minh City's Hospital of Tropical Diseases on January 11, a hospital doctor told AFP.

"She died on Tuesday," he said, adding that the hospital was treating only one other patient confirmed to be infected with the deadly virus.

"This 18-year-old patient from southern Tien Giang province is in critical condition," he said.

Since late December four other people, two women aged 16 and 18 and two boys aged six and nine, have died of the virus.

All five recent deaths occurred in southern Vietnam and the victims had all been in close contact with poultry, officials said. [...]

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Tsunami death toll rises to 225,000
Adam Jay and agencies
Wednesday January 19, 2005

The death toll from the Boxing Day tsunami disaster increased to more than 225,000 today as the Indonesian health ministry raised the number of dead in the country by more than 50,000.

A statement said the new figure of 166,320 was based on fresh reports from the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. A senior ministry official said it included many people who had previously been listed.

In Sri Lanka, two government agencies met in an attempt to clarify a discrepancy of more than 7,000 in their lists of the dead, but both continued to insist theirs was the correct figure.

On Monday, the Public Security Ministry said 38,195 people had died, while the National Disaster Management Centre said 30,920 had been killed. Both agencies expect the final Sri Lankan figure to exceed 40,000. [...]

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Tsunami warning lifted after strong earthquake off Japan
January 20, 2005

JAPAN has lifted a tsunami warning it issued for a group of islands south of Tokyo after a strong earthquake off its eastern coast.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency said it had lifted the tsunami warning nearly two hours after a magnitude 6.8 quake, with its focus about 10km below the seabed in the Pacific Ocean.

There were no reports of damage or injuries caused by the quake or tsunami.

Wave surges about 50cm high had been expected to hit the Izu islands at about 3.30pm local time (5.30pm AEDT) yesterday, the agency said. A tsunami 30cm high was later detected on the shore of Miyake Island.

While there were no immediate reports of damage, public broadcaster NHK and local officials had urged caution and called for residents near the shore to evacuate. [...]

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Earthquake hits Xinjiang 2005-01-19 18:34:58

URUMQI, Jan. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- An earthquake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale hit Wensu county in Aksu prefecture of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, at 14:28 Tuesday, according to an official with the regional seismological bureau.

The Epicenter of the quake is 40 km north to Wensu county, which is 1,100 km away from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. No casualty was reported at the press time.

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Tiny temblors rumble outside Augusta, no damage reported
Associated Press
Published on: 01/18/05

AUGUSTA — Three earthquakes near Augusta kept 911 dispatchers busy early Tuesday, but experts say the quakes — which registered preliminary magnitudes between 2.0 and 2.5 — were nothing to get shaken up about.

"We even heard it at our house," said Columbia County emergency management Director Pam Tucker, who lives in Evans, about 10 miles northwest of Augusta, where the quakes appeared to be centered. "It sounded like thunder, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky." [...]

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Floods, not terrorism, halts Aceh aid
From correspondents in Banda Aceh
January 19, 2005
RAIN is a bigger problem than security in Aceh as floods have prevents truck convoys from getting relief supplies into the tsunami-hit city of Banda Aceh, , the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said today.

A convoy of 40 trucks returning from Banda Aceh – the aid distribution hub for Aceh – to the North Sumatran capital of Medan had been forced to stop overnight, midway through its journey, because of floods, IOM spokesman Chris Lom said.

"They were due back this morning but they called in to say they were going to be delayed," Mr Lom said.

"They didn't know how long."

Mr Lom believed the convoy, which was supposed to make its journey in 24 hours, was stuck near the border between Aceh and North Sumatra.

Another convoy of trucks due to leave Medan today full of relief supplies would not depart until it had received word the returning vehicles had been able to make it through the floods, he said.

A great deal of recent international focus had been on the impact of terrorist threats and a separatist insurgency on relief efforts, but Mr Lom said aid workers were more concerned with the weather.

"Flooding is a bigger problem than security," he said.

"It's not an insurmountable problem, not a major one, but if the flooding gets much worse, it will be." [...]

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Thousands flee rising flood waters in Guyana
Wednesday, January 19, 2005

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) - Rising flood waters forced thousands to abandon their homes yesterday while schools, stores and government offices closed, and the only state-owned radio station went off the air as water sloshed into the studios.

Hangars and runways flooded at the Ogle Municipal Airport east of Georgetown, forcing the airport's closure. Georgetown's main airport was still open and accepting flights.

Police reported at least one road fatality Monday, when a minibus skidded off a highway and crashed into a house, killing an unidentified passenger. A military helicopter photographing flooding in the region was also damaged when it made a crash landing on the lower east coast Monday. Neither the pilot nor co-pilot was injured.

"Everything is covered in this house, and little fish are swimming all over the place," said computer specialist Arlene Williams, who moved to a neighbour's second-floor apartment.

Although dozens of schools and public buildings were being set up as shelters in the capital of Georgetown and flooded coastal areas, most residents were staying with friends and family.

Rains that began Friday night were forecast to continue throughout the week. [...]

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1 dead as mudslide destroys North Vancouver neighbourhood
Last Updated Wed, 19 Jan 2005 19:13:05 EST
CBC News

NORTH VANCOUVER - Flooding, mudslides and avalanches continue to take their toll in vast areas of British Columbia.

In North Vancouver a state of emergency has been declared after a mudslide destroyed two homes Wednesday morning. One woman was killed when she was trapped under debris in her home, and there are fears the mountainside is so unstable, other homes may be affected.

In the Southern Interior, an ice jam in a river near Keremeos, has resulted in water spilling over the dikes and flooding homes. Some people have had to be plucked from rooftops by rescue helicopters.

The province has announced it will provide financial aid through its disaster relief program to anyone affected.

The devastation at the base of Mount Seymour is enormous. The neighborhood is built in tiers on a hillside. The highest street sits above a wide greenbelt of evergreens. One section of that forest is simply gone, washed away by the mudslide that swept down the mountain.

What's left is the river of mud that crashed down onto the street below, smashing into two homes, leaving them destroyed in its wake. Officials have been forced to evacuate more than 80 homes.

Bill Maurer woke up just before 3:30 a.m., hearing what he thought was the rumble of a snowplow. When he started hearing sirens, he went outside and saw emergency crews pulling a neighbour from what was left of his home.

"It was pretty dramatic," said Maurer, "he must have been on the upper floor of the house. He was covered in mud. He looked like an earthquake victim."

A woman who also lives in the house was rescued after phoning for help from her cellphone. Crews found her because she described the debris she was buried in. A third person from that home is still missing.

Residents of the second destroyed home managed to crawl out after the mudslide swept into their bedroom, picking up the bed and surfing it across the room.

Adrian Thompson, who lives about 50 metres from where the slide occurred, said he was awakened by the sound of loud rumblings and snapping branches.

He said he spotted a young couple with their baby standing in the middle of the street. They told him the mudslide streamed right through their home.

"They said it picked up the bed and the bed was surfed across the room, and I guess picked him up, and he ended up lying next to her and they somehow crawled out of there."

Thompson said they were shaken up and suffered some scratches and bruises. He took them into his home for some medical treatment. They're now staying with another family.

Premier Gordon Campbell says he was struck by the enormity of the destruction after touring the area.

"You see bundles of clothes that were probably in a closet that are now lying there, or a mattress that's now lying there. You can picture the people that were there ... being swept out of your home like that at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning is hard for must of us to comprehend," said Campbell.

The slide occurred because of a mixture of weather conditions in recent days.

Last week, snow and cold temperatures froze the ground. Then 200 milliletres of rain fell in less than 48 hours. With the ground frozen, it has nowhere to go.

"The power of water we've seen in the last month around the world, what it can do. This is another example of the heavy rainfall, melting snow," said RCMP Const. Tom Seaman who was on site first thing.

The rain did dry up for much of the day, but there is more forecast. A heavy rainfall warning has been issued for Wednesday night, raising concerns that another slide might occur.

Environment Canada has warned that as much as 300 mm – twice the rain that would normally fall during the entire month of January – might fall over the next three days.

Also on Wednesday, about 100 residents were forced to flee the area around Keremeos in B.C.'s Southern Interior after ice jams made a river overflow and flooded the only road leading into the community.

Roads have been closed by flooding across the Lower Mainland, while freezing rain and snow has closed many other roads and highways across the province.

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More bird flu deaths as experts fear the worst

20/01/2005 - 09:39:41

Health experts are bracing for a repeat of last year’s bird flu outbreak after the deaths of six people in Vietnam in the last three weeks.

Outbreaks among poultry have been reported nationwide in Vietnam, and health experts say the pattern looks eerily similar to this time last year when the virus spread rapidly just before the popular Lunar New Year holiday, or Tet.

It quickly emerged in nine other Asian countries, killing or forcing the culls of about 100 million birds and jumping from poultry to people in Vietnam and Thailand, where 26 and 12 deaths have occurred respectively.

At the same time a 42-year-old man from Hanoi reportedly caught the disease after caring for his older brother, who died on January 9.

The WHO and other health experts have expressed concern that avian influenza could evolve into the next global pandemic – killing millions worldwide – if the virus eventually mutates and human-to-human transmission occurs.

“It has a higher fatality rate than the Ebola virus,” said Hans Troedsson, WHO representative in Vietnam, where more than 70% of those infected have died.

Yesterday, an 18-year-old woman became the sixth person to die of bird flu in Vietnam since December 30, after eating an infected chicken, officials said. No one else in her family, including her sister who slaughtered the bird, showed any sign of the disease.

The communist government in Hanoi has placed the country on alert and urged greater caution, but the domestic sale and transport of poultry has not been banned in Vietnam as it was last year during the Tet holiday.

About 300,000 birds have died or been culled so far this year, compared to about one million a day at the peak of last year’s outbreak.

“The re-emergence of outbreaks so far this year has not been as ravaging as last year ... but we have heightened our vigilance and are prepared for the worst,” said Dau Ngoc Hao, deputy director of the Veterinary Department in Hanoi.

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Solar Flare Heading Our Way
Some News Source
BANG! The strongest solar flare of the year, an X7-class explosion, erupted this morning at 0700 GMT (2 a.m. EST).
Comment: And yesterday the sunspot count was to 109. Today it is down to 66.

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2005/01/20 18:09:49

Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) An earthquake with a preliminary measurement of 5.4 on the Richter scale jolted southern Taiwan Thursday afternoon, according to the Central Weather Bureau. Weather bureau officials said that the tremor struck at 3: 47 p.m., with its epicenter located 31 kilometers northeast of the Tsaoshan seismology station in the southern county of Chiayi at a depth of 13 kilometers. The earthquake had an intensity of 4.0 in Chiayi, Yunlin, Nantou and Changhua; 3.0 in Tainan; 2.0 in Kaohsiung, Hualien, Taichung and Miaoli; and 1.0 in Taitung, Ilan, Punghu and Hsinchu.

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Mystery of lights in the sky
Jan 19, 2005 (UK)

Residents across Shropshire today revealed how they were left stunned by a "massive beam of light" which lit up the sky.

The light was first reported at Nedgehill, Telford, at 6.40am yesterday morning by Sue Oliver, 37, of Briarwood, Brookside - but now others have also reported seeing the same beam.

Geoff Hall, who lives near Church Stretton, was walking his dog, Meg, at Woolston also at 6.40am yesterday when he saw the UFO-like light.

He said he looked up into the sky but the beam disappeared almost immediately.

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String fellows

100 years after Einstein changed physics for ever, Alok Jha visits a leafy corner of Princeton to meet his intellectual heirs - still hunting for a theory of everything

Thursday January 20, 2005
The Guardian

Edward Witten is so softly spoken that his voice sometimes threatens to drift away completely. His desk is a jumble of papers and his blackboard a mess of equations. But his hushed words come straight to the point and are infused with understanding and passion.

Witten's quiet manner belies his status. In his role as de facto scientist-in-chief of string theory, Witten, the Charles Simonyi professor of mathematical physics at the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, is undoubtedly the heir to Albert Einstein's title of greatest living physicist. If Einstein were alive today, he would probably be a string theorist, engaged in a remarkable, but still very controversial, theory that claims to explain absolutely everything around us. [...]

While string theory is the only thing that can explain both quantum mechanics and gravity, it is as yet unproven by experiment. And it goes so far beyond our physical experience of the world that some critics say that it should be considered more as a work of philosophy than the ultimate scientific description of nature.

Comment: When reading articles about science in the press (and about anything else for that matter), one must use discretion. String theory is hot. It is probably the first theory in physics since Relativity and quantum theory to have its name so widely displayed in the mainstream press. Trouble is, there is no experimental evidence to confirm it. String theorists keep saying that the data will come.

We suggest they name the next predicted particle Godot.

It is amazing that the author does not see the evident contradictions in his article:

a) "We are in the very bizarre, unprecedented situation where we know how to derive some of the consequences but we don't know what the fundamental principles are."

b)"Most string theorists are very arrogant," says Seiberg with a smile. "If there is something [beyond string theory], we will call it string theory."

c) While string theory is the only thing that can explain both quantum mechanics and gravity....

How can you explain ANYTHING if you do not know what fundamental principles are, and when you take everything as being a part of your theory?

And how can you even call something a "theory" when you do not really know what you are doing?

Unfortunately the following is largely true: "Where Witten goes, it does not take long for the rest to follow."

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Faking it

The discovery that ancient artefacts sacred to Jewish history are forgeries has sent shockwaves through the museum world. But was the gang behind the scam only interested in cash, or did they have other motives? Rachel Shabi investigates

Thursday January 20, 2005
The Guardian

It all started with the pomegranate. On Christmas Eve, the Israel museum in West Jerusalem made an announcement about a tiny ivory pomegranate that had been on display at the museum since 1988, believed to have come from the First Temple of Israel. The pomegranate, the museum sheepishly revealed, was actually a fake. It was still a very old and beautiful carving, but the inscription denoting its First Temple origins had been forged.

Five days later, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) declared that it had uncovered a sophisticated forgery ring, based in Israel, which had produced a stash of fake Bible-era artefacts. In addition to the pomegranate, it revealed that two other objects, both similarly revered, had also been rumbled as bogus. One was a limestone ossuary box said to have held the bones of James, the brother of Jesus, and supposedly the oldest physical link to the New Testament. The other was a stone tablet, from the ninth century BC, inscribed in ancient Hebrew with instructions by King Joash for maintaining Solomon's Temple.

The revelation sent shockwaves around the world of antiquities, as museums were warned to expect more precious relics to be revealed as fakes. "We only discovered the tip of the iceberg. This spans the globe. It generated millions of dollars," warned Shuka Dorfman, director of the IAA. Museums were urged to examine all objects of suspicious origin; the forgery ring, the IAA cautioned, spanned 20 years.

So what tipped off the investigators? "We got some information in September 2002 about a stone with an inscription about the third temple of Joash in Jerusalem," says Amir Ganor, head of investigations at the IAA. "This stone would be very important to the Jewish people and to the antiquities community." At that point the investigators were looking for a rumoured relic, not a forgery. Informers said that it had been offered to several institutions, including the Israel museum. "We heard that some guy, ex-Shin Bet [the Israeli security service], had been showing the stone, but we didn't know anything more," says Ganor.

The IAA eventually discovered the identity of the former security service man (How? "Using our methods," says Ganor), who in turn led them to Oded Golan, a leading Israeli collector and one of the five men alleged by the IAA to be part of the forgery ring. Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper describes Golan as a 51-year-old production engineer, based in Tel Aviv, who has worked in engineering, tourism, real estate, and who now describes himself as the "head of a of a hi-tech company". He told the IAA that he collects antiquities as a hobby, and has been doing so since the age of 14. A search of Golan's home took place in February 2003. "We found a lot of documents about the stone, and pictures, but not the stone itself," says Ganor. "Oded said that he was not the owner, but was representing some Arab guy." One month later, threatened with another search warrant for another of his premises, Golan handed over the stone.

It was not the first time he had come in contact with the IAA. Back in October 2002, the authority had issued Golan with a licence to take an ossuary ("just an ossuary, not an important ossuary," says Ganor) to the Montreal museum in Canada. Soon after giving him approval, the IAA got a phone call from CNN asking about the remarkable inscription on top of the stone, apparently reading: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

The IAA, realising that it had granted an approval licence for a potentially very special artefact, requested that Golan hand over the relic upon its return from Canada, which he did in March 2003. Now the authority had the stone and the ossuary, both of which were checked and found to be fakes. What's more, the method of forgery in both cases was the same - the patina on each object had been artificially contrived. At this point, the authority launched its fraud investigation with the police, having for some time heard rumours of more fakes on the market.

The IAA paid another visit to Golan, who had been given back his ossuary. This time, says Ganor, the IAA "found all the evidence for the fraud process, all the materials, all the patinas, some artefacts in the process of being forged". The ossuary was found on the flat rooftop of Golan's rented apartment, in the toilet. "He said it was the safest place to put it," says Ganor. "This is the ossuary that millions of Christians have been speaking about ... and that was insured for $1m when it was sent to Canada."

The investigation has so far named four men, in addition to Golan, whom it alleges were involved, among them Robert Deutsch, an inscriptions expert who teaches at Haifa University, and Rafael Braun, former head of the antiquities laboratories at the Israel museum. "We have found a key witness who told us that [he was asked] to prepare thousands of artefacts," says Ganor. He adds that witnesses have mentioned possible fakes at British, American and German institutions. Golan, meanwhile, has insisted: "There is not one grain of truth in the fantastic allegations related to me," while Deutsch has pronounced the indictment "ridiculous".

The story gets cloudy where the pomegranate enters. The Israel museum bought this relic in 1988, paying $550,000 (£287,000) into a numbered Swiss bank account. For more than 20 years, it has been hailed as the only surviving physical evidence of the First Temple. This temple is the holiest of holies in Jewish tradition; it is said to be where Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people, prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac to God. (The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is the western wall of the Second Temple, built on the site of the first in the sixth century BC). Scholars thought that the thumbnail-sized fruit, which has a hole in the bottom, was used as the top of a temple priest's sceptre.

The pomegranate is a high-profile example of a relic acquired "through the market", meaning that it was not uncovered during a licensed excavation. Such objects carry no official documentation denoting their origin. The theory is that they come from looted sites. "The pomegranate surfaced a number of years before it was acquired and displayed here," says James Snyder, director at the Israel museum. "It was examined by a lot of scholars, and it wasn't accepted into our collection until ithad the consensus of all available experts that it was authentic." Snyder says that there is always a question mark over the authenticity of an object acquired through the market, but none the less, some 10% of the museum's 70,000 antiquities come from this channel. Why? "Because the objects are very special, and so they can be placed in a museum setting and benefit the public. You wouldn't want to miss that opportunity."

Unless, of course, the object is a fake. The museum insists that the pomegranate was found to be a forgery through its own investigation, independent of the IAA. However, one source, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that this is rubbish. "The authority heard about the pomegranate from a witness in the investigation," he says, adding that the museum was asked to take the relic to the IAA but refused, negotiating instead to conduct its own analysis. Such analysis revealed that the pomegranate dates from the Bronze period - 3,400 years ago and long before the First Temple period. The temple-specific inscription was added to the fruit recently but it was the relic's patina - older than the first temple period - that gave the game away.

Commentators have suggested that the museum might not have been sufficiently scrupulous with the fruit relic over the years but Snyder insists that analysis methods have recently developed in one significant direction: "Until a few years ago, we would have had to remove a piece of the pomegranate in order to scan it," he says. "We did not want to do that."

What this episode shows is the extent to which the antiquities community has laid itself open to abuse. According to Israel Finkelstein, archaeology professor at Tel Aviv university, most biblical land has been officially and rigorously excavated and produced few relics. "Do you want me to believe that robbers are then going with a flashlight at night and managing to find 50 inscriptions? Of course I don't believe it."

Still, the sale of marketplace antiquities is booming. Aren Maeir, archaeology professor at Bar Ilan university in Ramat Gan, describes it as "an astounding market, particularly among private collectors with millions of dollars at their disposal". Objects can sell for $1m apiece, and academics say that top forgers hunt academic journals for the objects that would be considered significant if unearthed, and then sneak fake finds into the market - giving the antiquity community exactly what it wants. "There is an eagerness all over the world, in museums, to display antiquities of great value," says Finkelstein, "and there is no question that some of them were not careful enough in their [evaluation] methods. It was some sort of naivety, something about wanting to believe."

The discovery of a Temple-era pomegranate, in particular, was always going to provoke excitement. The pomegranate is a deeply resonant fruit in Judaism that, according to the Bible, was used as a decorative motif in Solomon's temple. There is a Rabbinic reference to its seeds, which in legend always number 613 - one for each of the commandments of the Bible. One Israel museum press officer explains the effect of seeing such relics: "It is very exciting, very emotional, very Jewish feelings," she says. "Any time you see something like this, it feels very special because you can see your roots."

It underlines the intense political significance that antiquities, particularly Biblical-era artefacts, attain in Israel, where discoveries of ancient sites or relics can be claimed by particular groups as proof of their historic claim to a particular piece of land. Early Zionism was enthusiastic in promoting Bible-era relics - they cemented the Jewish connection to the land, and were seen to give credence to the new state of Israel: ancient facts on the ground, if you like. It is telling, suggests Dr Shimon Gibson, archaeology professor at the Albright Institute, Jerusalem, that the Joash stone emerged at around the same time - early 2003 - that Palestinian leaders were becoming more vociferous over the "alleged" Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. The stone's inscription describes repair works to the Jewish temple at Jerusalem. "Those who forged, if that is what they did, would be trying to identify key spots of interest to Israel at that moment," he says. "One of those is, of course, the Temple Mount, because in any deal made with the Palestinians, the status of Jerusalem and who controls the holy places is one of the key things that will be on the table."

Some have argued that the only way to stop antiquity fraud is to properly ban the sale of objects with unknown provenance. Others, such as Snyder, counter that this would serve only to bury precious artefacts in the hands of private collectors, not evaluated by experts and not appreciated by the public.

Meanwhile, no one can say how many more relics from the world's great museums will be rumbled as fakes. Snyder says that the Israel museum is alert to the investigation, but it clearly wants to move on, celebrate its 40th birthday and show off its other collections - including the Dead Sea scrolls. The museum plans to turn its misfortune with the pomegranate into an opportunity to mount a display on antiquity dating methods. On my way out of his office, Snyder hands me a lemon, from a basket on his desk. He tells me that they come from his own garden; he also grows pomegranates.

Comment: We have been covering this story of fraud because of its political importance. No physical evidence has ever been found to support the claims of the Jews for the land they have stolen from the Palestinians.


The Great Temple of Solomon never existed. At least in Jerusalem. Our best guess is that the stories are describing a different temple in a different land. The stories came with the wandering tribes who later settled in Palestine. See Ancient Science for more. The "Jews" themselves, as a unified people, were probably created as a result of the exile in Babylon. While in exile, the priests wove together the stories of different tribes into one coherent narrative which they then taught as the One True History of them all. God's Chosen People.

Unfortunately, the three monotheistic religions each have a lot to lose if the truth gets out: their legitimacy. The Jews would have to give up their claim to "Greater Israel", GW would have to rethink those voices he is hearing and the many fundamentalist Christians might have to start working on how to solve the problems facing their country when they realise that they aren't going to be raptured away when the fecal matter hits the rotating device leaving the mess they made to others.

But, if that is too difficult for them to confront, that can seek solace and a renewal of their faith in acts of their God such as the following:

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And Finally...

'Christ-like' shell to go on sale

January 20, 2005

A bar manager in Switzerland has announced plans to sell an oyster shell resembling the face of Jesus Christ, according to local media.

Matteo Brandi, 38, may hope to repeat the success of a Florida woman who sold a piece of toast said to bear an image of the Virgin Mary for $28,000.

The Italian said he had found the shell, whose contents have since been eaten, in a batch two years ago.

The oyster stuck to his hand as if God was calling him, he said.

Mr Brandi, who describes himself as a devout Catholic, told Switzerland's Le Matin newspaper he had kept the shell on top of the bar's stereo after he found it.

He has now given it to a bank for safe keeping.

He became aware of its potential value only after hearing of the Florida sale.

"This piece is unique," he told the newspaper. "It is the work of nature. It is neither grilled nor cooked. I shall try my luck over the internet."

Comment: Apparently, in a bizarre coincidence, there are unconfirmed reports that the virgin Mary's nick-name was "Pearl".

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