Translations from other sites
Travel Log! The
Quantum Future Group Goes to Rennes-le-Chateau
Control, Thought Control, World Control
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
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
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.
Hondros a photographer with Getty News was on hand to record
the checkpoint a US soldier examines the car.
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.
Driver's face obscured)
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
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.
the children get out of the car one of them screams, her hands
covered in blood...
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".
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
For this event, that officer is Tim Koerner, a top deputy in the
Secret Service, which is the lead agency for the inaugural security
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
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
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
“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.”
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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.
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." [...]
"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
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
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
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
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.
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,
"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
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"
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.
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
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. [...]
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. [...]
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
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.
`EVERYBODY WAS TIRED'
''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
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.''
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
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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,"
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 Aljazeera.net 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."
Wisam Abu Shariya's roommate, Dr Manal Muhsin, who works in the
Palestinian environment ministry, has likewise been stranded for
"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 Aljazeera.net 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.
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 Aljazeera.net
that while she was aware of the problem, she did not know of any
ongoing efforts to bring back the stranded Palestinians anytime
The Egyptian government declined to comment on the subject when
approached by Aljazeera.net.
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 Aljazeera.net.
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.
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
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
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
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."
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.
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.
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. [...]
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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. [...]
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
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. [...]
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
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. [...]
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
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.
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."
|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." [...]
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. [...]
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
“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
“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.
| BANG! The strongest solar flare
of the year, an X7-class explosion, erupted this morning at 0700 GMT
(2 a.m. EST).
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.
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
He said he looked up into the sky but the beam disappeared almost
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
"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."
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