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The President of Liberty, Freedom, Love and God
By Les Blough, Editor
Jan 21, 2005, 13:03
Yesterday, January 20, 2005, George Walker Bush was sworn in for his second term as President of the United States.  He read a speech written for him by paid wordsmiths at the $68 million extravaganza celebrating commencement of his second term.  It was funded largely by the corporations who have put and kept him in office. [...]
All sound apologia (defense) contains 3 basic standards.
  • It begins with an admission of the presuppositions (set of assumptions) - the foundation on which the argument rests.

  • The argument stands or falls on whether it can be logically deduced from these presuppositions.

  • Of paramount importance are the requirements for a definition of terms, internal consistency and supporting, factual evidence.

These three requirements comprise an Axis of Logic. Below, we examine Mr. Bush's inaugural speech based upon these rules of argumentation.

Definition of Terms
Bush used the term "liberty" 45 terms in this crafted speech and "freedom", 27 times.  How did he define "liberty"?  He spoke of the "survival of liberty"; the "success of liberty"; "the appeal of liberty" and the "promise of liberty. He said "Liberty will come to those who love it".  He stated, "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you". 
He spoke of "soldiers [who] died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty"
Bush stated his belief that the "world [is] moving toward liberty".
But just what is George W. Bush's definition of "liberty"?
He stated what liberty does not mean:
"Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another."
Bush's speech defined liberty this way:

"In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights."

Does this definition of freedom include the dignity of those U.S. citizens who were put into cages yesterday while they protested his first-term wars on the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine?
Anthony Harwood described the scene at the inauguration yesterday in The Mirror (UK):

"Streets were fenced off, anti-aircraft missiles deployed, combat jets patrolled overhead, snipers scanned the vast crowd from rooftops and hundreds of police stood along the route of the parade.

"There were hi-tech chemical, nuclear and biological weapons sensors, bomb sniffing dogs and boat patrols on the Potomac River."

How does this description fit with Mr. Bush's definition of freedom and dignity as he delivered the craft of his hired speechwriters from this virtual bunker in Washington yesterday?  Did he deliver this speech with dignity or while cowering behind his new Police State?
When Bush speaks of dignity, is he speaking of the dignity of thousands of U.S. citizens who have been harrassed and imprisoned during his first term in office for exercising their first amendment right to free speech?  Does he refer to the dignity of those U.S. citizens whose names appear on Homeland Security computer lists because they have spoken out in protests against the wars of the Bush regime?  Does he refer to the dignity of those who are routinely taken out of line at U.S. airports for extensive searches for the only reason that they have protested the foreign war policies of this regime?  Does he refer to the many who have been deported because of their dissent with his policies from 2000-2004?
Bush defined "Freedom" this way:

"At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders."

Based on this definition of Freedom, Bush argues that to defend the freedom of the United States it has "stood watch" in other foreign countries, thereby attempting to justify violation of the national sovereignty of those nations.  An average of 22% of all U.S. troops have been stationed in 214 countries from 1950-2000.  On average, there have been 118.8 million U.S. military troops (one year each) stationed in foreign countries during this period. Now the number is higher. In his January, 2004 report, America's Empire of Bases, Chalmers Johnson finds:

"It's not easy to assess the size or exact value of our empire of bases. Official records on these subjects are misleading, although instructive. According to the Defense Department's annual "Base Structure Report" for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic U.S. military real estate, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and HAS another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories."  (Supporting data)

Is this what George W. Bush means by "defending our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders"?

Is expansion of U.S. hegemony what he means when he said:

"The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

Is the expansion of U.S. military personnel and bases throughout the world synonymous with "expansion of freedom in all the world"?  Or is it U.S. hegemony, violation of national sovereignty and support and installation of regimes by the U.S. of military dictators like Saddam Hussein, Perez Musharaff, Osama bin Laden, General Augusto Pinochet and many others?  

In his inaugural speech, Bush spoke of his foreign policies as a:

"... concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat ...

Is he speaking of the current U.S. installed "interim government" of Iraq, headed by Allawi who executed men by shooting them in the backs of their heads with his own hand in an Iraqi prison in 2003?  

Mr. Bush stated:

"America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling."

When he spoke of "promoting democracy", was he speaking of U.S. support for the 2002 coup of democratically-elected President Hugo Chavez Frias in Venezuela and ongoing attempts to bring down the Chavez government in the interests of robbing the Venezuelan people of their oil?  It is well documented that the U.S. government is currently attempting to impose its "own style of government" on the "unwilling" Venezuelan people who have elected their president 9 times through national elections and referenda in the last 6 years.  How does Mr. Bush reconcile his lofty words with his actual policies of interference, coup attempts and funding the opposition party in Venezuela through the National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. instititutions?  The reader may cringe at the term, but I can find no more accurate term for his words than "lies".

The foreign policy violations of the Bush regime can be summed up succinctly and simply: They routinely violate national sovereignty and the right to self-determination among foreign nations and the last thing they want to see bud and thrive in foreign countries is real democracy.

Love, Value of Life and Human Worth

In his speech, Mr. Bush stated:

"Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth."
Has Mr. Bush been "surrounding the lost with love" among the people of Iraq? How about the people in Afghanistan or the people in Palestine where he continues supporting the Zionist killer, Ariel Sharon? Does he "value the life" he sees in the fallen U.S. soldiers and 100,000 dead citizens of Iraq?  Does he see "worth" in the "unwanted" whom he has had deported through the machinery of "Homeland Security" because they spoke out against his policies?  Does he value the lives and find worth in the "unwanted" who languish in homelessness, poverty right here in the United States?  Does he find "worth" in the 3,471 men and women on America's death row in 2004 led in number by his home state of Texas?

The Underlying Assumptions of this Speech

There were two points of interest for us in the premises laid down by George Bush in his inaugural address: 

  • One premise upon which his speech is based is a curious one.  George Bush stated:

"In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty."

On the surface, it's a grand statement, one with most people would initially find themselves in agreement.  However, this statement is deeply flawed in our opinion.  With these words, he (his speech writers) predicates "human rights" on "human liberty".  We ask, does this mean that human rights violations can be excused on the path to achieving what Bush thinks of as "human liberty". Do human rights take second place to his notion of "human liberty"?  Are the two concepts as universally accepted not one and the same? 

  • Another premise of his speech assumes that some question the human desire for liberty and that the world has experienced an unprecedented advance of freedom in recent decades:

"Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty - though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt."

These are at best "straw-man" arguments to serve as a springboard for more unsupported rhetoric. We ask, just who is it that questions the "global appeal of liberty"?  Just who are these people who "doubt" that people universally want liberty?  Where have we observed "the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen" in the last 4 decades?  Was it in Chile under the Nixon regime?  Nicaragua under Reagan?  Iran under the the U.S. supported Shah after Mosaddeq was deposed by the U.S.?  Is it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine or Palestine under the Bush regime, where people are languishing and dying under the steel boot of the U.S. military?  In the United States where the civil rights of Americans have been routinely attacked by the government under Bush?  This straw-man argument rests on a false premise that attempts to justify war as a means to bring about "human liberty".

In his article titled, SUPERZERO: Mr. Uncredible Bush Goes on the Warpath, in today's issue of The Mirror (UK), Anthony Harwood writes:

"The re-elected president ignored the disaster in Iraq to use his inaugural address to proclaim that America was on the march for freedom.

"He did not mention Iraq by name - where 1,360 personnel have been killed and 10,500 injured, helping to earn him the lowest approval rating in 50 years for any president starting a second term."

In his speech, Bush stated:

"And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help."

Is this the same George W. Bush who launched unprovoked, unilateral war on the people of Iraq over the objections of the international community and the United Nations?  Is this the same Mr. Bush who arrogantly declared his "go it alone" policy on the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction?

Paradigms, Preconceptions and Perceptions

All people listen and read the words of George W. Bush through the paradigm through which they view the world around them.  We too absorb his words with preconcepts and through our perceptual filters.  To these conditions we freely admit.  Through them, we see a lack of well-defined terms, manifold internal consistencies and factual inaccuracies. Those who wish to ignore the contradictions and deceptions in Mr. Bush's speech do so based upon their own preconceptions and perceptual filters.  They will float emotionally along with the lofty, meaningless adulations he made of himself and his warmongering, capitalist regime because they want to do so.  They will do so under the influence of another weapon of the U.S. government - the corporate media.  Today, the Boston Globe grandly headlined:

Bush resolves to spread cause of liberty worldwide

Many will ignore the deceptions in Mr. Bush's speech even as they lose their homes to foreclosure in the impending burst of the real estate bubble, their loss of their social security benefits, jobs, the devaluation of their dollar against the Euro, their unprecedented national debt and quite possibly a crash of the U.S. economy like none seen since the Great Depression. 

Many will ignore these well-crafted deceptions while the killing machine of the U.S. military they fund continues to wreak havoc and death on brown people in foreign lands.  But at least half of the U.S. population sees them for what they are:  Lies, gilded in the golden wraps of terms like "Liberty", "Freedom", "God", "Love" and "Security".

Act Now Against War, Injustice and Tyranny

We ask the reader to consider seriously what your part may be in the international movement against war.  This international movement has many faces and the participants many roles and duties. Those who lead the movement are currently found in the resistance to occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Venezuela and many other places on the planet. 

We are among the multitudes who will continue to battle this regime with heart, mind, body and soul.  Be sure that we will not stand by while the global tyrant in Washington and his entourage continue their doctrine of military dominance, global warfare, racism and their invasions, occupations and colonisations of foreign nations.  We will not stand idly by while they continue their corporate empire's attacks on the common worker, their usury and economic violence and their attacks on civil liberties in our country.  We will continue to help build the growing international movement against the Bush Regime by protesting in the streets, reporting the truth and educating our neighbors about the real plans for U.S. expansion.  We will do so for as long as we breathe - for as long as it takes to bring down this gang of international thieves and killers now holding power in Washington, D.C.

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Six degrees of pure evil
by Don Nash, Unknown News
Jan. 18, 2005

I find it an absolute mystery how any American can support George W. Bush. The man is walking personified evil. An endless deceit, upright and on two legs. Bush is without moral restraint and without conscience. He neither listens to wise counsel nor does he allow himself to be influenced by consequences.

Bush’s claim to be “guided by God” is without the fruits of that claim. Jesus Himself stated, “by their fruits you shall know them.” It means that the proof of a man’s convictions is in the actions and work that man performs. In the vernacular that means, Bush talks the talk but he does not walk the walk.

The Bush family is classically dysfunctional in the American sense. Deception and covert practice are the root for the Bush/Machiavellian family coat of arms and therefore the coat of arms reads, “a profitable end justifies whatever means are necessary.” Prescott Bush (George’s grandfather) was the financial architect and banker for the Third Reich and Adolph Hitler. Therefore the Bush family fortune was made on the backs of the Jewish Holocaust. Sounds harsh, I admit.

The Bush family is a proud member in good standing of the ‘east coast ruling elite’. The original “good old boy network” and what they (the Bush family) cannot achieve on personal merit, they simply purchase using their ample family fortune. This is not an indictment of personal wealth. It is merely an illustration of the Bush family motto at work and deceit. The Bush family may not have been born to the life of privilege, but they bought their way into American aristocracy compliments of millions of dead Jews at the hands of the Third Reich. The collective guilt that is associated with the family’s procurement of their vast fortunes, goes a very long way to explain the obsession of George W. Bush and the State of Israel.

With some apologies to Kevin Bacon, you have Germany pre-World War II and the German economy is reeling under inflation and a pending global depression. The German economy is in desperate straits and with the rise of the Third Reich and Adolph Hitler’s plan for world domination, Germany is in need to ramp up it’s economy and its war machine. Enters Prescott Bush and a conspiracy of American corporate aristocrats that will facilitate Germany’s revitalization and budding war machine, for a profit. Prescott Bush is father to George H. W. Bush who is father to George W. Bush. You have three degrees of war necessity and three degrees of paternal connection -- Adolph Hitler to George W. Bush. In the very least, that is one eerie synchronicity.

George H. W. Bush has an aide-de-camp that wears the face of James Baker. George W. Bush has his Rasputin that wears the face of Karl Rove. James Baker was instrumental in procuring the presidency for George W. Bush. Baker called in some markers that were in the possession of members of the United States Supreme Court and the rest is relevant twisted American history. Whether it was fate or simple criminal collusion on the part of Baker, the Supreme Court, the Republican Party, and America is chained to George W. Bush until someone is able to break that intolerable chain.

Karl Rove is the grandson of Karl Heinz Roverer, the Gauleiter of Oldenburg. Roverer was Reich-Stat halter or Nazi State Party chairman for the region of Germany that the Rove or Roverer family is from. Heir Roverer was also the senior engineer in the Roverer Sud-Deutche Ingenieurburo A. G. Engineering -- the firm built the Birkenau death camp.

The holocaust survivors know full well about Birkenau but, I would venture that not many of those survivors know about Karl Rove and his infamous grandfather’s construction prowess. So, you have three degrees of Nazi Party chairman/engineers of death camps and you have three degrees of distancing from a black past and viola, Bush and Rove are conjoined at the soul by grandfathers and fathers and Machiavellian intrigues. In American politics, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Rove is an interesting study in behind-the-scenes manipulation and cut-throat politics and win-at-any-cost discipline. If there is anyone in the Bush administration that has internalized and put into practice Machiavellian principles, it is Karl Rove.

Considering his family history, it is no small wonder that Rove prefers the shadows. Rove grew up in Utah, is Mormon, and is influenced by Mormons. The Republican assault on the National Democratic Party has its roots in Utah, where Democrats have been castrated and silenced, and it is to Rove’s credit and skill as a political hit-man and cold political killer/theoretician that Utah Democrats are non-existent. Rove has put his extinction plan into action on the national scene, and the National Democratic Party’s days are numbered. Utah is the home of the original one-party state/religion and the demise of Democrats in Utah was fait accompli about twenty years ago. Add in three degrees of Rasputin like political intrigue, three degrees of seditious assault on America’s two party political system, and it adds up to Ayatollah Republicans and the beginning of the one-party state and religion in America. Rove is merely carrying on a family tradition of fascist subversion of standing political systems, and Rove does his work with a zeal that borders on the fanatical.

The idea that America would or could support George W. Bush is as mysterious as it is suspect. National polls show that at best, polls are misleading, ambiguous, and ridiculous in their conclusions. The mainstream media polls are suspicious by simple association with the corporate media concerns. The polls are geared to produce skewed results that are then broadcast to the American public as news. The mainstream media concerns are owned by a very few companies and the heads of these concerns are all friends with George W. Bush and his administration.

The subversion of American government is a fascist pogrom devised and implemented by a cult of greed. The cult of corporate American greed. The members of this cult of greed are the members of the Republican National Committee and the insiders that run Wall Street.

Fascism by its very definition is a profitable enhancing of the symbiosis between corporate interests and government interests. Corporate America is very interested in keeping George W. Bush in power, at the expense of American democracy and the American people. The government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is not in the interests of corporations, and that is an unacceptable diorama. Therefore corporate America is in collusion with media concerns to keep the American people stupid, in dire financial need, and in support of the very people that are un-democratizing America. It is as convoluted as it is brilliant and sinister. Tease, tantalize, and subvert. Three degrees of dummying down America, conjoined with three degrees of heinous corporate sedition, and that equals George W. Bush and the death of democratic America.

The idea that Americans in general could support torture, preemptive war, presidential deceit, fraudulent elections, congressional deceit, and corporate collusion with fascism is not only suspect, it is an outright boldfaced lie. Therefore you have three degrees of corporate monopoly on media and you have three degrees of Americans in the dark. Their right to know has been severely hampered by dumb-assed players in a game of the prophetic six degrees of George W. Bush.

The prophetic part is the karma that will fall on those that would subvert the American democratic process. The consequences of sedition are coming, and once the great sleepy giant that is the American people wake up, there is going to be hell to pay. Six degrees of separation will not be enough to save the criminals that have attempted to play America as the stooge.

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Flashback: Pentagon Attack Hits Navy Hard


American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 loaded with enough fuel for a transcontinental journey, cleared the crest of a small ridge in Arlington, Va., by a few hundred feet with its engines wailing. It slightly lowered its nose, clipped trees and parking lot light poles, and then hit the Pentagon like a torpedo--at ground level and almost perpendicular to the outside wall.

The large aircraft struck the outermost corridor (E-ring) of the five-ring building at ground level (the second floor) at 9:43 a.m. EDT and continued smashing its way through the D and C rings. Navy survivors on the B-ring looked out their interior windows and saw flames and falling debris. They credit newly installed shatterproof windows in the just-renovated area with preventing hundreds of additional casualties from flying glass. Blast damage was also limited by new Kevlar panels, but they didn't protect those nearby from fires from exploding fuel tanks, estimated to have produced the equivalent of 200-400 tons of TNT.

Thomas D. Trapasso, a political appointee in the Clinton Administration who is now looking for work, was making telephone calls from his deck in Arlington Village, about 1 mi. south of the Pentagon and just west of the Interstate 395 (I-395) highway. He was startled by the large American Airlines aircraft flying about 300 ft. overhead. "The engines were just screaming, and the wheels were up," Trapasso said. "It disappeared over the trees, and I heard a boom. I knew something awful had happened--that an airplane had crashed somewhere in Washington, D.C. Then the cell phone went dead. I was scared."

Vice Adm. Darb Ryan, chief of naval personnel, was in his office at the Navy Annex about halfway between Trapasso's home and the Pentagon. Having learned that New York had been attacked, he was on the telephone recommending the evacuation of the Pentagon "when out of the corner of my eye I saw the airplane" a split second before it struck.

Ryan was overheard reporting some of the initial damage assessment, which included spaces belonging to the chief of naval operations (CNO), the Navy's tactical command center on the D-ring, an operations cell and a Navy intelligence command center. These included up to four special, highly classified, electronically secure areas. Many of the enlisted sailors involved were communications technicians with cryptology training who are key personnel in intelligence gathering and analysis. Some personnel were known to be trapped alive in the wreckage.

OTHER NAVY PERSONNEL confirmed the admiral's initial assessment and said the dead numbered around 190, 64 on the aircraft. Among them was Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude, who was in the Army support and logistics section. Many others were Navy captains, commanders and lieutenant commanders with offices between the fourth and fifth corridors (the western wedge of the Pentagon). The Navy's special operations office, which oversees classified programs, had moved out of the spaces only a few days before. All but one of the senior Navy flag officers were out of the building. Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, deputy CNO for warfare requirements and programs, was near the impact area but escaped without injury.

One of the aircraft's engines somehow ricocheted out of the building and arched into the Pentagon's mall parking area between the main building and the new loading dock facility, said Charles H. Krohn, the Army's deputy chief of public affairs. Those fleeing the building heard a loud secondary explosion about 10 min. after the initial impact.

The E-ring floors above the tunnel dug by the aircraft collapsed, leaving a gap in the Pentagon's outer wall perhaps 150 ft. wide. Fuel triggered an intense fire that caused the roof of the damaged E-ring section to give way at 10:10 a.m. It was still burning 18 hr. later. Fire fighting was hampered by reports that twice sent personnel fleeing the area. First, at around 11:28 a.m., a warning that "an aircraft is in the air" sent police, FBI and other security personnel to passages under I-395 that lead away from the Pentagon. They quickly returned, but at 11:34, shouted and radioed warnings of another possible explosion sent people running again. However, by 11:40 FBI teams had returned with brown paper bags and gloves to scour the Pentagon grounds for debris in an area bordered by Pentagon City, Arlington Cemetery and the Potomac River.

F-16s from the District of Columbia Air National Guard periodically circled the Pentagon at altitudes low enough to frighten grade school teachers and students in nearby Alexandria. Later, the patrols were shifted to a higher altitude and continued through the night.

Confusion about what had happened, among the 20,000-24,000 employees leaving the Pentagon on foot in long lines, largely reflected where they were in the building when the aircraft struck. The Navy and Army spaces absorbed the damage. Navy officers not in the aircraft's direct path reported heavy safes being flung across rooms and people thrown from their chairs. They variously identified major damage between the fourth and fifth or third and fourth corridors. No one knew the full extent of the damage. Air Force officers on the opposite side of the building heard or felt nothing until alarms went off. Even then, they thought it was a false fire alarm until orders were passed to evacuate the building.

Everyone was told to go to their rally points in the parking lots. Those involved said the evacuation was well-organized and orderly and far less emotional than at the nearby Capitol. There, a number of evacuees were said to have become emotionally distraught. Once outside, Pentagon employees were told to go home. This complicated the casualty assessment for the Navy and Army because no one knew precisely who had gone home and who was still in the building.

Comment: Of all the 9/11 investigators, we know of none that have broached one of the most pertinent questions: if the Pentagon was targeted and struck by some sort of missile (as most of the evidence suggests), how did the planners come to their decision as to which part to hit? How did they decide who would die and who would live? Why was the ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) chosen to bear the brunt of the attack? Was it just bad luck that "four special, highly classified, electronically secure areas" were destroyed and that many Navy "communications technicians with cryptology training" died?

Another report tells us that:

Petty Officer first class Jason Lhuillier, 27, was on duty at the intelligence plot inside the naval command centre - "a vault within a vault" - when he heard that a plane had flown into the twin towers in New York. When a second aircraft hit, he said there was an "almost instantaneous recognition" that terrorists had struck.

He and his colleagues were soon building the intelligence picture and liaising with the CIA, Defence Intelligence Agency, National Security and the US Navy's sister services.

Then he answered a telephone call from the National Military Joint Intelligence Centre, also in the Pentagon. "I'll never forget what he said: 'Hey Jason, this is Bill. We've got indications of another aircraft that's been hijacked. It's heading out to DC.' "

PO Lhuillier interrupted a meeting next door between Cdr Dan Shanower, in charge of the intelligence plot, and six others, to tell them about the third plane. Cdr Radi, an aide to the vice-chief of naval operations, had been Cdr Shanower's predecessor.

He telephoned the intelligence plot to ask about the third plane so the information could be fed to the naval command. "We're working on it," Lt-Cdr Vince Tolbert told him.

Looking out across the Potomac river, Cdr Radi wondered where the plane might be heading. "I'm thinking to myself, 'Well, the Pentagon, the White House or the Capitol. And if it's the Pentagon, it's the side I'm in here or the one right next to me."

Two minutes after PO Lhuillier left the meeting room, at 9.38am, American Airlines Flight 77, which had been en route from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles, plunged into the Pentagon - workplace for 23,000 people - at 500 mph. The naval intelligence plot meeting room was right in its path.

A "vault within a vault". Sounds like a rather critical installation to us.

As we dig further into the whole 9/11 movement, it begins to become clear that all of the recent infighting among members is little more than a CoIntelPro operation designed to distract from the real reasons for the September 11th attacks.

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Author airs conspiracy theory on Im’s death

By MIKE WELLS of the Tribune’s staff
Published Sunday, January 23, 2005

The death of retired research Professor Jeong Im has all the makings of a spy novel, and some say that idea isn’t far off base.

Someone stabbed the 72-year-old scientist multiple times in the Maryland Avenue parking garage at the University of Missouri-Columbia, put him in the trunk of his Honda and set the car on fire. Adding to the mystery, police say a hooded, masked man was seen carrying a gas can away from the scene.

University police on Friday announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the Jan. 7 killing. Police have received more than 185 leads, including some that appear far-fetched.

A few days after firefighters found Im’s body, a national radio talk-show guest theorized the killing was part of a plot to kill off key microbiologists in the world before unleashing "the ultimate epidemic."

Steve Quayle, a self-published author and newsletter writer from Bozeman, Mont., told listeners of "Coast to Coast AM" that Im was the 40th microbiologist to die under suspicious circumstances in four years and was perhaps among those specializing in vaccines and bio-weapons research.

MU officials have described Im as a protein chemist whose specialty was synthesizing peptides.

The Korean immigrant came to MU in 1987 from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. After retiring four or five years ago, he returned to MU, working about 10 hours a week on lab work for other professors in the departments of microbiology and immunology and pharmacology.

There is nothing in Im’s published history to suggest he’d worked in bio-weapons research. Quayle said that’s not proof the scientist wasn’t a target.

While acknowledging he doesn’t know whether Im’s death was part of a plot, Quayle said the circumstances concerned him. "I’m no conspiracy nut," he said. "What you’re seeing is some of the most famous men in the world, at least in their fields, are dying mysteriously."

The deaths include stabbings, drownings, plane crashes and hit-and-run crashes. Some were ruled suicides. "There’s only been several who’ve died of ‘natural’ causes," Quayle said.

The Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad investigated Im’s death, disbanding after 11 days. The case returned to MU police, who have seven officers and detectives working on it, Capt. Brian Weimer said.

Some radio listeners have contacted police, and Weimer said their suggestions were not ignored. Police called the producers of the show to find out what was broadcast.

"It goes in like a lead like everything else," Weimer said. "We’ve not ruled out absolutely anything. We’re looking at any answer to try to solve this."

Quayle said he has followed bio-weapons issues for 30 years but said he started chronicling the deaths of microbiologists on www.stevequayle.com after a missile in October 2001 downed a passenger jet carrying five Israeli scientists over the Black Sea. Over the next several months, 11 microbiologists around the world died in various circumstances.

After last week’s "Coast to Coast" show, the Tribune received numerous e-mails and phone calls from people around the country who accept Quayle’s idea. "The pattern that’s emerging would be disturbing to any statistician," said Bill Stockglausner of Columbia. "The list is factual, and it appears strange that this is happening to these people who were in a certain profession."

Stockglausner likes Quayle’s reasoning. "He’s one of the few people of whom I can say I trust his comments," he said. "Am I convinced? No, not totally. But the percentage of being convinced gets closer each time one of these guys ends up dead."

MU history Professor Jeff Passley, who teaches a course about conspiracy theories and conspiracies, said mysteries invite speculation. "It’s always more interesting to think of something weird than the more obvious," he said, because there are loose standards for what is apparently unexplainable. "It’s do-it-yourself investigative work. It’s investigative science done by some guy in his basement who doesn’t have any training."

Passley designed his course to show students how conspiracy theories shift and evolve with the values of the times. For example, he said, some people in the communist-fearing 1950s thought extraterrestrial beings wanted to enslave the planet. In the ’60s, people started viewing aliens as peace-loving "space brothers." And in the ’70s, aliens were suspected of performing sexual experiments to breed with humans.

"It’s true that almost every sort of religion or belief system purports to explain the unexplainable and to give you a sense of control," Passley said. "These conspiracy theories are just a version of that. They try to impose rationality upon the unexplainable."

Comment: Notice the feeble attempt at debunking in the last paragraphs. According to the Professor at the University of Missouri "conspiracy theories" are "unexplainable". Of course, such an allegation is complete hogwash. Many conspiracy theories are totally explainable, the problem lies in the fact that people like Mr. Passley do not like what they are telling us about our reality, so they immediately denigrate them as "belief systems" similar to religion.

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Daylight executions in Iraq
Jan. 24/05
Agence France Presse

DUBAI — Supporters of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq’s most wanted man, executed an Egyptian and two Iraqi drivers on a street in broad daylight, according to videos shown on a website today.

A first video showed a man, identified as Ibrahim Md Ismail, on his knees, handcuffed and blindfolded on a street before a masked man shot him in the head.

Ismail was earlier shown saying that he worked for a Kuwaiti company identified as Al-Shallahi, which provides US forces with drinking water, and urging his compatriots not to come to Iraq or work for the Americans. “Despite all the warnings from the mujahideen... these apostates continue to help the occupier shed the blood of those who refuse to submit,” the militants, identifying themselves as members of Zarqawi’s Al-Qaida outfit in Iraq, said in a statement after the executions.

A second video showed two Iraqis, one identified as Ali Hussein Jassim Md al-Zubeidi, a resident of Sadr City who worked for a Lebanese company which supplies American troops in Ramadi. The second Iraqi was named as Ahmad Alwan Hussein al-Mahmudawi, a colleague with the same company.

Comment: What are we to make of the story above? How much of what is reported here can be verified as actual fact, and how much is based on propaganda or speculation?

It's a difficult question to answer in full because we are only given so much information to go on. However, if we use discernment and try to look at the information objectively without making assumptions, perhaps we can come to a closer approximation as to what really happened.

Obviously, the one man was shot in cold blood and the murder was captured on video camera. That much can be ascertained from watching the video at least. According to this report from South Africa's IOL, the other two men were filmed being beheaded.

But how do we know that it was the supporters of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who carried out these killings as the story claims in the first sentence?

Well, we don't.

All that we can tell from the video is that the executions were performed by "masked men".

We do find out later on that, according to the video, persons "claiming" to be supporters of al-Zarqawi took credit for the killings. But how do we know that the executioners really are who they claim to be?

Well, we don't know that either.

The only REAL facts that can be gleaned from this story is that three people were killed on video in broad daylight by a men in masks.

That's it.

All the rest is speculation and conjecture.

Now, perhaps we can add to the picture by noticing what information this news story deliberately leaves out.

First of all we are not given the name of the web site where this video is purported to have appeared, nor who owns the web site, nor the names or affiliations of the men making the video. So, how do we know for certain that anything said about the killer's identity and motives in the video or in the news story are true?

Well, we don't.

And so it goes with most mainstream news sources where certain unsubstantiated claims are made by the reporters that cannot be verified and just assumed to be true. These assumptions are then presented to the public in the guise of "factual information". The majority of the public, operating under the false assumption that news sources objectively report the facts, and for the most part lacking perspicacity, tend to unquestioningly believe whatever the television talking-heads tell them.

What the story above also fails to mention is that just a short time ago, on Jan 4, 2005, the mythical al-Zarqawi was supposedly captured by Kurdish forces in the city of Baakuba.

Even more amazing is that according to the Associated Press, on March 4, 2004, this terrorist mastermind was reported killed by American bombers in the mountains of northern Iraq.

Yet, for some reason the mainstream media continues to assert that this one man can arrange a multitude of car-bombings and carry out numerous beheadings all up and down the country.

Quite the feat for a prisoner or a ghost.

What seems more likely is that any attack, bombing, beheading or video execution attributed to al-Zarqawi is in fact carried out by agents of foreign governments who benefit from the perception of increased terror in the region and having his ghost act as a readily blamable scapegoat.

But, like the story above, this very likely possibility ventures into the realm of speculation and unfortunately can't be verified with any certainty.

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Bush to Seek $80B for Iraq, Afghan Wars
Jan 24, 9:36 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration plans to announce Tuesday it will request about $80 billion more for this year's costs of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, congressional aides said Monday.

The request would push the total provided so far for those wars and for U.S. efforts against terrorism elsewhere in the world to more than $280 billion since the first money was provided shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, airliner attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

That would be nearly half the $613 billion the United States spent for World War I or the $623 billion it expended for the Vietnam War, when the costs of those conflicts are translated into 2005 dollars.

White House officials refused to comment on the war spending package, which will be presented as the United States confronts a new string of violence in Iraq as that country's Jan. 30 elections approach.

The forthcoming request underscored how the war spending has clearly exceeded initial White House estimates. Early on, then-presidential economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey placed Iraq costs of $100 billion to $200 billion, only to see his comments derided by administration colleagues.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday it was Congress' "highest responsibility" to provide the money that American troops need. But in a written statement, she said Democrats would ask questions about Bush's policies there.

"What are the goals in Iraq, and how much more money will it cost to achieve them? Why hasn't the president and the Pentagon provided members of Congress a full accounting of previous expenditures?," Pelosi added. [...]

Adding additional pressure, the Congressional Budget Office planned to release a semi-annual report on the budget Tuesday that was expected to include a projection of war costs. Last September, the nonpartisan budget office projected the 10-year costs of the wars at $1.4 trillion at current levels of operations, and $1 trillion if the wars were gradually phased down.

Aides said about three-fourths of the $80 billion was expected to be for the Army, which is bearing the brunt of the fighting in Iraq. It also was expected to include money for building a U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which has been estimated to cost $1.5 billion. [...]

Comment: $1.5 BILLION?? The US could build a rather large skyscraper (or two) for that much money... But then, we imagine that if recent "reconstruction" events in Iraq are any indication, a large percentage of the cost of the future embassy will be profit for Bush's business pals.

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Spy teams confirmed
January 25, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon yesterday confirmed plans to field new military spy teams to assist battlefield commanders with tasks traditionally carried out by the CIA but denied the move would encroach onto the intelligence agency's turf.

Two senior Pentagon officials said the military already has forces in Iraq and Afghanistan doing similar work - citing a defense linguist's efforts in the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 - but now wants to formalize what has been a largely ad-hoc operation.

"We were fighting a long-term war with basically a pickup team," said one of the Defense officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. None of the teams, formally authorized in this year's budget, have been deployed yet.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon sent its top intelligence official, Stephen Cambone, to Capitol Hill yesterday to explain the new teams which some lawmakers suggested may have skirted congressional oversight and not been fully coordinated with the CIA. Republicans, however, showed little appetite for congressional hearings on the topic.

At the Pentagon, the officials said the roughly 10-person teams would include linguists, interrogators and case officers focused on gathering "human intelligence." That is information gathered by spies and other human sources, not through electronic eavesdropping or other technical means.

Comment: These teams sound strangely like ones that worked at Abu Ghraib...

Such foreign spying traditionally has been under CIA purview, but the officials insisted that the military efforts were designed to augment, not replace, CIA efforts. One official noted that the teams' funding is controlled by the CIA chief in the foreign intelligence budget.

Still, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has moved aggressively to expand the Pentagon's own intelligence-gathering activities since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks - moves some in the intelligence community view as an effort to wrest greater control of the effort from the CIA.

Rumsfeld, for instance, had expressed strong reservations about the idea of the national intelligence director overseeing all CIA and Defense Department initiatives, as recommended by the 9/11 commission. And in late 2003, Rumsfeld created a new position of undersecretary of defense for intelligence and named one of his top deputies, Cambone.

But the Defense officials yesterday insisted that the "Strategic Support Teams" would merely provide senior commanders with exactly the kind of on-the-ground information they need to fight the war on terror.

Exactly how these teams will operate remained unclear yesterday, as the senior officials declined to say, for instance, even how many would exist. They will operate in a "clandestine" manner - meaning that their efforts are meant to go undetected - but not as "covert" operators, which would mean that the U.S. government would disavow responsibility for their operation.

The units were first reported Sunday by the Washington Post, but the Pentagon denied a contention in the article that Rumsfeld had sought to reinterpret or "bend" the law to cover these new units. The officials yesterday said the activities of the units can be carried under existing authorities.

Comment: The idea of the CIA versus Rummy's Spies is ridiculous. After Porter Goss' house cleaning at the CIA, the agency will be in Bush's back pocket. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this article is that it shows how members of the Bush administration are all working together, but they each want to hoard more power for themselves.

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U.S. Military May Face Reservist Shortage
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
Mon Jan 24, 4:51 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The strain of fighting a longer, bloodier war in Iraq than U.S. commanders originally foresaw brings forth a question that most would have dismissed only a year ago: Is the military in danger of running out of reserve troops?

At first glance the answer would appear to be a clear no. There are nearly 1.2 million men and women on the reserve rolls, and only about 70,000 are now in Iraq to supplement the regulars.

But a deeper look inside the Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve suggests a grimmer picture: At the current pace and size of American troop deployments to Iraq, the availability of suitable reserve combat troops could become a problem as early as next year.

The National Guard says it has about 86,000 citizen soldiers available for future deployments to Iraq, fewer than it has sent there over the past two years. And it has used up virtually all of its most readily deployable combat brigades.

In an indication of the concern about a thinning of its ranks, last month the National Guard tripled the re-enlistment bonuses offered to soldiers in Iraq who can fill critical skill shortages.

Similarly, the Army Reserve has about 37,500 deployable soldiers left — about 18 percent of its total troop strength.

The Marine Corps Reserve appears to be in a comparable position, because most of its 40,000 troops have been mobilized at least once already. Officials said they have no figures available on how many are available for future deployments to Iraq.

Both the Army and the Marines are soliciting reservists to volunteer for duty in Iraq.

"The reserves are pretty well shot" after the Pentagon makes the next troop rotation, starting this summer, said Robert Goldich, a defense analyst at the Congressional Research Service.

Among the evidence:

- Of the National Guard's 15 best-trained, best-equipped and most ready-to-deploy combat brigades, all but one are either in Iraq now, have demobilized after returning from a one-year tour there or have been alerted for duty in 2005-2006.

The exception is the South Carolina National Guard's 218th Infantry Brigade, which has had not been deployed to Iraq as a full brigade because smaller groups of its soldiers have been mobilized periodically for homeland defense and numerous missions abroad, including Iraq.

- The Army Reserve, with about 205,000 citizen soldiers on its rolls for support rather than combat duty, has been so heavily used since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that, for practical purposes, it has only about 37,500 troops available to perform the kinds of missions required in Iraq, according to an internal briefing chart entitled, "What's Left in the Army Reserve?"

- The chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, recently advised other Army leaders that his citizen militia is in "grave danger" of being unable to meet all its operational responsibilities. He said the Reserve is "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force."

The mix of troops in the U.S. force rotation now under way in Iraq is about 50 percent active duty and 50 percent reserves. But that is set to change to 70 percent active and 30 percent reserve for the rotation after that, beginning this summer, because combat-ready Guard units have been tapped out.

Thus, two active-duty Army divisions that have already served one-year tours in Iraq — the 101st Airborne and the 4th Infantry — have been selected to return in the coming rotation. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force already is on its second tour in Iraq. [...]

It's not the absolute number of reservists that poses a problem. It's the number who have the right skills for what is required in Iraq and who have not already served lengthy tours on active duty since President Bush authorized the Pentagon three days after the Sept. 11 attacks to mobilize as many as 1 million reservists for up to 24 months.

A portion of the best-trained reservists are approaching the 24-month limit, and some senior officials inside the Army are considering whether the limit should be redefined so that mobilizations over the past three years would, in effect, not count against the 24-month limit.

The Guard and Reserve are hurting in other ways, too. Their casualties in Iraq have been mounting (16 deaths in October, 28 in November, 20 in December and at least 15 in the first 13 days of January), and the National Guard and Army Reserve have been missing their recruiting goals.

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Al-Qaida claims responsibility for Allawi attack

An al-Qaida suicide driver detonated a car bomb at a guard post outside the Iraqi prime minister’s party headquarters in Baghdad today, injuring at least 10 people.

Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden’s affiliate group in Iraq claimed responsibility a day after its leader declared all-out war on democracy.

Later, mortar rounds slammed into an Iraqi National Guard camp near Baghdad International Airport and the rumble of distant explosions reverberated through the capital. There was no report of casualties in the mortar attack.

The suicide bomber struck at a police checkpoint on the road leading to Ayad Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord offices in central Baghdad, shaking the city centre with a thunderous explosion. Among the wounded were eight policemen and two civilians, said Dr Mudhar Abdul-Hussein of Yarmouk Hospital.

Al-Qaida’s wing in Iraq said in an internet posting that "one of the young lions in the suicide regiment" carried out the attack against the party office of Allawi, "the agent of the Jews and the Christians".

The attacks occurred six days before Iraq’s crucial national elections, the first since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Insurgents have condemned the elections and vowed to disrupt them.

The suicide attack rattled buildings along the Tigris River in the centre of the city and sent black smoke rising above the skyline. US military helicopters cut through overcast skies above the scene.

Iraqi police fired on the car as it sped toward them, killing the driver as the blast ripped the vehicle apart, said an Interior Ministry official.
Splintered police vehicles were engulfed in flames, and gunfire rattled after the explosion. [...]

In an audiotape posted on the web yesterday, a speaker claiming to be Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaida in Iraq, declared "fierce war" on democracy and said anyone who takes part in next weekend’s Iraqi elections would be considered "an infidel".

"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," the speaker said. "Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it."

The speaker warned Iraqis to be careful of "the enemy’s plan to implement so-called democracy in your country". He said the Americans have engineered the election to install Shiite Muslims in power. Al-Zarqawi, who is a Sunni Arab like most of the insurgents here, has in the past branded Shiites as heretics.

The United States has offered a €18.7m reward for al-Zarqawi’s capture or death – the same amount as for al-Qaida leader in Laden.

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Israeli-Arab News Cycle
Juan Cole

I found this Haaretz article too complicated too follow. So the Israeli Army has a psy-ops unit that used to be very active but has been less so recently, and is now being revived. This psy-ops unit plants articles in the Arab press about groups like Lebanon's Hizbullah, painting them as vicious terrorists. Then it comes to Israeli newspaper like Haaretz with translations, and urges that the pieces be written up for Israeli and Western audiences. But of course the pieces are reported as originating in the Arab press:

' The unit's activities have been controversial for years. In October 1999, Aluf Benn revealed in Haaretz that members of the unit used the Israeli media to emphasize reports initiated by the unit that it managed to place in the Arab press. He reported that the news reports focused on Iranian and Hezbollah involvement in terror activity. '

So is MEMRI, which translates articles from the Arabic press into English for thousands of US subscribers, in any way involved in all this? Its director formerly served in . . . Israeli military intelligence. How much of what we "know" from "Arab sources" about "Hizbullah terrorism" was simply made up by this fantasy factory in Tel Aviv?

As someone who reads the Arabic press quite a lot, this sort of revelation is extremely disturbing.

I also saw an allegation that British military intelligence had planted stories in the US press about Saddam's Iraq.

You begin to wonder how much of what you think you know is just propaganda manufactured by some bored colonel. No wonder post-Baath Iraq looks nothing like what we were led to to expect by the press, including the Arab press!

Comment: We find it rather astonishing that a seasoned commentator on events in the Mid East could be so naive as to be surprised by such activities on the part of Israeli intelligence. But, then again, Mr Cole believes that 9/11 was carried out by "Islamic terrorists".

Yes, it is difficult for many Americans to accept the truth. It is hard for them to even look at the facts dispassionately. Their minds are made up beforehand, and therefore, they interpret events not according to the data but according to how they want the world to be. The limit appears to be the idea that Bush or the people around him "would do something like that". But Bush and his gang are "doing something like that" in Iraq on a daily basis. Their friends in Israel are "doing something like that on a daily basis".

But, the doubters reason, they are not doing this to Americans.

They also tend to think that the neocons were taken in by faulty intelligence from Chalabi or their Israeli friends rather than admitting that they knew the intelligence was faked.

The data, on the other hand, tells us that the neocon plans were drawn up in advance. All of the measures brought down in the post-9/11 world were waiting in the wings when the twin towers fell. Rather convenient, isn't it? The decisions to go after Afghanistan and Saddam were taken months before 9/11. The Patriot Act was ready to go. These are signs that the whole shebang was a set-up, that Bush and his cronies knew what was going to happen. Other facts brought forth by 9/11 researchers show that it wasn't a simple question of allowing something to happen; the Bush Administration planned and carried out the attacks.

But if you believe that "they could never do something like that", then you'll stay blind to the real terror of the situation, the fact that the president of the US was involved in the killing of 3000 people on that fateful day. And instead of being impeached, he was re-elected.

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Ayoon wa Azan (Thank You)
Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2005/01/24
I hear Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mishaal's opposite stances, and I find myself agreeing with both, and thank God for not being some kind of an official who is required to choose among them.

The Palestinian President says that all arms must be under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and that violence must stop; I think he is right.

Whereas the Islamic resistance says that resistance is a kind of defense against the occupation, and that Sharon's government would still assassinate and destroy even without the existence of resistance, as it did during the truce of summer 2003; and if the Palestinian resister would have to face death inside his house and around his children, then it would be more decent for him to be killed while resisting the occupation. I also agree with this stance.

If things were up to me, there would be no violence or war in any country, as I am personally against all wars, against suicide/martyrdom operations, and against the use of arms, even for self-defense. However, this is my stance, and it is the stance of the minority, as violence in the Palestinian territories is due to the crimes of Ariel Sharon's government, which insists on killing and destruction, and insists that the Palestinians have to accept its crimes without responding to them.

If the cycle of violence is to be over, it must be over from both sides; as Ariel Sharon is the responsible for the Al-Qassam rockets more than its launchers, and for the suicide operations more than their perpetrators. Below are some examples on the crimes of his government, based on western and Israeli sources only:

1. The World Bank report that was issued last October, in association with the Palestinian central office for statistics, revealed that the income of the Palestinians inside the occupied territories deteriorated by one third since 1999, unemployment increased from 10% to 26%, and between 61% and 72% of Palestinian families live below the poverty line. The University of Geneva estimated during a study on the living standards in the occupied territories, that 58% of the Palestinians are 'poor,' and that while 68% of the needy Palestinians receive aids, 32% of them are left without assistance.
2. The Palestinian issue is not about aids, but about a country. The conference that Prime Minister Tony Blair asked for in London was political in essence; however, the Israeli Prime Minister declared his objection and boycott, and the conference suddenly turned into a charity party. The Palestinians would not be bribed with $1,000 or $2,000 million. In fact, out of every $1,000 million that the PA receives in the form of aids, 80% come from the Arab states, and the largest part is provided by Saudi Arabia and the Saudi people; whereas the rest is given by Europe and Japan, while the United States adds an Israeli demand to every aid.
3. Since the start of the Second Intifada in September 2000, Israel has assassinated 238 Palestinians, which it claims they are 'terrorists,' and without evidence. During these assassinations, it killed 186 civilians, among which 26 women and 39 children. All this is based on last October's estimations, and must be more by now.
4. Among the killed were Sanaa Al Maghir, 16, and her brother Ahmad, 13, who were standing on the roof of their house in Rafah. In addition to Iman Al Hams, 13, who was riddled with over 20 bullets, while she was in her school uniform, and then an Israeli soldier shot her twice in the head, as she was wounded but still alive. Also, there was the child Rana Siyam, 7, from Khan Younis.
5. Nine days only after the October operation, which included the north of the Gaza Strip, Jabalia, Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun, and Rafah, Israel killed 98 Palestinians, among which 20 children under the age of 18, and more that 350 wounded. Also, a single bomb killed 10 people near the Jabalia Camp on September 30, among which 8 children. The killing of children continued with the beginning of the New Year, as on January 4, an Israeli bomb killed seven children from Al Ghabn family, aged between 11 and 18, and injured another 11 children in Beit Lahia.
6. The killing was accompanied by wide destruction; and the human rights association declared in an official statement that Israel had illegally destroyed thousands of Palestinian houses, and expelled 16,000 people. The association said that Israel was transgressing the international law that protects civilians in times of war.
7. In two days only, 17 and 18 December 2004, Israel destroyed 40 houses in the Khan Younis Camp, and the Israeli army issued a statement allowing its residents to go back to their 'homes.' 11 Palestinians were killed, and 47 other wounded during the operation.
8. Four former Israeli security commanders: Avraham Shalom, Yaacov Peri, Karmi Gilon, and Ami Ayalon, accused Sharon of leading Israel towards 'disaster,' and started a peace movement. Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon, Israel's army chief, said that the government's policy in suppressing the Palestinians compromised Israel's security rather than strengthening it. Earlier, Lieutenant Colonel Eitan Ronal (retd) returned his military insignia, and accompanied it with a letter filled with bitterness in which he said that human life has lost its value, and the honor of arms was lost.
9. Two Jewish American activists: Kelly Minio-Paluello and Kate Rafael Bender filed a case in order to prevent their expulsion from Israel. Bender, who is running a personal campaign against the security wall, said that Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is illegal according to Resolution 242; nevertheless, the U.S. supports this occupation with $13 million every day. On another hand, each demonstration or meeting that the Israeli peace movements have organized against the discrimination wall, has attracted far more people than its organizers have expected.

Finally, although I am noting the crimes of Sharon's government, which is an extremist Nazi government, I appreciate the fact that much of my information comes from Jewish and Israeli peace activists' sources, and that these people are the best to defend the Palestinians; it is imperative to thank them for their efforts.

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Only God can save us

Al-Ahram Weekly
20 - 26 January 2005

The new Palestinian president's visit to the Gaza Strip was not as welcome as he hoped, Serene Assir reports from Gaza

On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Abbas (known by his nom-de-guerre Abu Mazen) arrived in Gaza to hold talks with the armed Palestinian militias, seeking to limit the armed resistance against the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) and the illegal settlements. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades spokesmen, however, told Al-Ahram Weekly prior to the president's arrival that they have no intention of letting up until the Israeli occupation ends.

On Tuesday evening, as though to emphasise the point to the new leadership, Hamas staged a suicide operation near the Khan Younis refugee camp, in which one Israeli soldier was killed. And throughout the week, following the joint Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Hamas suicide operation at an Israeli checkpoint and the severing of communications by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with Abu Mazen, there have been a series of violent Israeli incursions across the Gaza Strip accompanied by the closure of checkpoints, forbidding the entry or exit of persons, food and goods. Sharon gave free rein to the IOF in Gaza, and so far, many local citizens believe the only reason why a total military incursion has not taken place seems to be pressure exerted by the United States on the Israeli leadership to give the new PA leader a chance.

However, Abu Mazen faces problems from both the militant Palestinian militias and the Israelis. Although his electoral victory was sweeping, the real factor by which his success as leader will be assessed over the coming months is whether he can guarantee the security of the Palestinian people.

So far, although he has only been in power for a matter of days, many Gazans are already losing hope that he will make things any better for them, given the reality on the ground. "How can we hope for any improvement in our situation, with or without Abu Mazen? How will he succeed where Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat] failed?" Soha, a student from Gaza City, told the Weekly. "No, I don't think things will get any better. I don't think a man like him can stop Israeli incursions, or make our economy -- which is dependent on the checkpoints being open -- improve. Not if his predecessor couldn't."

The reasons for such pessimism are varied. On one hand, many feel resentful that Abu Mazen aims to limit the activities of the militias. "I don't like him, I didn't vote for him, he wants to stop the muqawama," said Amr, a market stall owner in his 20s.

Others understand that Abu Mazen was, internationally, the favoured candidate, "but now look at what is happening. We all thought things would get better, because Israel, the US and the European Union all wanted him in. In fact, that's why many of us voted for him in the first place, because we thought that he would bring us peace," Amjad, an Islamic youth leader, told the Weekly. "But the Israelis haven't relented after all on their attacks, and what I know for certain is that Abu Mazen is not strong enough to withstand their pressure and make true the demands of the Palestinian people. He has no bargaining power, and he has no personal power. He is in no position to help us now."

"One shouldn't be too quick to judge him," said Ahmed, a clothes shop owner. "He's only been in power for a few days." "But in fact, if you notice, rather than get better as the political situation seemed to hint, things are getting even worse!" contested Amjad. "The incursions have been constant and scattered throughout Gaza, and now Abu Mazen is here to ask the militias to stop attacking the settlements? It's an impossible situation for him diplomatically, and for us practically."

"Things have been terrible over the past few days," agreed Hanan, mother of six. "He's arrived in Gaza, hasn't he? Well, inshaallah things will get better for us, but I don't see how he'll be the one to bring peace to our land and to give us justice." Following a few moments of silence in our interview, she began to speak of the terror of living in the Gaza camps. "My mother, who lives in Khan Younis, is scared to death of leaving her house, especially at night."

"Only God can save us," said Hamdi, a Bedouin woman in her 60s living in a tent in the Zeitoun neighbourhood, which suffered from a heavy incursion killing five. "My son was shot in the leg, I saw two women die right before my eyes." The area in which five families of Palestinian Bedouins live lay open to the fire shot by the IOF. "Who can help us? No man, only God, we can only pray. But while we live, we are terrified," Mohamed, aged 10, told the Weekly.

"After all those years," said Gazan reporter Mohamed in the city centre, "after all that insistence by the US and Israel that there was no Palestinian partner for peace, we've finally got one. Now, however, it seems there is no Israeli partner." And after all, in Middle Eastern politics, as Amjad said, "it's Israel, not any Palestinian leader, that calls the shots."

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Mossad warning over nuclear Iran
BBC News
Monday, 24 January, 2005, 18:33 GMT

Iran could build a nuclear bomb in less than three years, the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency has warned.

Speaking to MPs in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, Meir Dagan said Iran's nuclear programme was nearing the "point of no return".

If Iran successfully enriched uranium in 2005 it could have a nuclear weapon two years later, Mr Dagan said.

Iran says that it is developing a civilian nuclear energy programme, but the US and Israel reject this.

They maintain the Islamic state is using the energy programme as a front for a covert weapons programme. [...]

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Stay indoors and don't tell anyone your name, Iraq candidates told
By Jack Fairweather in Baghdad
(Filed: 25/01/2005)
In a darkened hall, candidates for Iraq's main Shia party sit listening to a turbaned cleric speaking into a microphone. They are being told how to campaign for the election without getting killed.

The instructions are simple - avoid public places and do not reveal your identity, the cleric advised. Most candidates should stay at home as much as possible, he added.

Comment: Democracy, coming to a country near you.

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Four Months on Planet bin Laden

By Jody K. Biehl
January 21, 2005
Der Spiegel

French journalist George Malbrunot spent 124 days as a hostage of Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq. The experience nearly broke him, but it also offered him stunning insights into the way jihadist groups operate. He returned convinced of one thing: America's policy is doomed. [...]

The two were imprisoned in a cramped cell, and Malbrunot admits that his vision was somewhat limited. Still, he says, his abduction brought him closer to the extremist underbelly of Iraq, closer to "these people who are extremely cruel" and for whom violence is an integral part of daily life. Free since Dec. 21, he still has trouble sleeping.

"They have weapons and money"

"These people will not surrender," he said, referring not only to the what he estimated to be the 15,000-17,000 member strong Islamic Army in Iraq which kidnapped him and Chesnot, but also to the dozens of other Islamic fundamentalist groups fighting in the country. "They have time, they have weapons, they have money. And, they are fighting at home. I am afraid it will only get worse, that they will get more and more power. It frightens me." What's worse, he said, is that in US President George W. Bush, "they have a great partner." Neither side is willing to budge.

Comment: For a deeper understanding of how American imperial ideology fits with that of the extremists in the Islamic countries, we suggest you view the documentary The Power of Nightmares.

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Mass suicide bid at Guantanamo revealed
January 25, 2005 - 7:09AM

Twenty-three terror suspects tried to hang or strangle themselves at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay during a mass protest in 2003, the military confirmed today.

The incidents came during the same year the camp suffered a rash of suicide attempts after Major General Geoffrey Miller took command of the prison with a mandate to get more information from prisoners accused of links to al-Qaeda or the ousted Afghan Taliban regime that sheltered it.

Between August 18 and August 26, the 23 detainees tried to hang or strangle themselves with pieces of clothing and other items in their cells, demonstrating "self-injurious behaviour", the US Southern Command in Miami said in a statement.

Ten detainees made a mass attempt on August 22 alone.

US Southern Command described it as "a coordinated effort to disrupt camp operations and challenge a new group of security guards from the just-completed unit rotation".

Guantanamo officials classified two of the incidents as attempted suicides and informed reporters. But they but did not previously release information about the mass hangings and stranglings during that period.

Those incidents were mentioned casually during a visit earlier this month by three journalists, but officials then immediately denied there had been a mass suicide attempt.

Further attempts to get details brought a statement on Friday night, with some clarifications provided today by military officials at Guantanamo Bay and the US Southern Command.

Alistair Hodgett, a spokesman for Amnesty International's office in Washington, was critical today of the delay in reporting the incident.

"When you have suicide attempts or so-called self-harm incidents, it shows the type of impact indefinite detention can have, but it also points to the extreme measures the Pentagon is taking to cover up things that have happened in Guantanamo," he said.

"What we've seen is that it wasn't simply a rotation of forces but an attempt to toughen up the interrogation techniques and processes."

Officials said today they differentiated between a suicide attempt in which a detainee could have died without intervention and a "gesture" they considered aimed only at getting attention.

Army General Jay Hood, who succeeded Miller as the detention mission's commander last year, has said the number of incidents has decreased since 2003, when the military set up a psychiatric ward.

In 2003, there were 350 "self-harm" incidents, including 120 "hanging gestures," according to Lieutenant-Colonel Leon Sumpter, a spokesman for the detention mission.

Last year, there were 110 self-harm incidents, he said.

"The Joint Detention Operations Group continually assesses the camp's population for whom the informal leaders are, the mood of the detainees, and their ability to communicate with each other," Southern Command said in a statement.

"That assessment has enabled the leadership to take numerous measures to reduce the opportunity for detainees to communicate a coordinated self-harm incident, or strike out at another detainee or the guard force."

The military has reported 34 suicide attempts since the camp opened in 2002, including one prisoner going into a coma and sustaining memory loss from brain damage.

Of the 23 men who tried to hang or strangle themselves during the 2003 protest, two required hospital treatment and then were transferred to the psychiatric ward, the military statement said.

Sixteen remain at Guantanamo Bay, while seven were transferred to other countries, the statement said without giving details. Some transferred detainees have been released while others continue to be detained in their native or other countries.

Comment: Think about the conditions under which a person would have to be kept in order for them to prefer death over continued imprisonment. Is this what Bush means by American freedom and democracy? A tiny, stolen piece of Cuba where US interrogators can torture and experiment with impunity? Contrast the criminal and barbaric abuse of human beings at "Gitmo" with Bush's recent "freedom celebration" and his repeated claims that American will spread peace and democracy around the world.

But to spread that "freedom", the Bush gang need information.

It certainly seems like it was no coincidence that the number of suicide attempts suddenly increased after the new commander was given a mandate to extract more information from prisoners.

This sounds like a polite way of saying that many prisoners illegally held in the Guantanamo gulag preferred to take their own lives rather than face greatly expanded torture tactics at the hands of sadistic American interrogators.

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Putin pledges to drop Syria arms deal
Monday 24 January 2005, 18:38 Makka Time, 15:38 GMT

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that he will not sign a contract to sell SA-18 surface-to-air missiles to Syria, according to an Israeli daily.

The reported promise, said to have been made in a phone call by Putin on Thursday, came on the day that Syrian President Bashar al-Asad begins a four-day official visit to Russia.
The Haaretz newspaper said Sharon had explained to the Russian leader that the weapons, also called Igla missiles, risked falling into the hands of Hizb Allah, which is opposed to Israeli occupation. Hizb Allah was successful in driving Israeli forces out of occupied southern Lebanon in May 2000. 
Sharon's office had said on Thursday that the Putin-Sharon phone call centred on the situation in the Middle East, the unilateral Israeli plan of disengagement from the Gaza Strip, relations with Syria and Hizb Allah and their implications, and the recent election of Mahmud Abbas as Palestinian president.
The Syrian leader arrives in Moscow on Monday amid controversy over reports that Russia was ready to sell Syria, its long-time ally in the Middle East, state-of-the-art missiles capable of hitting any target within a radius that includes Israel.

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Syrian president to discuss military cooperation with Moscow
www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-25 19:07:34
MOSCOW, Jan. 25 (Xinhuanet) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Tuesday that he would discuss military cooperation, in particular deliveries of Russian air defense systems, with Russian leadership during his four-day state visit in Moscow.

"Military-technical cooperation between Russia and Syria did not stop even during the cold spell in relations in the 1990s," Assad told students of Moscow International Relations Institute on Tuesday, Interfax news agency reported.

Assad arrived here Monday night amid reports that Syria wanted to acquire weapons from Moscow, including the Igla surface-to-air missiles and the advanced SS-26 Iskander missiles.

Assad on Tuesday defended his country's right to have Russian weapons for purpose of air defense, saying that "these are defensive weapons, air defense, to prevent aircraft from entering our airspace."

"If Israel is opposed to us buying them, it means it wants to invade our air space," Interfax cited the president as saying.

"The Israeli stance is illogical. This is not our scandal, but a scandal for Israel," he said at the university.

However, Assad confirmed that he would not discuss weapons purchases in Moscow.

"Specific issues of weapons sales should not be raised during meetings at the level of heads of state. We discuss general issues of military-technical cooperation," Assad was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

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Putin, Asad Sign Joint Declaration

Created: 25.01.2005 18:32 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 18:32 MSK

Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Asad have signed a joint declaration on further development of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

The declaration signed on Tuesday during Asad’s visit to Moscow said that “the world order of the 21st century should be based on the priority of international law, taking into account the interests of all states and the mechanisms of developing collective approaches to international problems with the UN playing a central coordinating part,” Interfax news agency reported. The declaration stated that both sides “decisively condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and confirm the strong necessity of mobilizing the world community’s efforts to actively battle this dangerous challenge to mankind.”

Asad who is on his first official visit to Russia urged the country to revive its Soviet-era influence in the Middle East. Speaking before the students of the Moscow Institute for International Affairs, he said he would like to support Russia’s political course and “express a protest against the political course of the United States,” Reuters reported. “Russia’s role is huge and Russia is well respected by third-world countries ... These countries are really hoping that Russia will try to revive its lost positions in the world,” Asad said.

Russia will write off 73 percent of Syria’s debt, Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin was quoted by Interfax as saying. The whole Syria’s debt is $13.4 billion.

Asad had earlier said he will discuss with Putin the development of military and technical cooperation between Russia and Syria, including the supply of Russian missiles to Damascus. Before Asad’s visit, the head of Syria’s parliament, Mahmoud al-Abrash, was quoted by Vremya Novostei newspaper as saying Asad will not discuss new military supplies. Reports on new contracts to supply Russian missile complexes to Syria appeared earlier in January. Israel expressed deep concern in connection with those reports. However, Russian foreign and defense ministries have refuted this information. Putin assured Israeli PM Ariel Sharon that Russia would not conclude such a deal with Syria.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described US accusations that Syria is supporting extremists in Iraq and other places as unacceptable and groundless. “We are alarmed by the situation that has been arising around Syria. It is important to prevent the appearance of new seats of tension in that crisis-ridden part of the world,” he said but noted that “the language of threats can only further worsen the situation.”

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America on the War Path
Patrick Seale Al-Hayat 2005/01/23
In recent days Washington has been awash with speculation that the United States is preparing armed action against Iran or Syria, or possibly both - two countries seen as fundamentally hostile to American and Israeli strategic aims in the Middle East.

It is not clear, however, whether the reports, leaks and threats point to preparations for an imminent attack or are merely part of an elaborate campaign of psychological warfare aimed at isolating the Iraqi battlefield from Iraq's neighbors.

According to a source at the U.S. National War College, an American strike against Syria nearly took place a month ago, but was put on hold because of objections from the US Army. Any future attack could take the form of an air and naval bombardment, rather than a ground invasion. Syria is accused of infiltrating money, weapons and recruits to the insurgency in western and northern Iraq and of giving support to anti-Israeli guerrilla groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, while Iran is in America's gun-sights because of what is described as its 'large-scale interference' in Iraq.

Iran is also being targeted because American and Israeli planners have no faith in efforts by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, and by Britain, France and Germany, to persuade Iran to give up its alleged nuclear weapons program. Israeli spokesman, including Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, have said that Israel would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.

Another explanation for the recent bout of war fever is that we are witnessing a replay of a familiar Washington game whereby rival agencies of government compete for the President's ear. By talking up the need to make war on Iran and Syria, neo-conservatives inside and outside the Administration seem anxious to pre-empt any change of course by the new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

At her confirmation hearing this week before the Senate foreign relations committee, Dr. Rice echoed the standard rhetoric of President George W Bush's first term. 'America and the free world,' she declared, 'are once again engaged in a long-term struggle against an ideology of hatred and tyranny and terror and hopelessness. And we must confront these challenges…' This will go some way to reassure the pro-Israeli, anti-Muslim neo-cons.

But they will be less pleased with her repeated assertion that 'The time for diplomacy is now'. She pledged to involve herself personally in the Arab-Israeli peace process, which neo-cons see as a threat to put pressure on Israel to yield territory. She is also reported to have urged President George W Bush to build bridges with European leaders during his forthcoming visit to Brussels and Berlin next month. This again will arouse neo-con anxiety.

The belligerent neo-cons who pressed for war against Iraq are in still in place, notably in Donald Rumsfeld's Department of Defense and in Vice-President Dick Cheney's office. In spite of their responsibility for the mess in Iraq, they have not lost their jobs. Washington's influential right-wing think-tanks have also been waging a vociferous propaganda campaign against Iran and Syria and have been urging the Administration to strike at both countries.

In a report from Washington this week, Britain's Financial Times said that the neo-cons were backing an Iranian opposition group, the Alliance for Democracy in Iran, which is hoping for a big injection of American funds. Several Senators have also urged the Administration to back 'regime change' in Iran.

Joint U.S.-Israeli planning

Until now, most observers believed that the U.S. was too busy and overstretched in Iraq to contemplate new wars. But this argument is being turned on its head. The view one now tends to hear in Washington is that there can be no victory in Iraq until Iran and Syria are brought to heel.

No one outside a small circle in Tehran knows whether Iran has taken a decision to acquire atomic weapons or whether it simply wants to acquire the technology in order to have the option of making such weapons at a future date. It seems determined to master the uranium fuel cycle for the purposes of power generation, but denies that it intends to build a bomb.

Its policy has all the ambiguity and opacity that Israel deployed when it, too, was developing its nuclear arsenal in the late 1950s and 1960s.

In the meantime, Iran seems to be preparing for a tough negotiation with the Europeans over the coming months in which the prize is a big package of trade and financial benefits in exchange for putting its nuclear program on ice -- at least for the time being.

Iran is also looking to its defenses. Some observers believe it is preparing the revolutionary guard corps, the Pasdaran, for asymmetric warfare in the event of an American attack, as well as its vast corps of Islamic volunteers, known as the Bassij, several million strong. In December, Iran carried out a military exercise close to the Iraqi frontier mobilizing up to 120,000 men. It was billed as the largest since the 1979 revolution.

No one supposes that the Iranian armed forces, with their antiquated equipment, would be much of a match for the United States in a conventional war. But any U.S. strike against Iran, or against Syria for that matter, would be likely to unleash guerrilla and resistance forces which could put American and Israeli citizens and interests around the world gravely at risk.

Douglas Feith, assistant secretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon, is said to be working closely with Israeli officers in identifying weapons sites for targeting in Iran, much as he did in planning the war against Iraq.

Israel has also sought American support in pressuring Russia not to agree to sell advanced missiles to Syria during President Bashar Al Assad's forthcoming visit to Moscow.

In this month's New Yorker magazine, the celebrated investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh reported that 'The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence on Iranian nuclear, chemical and missile sites… The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids.'

The Pentagon has dismissed Hersh's report as unfounded, but what seems beyond doubt is that the Pentagon has won its battle with the CIA over control of clandestine intelligence operations. Washington sources confirm that the CIA has been 'gutted', while the Pentagon remains in control of much of America's vast $40bn a year intelligence budget.

Bush's foreign policy

Judging from President Bush's own remarks, he is clearly not planning a speedy withdrawal from Iraq following the 30 January elections, as several American pundits have been urging. He has said that his own election victory last November was a vote of confidence in his Iraq war. In outlining his plans for the next four years, he continues to resort to slogans like the need to pursue the 'global war on terror' and 'build democracy' in the countries of the Middle East.

These generalities may be dismissed as simplistic, except that they conceal a hard-nosed agenda, which includes defeating the world-wide movement of Islamic militancy in order to protect the U.S. from another 9/11; and ensuring long-term American dominion over Arab oil.

Israel and its American friends in the Administration add two further goals: securing Israel's monopoly of weapons of mass destruction; and depriving the Palestinians of any external support, whether from Syria or from militant groups like Lebanon's Hezbollah, so as to force them to accept whatever crumbs Israel's Ariel Sharon might throw them.

The strategic doctrine behind these goals is that the U.S. must retain global military supremacy and Israel regional military supremacy. Their enemies must be denied any sort of deterrent capability and must give up any hope of achieving a balance of power. While the wisdom of this doctrine might be doubted, the future does not look reassuring.

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Cargo plane rolls off runway at Duesseldorf airport, delaying flights for two hours
Associated Press
January 24, 2005

DUESSELDORF, Germany - A Boeing 747 cargo jet rolled off a landing strip at Duesseldorf airport Monday, causing departure delays of about two hours while runways were shut down, airport officials said.

Two of four engines caught fire, but firefighters were able to put the blaze out quickly on the Atlas Air plane, which was arriving from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. No one was injured during the landing on the south runway, spokesman Udo Seidler said.

The airport closed runways between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. (0500GMT and 0600 GMT), causing the flight back-ups, Seidler said. Flight were later shifted to the north runway.

It was not immediately clear what caused the accident.

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Fermi II Nuke Plant Shut for Leak
By Oralandar Brand-Williams & Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

MICHIGAN - The Fermi II nuclear plant near Monroe was shut down Monday afternoon after developing a coolant leak.

No one was evacuated and the public wasn't endangered in the incident, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission official said.

Workers discovered the source of the leak late Monday night and promptly shut off the water, stopping the leak, said DTE Energy, which operates the plant.

It wasn't known when the facility would resume operations.

The plant, in Frenchtown Township in northern Monroe County, was shut down at 4:20 p.m. without complications, said NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng.

"Any time a plant has to shut down it is, of course, a concern," she said. "(But) this is the second-lowest classification as far as emergencies are."

The problem involved nonradioactive water used in the facility's cooling system, said John Austerberry, a spokesman for DTE.

That's different from the plant's reactor coolant, which didn't leak and remains at normal levels.

The leak, which occurred in a steel and concrete structure that surrounds the steel reactor, was originally 50 gallons a minute before workers shut off valves to stop it between 9 and 10 p.m., Austerberry said.

A Detroit physicist said the problem, as described by plant officials, didn't sound like a potentially ominous situation.

"It's not that dangerous," said Al Saperstein, a physics professor at Wayne State University. "Water leaks in all kinds of large steam generators." [...]

Peggy Valentine, a 15-year resident who works at a local restaurant, said several plant workers are customers and have reassured her about its operations in the past.

"You can't start to get paranoid about it," she said. "If you start to get paranoid, then you'll make everyone around you worry, especially the children."

The 1,150-megawatt plant, which opened in 1988, has experienced several minor stumbles in the past five months.

It briefly operated at 60 percent of its power in October after a recirculating water pump unexpectedly slowed down. The problem was solved, and the plant resumed full power in 27 hours.

Neither of the plant's two major pumps, which control the flow of coolant water, was idled in the incident, and the problem never posed a threat to the public, NRC officials told the local paper.

The plant also was shut down for unexpected repairs in August when repairs to one of its four emergency diesel generators couldn't be completed within seven days.

Before that incident, the plant had operated for 334 days without incident, the second-longest such stretch in its nearly two-decade history.

"If you start to get paranoid, then you'll make everyone around you worry."

Comment: It seems that the water leak is not a major concern. Nevertheless, the plant has experienced several minor problems in the past six months. The repetition at the end of the article of Ms. Valentine's suggestion to avoid "paranoia" is also strange. Why not simply repeat the assertion that the leak is not related to the radioactive coolant? Instead, being concerned about one's safety is associated with paranoia that can make those around us worry. It seems the author is trying to emphasize that everyone should bury their head in the sand and adopt a happy-go-lucky attitude. We think it is probably a better idea to obtain the facts and then make a logical, non-emotional decision as to the best course of action.

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Fire Disrupts NYC Subway Lines for Years
By DESMOND BUTLER, Associated Press Writer
January 25, 2005

NEW YORK - One subway line serving tens of thousands of New Yorkers a day was knocked out of service and another severely limited, possibly for years, because of a trash fire that authorities said may have been set by a homeless person trying to stay warm.

It will take "several millions of dollars and several years" to rebuild hundreds of relays, switches and circuits that track train signals and locations, MTA President Lawrence Reuter said.

Reuter said it was the most serious damage to the subway's infrastructure since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which destroyed tracks and stations underneath the World Trade Center.

The fire was set in a shopping cart in or near the Chambers Street station in lower Manhattan, fire officials said. It ignited cables above the platform and spread to a room full of switching and signal equipment, the MTA said.

Authorities believe a homeless person trying to keep warm set fire to the cart full of clothing and wood, but no suspect had been located. [...]

"Customers should be aware that there are no plans for the restoration of C service in the near future," the MTA said. [...]

Comment: Isn't it a bit strange that a room containing switching equipment for the subway system is so difficult to replace that it will be years before the affected line is up and running again?

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2 Subway Lines Crippled by Fire; Long Repair Seen
The New York Times
January 25, 2005

Two of the city's subway lines - the A and the C - have been crippled and may not return to normal capacity for three to five years after a fire Sunday afternoon in a Lower Manhattan transit control room that was started by a homeless person trying to keep warm, officials said yesterday.

The blaze, at the Chambers Street station used by the A and C lines, was described as doing the worst damage to subway infrastructure since the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. It gutted a locked room that is no larger than a kitchen but that contains some 600 relays, switches and circuits that transmit vital information about train locations.

The A line will run roughly one-third the normal number of trains - meaning that riders who used to wait six minutes for a train might now have to wait 18 minutes - while the C train will cease to exist as a separate line, at least for the time being. The C will be replaced by the V in Brooklyn. Long waits and erratic service are likely to be the norm on the two lines, which have a combined ridership of 580,000 each weekday. [...]

"This is a very significant problem, and it's going to go on for quite a while," said Lawrence G. Reuter, the president of New York City Transit. He estimated it would take "several millions of dollars and several years" to reassemble and test the intricate network of custom-built switch relays that were destroyed in the blaze, which officials believe began when the homeless person - who has not been found - set fire to wood and refuse in a shopping cart in the tunnel about 50 feet north of the Chambers Street station.

The flames quickly spread to a series of electrical cables. "Those cables short-circuited as a result of the fire, causing arcing as well as fire inside a relay room," said a Fire Department spokesman, Michael R. Loughran.

The fire underscored the fragility of the antiquated equipment that keeps the subways moving and of the sensitive nodes where that equipment is stored. Officials said they believed that there were only two companies in the world that were able to repair the signals. One is based in Pittsburgh, and the other in Paris.

The fixed-block signaling system has been in use since the New York subway's inception in 1904. The transit agency has invested $288 million on its first computerized signaling system, scheduled to make its debut on the L line in Brooklyn and in Manhattan in July. Computer-based train operation has been a goal for decades, but since 1982 the transit agency has focused its capital spending on basic maintenance.

Dozens of signal relay rooms like the one destroyed on Sunday are scattered throughout the 722-mile subway system, and it is impossible to fireproof them, Mr. Reuter said. Firefighters had to forcibly remove the bolts when they arrived at the locked relay room on Chambers Street, but the locks did nothing to prevent the fire from entering. [...]

An expert on the city's subways expressed amazement that a single fire in a confined space could have such a long-lasting impact. "It seems astonishing that a single signal room would be so central to the operation of the line that it would take five years to recover from," said Clifton Hood, a transit historian at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.

"That's about as long as it took to build that entire line of the IND."

Comment: It seems we're not the only ones who find the whole situation a bit curious!

Instead of waiting for one of two companies in the entire world to replace the antiquated system, why not upgrade it with a modern, computerized version? Surely that would take less than "three to five years" to complete. Yes, the subway would require a custom system, but we don't live in 1904 anymore. And, as the article indicates, computerized systems for subway control already exist.

It turns out that this type of fire is not the first one to hit the subway system...

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Are The Subways Secure Enough?
By The Eyewitness News' Jim Hoffer
(New York) — There are huge problems tonight for the New York subway. Several lines are either shut down or re-routed after a fire at a switching station.

It all happened after a fire was set by someone who apparently wandered into an unauthorized area. How did it happen, especially in an age of heightened security? Is there enough being done to protect restricted areas on the rails?

The investigator' Jim Hoffer joins us now with more.

How fragile can a subway system be? One homeless man and a shopping cart filled with debris crippled the A and C lines. Several transit security experts and sources behind the scenes say this latest fire underscores the system's vulnerability.

As MTA workers assess the fire damage to its control room, burning questions about safety and security emerge.

Councilman John Liu, who chairs the transportation committee, says a homeless man just trying to keep warm has exposed how incredibly unprotected the city's subway system is.

John Liu - (D), NYC Council Member: "It does not bode well for the safety of the passengers. It certainly does not bode well for protecting our system against terrorist attacks."

A key question is - why wasn't this critical control room that housed vital switching equipment, not completely fireproof. It's not like this has never happened before. Back in 1999 a control room fire impacted service on Brooklyn's G line for months.

Comment: Months, not three to five years...

Doctor Robert Paaswell, the former director of Chicago's Transit Authority, says this latest fire should force the city to reexamine whether New York transit should go back to having its own police force, like it did before merging with the NYPD in 1995.

Back then the transit authority had close to 5,000 police. But today, according to an NYPD website, it has less than 3,000 in its transit division.

Robert Paaswell, Phd., City College of New York: "You can have a much quicker response if you control your own security force."

There are hundreds of control rooms and fireproofing all of them would cost millions and millions. Something else to remember here: every year for several years now, both the city and the state have cut funding to the MTA. They're being asked to do more and more with less and less.

Comment: It seems that in 1999, a control room fire affected service on one line for only a matter of months. Perhaps the rest of the article gives a clue as to the real reason for the unusually long repair delay - terrorism!

Then again, if authorities aren't even sure of what started the fire, they may have much a bigger problem on their hands. Without further data, we can only speculate - but the unusually long repair timetable should certainly raise a few eyebrows at the very least...

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3 NYC Firefighters Die in 2 Fires; 4 Hurt
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK — A fierce fire in a Bronx apartment building trapped six firefighters Sunday and forced them to jump from a fourth-floor window, killing two of them and severely injuring four others. Later, a third firefighter was killed at a Brooklyn blaze.

The Bronx fire started in a third-floor apartment, and the six firefighters were searching for people on the fourth floor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

"When the fire from the third floor broke through to the fourth, they were faced with a horrifying choice," he said. "They jumped out a fourth-floor window, knowing that they would be critically injured."

Witnesses said it looked as though the firefighters were blown from the building. [...]

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Fire at Montreal seniors residence injures 11
Last Updated Mon, 24 Jan 2005 13:31:33 EST
CBC News

MONTREAL - A fire broke out at a Montreal seniors residence on Monday and injured 11 people, including two Hydro-Québec workers and a firefighter.

The blaze forced 157 people to leave the building despite light snow and a wind chill that made it feel like –20.

Emergency workers said a utility worker was in critical condition in hospital, while eight residents were among those who had minor injuries. Several people were taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation.

"We had an explosion in the boiler room here," said Gilles Ducharme of the Montreal Fire Department. [...]

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Thousands flee as death toll in Kenyan water clashes rises
(AFP) Jan 24, 2005

MAI MAHIU, Kenya - Terrified villagers in Kenya's central Rift Valley continued to flee their homes on Monday, fearing new violence after at least 15 people were killed in weekend tribal clashes over water rights.

Despite government claims to have arranged and secured a truce by boosting the police presence in the region, streams of people -- most of them from the Kikuyu tribe -- were still arriving at a makeshift camp here in the shadows of the Mount Longonot volcano.

More than 2,000 displaced Kikuyu are now in Mai Mahiu township while a large but undetermined number of Maasai tribespeople were reported to have fled their homes for Narok, further west.

The fighting, which started on Friday, pits crudely armed tribal warriors from the nomadic Maasai against Kikuyu farmers in the Mai Mahiu region, about 60 kilometers (35 miles) northwest of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

"We have lost everything," said John Kinyanjui, a small-scale farmer, as despairing Kikuyu tribesmen roamed the dusty, crime-ridden Mai Mahiu township.

"We are now hoping the government will protect us and help us," he told AFP. [...]

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Earthquake shakes Kuril islands
Jan 24 2005 9:22AM

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK. Jan 24 - Underground tremors measuring four points on the Richter scale were registered at 07:32 a.m. on Monday in Severo-Kurilsk, Paramushir island.

The Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk seismological station told Interfax that the epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean 80 kilometers south of the island.

The quake did not cause any death or destruction. There was no threat of a tsunami to the Kuril Islands.

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Cold snap grips western Europe
PARIS (AFP) Jan 24, 2005

A cold snap gripped much of western Europe on Monday with temperatures dipping below zero and snow and ice affecting traffic in many areas.

Traffic around Germany was held up in several regions as snow blocked roads and ice made driving difficult, police said, with some 70 weather-related traffic jams across the country.

In the northwestern North Rhine-Westphalia region, Germany's most populated, police said there more than 760 accidents from Sunday afternoon thru Monday morning.

Icy conditions in southern Germany near the border with Austria between Passau and Ratisbonne caused a massive pile-up of at least 15 trucks and 20 cars, injuring 18 people.

At least 25 accidents were reported on the main highway near Delmenhorst, northern Germany, due to icy roads, leaving one person seriously injured and many people hurt. The road was temporarily closed.

In Saxony state, in the southeast, the driver of a truck transporting wooden planks lost control of his vehicle near Chemnitz. It hit a car and overturned on the road, blocking both lanes for several hours. The driver, 33, escaped with minor head injuries.

In Britain, motorists were being warned of potentially hazardous road conditions on Monday, with snowfalls expected to hit eastern parts of the country.

Up to five centimetres (around two inches) of snow, as well as hail and sleet, was expected to fall on eastern Scotland and eastern parts of England, ranging from the far south to Northumberland in the north.

There was even a small chance of some snow in London, which in recent years has rarely seen snowfalls.

Temperatures also dipped in France, prompting the government to declare an alert calling for more space in homeless shelters.

Snow was reported in the northwest of the country, and local authorities in Normandy called on residents to limit their travel and to signal any homeless people left out in the cold.

The Meteo France weather service said to expect frigid temperatures of minus five and minus seven degrees Celsius (23 and 19 Fahrenheit) in the coming days in the eastern part of the country.

Portugal, Spain and Belgium were also affected by the cold snap.

This week should be the coldest this year in Portugal, the weather service said, while in Spain, where temperatures were expected to dip to minus 15 Celsius in the center of the country, the government urged motorists to try and stay off the roads.

In the Netherlands, a slight snowfall overnight and freezing temperatures led to what was described Monday morning as "historic" traffic jams equivalent to 560 kilometers (350 miles), or the distance between Amsterdam and Paris.

In Turkey heavy snowfall in almost all parts of the country since Saturday cut off hundreds of villages and disrupted traffic nationwide on roads which were overcrowded by motorists returning home after the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday.

In the central city of Kayseri, a 65-year-old man died Monday after he fell and hit his head on the iced ground while cleaning snow in his garden.

Heavy snowfall in Italy's central Abbruzi mountains forced the closure of schools near L'Aquila.

Blizzards in Albania kept most of the roads closed in the north and the south of the country.

Eight people were killed in a traffic accident near the northern town of Qafa e Buallit during a heavy blizzard on Sunday, police said.

But Swedes, who two weeks ago were battered by strong winds, found themselves enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures and an unusual lack of snow.

"If this continues into February, this will be one of the warmest winters in a long time," Hans Alexandersson, a climate specialist at Sweden's national meteorology institute, told AFP.

Unseasonably warm temperatures in Finland, around freezing instead of the usual minus 15 to minus 10 degrees, have allowed high-speed ferries to continue operating in the Gulf of Finland.

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In Calgary, it's shorts; in Halifax, shovels
From Monday's Globe and Mail

Newfoundlanders were preparing for another winter wallop as Nova Scotia was battered yesterday by the third blizzard in a week, part of record-breaking weather that left most of the East shivering and shovelling while much of the West was either warm or wet.

Nova Scotia, along with parts of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, was pounded yesterday by a raging nor'easter that cancelled most flights and brought up to 60 centimetres of snow and wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres an hour.

"It's almost whiteout conditions right here. The snow's blowing pretty hard and there's lots of snow on the ground," said David Leblanc, a cashier at Wilson's Gas Stop in Halifax.

"A lot of people are coming in complaining about it, wishing it would stop, but there's really not much we can do about it."

The weather, which was so fierce some snowplows were taken off the road, slowed efforts to tow a fishing vessel that suffered mechanical failure about 250 kilometres southeast of Cape Breton on Friday. The ship was expected to reach port last night, said Ray McFadgen of the coast guard.

The storm is expected to intensify and pummel Newfoundland today, adding to the effects of a separate weather system that rocked the province on Saturday, blanketing St. John's with 60.1 cm of snow, which broke the all-time winter record of 54.9 cm set in 1959.

"When it hits the Atlantic Ocean, it's picking up some moisture and it's getting worse," Environment Canada forecaster Michel de Grosbois said.

Hearty Newfoundlanders flocked to stores yesterday to replenish supplies, snapping up all the snow blowers at an "extremely busy" Canadian Tire in St. John's.

"They're being prepared for the coming storm," harried clerk Lesley Saunders said.

The fierce storm that thumped Nova Scotia yesterday is the same one that hit Southern Ontario on Saturday with up to 15 cm of snow in Toronto and wind chills around —30 and snarled roads and air travel. The system, which originated in the U.S. Midwest, also struck the U.S. Northeast yesterday, dumping up to 75 cm of snow on Boston.

The Ontario Provincial Police received reports of more than 800 accidents Saturday, most of which were in the Greater Toronto Area and the Niagara Region. There were no serious injuries.

"People [drive] too fast and they don't take into consideration what the weather and road conditions are like, and they just seem to want to speed, so they wind up in the ditch," Sergeant Joe Bosi said.

At Pearson International Airport in Toronto, the storm affected nearly every flight Saturday, causing delays and cancellations, leaving airlines scrambling to catch up yesterday. Their efforts were slowed by an unrelated glitch in the computerized baggage system, said Connie Turner, spokeswoman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

Toronto Fire Services Captain Michael Strapko said it appears yesterday's slightly warmer temperatures caused a water main to flood a hydro electrical station in downtown Toronto, closing stores and tourist attractions and leaving residents without electricity and phone service for an estimated 12 hours. Alberta, on the other hand, was basking in spring-like weather. Calgary hit 14 yesterday, as residents donned shorts and went jogging and cycling.

"I'm doing a lesson right now with a guy with his shorts on, but it's not golfable," said Kent Racz, a golf pro at the Calgary Golf and Country Club. "It's beautiful, though." It was so balmy on Saturday evening, Mr. Racz said, he smoked a cigar in his short sleeves at 10 p.m. on his deck.

On the wet West Coast, British Columbians contended with yet another day of rain as officials extended an evacuation order to 10 North Vancouver families whose homes are under threat from mudslides.

Saturday's 39.4 millimetres of rainfall broke the previous Jan. 22 record of 35.8 mm in 1959.

"They're tired of it. . . . People are itchy to get gardening, to get spring happening," said Greg Vaughan, nursery manager at Garden Works in Vancouver.

"It's depressing. It took me three hours to get home from work the other night, too, because the road was closed because it was flooded. It usually takes an hour."

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Flooding threatens small community in B.C. Interior
Last Updated Mon, 24 Jan 2005 20:07:01 EST
CBC News

BIRCH ISLAND, B.C. - About 100 people have been ordered to leave their homes in the community of Birch Island, B.C., because of the threat of flooding.

The North Thompson River flows through the community, about 100 kilometres north of Kamloops, and is jammed with ice and swelling. A bridge has already been damaged.

About 20 homes have been evacuated and 11 houses have been flooded. Emergency officials say the situation could get much worse over the next 24 hours. [...]

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4 Calgarians caught in avalanche, 2 killed
Web Posted   Jan 24 2005 07:44 AM MST CBC News

CALGARY - Two Calgary skiers were killed and a third seriously injured when an avalanche roared down an Austrian mountainside over the weekend.

The massive slide – about 300 metres wide – claimed the lives of five people in total, including a third Canadian.

Linda Putnam, 40, and Hugh Hincks, 57, died in the avalanche.

Helen Hincks, 53, is listed in critical condition in hospital. Putnam's husband Todd Gardiner was briefly knocked out by the slide, but was able to try to rescue his wife and friends.

The slide hit at a resort in the Alps, near Innsbruck. The area had been hit with heavy snow, strong winds and mild temperatures in the days before, prompting an escalation of the avalanche alert system.

Austrian officials said the skiers and snowboarders caught in the slide were out of bounds, but a relative of Gardiner's told the Calgary Herald that he had assured them the two couples were in-bounds and had hired a guide.

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Earthquake jolts tsunami-scarred Indonesian coast; magnitude unknown
Canada East

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) - An earthquake jolted tsunami-ravaged Aceh province late Tuesday afternoon, but the magnitude of the quake wasn't immediately known.

The tremor, which hit around 4:50 p.m., lasted about 10 seconds. Local seismic experts didn't immediately know the quake's epicentre or magnitude.

Areas along the shores of the Indian Ocean have been jolted by numerous aftershocks since the Dec. 26 tsunami that was spawned by the world's largest earthquake in 40 years - keeping residents still recovering from the disaster on edge.

At least 14 aftershocks hit Aceh on Monday, the strongest with a 6.0 magnitude, according to the local geophysics station.

A strong earthquake Monday on Sulawesi island, far from Aceh, sent residents fleeing to the hills even though it was centred under land and not strong enough to create a tsunami.

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Remains of ten thousand year old rice
www.chinaview.cn 2005-01-25 15:00:12
BEIJING, Jan. 25 -- The Shangshan site at Huangzhai township's Qunan Village, located in Pujiang County and under Zhejiang Province's Jinhua city, is one of the earliest Neolithic Age ruins that has been discovered in China to date.

Recently, another significant archaeological breakthrough occurred at the site: the discovery of the remains of cultivated rice dating back ten thousand years proves that the downstream area of the Changjiang River, where the Shangshan site is located, is one of the earliest places in the world where grain cultivation was a way of life. [...]

The Wenbo Academy of Beijing University carried out tests on the samples. They discovered several traces of cultivated rice on the surface of the coal pottery as well as in the earth around the pottery.

The observations of the structures of these cultivated rice husks in the pottery pieces showed that the grains were shorter but wider than wild grains, and were cultivated rice that had been selected by human beings from the early civilization.

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Uncovered at last: the sightings of strange flying objects found in Britain's 'X-Files'

By Robert Verkaik
22 January 2005

They contain Britain's very own X-Files: thousands of classified documents detailing credible observations of unidentified flying objects reported by RAF personnel, British Airways pilots and senior police officers.

Now under the Freedom of Information laws, files previously held by the Ministry of Defence's special UFO department, known as SF4, are being released to the public.

Among the most credible reports of a possible visit by extraterrestrial life-forms is one made by an RAF pilot and two NCOs at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland.

In July 1977 Flt Lt A M Wood reported "bright objects hanging over the sea''. The MoD document adds that the RAF officer said the closest object was "luminous, round and four to five times larger than a Whirlwind helicopter". The UFOs were reported to be three miles out to sea at a height of about 5,000ft.

The officer, whose report is supported by Cpl Torrington and Sgt Graham, said: "The objects separated. Then one went west of the other, as it manoeuvred it changed shape to become body-shaped with projections like arms and legs." The men who were positioned at the picket post at the RAF station were able to observe the strange objects for an hour and 40 minutes.

At the same time a radar station detected the objects in exactly the same position as the men had observed them. It registered them to be between 30 to 35 degrees before they disappeared from the screen.

The report describes Flt Lt Wood as "reliable and sober". It adds: "Two contacts were noted on radar, both T84 and T85, at RAF Boulmer. They were also seen on the Staxton Wold radar picture which is relayed to West Drayton... On seeing the objects on radar the duty controller checked with the SRO at RAF West Drayton as to whether he could see the objects on radar supplied from RAF Staxton Wold."

This account was deemed so sensitive to the national interest that the MoD had delayed its release for an extra three years. But under the Freedom of Information Act, which came into force on 1 January, the file has been reviewed and declassified.

Some of the other reports are equally compelling. A British Airways Tri-Star on a return flight from Portugal in July 1976 was involved in an incident which led to the scrambling of fighter jets.

The MoD report says that the Tri-Star captain reported "four objects - two round brilliant white, two cigar-shaped" 18 miles north of Faro. The captain was so alarmed by what he and the passengers had seen that he reported the sighting to air traffic controllers at Lisbon and Heathrow. The report says that fighters were immediately scrambled from Lisbon.

Shortly afterwards another Tri-Star crew on the same flight path reported a similar unexplained sighting. This time they said there was a "bright object with two contrails" between Fatima and Faro. It remained stationary before moving north and then "changing in length".

In another incident in the same month two Tri-Star co-pilots and five of their cabin crew reported "passing underneath a bright white circular object".

The files also contain reports compiled by police officers of their first-hand experiences of observing UFOs. On 8 April 1977, Superintendent Cooper of West Yorkshire Police described a sighting while on duty in a patrol car in Laisterdyke. He said: "I looked to my right and through the side window of the car I saw a bright silver light. At first I thought this was a bright star. It was low in the sky, a long distance away... then I thought that this light was moving. The light was visible just over the rooftops of the houses on Ferrand Avenue at the junction with Hambledon Avenue."

Superintendent Cooper continued to observe the object as it moved along the rooftops until the light "suddenly vanished". He said: "The light went out and I could see nothing whatsoever in the sky where the light had been. I then contacted Operations who reported no other sightings recorded."

MoD officers working at the UFO unit have often made reference to the credibility of the person making the reports. Observations made by former servicemen appear to be taken more seriously than others. An MoD report sent from RAF Cosford on 14 July 1976 noted that the 66-year-old woman from Wolverhampton, who claimed to have seen a "white, bar-shaped" object in the night sky, was married to a retired RAF pilot but later the report added dismissively: "He did not observe anything from his seated position."

But the veracity of the reports is brought into question as soon as there is any suspicion of alcohol influencing the observations. Several sightings between 2 and 5 September 1977 are dismissed even though the informants are adamant they saw a "pulsating bright light, emitting a vapour trail" near Derby. The file ends: "Four witnesses had been imbibing at the local hostelry and their sightings were discounted."

Scepticism creeps into the MoD reports if it emerges that it is not the first time a person has seen a UFO. Between 7 and 8 August 1976, a Rotherham man reported four sightings to his local radar station. The comment on the UFO file reads: "He evidently runs a UFO sightings club and has been logging UFOs for three years."

British UFO hunters will no doubt use these sorts of comments to help support the theory that the Government has been suppressing evidence of a visit by extraterrestrial life.

However, some of the sightings strike a rather salutary note. A white, bright light that caught the attention of a woman in Tenterden in September 1977 was immediately reported to Ashford police station and her observations duly noted.

But in the MoD file, the officers find a more mundane explanation for her experience. The officers says: "She saw a long white light in the front with a flashing red light at the rear. The informant states: 'like a jumbo jet'."

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Fukuoka residents mistake vapor trail for UFO
(Mainichi Shimbun, Japan, Jan. 24, 2005)
The orange object is pictured in the sky above Fukuoka on Sunday.

FUKUOKA -- A vapor trial left by an airplane caused a commotion in Fukuoka, after residents thought it was a meteor or UFO and flooded a local meteorological office with calls.

Residents saw the unusual orange object in the sky on Sunday evening, and began phoning the Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory to ask what it was.

As the calls continued, officials checked it and found that it was actually an aircraft vapor trail that had been lit up by the late afternoon sun.

Observatory officials said vapor trails can suddenly be cut off due to the amount of moisture in the air, creating the appearance of a comet tail.

"It's actually something that happens a lot. There's no need to worry," a worker at the observatory said.

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