Translations from other sites
Travel Log! The
Quantum Future Group Goes to Rennes-le-Chateau
Control, Thought Control, World Control
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
or the Day After Tomorrow?
woman feeds birds from her frozen porch in Hull, Massachusetts.
The town, about 20 miles southeast of Boston, is located on a
peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and Boston Harbor.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- At least six people died
in a snow-covered camp for former Afghan refugees and another five
died on a frozen highway after temperatures dropped below freezing,
officials said Monday.
Afghans say this winter is the harshest
for several years, bringing welcome snowfall after years
of drought but also deadly conditions for motorists and impoverished
former refugees living in makeshift shelters.
Six people, including four children, died in recent days in a
camp housing returnees in the capital, Kabul, said Ahmad Shah Shokomand,
a Health Ministry spokesman. Nighttime temperatures dropped as low
as zero degrees in the city, compared to normal lows that hover
around freezing, according to NATO peacekeepers.
On the icy highway between Kabul and Kandahar, two people were
fatally injured in accidents and another three died of exposure
Saturday after abandoning their vehicle to walk to a nearby town,
said Gov. Khial Mohammed Husseini of Zabul province.
Unusual events "unheard of in the history
of seismology" have been recorded in the Andaman and Nicobar
islands, with more than 120 such events being recorded in the last
one month, according to seismologists.
The seismology department of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
and the Earth Sciences Department of the Indian Institute of Technology
here have recorded over 120 such unusual events in the islands following
the December 26 earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale that
triggered tsunamis which wreaked havoc in several parts of the country.
Of these events recorded at BARC's Gouribidnur station in Karnataka,
at least 33 events were above 5 on the Richter
scale, they said, adding "this
is unusual and alarming as large amount of energy is being released
Eleven events with surface wave of magnitude 5, indicating large
amount of energy close to Nicobar Islands was also recorded, the
"Since yesterday, 16 events which range from
5.2 to 5.8 on the Richter scale have been recorded," they said.
"Whether these events are foreshocks or aftershocks
- it is not clear, and has to be taken up seriously and the data
analysed as fast as possible," the scientists said.
"Both 'strike slip and 'dip slip are taking place simultaneously
and these factors have to be taken very seriously both by scientists
and authorities," they added. [...]
The bizarre pattern of aftershocks ranging
between 5.2 and 6.2 Richter continues in the Tsunami hit Nicobar
island of India. According to PTI, another earthquake measuring
5.6 on the Richter scale hit India's Nicobar Islands today, the
Hong Kong Observatory said The earthquake was recorded at 0536 GMT
with its epicenter about 345 kilometers northeast of Banda Aceh
in Indonesia's Aceh province.
The tribal people are saying that many miles below the earth's
surface, something is happening they never experienced before.
According to sources, the tectonic level disturbances based on
recorded and plotted aftershock quakes, are very slowly moving northwards
towards Assam in India.
A theory exist that says the recent massive earth quake in northeast
of Banda Aceh in Indonesia's Aceh province really has its roots
in the series of earthquakes in Assam over the last three years.
It seems the Andaman plate line of 700 miles
may be collapsing. That will be a much larger catastrophe.
SAPPORO — An earthquake registering a
preliminary magnitude of 5.8, jolted eastern Hokkaido Monday evening,
the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the
6:39 p.m. quake. The quake measured 3 on the Japanese seismic intensity
scale of 7 in Churui and Hiroo, the agency said.
JAKARTA, Jan. 31 (Xinhuanet) -- An earthquake
measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale on Monday shook the tsunami-hit
Indonesian province of Aceh, where more than 20 aftershocks have
been reported since a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami on
The tremor occurred at 10:08 local time (03:08 GMT) Monday and
lasted for about 20 seconds, the provincial geophysics agency reported,
as quoted by the Antara news agency.
The epicenter was located beneath the water off Sumatra island,about
30 km northwest of the Aceh provincinal capital of Banda Aceh.
The quake caused panic among residents but there was no report
| WELLINGTON, Feb. 1 (Xinhuanet) --
An earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale struck the lower
North Island of New Zealand at 6:31 a.m. (GMT 1731) Tuesday.
According to New Zealand's Institute of Geological and Nuclear
Sciences, the quake was centered 40 km southeast of Martinborough
near Wellington, at a depth of 20 km. It was felt in the Wairarapa
and Wellington regions.
The quake was the latest in a flurry of seismic activity in recent
This morning's quake was centered at the same location as sevenof
ten quakes which shook the Wairarapa and Wellington in a ten-hour
period on Jan. 18. The biggest measured 5.3.
A 5.5 magnitude quake centered near Upper Hutt, 30 km north of
Wellington, struck on Jan. 21 - the largest in the region for nine
years. It was quickly followed by a smaller quake, measuring 3.7.
On Jan. 28 the region was rocked by another small earthquake,
measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale and centered within 30 km of
Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast near Wellington.
Scientists in New Zealand record around 14,000 earthquakes a year,
of which about 20 have a magnitude greater than 5.0.
The last fatal earthquake in the country, caught between the Pacific
and Indo-Australian tectonic plates, was in 1968 when an earthquake
measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale killed three people on the South
Island's West Coast.
| JAKARTA - An earthquake measuring
5.6 on the Richter scale rocked Indonesia’s Java island early
Tuesday but there were no reports of casualties or damage, seismologists
The undersea earthquake occurred at 03:21 am (2021 GMT Monday)
with the epicentre 19 kilometers (12 miles) south of the town of
Lumajang in East Java province, said Subagyo of the National Meteorology
and Geophysics Agency.
Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of thousands of islands, lies
at the junction of three major tectonic plates that cause frequent
earthquakes and trigger regular volcanic eruptions.
A 9.0-strong earthquake off Indonesia’s Sumatra island on
December 26 produced tsunamis that left about 280,000 people missing
or dead around the Indian Ocean.
A light earthquake was registered in Bulgaria
around midnight, the Seismological Centre at the Bulgarian Academy
of Science reported.
The quake measured 2.8 on the Richter scale and its epicenter was
located 180km southeast of Sofia.
There were no immediate reports of damages, the State Agency for
Civil Protection informed. [...]
A new phenomenon has stunned the
people of Central Sulawesi, in the wake of a recent 6.2-magnitude
earthquake in the region.
New hot springs have emerged in Bobo subdistrict, Donggala regency,
southeast of Palu, shortly after the quake jolted the area on Jan.
The biggest hot spring had formed a pool 6 meters square, while
dozens of smaller ones were also scattered around the subdistrict.
Many residents were surprised to find water boiling up in the new
springs with a distinct sulfuric odor. According to local residents,
it takes just two minutes to poach an egg.
| A volcano on the Papua New Guinea
island of Manam is spewing lava, rocks and ash onto villages, leaving
one man missing and several others injured, officials have said.
Hundreds of Manam islanders were evacuated to the mainland after
the eruption early Friday.
At least one man is feared dead in the destruction.
"We believe he was buried by a lava flow," said Eric
Ani, the director of the National Disaster Centre, in a telephone
Several other villagers had been injured by falling rocks, he said.
"It rocked the whole island and sent rocks over the whole
island as well. Rocks, some as big as footballs, falling onto houses
and catching them on fire. It was quite devastating," Cabinet
Minister Peter Barter told Radio New Zealand International.
Ani said the volcano had left a think blanket of ash covering the
entire island, contaminating the water supply and making the island
uninhabitable for its residents, who had been evacuated to Papua
New Guinea's mainland.
"They will stay on the mainland for a while until we are sure
they can return," Ani said.
Manam's first recorded eruption was in 1616, and it has erupted
at least 30 times since.
The volcano has been erupting sporadically since last year. In
November, hundreds of villagers were evacuated after it began spewing
ash over the island.
The 1,807 metre volcano, about 650 km north of the capital, Port
Moresby, is the most active in Papua New Guinea, which lies along
the volcanic Pacific Ring of Fire and is dotted with active volcanoes.
The Ebeko volcano has awoken
with a jolt at the North Kuril island of Paramushir in the Russian
According to the spokesperson for the Sakhalin Region's Main Civil
Defense and Emergency Department, the seismic activity of the volcano
has increased considerably and the temperature in its crater has
risen, with the volcano being situated just 7 km away from the city
Ebeko's crater is trailing a steam plume about 500 m high, and
sulphurous gas can be smelled in Severo-Kurilsk.
The state of the volcano indicates an eruption is possible in the
near future, the press service reported. In such a case, ash fallout
and eruptive tuffs might hit the city. A power generation plant
and the central city hospital are within the danger zone.
The Ebeko volcano is 1,156 m high above sea level. Last time, it
erupted between 1987 and 1990. The volcano erupts roughly every
10-30 years, the spokesperson said.
Scientists are monitoring two
volcanoes that the Alaska Volcano Observatory says could send dangerous
ash into the air. Mount Spurr, 80 miles west of Anchorage across
Cook Inlet, has been having daily small earthquakes since July after
12 years of inactivity. The observatory classifies it as Code Yellow,
meaning an eruption is possible.
Mount Veniaminof, about 500 miles southwest of Anchorage on the
Alaska Peninsula, changed from Code Green, or "dormant,"
to Code Yellow about Jan. 1. On Jan. 10, the observatory changed
that to Code Orange, meaning "in eruption." Ash plumes
from Mount Veniaminof can be seen on sunny days and have been photographed.
Even when clouds obscure the summit, seismic records indicate the
eruption is continuing, said John Power, a geophysicist at the observatory.
Ash has fallen in the vicinity
of the Eurasia-largest volcano, Klyuchevskoy, as a result of its
According to the Kamchatka experimental and procedures seismic
station, the crater is ejecting steam and ash as high as up to 1
km. The plume has stretched out at more than 100 km in the northwestern
Seismic stations near the volcano have registered high-frequency
vibration. Video monitoring of the volcano is difficult because
of its remoteness and adverse weather conditions. However, scientists
think that the vibration was accompanied by a discharge of ash or
a lava stream. Dark volcanic ash has fallen in the vicinity of Klyushevskoy.
According to Alexei Ozerov, senior researcher with the Volcanology
and Seismology Institute of the Far Eastern Division of the Russian
Academy of Sciences, the summit crater, which is about 700 m in
diameter, is being filled with lava. The magnitude of the eruption
that began on January 17 has been growing.
Summit crater eruptions normally last from a month to several years,
posing a serious threat to domestic and international air services.
Foreign object damage (FOD) to jet engines from volcanic ash particles
that may be up to 2 mm in diameter can result in engine failure.
At present, the Klyuchevskoy volcano that is 4,822 m high does
not jeopardize urban areas nearby, of which the town of Klyuchi
30 km away from the foot of the volcano is the closest one.
On January 12, 2005 NASA launched
its latest space probe, Deep Impact, named after the recent Hollywood
science fiction film. Recall, in the cliffhanger a team of courageous
astronauts (led by tough guy, Robert Duvall) sacrifice their lives
to deflect a speeding comet from its collision course with earth,
thus saving human civilization from catastrophe. NASA's newest mission
is also a last-ditch gambit, of sorts: an attempt to save the current
Open any astronomy book and you will read that comets are dirty
snowballs - conglomerates of ancient rock and ice left
over from the creation of the solar system. And it must be true,
right? After all, it says so in the textbooks, and surely the university
professors can't be wrong. The problem is
that over the five decades since Fred Whipple first proposed the
snowball model in 1950, neither NASA nor anyone has proved that
comets are actually made of ice. Every time NASA scientists
focus their instruments on the surface of comets, they see only
rocky stuff. Comets look like asteroids. So, where's the ice? After
failing repeatedly to find it, NASA has concluded that the ice must
be hidden by surface dust, or is buried out of sight. Deep Impact
will attempt to resolve this question by looking below the surface.
Next July, if all goes well, the unmanned Deep Impact spacecraft
will rendezvous with a small comet named Tempel 1, not to avert
a collision, but for the purpose of causing one. Once in position,
the craft will send a 300 pound "impactor" - essentially
a 3 foot diameter copper projectile - directly into
the speeding comet's path. No nuke or explosive charge will be needed
to blast a hole in the comet's surface. The comet's tremendous kinetic
energy will do that. Tempel 1 is clipping along at an estimated
12 miles a second.
The plan is to study the 100-300-foot crater excavated by the collision.
During its fly-by, the spacecraft will also gather spectroscopic
data from the ejected gas, dust and debris. Much planning has gone
into the selection of the impact site, to (hopefully) assure that
the crater will be in full sunlight, instead of shadow. Comet Tempel
1 has an irregular shape - it is only about 5 miles
in diameter. With a bit of luck, NASA's cameras will obtain a good
look at the comet's freshly excavated surface. It will be the first
time that NASA has actually probed the interior of a comet. NASA
expects to confirm the presence of ice.
Will they find it?
For the answer we will have to wait until next summer. When the
rendezvous happens - assuming things go according to
plan - earth bound folks with binoculars will be treated
to a show of celestial fireworks; although exactly how bright and
visible the collision will be is open to question. The event will
take place - believe it or not - on the
fourth of July, independence day. One wonders if the neocons in
Washington had something to do with this. At very least, the date
shows the extent to which science has been politicized.
Snowball in Hell
But, somewhere, God must be laughing at us silly humans, because
NASA has about as much chance of finding ice in Tempel 1 as the
proverbial snowball in hell. It just ain't going to happen. There's
too much contrarian evidence. It's been accumulating for years,
and should have melted the ice model, long ago. Yet, NASA stolidly
presses onward. The agency greets every new anomaly with ad hoc
improvisations, and has gone to increasingly outlandish lengths
to preserve its ice theory. Why? Answer: because so much hangs in
the balance. The stakes are very high. More is involved than simply
comets. At issue is the Red Shift, the expanding universe, the theory
of black holes, and yes, even the big bang - all at
risk if NASA's cometary house of cards comes crashing down.
To see why the ice model is wrong, let us look at several anomalies:
In 1991 Halley's Comet caused a stir by announcing itself from
so far away - it was then between the orbits of Saturn
and Uranus. Halley's is one of the smaller comets, yet it became
visible at fourteen times the distance of the earth from the sun,
a fact that solar heating cannot explain. The standard explanation
is that the sun's warmth is responsible for the cometary coma and
tail. But at that enormous distance the sun was simply too faint.
Evidence of an even more remarkable phenomenon, the sunward spike
- previously unknown - was first documented in a 1957 photograph
of the Comet Arend-Roland. This stunning feature must be seen to
Over the years since the first sunward spike was photographed,
dozens of other comets have been shown, at times, to display this
amazing phenomenon. The spikes always point
toward the sun. Yet, NASA has dismissed the photographic evidence - however
compelling - as nothing but an optical illusion, an
artifact, a play of light, etc. Obviously, NASA is in robust denial.
Why? Sunward spikes are incompatible with the current ice model.
On May 1, 1996 the Ulysses spacecraft documented another previously
unknown feature of comets, when it crossed the tail of Comet Hyakutake
at a point more than 350 million miles from the comet's nucleus.
The ephemeral tail, in other words, stretched across the equivalent
of three and a half times Earth's distance from the sun - a
number that is astonishing. The discovery was accidental - and
wholly unexpected. Scientists had never guessed that comet tails
were so long. Ulysses had been studying the solar wind, and
so, had the necessary equipment on board to detect the ions typically
associated with comets. The satellite also recorded the magnetic
field directional changes that are associated with comet tails.
Detailed analysis showed that both kinds of data were in agreement.
For most scientists, this was enough to confirm the discovery. Notice,
the remarkable tail length means that when Comet Hyakutake moved
around the sun toward its minimum point (perihelion), the invisible
portion of its tail arced across a vast reach of the solar system.
The fact that the tail maintained its integrity at such extreme
distance is incompatible with the standard view that the tail is
composed of materials blown away from the nucleus. Something more
is going on, here. The question is: What?
But the big event, also in 1996, was the
discovery of X-rays coming from the head of Hyakutake. This discovery
set the scientific world on its ear, because naturally occurring
X-rays are associated with extreme temperatures: in the range of
millions of degrees Kelvin. Yet, here they were coming from a supposed
ball of ice. There was no immediate word from NASA about
how or why an icy cold comet could produce X-rays. The discovery
was the work of the German ROSAT satellite, and no mistake about
it. During the next few years X-radiation was detected in half a
dozen other cases, including the Comet Hale-Bopp.
Four years passed before NASA finally announced a solution to the
puzzling anomaly. In April 2000, NASA conceded that extreme conditions
are necessary for X-ray emission to occur. But, rather than call
into question its own theory that comets are cold, NASA attempted
to square the circle. The agency explained that the X-rays had been
produced by the solar wind, which - it asserted - was
merely an extension of the extremely hot solar corona. NASA's explanation
explained nothing, and amounted to a contradiction, as any intelligent
high school science student should have been able to judge. The
official word showed that NASA was fumbling with a mystery it did
not understand, grasping at air like a blind man trying to steady
himself. (For NASA's official word go to http://spacescience.com/)
Next summer, when NASA fails to confirm the presence of ice in
the nucleus of Tempel 1, the question that the space agency should
have been asking in 1996 will become paramount. (Of course, this
does not mean that NASA will come clean. Indeed, it will be interesting
to see how far NASA is prepared to go to defend its ice model. Probably
the contortions will continue. Not for no reason the agency acronym
has been subject to redux: NASA - Never A Straight Answer.)
Everyone agrees that comets have an atmosphere. It is known as
the coma, and has been shown to include significant amounts of water
vapor, along with hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, gaseous hydrocarbons,
and various other compounds. The proportions vary from comet to
comet. The present model holds that the water comes from the cometary
nucleus. The thinking is that the sun's warmth causes the icy head
to sublimate, or out gas, and the solar wind pushes the vapors away
in the amazing tail that has always been a source of wonderment
and inspiration here on earth. No question, comets are beautiful
to behold on a starry night. But neither NASA nor anyone has shown
that the water actually comes from the nucleus. Such a deduction
is understandable, but it remains unsupported by evidence, and it
is almost certainly wrong. I have already cited the puzzling case
of Halley's Comet, whose visibility at extreme distance was incompatible
with solar warming. Here's the key question: If the head is NOT
made of ice, how then to account for the known presence of water
in the coma and tail? It's a safe bet that, next summer, NASA will
have no answer to this simple question. After all, they couldn't
explain the X-rays.
Not everyone was surprised by the discovery of
X-rays. One astronomer named Jim McCanney actually predicted them.
He did so as early as 1981 in a scientific paper first published
in the journal Kronos. McCanney even urged NASA officials to look
for X-rays when the agency was preparing a fly-by of Comet Giacobini-Zinner
in 1985. At the time, NASA's ISEE-3 satellite had already completed
its original mission, and was being reprogrammed for comet study.
The spacecraft had X-ray equipment on board, and McCanney urged
NASA to use it. Instead, NASA shut down the equipment to conserve
power. NASA's experts concluded that there was no point in leaving
the X-ray detector on, since there couldn't possibly be X-rays coming
from a cube of ice.
Fortunately, German scientists do not labor under NASA's ideological
thumb. The Germans took McCanney's recommendation seriously. In
1990 they launched a satellite of their own, the Roentgen Satellite
(ROSAT), which was equipped with an X-ray telescope. ROSAT continues
to search the heavens for high frequency X-rays. Earth-based X-ray
telescopes are not feasible, because earth's protective atmosphere
absorbs X-radiation. This was the satellite that independently made
the big discovery in 1996.
The Plasma Discharge Comet Model
McCanney is the originator of an alternative comet theory, what
he calls the Plasma Discharge Comet Model. His model challenges
several key assumptions current in today's science, which, he says,
must be overturned to correctly understand the nature of comets
and the workings of the solar system. One
of these assumptions is that space is electrically neutral. "Not
so," says McCanney. His comet model is, in fact, but a subset
of a grander theory that describes the electrical nature of the
sun. McCanney refers to it as the Solar Capacitor Model. He argues
that most of the energy released by the sun - by far - is
electrical, rather than in the visible spectrum. According to this
view, the sunward spikes are titanic bolts of solar electricity,
and comets are anything but cold. On the contrary, they are incredibly
hot and fiery crucibles in which chemical and nuclear transmutations
are occurring constantly.
McCanney thinks our earth and the other planets were originally
comets that were drawn from their more elliptical orbits into more
circular orbits. He is also quick to credit
another maverick thinker who preceded him: Immanuel Velikovsky.
In 1950 Velikovsky authored a controversial book, Worlds in
Collision, in which he argued, among other things, that science
had failed to account for the electromagnetic nature of comets.
Even as the book topped the bestseller charts, several prominent
figures in science, among them Carl Sagan, ridiculed Velikovsky
and eventually succeeded in destroying his reputation. Velikovsky's
name became almost synonymous with wacko nonsense. How ironic this
is - because the 1996 discovery of cometary X-rays has
made Velikovsky look like a prophet. If the Plasma Discharge Comet
Model turns out to be correct, McCanney will earn his rightful place
alongside Kepler, Galileo, and Newton; and the names Velikovsky
and McCanney will be remembered long after NASA and Sagan have been
Next time: Why it matters. How the Solar Capacitor Model could
save our civilization from self-destruction - now imminent.
To be continued...
Mission controllers cross their
fingers whenever the Sun is stormy and their spacecraft have to
fly over the South Atlantic. There, even satellites in low orbits
suffer many hits by atomic bullets from the Sun.
Troublesome faults occur in electronic systems and astronauts see
flashes in their eyes. The Earth's magnetic field, which shields
our planet against charged atomic particles coming from outer space,
is curiously weak in that region.
The South Atlantic Anomaly, as the experts call it, is one pressing
reason why they are intensifying their exploration of the Earth's
magnetism. Denmark's Orsted satellite, launched in 1999, is dedicated
to magnetic research, whilst Germany's CHAMP mission (2000) measures
both magnetism and gravity.
These satellites show that the danger zone for satellites over
Brazil and the South Atlantic is growing wider towards the southern
The Earth's magnetic field is becoming generally weaker at an astonishing
rate. When a French-Danish team compared Orsted's results for 2000
with those from an American satellite, Magsat, 20 years earlier,
the decline in the field's strength suggested that it might disappear
completely in a thousand years or so.
The experts wonder if our planet is preparing to swap its north
and south magnetic poles around, as it has often done before during
the Earth's long history.
These and other mysteries about our magnetic planet will get the
closer attention they deserve, in ESA's forthcoming Swarm project.
Three satellites will work together to measure the magnetic field
and its variations far more accurately than ever before. [...]
Separating the different sources of magnetism
Ordinary magnetic compasses obey the main magnetic field, produced
by electric currents in the Earth's core of molten iron. But in
magnetic storms, compass needles wander.
Since the 19th Century scientists have linked these storms to eruptions
on the Sun. Many space ventures, recently including the ESA-NASA
SOHO spacecraft and ESA's four-satellite Cluster mission, have helped
to clarify the solar connection.
We live in a protective bubble in space called the magnetosphere.
At its boundary, gusts in a non-stop solar wind of atomic particles
battle with the Earth's magnetism.
As a result, events in outer space make a continual but highly
variable contribution to the magnetic field. So do electric currents
in the ionosphere, the zone of free electrons and charged air molecules
high in the atmosphere that's best known for reflecting radio signals.
Other, much weaker patterns are overlaid on the global picture.
In the Earth's crust, many rocks have built-in magnetism that remembers
the direction of the main magnetic field when they formed.
This affects the field measured locally. By its subtle east-west
comparisons Swarm will picture the magnetic field of the crust with
unprecedented clarity. And even ocean water generates electric currents
as it move in the main field, so that the ebb and flow of the tides
have a slight magnetic effect.
As gauged by the satellites, the main field is roughly 6,000 times
stronger than the rock magnetism of the ocean floor, and 30,000
times greater than the influence of the oceanic tides.
Only with delicate measurements by satellite constellations, supported
by ground stations, ships and aircraft carrying magnetic instruments,
can scientists sort out all the patterns of magnetism from the different
The most careful analyses reveal yet another effect. Magnetic variations
drive electric currents in the mantle, the main region between the
core and the crust. These in turn cause further magnetic changes,
from which scientists can estimate the electrical conductivity of
the mantle. This provides a check on the temperature of the material
hidden deep in the Earth's interior.
"What excites us is the huge scope of what we can study even
with quite small satellites," comments Nils Olsen of the Danish
National Space Center in Copenhagen, who analyses Orsted's results
while he helps to plan Swarm.
"By making magnetic measurements in space we get new information
about the Earth, from the molten core deep under our feet, through
the mantle, to the crust on which we live. And then we go on upwards
into the upper atmosphere, through the planet's local space environment,
and all the way to the Sun itself, which is the source of daily
Solar storms can be fatal for satellites, and not only on account
of radiation damage. The atmosphere inflates and low-orbiting spacecraft
run into unexpected air resistance.
Experts used to think it was just a matter of the air being heated
by particles and electric currents in the regions around the poles,
where auroras occur.
Now a sensitive French-built accelerometer on the German CHAMP
satellite has revealed heating by intense currents where the solar
wind pushes towards the magnetic poles in daytime. The three Swarm
satellites will investigate this new effect with accelerometers
of their own.
Swarm's operational lifetime, 2009-13, will coincide with the next
expected peak of storminess on the Sun. Immediate practical benefits
will centre on Swarm's general monitoring of space weather, and
the solar events affecting not just spacecraft and astronauts but
technological systems on the ground as well.
Magnetic storms can damage power systems and pipelines, whilst
the changes in the magnetic field can mislead any navigational systems
that use magnetic compasses. These include compasses operating underground
to guide the drills used to find and recover oil.
For scientists, the biggest benefit of Swarm is that high-quality
magnetic measurements provide a new way of 'x-raying' the hidden
interior of planet. Earthquake waves and variations in the strength
of gravity already provide a picture of the hot core, the rocky
mantle that surrounds it, and the ever-active crust. But the picture
is not yet clear enough for scientists to agree how the internal
machinery of the planet really works.
"Magnetic measurements give a fresh point of view on the Earth's
interior," says Roger Haagmans, who is responsible for solid-Earth
science in ESA's Earth Observation programme.
"And Swarm will also investigate the puzzling changes in the
Earth's core that are responsible for the present weakening of the
magnetic field. That's already a matter of practical concern for
many satellite operators. With a better idea of the reasons, we
may know what to expect in the busy decades of spaceflight that
we have ahead of us."
Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev
called the Iraqi parliamentary elections a profanation.
In an interview with the Interfax news agency, he said the elections
are "very far from what true elections are. And even though
I am a supporter of elections and of the transfer of power to the
people of Iraq, these elections were fake."
"I don't think these elections will be of
any use. They may even have a negative impact on the country. Democracy
cannot be imposed or strengthened with guns and tanks," the
agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.
Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it respected the results
of Iraq's elections. However, the statement said that it was important
for the Iraqi people to acknowledge and accept the poll's results.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also welcomed the parliamentary
elections in Iraq, calling it a "step in the right direction"
and a "positive event".
PARIS - The Iraqi elections showed "the
strategy of terrorist groups partly failed," French President
Jacques Chirac told his US counterpart George W. Bush by telephone
Monday, officials in Paris said.
The Sunday poll was "an important stage in the political reconstruction"
of Iraq, Chirac told Bush in the 15-minute conversation, according
to presidential spokesman Jerome Bonnafont.
The French leader said the turnout and technical organisation of
the elections was "satisfactory," he added.
Between 60 and 75 percent of registered voters were estimated to
have cast ballots. The result of the elections would not be known
for several days.
Chirac reiterated that France was ready to "cooperate with
Iraq, especially by training security forces and senior civil servants."
Paris has refused US pressure to carry out such training in Iraq
After the elections, the focus in Iraq should be "including
all groups that have renounced armed struggle" and drafting
a constitution, Chirac said.
Bonnafont said that Chirac also took the opportunity to say to
Bush that he was looking forward to seeing him over dinner when
the US president visits Brussels February 21.
Paris and Washington have been making efforts of late to smooth
over the dispute caused by the US-led invasion of Iraq. Relations
are now cordial if tepid.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told the Europe 1 radio
station Monday that he and the rest of Chirac's government "don't
regret anything" over the way they acted in relation to the
"We said what we believed and we are looking straight ahead,"
he said. He added that the Iraqi elections "were a victory
for the Iraqi people and a first important step, which is indispensable
for democracy and for the political process that we want to see
and towards which we - I'm speaking of the international community
- have been working for months."
But he also stressed that they now laid the ground
for US and other foreign troops to leave Iraq.
"Frankly, the Americans want to exit
this tragedy, this situation where their soldiers are dying,"
Barnier said. [...]
Shi'ites will be in power in the Arab world
for the first time in 14 centuries. So Iraqi elections are indeed
historic. But it's not for US President George
W Bush to proclaim Sunday's elections "a success", even
before the results are known: it's for the Iraqi people, those who
did and also those who did not vote. The undisputable fact
is that apart from the Kurds - who since the first Gulf War in 1991
have lived under American protection - most Iraqis, Sunni or Shi'ite,
voter or non-voter, in public or in private, blame the United States
for the current chaos and their "liberation" from electricity,
water, jobs and security. History may still
reveal the case that Sunday's elections under occupation, with rules
established by the occupier, suit everyone except the long-suffering
27 million Iraqis.
Up to 8 million Iraqis, about 60% of eligible voters, are believed
to have voted nationwide, although this could not be verified. Voters
in Shi'ite and Kurdish areas turned out in large numbers. The turnout
in Sunni-dominated areas such as Fallujah and Mosul, where the insurgency
is strongest, and where Sunni leaders had called for a boycott,
was substantially lower.
The White House, the Pentagon and the neo-conservatives were forced
- by Shi'ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's brilliant brinkmanship
- to accept these elections, in which a Shi'ite victory is assured.
For many Iraqis, Sunni and Shi'ite, Washington's
endgame is not withdrawal, but finding the right proxy government:
only the naive may believe that an imperial power would voluntarily
abandon the dream scenario of a cluster of military bases planted
over virtually unlimited reserves of oil.
Washington doesn't even try to disguise
it, and in Baghdad, US-appointed interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi
is widely referred to as either "the man from the Americans"
or "Saddam without a moustache". In these elections,
where security was extremely tight - many candidates dared not appear
in public for fear of being shot - Allawi benefited from three exclusive
assets: name recognition; protection by 1,000 heavily armed guards;
and US-sponsored saturation television exposure (although most Iraqis
have no electricity at the moment). His campaign slogan was "A
strong leader for a strong country". Allawi is a secular Shi'ite,
but as a former Ba'athist, he also appeals to moderate Sunnis.
Asia Times Online sources in Baghdad suggest that the newly elected
National Assembly and new government will be very similar to Allawi's:
a mix of religious and secular parties, all of them led by former
exiles. A "Sunni parliamentary quota" is almost inevitable,
for two reasons: Sunni voter turnout was low; and Sunnis must be
represented in the drafting of the new constitution. It's important
to remember that the assembly itself will not write the new constitution;
instead, it will supervise the drafting committee. So it's imperative
that Sunnis are part of the committee, otherwise the constitution
may be shot down in the four Iraqi provinces with a Sunni-majority
when it is submitted for a referendum next September.
The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Sistani-blessed Shi'ite list
that will capture most of the popular vote, has officially dropped
its demand to negotiate the American departure. This
essentially means, from many a Sunni point of view, that the Shi'ites
will rely on the Americans to protect them from the Sunni resistance,
both secular and Islamist - as well as from the hundreds of thousands
of disgruntled, unemployed former Ba'athists who may or may not
(yet) be part of the resistance.
Ibrahim Jaafari, the official spokesman of the Hezb al-Dawa al-Islamiya
party, founded in 1957 (the oldest Iraqi Shi'ite party), the third
most popular figure in Iraq after Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr, the
No 2 at the UIA list and a serious contender for becoming the new
prime minister, has already spelled it out: "If the US pulls
out too fast there would be chaos." Jaafari, crucially, also
enjoys a lot of respect by moderate Sunnis.
Current Finance Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, a former Maoist and
Ba'athist turned free marketer, also a member of the UIA and strong
contender for becoming premier, has repeatedly talked about "realistic
thinking" in terms of securing Iraq. Mahdi is very close to
some members of the White House's National Security Council.
And the prize goes to...
Shi'ites swamped the polls in part because Sistani told them it
was a "religious duty" to vote. It's unclear how far the
next Sistani-blessed government will go to dispel the widely-held
Sunni perception of the elections as "a movie" directed
by the Americans and packaged to the rest of the world. The Shi'ite
leadership at the UIA cannot afford an enduring, widely held Sunni
perception of a Washington-Shi'ite alliance. Things
may get much worse. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the No 1 in the
UIA list - who has ruled out becoming the new prime minister - was
the leader of the Badr Brigades for almost 20 years. The Badr Brigades
- trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards - were the armed wing
of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
Now they're rebranded as the Badr Organization, a political party
also represented in the UIA. One can imagine
the volcanic possibility of the Badr Brigades being employed by
the Shi'ites to fight the Sunni resistance.
Muqtada will immediately pounce at any suggestion of a Shi'ite
cozying up to the Americans and denounce a Jaafari, Mahdi, or better
yet Allawi II government as an American puppet. Sheikh Hassan al-Zarqani,
the Sadrists' press officer, has already delivered the message in
unmistakable terms: "The Iraqi people
want a pullout timetable, security, job opportunities and social
services. We will obey the new elected government if it serves the
best interests of the Iraqi people. If not, we will be its arch
Iraq's Arab neighbors, for their part (as well as American neo-conservatives)
are afraid by the emergence of a so-called "Shi'ite crescent"
of Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah in Lebanon. What these anti-democratic
Arab regimes - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, all of them American
allies - fear is not only the specter of Bush-exported democracy,
but first and foremost the Shi'ites in power. It's no secret that
the Sunni resistance in Iraq gets a lot of help from inside Saudi
Arabia, Egypt and especially Jordan. Washington
insists "terrorists" move in total freedom from Syria
to Iraq. This is false. Islamists cross the border from Jordan,
with no hassle by American patrols, then take the highway to Baghdad.
The governments - not the people - of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan
all want the Americans to remain in Iraq. For
their part, competing big powers Russia, China and the European
Union are not exactly displeased to contemplate, from a distance,
Bush and the neo-cons' clumsy attempts to replicate the British
post-World War I empire in the Middle East.
It's the resistance, stupid
If the Sunni resistance is really 200,000-strong, as Iraq's chief
spook has announced, it is the resistance that will have the last
word. In a perverse twist of "reaping
what you sow", American abuses in Iraq have reaped so such
anger that nobody wants them to leave - even moderate Sunnis, because
everyone fears total chaos. The Americans created the conditions
for the emergence of a hardcore resistance. They created the conditions
for the emergence of suicide bombers. And
they created the conditions for staying: after all, now they need
to engage in counterinsurgency. As the Iraqi Islamic Party,
the biggest Sunni party puts it, even the resistance does not want
the Americans to leave. What moderate Sunnis want to see is a detailed
plan on the table, with fixed dates.
Americans - but not the rest of the world - are still unable to
understand why the resistance has become so powerful. Every faction
has its own reasons. Ba'athists are longing to recapture their lost
power. Salafists want Iraq to be part of the new caliphate. Moderate
Sunnis want the restoration of Sunni rule - which has always been
the rule in Iraq. Iraqi nationalists want to kick the foreigners
out - like they did with the Mongols, the Ottomans and the British.
That's why the resistance is a relentless, ever-expandable proposition,
but always under a unifying umbrella: to defeat the occupiers.
The Shi'ites may be on the brink of power after 14 centuries. Their
premier electoral promise - later reneged - was to negotiate a total
American withdrawal. If now their strategy is a "wait and see"
- let's train Iraqi forces to fight the Sunni resistance and then
we negotiate the American withdrawal - they may be in for a rude
shock and awe.
The only way the Iraqi elections would have
been interesting is if they'd stuck Saddam's name on the ballot.
Then we could've seen whether the Iraqi people are sick enough of
Bush's farce to want a return to the old order. Instead, we're left
ferreting through reams of trivia to sort out what the voting really
It's easier to figure out what it doesn't mean.
It doesn't mean that the water that has
been off for 8 straight days in Baghdad will come on anytime soon.
Nor does it mean that the sputtering electrical grid will work for
more than 4 hours a day, or that anyone is going to clean up the
raw sewage that's coursing through the streets in downtown Baghdad.
And it certainly doesn't mean that the newly "elected"
officials will have any real influence over borders, air space,
oil extraction, economic policy, deployment of troops or any of
the other powers we normally associate with sovereign leaders. (Even
the ridiculously named Iraqi National Bank is completely owned by
foreign investors) Those will still
be in the hands of their US overlords. They will however,
be frequently photographed by an enthusiastic media eager to display
America's latest satraps to the world. And, they can also expect
an engraved invitation to the upcoming State of the Union Speech,
where they'll be showcased next to Crawford Laura in the front-row,
upper-deck, like some exotic Amazonian bird captured in the wild.
(The Bush people are very big on diversity.)
So, although the elections may be a meaningless exercise of imperial
maneuvering, the coup was carried off with considerable skill.
For one thing, the western media proved, once again, its breathtaking
range and ability. All the major televised media featured virtually
the same lead without one dissonant voice. They praised the "brave
Iraqis who put themselves at risk to enjoy the blessings of democracy".
This "objective" account was accompanied by footage of
mile-long lines of expectant Iraqis waiting to cast their first
vote in free elections. No mention was made
of the fact that (as Robert Fisk noted) that the world media was
limited to exactly 5 polling stations that were secured by legions
of troops and armored vehicles in predominantly Shiite areas to
give the impression of widespread participation.
In keeping with the (Karl) Rovian philosophy of political hi-jinks,
the streets were swept-clean, the cement barricades
were hidden from view, and the rolls of razor-wire were scrupulously
kept off camera. All signs of city under siege were effectively
concealed. It was a solid effort on the part of the White
House producers who slapped this comedy together. Particularly admirable
were the scenes of enraptured Iraqis waving flags and gyrating with
abandon on the streets of Baghdad. What American could watch such
a heartwarming demonstration of elation and not feel choked-up by
the great gift Bush has bestowed on these simple people.
Alas, it was all a hoax as well. As Robert Fisk opines in his
latest article in the UK Independent, he stumbled on "three
truckloads of youths, all brandishing Iraqi flags-like the unemployed
who have been sticking posters to Baghdad's walls-paid by the government
to 'advertise' the election. And there was a cameraman from state
"Paid by the government"?
Ah-ha! Yet another public relations ploy like the carefully choreographed
toppling of Saddam in Fidros Square, or the staged landing of "Top-Gun"
Georgie B. on the USS Lincoln; this time arranged and financed by
ex-CIA operative (and former Saddam agent) Iyad Allawi.
Shame, shame, shame!...but, good theatre none the less. And, besides,
the charges of fraud won't be forthcoming anytime soon. For now,
the balloting is being celebrated by the media as another positive
step towards the anticipated "transfer of power". Just
listen to the unanimity of the approbation from the press: "Iraqis
Brave Bombs to vote in Millions" MSNBC... "This is Democracy!"
Reuters... "Brave Voters defy Rebels" NY Post... "Iraqis
begin Historic Vote" Washington Times.
Anyway, you get the idea. A quick perusing of Google headlines
produces 1,468 stories with nearly identical bylines. The western
press is either besotted with Iraq's "alleged" metamorphosis
or they're getting their marching orders from "Sec-Def"
at the Pentagon. Either way, don't waste your time looking for divergent
points of view in the establishment media. Anything that fails to
harmonize with the Conquistador agenda has been conscientiously
extracted by the roots.
NYT's profound remorse for the deceased
The "Paper of Record" gave its typically glib assessment
of the elections by noting "a comparatively peaceful day of
voting". In the parlance of the New
York Times that means that only 41 Iraqis will killed; "chump-change"
for America's prodigious war-machine, unless, of course, you happen
to be the unhappy wife or child who just lost your father or brother
to a nervous Marine with a hair-trigger finger. In any event
that's not the business of the NYTs. They've got a war to cover
and (like Tommy Franks says) they don't do body counts.
Similarly, Corporate George added his voice to the chorus of praise
with his characteristic chest-thumping, "I-told-you-so"
rhetoric saying "The people of Iraq have spoken to the world,
and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of
the Middle East....Terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage
their war against democracy, but we will support the Iraqi people
in their fight against them." And, Blah, blah, blah; like the
shallow whistling of hot air emerging from a flat tire.
George W. may be crowing "victory" a bit prematurely.
Iraq is not quite ready for the trophy-case along side Bush's Warlord-dominated,
drug-colony, Afghanistan. And, despite the celebratory braying from
the obsequious press, 20% of the population boycotted the elections,
and that 20% (Sunnis) have ruled Iraq as long as anyone can remember.
They'll have their say before the day is done.
Bush can revel in his Pyrrhic victory; everyone enjoys seeing
happy, ballot-clutching folks mugging for the cameras. But, beyond
the circumscribed range of the media, the fighting rages on.
Attacks on the polls occurred in Baghdad, Balad, Basra, Baquba,
Hilla, Kirkuk, Mosul, Tal Afar, Al-Duluiya, Al-Mhawil, Al Muqtadiya
and Samarra. This is the tragic litany of the Torturer-in-Chief's
ongoing depredations in Iraq; a list that will be faithfully excluded
from today's festive coverage of election results.
Reality rarely intrudes into the bubble
of managed perceptions that encloses the American public. Today
will be no different.
The suffering, torture and death unleashed by America's blundering
military campaign have been temporarily suspended to rejoice in
this moment of unalloyed, Orwellian ecstasy. Bush has acquired his
fig leaf of legitimacy and the rudiments of a client regime that
will assist him in his long-range goals, but at what cost to both
Iraq's future and America's prestige. The desperation of this electoral
fiasco is reminiscent of a skydiver grasping at a frayed ripcord
as he tumbles downward through the ether.
There's a hard landing ahead.
It doesn’t matter
how many people voted yesterday in Iraq. In the end, the Iraqi parliament
that results from yesterday's vote will be illegitimate, having
been elected under the guns of U.S. soldiers. The triumphalism
of the Bush administration aside, the new Iraqi regime will have
no more credibility than the Iraqi Governing Council, set up by
the United States in 2003, or the ersatz government of Prime Minister
Allawi, appointed in 2004.
My favorite quote from today’s coverage of the election
comes from the Post . It’s the story of a U.S. Army company
in Mosul, in a Sunni area where no one bothered to vote:
Instead of protecting voters on the periphery of the polling
sites, as occurred in most areas, the company’s
platoons spent much of the day on raids in which they would burst
into homes in search of insurgents, only to wind up urging the
occupants to vote.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is working hard to push Zarqawi,
the Al Qaeda man in Iraq, out front as the spokesman for the resistance
in Iraq. Nearly all intelligence analysts agree that he is a minor
player, except for organizing the suicide bombs that kill people
for no reason. The real resistance—the resistance that attacks
the U.S. occupation forces with roadside bombs, mortars and organized,
platoon-style actions—is made up of ex-Baath and Sunni forces,
and they are likely to gain strength once the results of the election
are known. It will be a victory for obscurantist Ayatollah Sistani
and his pet mullah, Abdel Aziz Hakim, the cleric who headed Sistani’s
election list. A Shiite fundamentalist majority in Iraq’s
new parliament, with a counterpoint of independence-minded Kurds,
is not likely to win favor among Iraq’s Sunnis.
The Post quotes James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute
and a poll analyst with Zogby International, to wit:
He compared Iraq’s election to the 1860 U.S. election,
which paved the way for the Civil War after Abraham Lincoln won—and
South Carolina seceded. “This election could exacerbate
the divide,” Zogby said. “You can’t have 20
percent of the population feel disenfranchised.”
One other thing: To take the parallel further, Sistani is no Lincoln.
Like the US elections of November 2004, the
Iraqi “elections” of 2005 have received great deal of
propaganda in Western and American mainstream media. Like
the elections of November 2004, the elections of January 2005 are
“non-elections”. They are US-crafted to “legitimise”
and keep the same system in place. These elections bring no benefits
to the people of Iraq. They are part of an imperial design to keep
Iraq in foreign hands. They are staged elections.
Staged elections are directed at the peoples of the West, and
particularly, the American people. The Iraqi people know that these
elections are a sham designed to keep them forever poor, without
civil and public services, and subjected them to foreign domination.
They know that these elections are to legitimise the Occupation,
not for the sake of “democracy”. For elections are not
an end, they are part of a process. These elections show the naked
and corrupt character of western democracy when packaged and forced
on peoples in the Developing World.
From the beginning, the Bush administration opposed one-person,
one-vote elections in Iraq. The Bush administration picked up a
stooge and appointed him as “prime minister” in place
of democracy. The Bush administration “stifled, delayed, manipulated
and otherwise thwarted the democratic aspiration of the Iraqi people,”
writes Canadian journalist and author, Naomi Klein. It was Washington
who replaced the process of democracy with violence.
The only legitimate elections under foreign
occupation must be in the form of a referendum on whether or not
to end the US occupation. The Iraqi people have been denied
this important choice. Instead, the Iraqi people were treated to
the charade of fake democracy. “That democracy has been denied
in Iraq is beyond question”, writes John Nichols of The Nation.
The Occupation will continue, “as democracy takes hold in
Iraq, America's mission there will continue”,
as part of controlling the oil reserves and establishing military
bases against the wishes of the Iraqi people who rejected the elections
and stayed indoors.
It was hardly the elections’ day people are used to. It
was a day of war, similar to the first day of that illegal US war
of aggression. Iraqis cuddled their children and stayed home praying
for food, water and electricity. Unless paid by Allawi’s gang
and loaded on trucks with Iraqi flags, most Iraqis ignored this
“American movie”. The veteran journalist, Robert Fisk,
of The Independent writes, “Many Iraqis do not know the names
of the candidates, let alone their policies, [because it was secret].
But there will be democracy in Iraq”, the democracy of enslavement
to US imperialism.
Are there any doubts that, the US-created stooge, Iyad Allawi,
will not continue his current position of Occupation spokesman?
According to the Washington Post, Allawi’s
gang threatened Iraqis if they do not vote (for Allawi), they will
not get their monthly food rations, the miracle of Saddam, which
is keeping the Iraqi people out of starvation.
Under these elections, Iraqis had two choices, lose your card
(Saddam's old food-distribution cards) and starve, or go out and
vote for the fraudulent elections. About 3 million Iraqis were forced
to venture out of their homes to vote in the mid of violence. It
is this violence that will keep Allawi and his masters in their
positions. These are truly “historic elections” for
the US dream of “spreading democracy”.
Contrary to western media, the elections
were a sham and most Iraqis boycotted them. Heavily fortified polling
centres were deserted and streets empty as Iraqis stayed home on
Sunday, too frightened or angry to vote in these elections. Over
40 percent of the Iraqi population live in the four provinces that
boycoted the US-crafted elections and rejected the Occupation. Furthermore,
according to Al-jazeera, “voter turnout in Baghdad was poor,
especially in the al-Yarmuk, al-Amiriya, and al-Adhamiya districts
- the main population centres in central and western Baghdad”.
The same was in Samarra, a city of 200,000 people.
The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
revealed that of the 4 million Iraqis living outside Iraq, only
280,303 people registered to vote. Imagine what the numbers are
like inside Iraq. “It was hard to describe
the vote as legitimate, when whole portions of the country can't
vote and doesn't vote”, Democrat Senator John Kerry,
warned. In a word, the elections were illegitimate and do not represent
the Iraqi people. Peoples of the West, and particularly, the American
people should be ashamed of this travesty of democracy imposed on
other peoples in their name.
Staged elections are not new. They are “demonstration elections”
and have been around for a long period of time. From Vietnam in
the 1960s to the recent Afghanistan elections. “The
purpose of these elections - crafted by the US - was to persuade
US citizens and especially Congress that we were invading these
countries and supporting a savage war against government opponents
at the invitation of a legitimate, freely elected government.
The main purpose of a demonstration election is to legitimise an
invasion and occupation, not to choose a new government”,
wrote Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead.
For the Americans, “what happens before or after the elections
concerns them not one iota. What matters is that the elections become
a good PR exercise for the Bush administration”, Wamid Nadhim
of Baghdad University told Al-Ahram Weekly. Furthermore, these
elections are also seen as an excuse for Tony Blair and other “coalition
of the willing” leaders to justify their support for Washington’s
illegal war of aggression and occupation.
Like the war, these staged elections are illegal and against Iraq’s
interests. Peoples in the “civilised” world should reject
these elections, demand the immediate withdraw of US forces from
Iraq and the liberation of the Iraqi people.
If George Bush is smart enough, he can use these “historic
elections”, as an “exit strategy”, and withdraws
his army from Iraq. The Iraqi people will remember the elections
that guaranteed them freedom and liberty from foreign occupation.
No amount of spin can conceal Iraqis' hostility
to US occupation
On September 4 1967 the New York Times published an upbeat story
on presidential elections held by the South Vietnamese puppet regime
at the height of the Vietnam war. Under the heading "US encouraged
by Vietnam vote: Officials cite 83% turnout despite Vietcong terror",
the paper reported that the Americans had been "surprised and
heartened" by the size of the turnout "despite a Vietcong
terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting". A successful election,
it went on, "has long been seen as the keystone in President
Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes
in South Vietnam". The echoes of this
weekend's propaganda about Iraq's elections are so close as to be
With the past few days' avalanche of spin, you could be forgiven
for thinking that on January 30 2005 the US-led occupation of Iraq
ended and the people won their freedom and democratic rights. This
has been a multi-layered campaign, reminiscent of the pre-war WMD
frenzy and fantasies about the flowers Iraqis were collecting to
throw at the invasion forces. How you
could square the words democracy, free and fair with the brutal
reality of occupation, martial law, a US-appointed election commission
and secret candidates has rarely been allowed to get in the way
of the hype.
If truth is the first casualty of war, reliable numbers must be
the first casualty of an occupation-controlled election. The second
layer of spin has been designed to convince us that an overwhelming
majority of Iraqis participated. The initial
claim of 72% having voted was quickly downgraded to 57% of those
registered to vote. So what percentage of the adult population
is registered to vote? The Iraqi ambassador in London was unable
to enlighten me. In fact, as UN sources confirm, there has been
no registration or published list of electors - all we are told
is that about 14 million people were entitled to vote.
As for Iraqis abroad, the up to 4 million strong exiled community
(with perhaps a little over 2 million entitled to vote) produced
a 280,000 registration figure. Of those, 265,000 actually voted.
The Iraqi south, more religious than Baghdad, responded positively
to Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani's position: to call the bluff of the
US and vote for a list that was proclaimed to be hostile to the
occupation. Sistani's supporters declared that voting on Sunday
was the first step to kicking out the occupiers. The months ahead
will put these declarations to a severe test. Meanwhile Moqtada
al-Sadr's popular movement, which rejected the elections as a sham,
is likely to make a comeback in its open resistance to the occupation.
The big vote in Kurdistan primarily reflects the Kurdish people's
demand for national self-determination. The US administration has
hitherto clamped down on these pressures. Henry Kissinger's recent
proposal to divide Iraq into three states reflects a major shift
among influential figures in the US who, led by Kissinger as secretary
of state, ditched the Kurds in the 70s and brokered a deal between
Saddam and the Shah of Iran.
George Bush and Tony Blair made heroic speeches on Sunday implying
that Iraqis had voted to approve the occupation. Those who insist
that the US is desperate for an exit strategy are misreading its
intentions. The facts on the ground, including
the construction of massive military bases in Iraq, indicate that
the US is digging in to install and back a long-term puppet regime.
For this reason, the US-led presence will continue, with all that
entails in terms of bloodshed and destruction.
In the run-up to the poll, much of the western media presented
it as a high-noon shootout between the terrorist Zarqawi and the
Iraqi people, with the occupation forces doing their best to enable
the people to defeat the fiendish, one-legged Jordanian murderer.
In reality, Zarqawi-style sectarian violence is not only condemned
by Iraqis across the political spectrum, including supporters of
the resistance, but is widely seen as having had a blind eye turned
to it by the occupation authorities. Such attitudes are dismissed
by outsiders, but the record of John Negroponte, the US ambassador
in Baghdad, of backing terror gangs in central America in the 80s
has fuelled these fears, as has Seymour Hirsh's reports on the Pentagon's
assassination squads and enthusiasm for the "Salvador option".
An honest analysis of the social and political map of Iraq reveals
that Iraqis are increasingly united in their determination to end
the occupation. Whether they participated in or boycotted Sunday's
exercise, this political bond will soon reassert itself - just as
it did in Vietnam - despite tactical differences, and despite the
US-led occupation's attempts to dominate Iraqis by inflaming sectarian
and ethnic divisions.
Shotgun blasts have wounded four people after
tensions linked to the Iraq election boiled over into a street brawl involving
around 100 Iraqi expatriates in Sydney, police say.
Some Iraqis in Australia question the legitimacy of the election,
saying their homeland is under occupation and jeering at voters
who cast absentee ballots.
Fights broke out on Saturday and on Sunday in a western Sydney
neighbourhood dominated by Iraqi Shia, police said on Monday.
Sunday's fight resulted in several shotgun
blasts, damaging several cars and a shop in the Auburn neighbourhood
and leaving four people with minor ricochet wounds, said
New South Wales state police Superintendent Allen Harding.
No charges were immediately filed, police said. "The past
weekend has seen an escalation in tension between members of the
Iraqi community here in Auburn," Harding said.
Voting hours were extended at the Auburn polling centre,
one of five in Sydney, on Saturday and Sunday after a brawl and
a bomb scare halted voting for an hour.
Despite the disruptions, officials said 94.6% of the 11,806 voters
registered in Australia cast their ballots over three days.
Saturday's clash involving about 50 people erupted when about
20 protesters yelled insults at voters. The protesters were identified
by ballot organisers as Wahhabis - followers of an austere brand
of Sunni Islam.
Police were called but there were no arrests and no reports of
injuries. A backpack found near the polling
centre after the fighting ended sparked a bomb scare and the place
was closed, but no bomb was found.
Thair Wali, an Iraqi adviser to the International Organisation
for Migration, said the fight broke out on Saturday after the protesters
began taking pictures of voters leaving the station.
"This is scary for the people, taking photos of the voting,"
he said. Many of Australia's estimated 80,000 Iraqis declined to
register for the election, fearing that their
votes would prompt armed groups to target their relatives in Iraq.
Australia is one of 14 countries where Iraqi exiles were able
to vote by absentee ballot. [...]
US guards have opened fire on
prisoners during a riot at a main detention facility, killing four
detainees, the US command says.
Six other prisoners were injured in the Monday riot that broke
out shortly after noon at the Camp Bucca Theatre Internment Facility
near Umm Qasr in southern Iraq.
The US command statement said the riot occurred after a routine
search for contraband in one of the camp's 10 compounds, and "resulted
from both the use of force to control the situation and from violence
by other detainees within the camp during the riot".
"The cause of the riot and use of lethal force is currently
under investigation by the chain of command and the US army's Criminal
Investigations Division, which is standard procedure whenever a
detainee death occurs," the statement added.
Riot quickly spread
"The riot quickly spread to three additional compounds, with
detainees throwing rocks and fashioning weapons from materials inside
their living areas." the statement said. "Guards attempted
to calm the increasingly volatile situation using verbal warnings
and, when that failed, by use of non-lethal force.
"After about 45 minutes of escalating danger, lethal force
was used to quell the violence," the statement added.
The command said names of those who died are being provided to
the Iraqi government and the International Committee of the Red
The US military says it holds an estimated 7000 security detainees,
with 4700 of those held at Camp Bucca and 2300 at Abu Ghraib, west
Three US marines were killed in combat south
of Baghdad, the US military said in a statement on Monday.
"Three US marines were killed in action and two others wounded
on 31 January while conducting security and stability operations
in northern Babil Province," the statement said.
The latest deaths marked the first fatalities reported by the US
military since polls closed in Iraq's elections on Sunday. [...]
| WARSAW, Jan. 31 (Xinhuanet) -- Poland
will withdraw 800 troops from Iraq by the end of February as part
of its plans to reduce military presence in the country following
Iraqi elections, a top official said Monday.
The withdrawal will be completed by the end of February, said
Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski. He also said the government
will evaluate the situation in Iraq in February and March, and decide
the future of the remaining Polish troops in the country.
Poland, a staunch US ally in Iraq, currently has 2,400 troops
and also leads a multinational force in Iraq. It has said it will
pull all its forces out of the country by the end of the year.
WASHINGTON - A U.S. judge dealt a setback to
the Bush administration and ruled on Monday that the Guantanamo
Bay terrorism suspects can challenge their confinement and the procedures
in their military tribunal review process are unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green said the prisoners at the
U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have constitutional
protections under U.S. law.
"The court concludes that the petitioners
have stated valid claims under the Fifth Amendment to the United
States Constitution and that the procedures implemented by the government
to confirm that the petitioners are 'enemy combatants' subject to
indefinite detention violate the petitioners' rights to due process
of law," Green wrote.
More than 540 suspects are being held at Guantanamo after being
detained during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and in other operations
in the U.S. war on terrorism. They are al Qaeda suspects and accused
Taliban fighters. The ruling pertained to
only 50 detainees. [...]
At issue in the ruling was the July 7, 2004, order by Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz creating a military tribunal -- called
the Combatant Status Review Tribunal -- to check the status of each
Guantanamo detainee as an "enemy combatant."
The procedures used for the tribunals "are unconstitutional
for failing to comport with the requirements of due process,"
She said the procedures failed to give the detainees access to
material evidence and failed to let lawyers help them when the government
refused to disclose classified information.
The main part of her ruling held the suspects can challenge their
confinement and rejected the government's position that all the
cases must be dismissed.
"Of course, it would be far easier for the government to prosecute
the war on terrorism if it could imprison all suspected 'enemy combatants'
at Guantanamo Bay without having to acknowledge and respect any
constitutional rights of detainees," Green said.
"Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action
under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself
against enormous and unprecedented threats, that necessity cannot
negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which
the people of this country have fought and died for well over two
hundred years," Green said.
"In sum, there can be no question that the Fifth Amendment
right asserted by the Guantanamo detainees in this litigation --
the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law
-- is one of the most fundamental rights recognized by the U.S.
Constitution," she said.
Green also ruled that some of the suspects have brought valid claims
under the Geneva Convention, the international treaty protecting
the rights of prisoners of war.
A group of attorneys representing some of the suspects hailed the
ruling. "Now it's time for this administration to act,"
they said in a statement. "Today's decision is a momentous
victory for the rule of law, for human rights, and for our democracy."
Green's 75-page opinion was the unclassified version and stemmed
from 11 cases involving Guantanamo prisoners.
Her ruling probably will not be the final
word on the issue. A different federal
judge in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19 dismissed the cases of seven
Guantanamo prisoners on the grounds they had no recognizable constitutional
rights and were subject to the military review process.
The cases could be appealed to the U.S. appeals court, and then
ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court.
WASHINGTON - The way many high
school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may
not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.
It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to many
of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a study
of high school attitudes released Monday.
The original amendment to the Constitution is the cornerstone of
the way of life in the United States, promising citizens the freedoms
of religion, speech, press and assembly.
Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than
one in three high school students said it goes "too far"
in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers
should be allowed to publish freely without government approval
"These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous,"
said Hodding Carter III, president of the John S. and James L. Knight
Foundation, which sponsored the $1 million study. "Ignorance
about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation's
The students are even more restrictive in their views than their
elders, the study says.
When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular
views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals
said yes. Only 83 percent of students did.
The results reflected indifference, with almost three in four students
saying they took the First Amendment for granted or didn't know
how they felt about it. It was also clear that many students do
not understand what is protected by the bedrock of the Bill of Rights.
Three in four students said flag burning is illegal. It's not.
About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent
material on the Internet. It can't.
"Schools don't do enough to teach the First Amendment. Students
often don't know the rights it protects," Linda Puntney, executive
director of the Journalism Education Association, said in the report.
"This all comes at a time when there is decreasing passion
for much of anything. And, you have to be passionate about the First
The partners in the project, including organizations of newspaper
editors and radio and television news directors, share a clear advocacy
for First Amendment issues.
Federal and state officials, meanwhile, have bemoaned a lack of
knowledge of U.S. civics and history among young people. Sen. Robert
Byrd, D-W.Va., has even pushed through a mandate that schools must
teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, the date it was signed
The survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut,
is billed as the largest of its kind. More than 100,000 students,
nearly 8,000 teachers and more than 500 administrators at 544 public
and private high schools took part in early 2004.
The study suggests that students embrace First Amendment freedoms
if they are taught about them and given a chance to practice them,
but schools don't make the matter a priority.
Students who take part in school media activities, such as a student
newspapers or TV production, are much more likely to support expression
of unpopular views, for example.
About nine in 10 principals said it is important for all students
to learn some journalism skills, but most administrators say a lack
of money limits their media offerings.
More than one in five schools offer no student media opportunities;
of the high schools that do not offer student newspapers, 40 percent
have eliminated them in the last five years.
"The last 15 years have not been a golden era for student
media," said Warren Watson, director of the J-Ideas project
at Ball State University in Indiana. "Programs are under siege
or dying from neglect. Many students do not get the opportunity
to practice our basic freedoms."
| The fight over Social Security is,
above all, about what kind of society we want to have. But it's also
about numbers. And the numbers the privatizers use just don't add
Let me inflict some of those numbers on you. Sorry, but this is
Schemes for Social Security privatization, like the one described
in the 2004 Economic Report of the President, invariably assume
that investing in stocks will yield a high annual rate of return,
6.5 or 7 percent after inflation, for at least the next 75 years.
Without that assumption, these schemes can't deliver on their promises.
Yet a rate of return that high is mathematically impossible unless
the economy grows much faster than anyone is now expecting.
To explain why, I need to talk about stock returns. The yield on
a stock comes from two components: cash that the company pays out
in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, and capital gains.
Right now, if dividends and buybacks were the whole story, the rate
of return on stocks would be only 3 percent.
To get a 6.5 percent rate of return, you need capital gains: if
dividends yield 3 percent, stock prices have to rise 3.5 percent
per year after inflation. That doesn't sound too unreasonable if
you're thinking only a few years ahead.
But privatizers need that high rate of return for 75 years or more.
And the economic assumptions underlying most projections for Social
Security make that impossible.
The Social Security projections that say the trust fund will be
exhausted by 2042 assume that economic growth will slow as baby
boomers leave the work force. The actuaries predict that economic
growth, which averaged 3.4 percent per year over the last 75 years,
will average only 1.9 percent over the next 75 years.
In the long run, profits grow at the same rate as the economy.
So to get that 6.5 percent rate of return, stock prices would have
to keep rising faster than profits, decade after decade.
The price-earnings ratio - the value of a company's stock, divided
by its profits - is widely used to assess whether a stock is overvalued
or undervalued. Historically, that ratio averaged about 14. Today
it's about 20. Where would it have to go to yield a 6.5 percent
rate of return?
I asked Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research,
to help me out with that calculation (there are some technical details
I won't get into). Here's what we found: by 2050, the price-earnings
ratio would have to rise to about 70. By 2060, it would have to
be more than 100.
In other words, to believe in a privatization-friendly rate of
return, you have to believe that half a century from now, the average
stock will be priced like technology stocks at the height of the
Internet bubble - and that stock prices will nonetheless keep on
Social Security privatizers usually defend their bullishness by
saying that stock investors earned high returns in the past. But
stocks are much more expensive than they used to be, relative to
corporate profits; that means lower dividends per dollar of share
value. And economic growth is expected to be slower.
Which brings us to the privatizers' Catch-22.
They can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming
that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future
economic growth. But in that case, we don't need to worry about
Social Security's future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate
a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield
a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system
sound for generations to come.
Alternatively, privatizers can unhappily admit that future stock
returns will be much lower than they have been claiming. But without
those high returns, the arithmetic of their schemes collapses.
It really is that stark: any growth projection
that would permit the stock returns the privatizers need to make
their schemes work would put Social Security solidly in the black.
And I suspect that at least some privatizers know that. Mr. Baker
has devised a test he calls "no economist left behind":
he challenges economists to make a projection of economic growth,
dividends and capital gains that will yield a 6.5 percent rate of
return over 75 years. Not one economist who supports privatization
has been willing to take the test.
But the offer still stands. Ladies and gentlemen, would you care
to explain your position?
WASHINGTON — Emboldened by their success
at the polls, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in
Congress believe they have a new opportunity to move the nation
away from the system of employer-provided health insurance that
has covered most working Americans for the last half- century.
In its place, they want to erect a system in which
workers — instead of looking to employers for health insurance
— would take personal responsibility for protecting themselves
and their families: They would buy high-deductible "catastrophic"
insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine
costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.
Elements of that approach have been on the conservative agenda
for years, but what has suddenly put it on the fast track is GOP
confidence that the political balance of power has changed. [...]
Supporters of the new approach, who see it as part of Bush's "ownership
society," say workers and their families would become more
careful users of healthcare if they had to pay the bills. [...]
Critics say the Republican approach is really
an attempt to shift the risks, massive costs and knotty problems
of healthcare from employers to individuals. And
they say the GOP is moving forward with far less public attention
or debate than have surrounded Bush's plans to overhaul Social Security.
Indeed, Bush's health insurance agenda is far more developed than
his Social Security plans and is advancing at a rapid clip through
a combination of actions by government, insurers, employers and
Health savings accounts, known as HSAs, have already been approved.
They were created as a little-noticed appendage to the 2003 Medicare
prescription drug bill. [...]
"Portability" was a key feature of President Clinton's
ill-fated healthcare reform plan. But the GOP approach is significantly
different: Whereas Clinton would have required all employers to
chip in for universal health insurance, Bush wants to leave responsibility
primarily to individuals.
"This is certainly getting a lot of attention from employers,"
said Jack Rodgers, a healthcare analyst for PricewaterhouseCoopers
One reason is potential cost savings to employers.
A typical catastrophic health insurance plan carries an annual
deductible of about $1,600 for an individual when purchased through
a large employer. That means the worker pays the first $1,600 of
healthcare expenses each year. By contrast, under the more comprehensive,
employer-provided health insurance programs common today, the company
begins to pay after about $300 in expenses have been incurred. Deductibles
for families are considerably higher under both types of plans.
The California Medical Assn. supports a plan that would require
all residents of the most populous state to carry at least high-deductible
coverage — just as automobile liability insurance is often
mandatory. White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush was not contemplating
such a requirement at the federal level.
But the existence of health savings accounts may make it easier
to enact state mandates such as the California proposal.
Despite the record federal budget deficit, Bush on Wednesday proposed
additional tax breaks and subsidies for HSAs, particularly for low-income
families. He also called for a tax credit to help small businesses
offer the plans to their employees. The low-income aid would be
worth a maximum of $3,000 per family.
"Health savings accounts all aim at empowering people to make
decisions for themselves, owning their own healthcare plan,"
the president said. Consumer- driven decision-making is more likely
to control costs than having bills paid by a third party, such as
an employer, he added. [...]
Critics say that Bush's vision represents wishful
thinking at best, and at worst, a perilous new direction
in national health policy.
"One danger with this is that people will not get needed care
because they want to save a few thousand bucks," said Rep.
Pete Stark, a leading lawmaker on healthcare.
"Healthcare isn't like buying a Chevrolet," Stark added,
disputing Bush's assertion that individual patients can be empowered
to control costs. "You can go to Consumer Reports and read
about the new Malibu, but if I asked you to describe a regimen of
chemotherapy for someone who has colon cancer, you'd be out of gas.
"We are talking about highly technical services that 99% of
the public doesn't even know how to spell the names of," he
said. "Secondly, there is no uniformity within the medical
community as to what services ought to be used. It's a 'by guess
and by gosh' sort of practice." [...]
A study released Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation
that supports research on healthcare policy, found that people with
high- deductible policies were more likely to have trouble paying
medical bills than those in traditional insurance plans. They were
also more likely to skip care because of cost. [...]
In a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine , Frist
called for what would amount to a healthcare information revolution.
Within the next decade, he said, patients should be able to gain
online access to performance rankings and prices for doctors and
"Increased access to more accurate information about care
and pricing will make possible... the transformation of the healthcare
system," Frist wrote. "Whether selecting their physician,
hospital or health plan, consumers must be able to choose what best
meets their needs."
A comprehensive system of healthcare information would be costly
to create, and perhaps challenging for patients to navigate. On
Thursday, Bush proposed some initial steps, such as computerized
medical records and standardized information technology for medical
His vision of an empowered patient calling the shots may stand
little chance without a new information infrastructure.
Gingrich acknowledged: "You can't have an informed marketplace
in a setting where you don't have any information."
| A good portion of TO readers are all too familiar
with the Project for the New American Century.
For those who have missed this important group and the story behind
essay will fill in the gaps.
The strength and influence of this group, therefore, makes the
letter they released on January 28 all the more disturbing. It is
to Congress on Increasing U.S. Ground Forces,' and basically
calls for a draft without using the word:
The United States military is too small for the responsibilities
we are asking it to assume. Those responsibilities are real and
important. They are not going away. The United States will not
and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to
come. But our national security, global peace and stability, and
the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require
a larger military force than we have today. The administration
has unfortunately resisted increasing our ground forces to the
size needed to meet today's (and tomorrow's) missions and challenges.
So we write to ask you and your colleagues in
the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase
substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps.
While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required,
and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure,
it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active
duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops
each year over the next several years.
The men and women of our military have performed magnificently
over the last few years. We are more proud of them than we can
say. But many of them would be the first to say that the armed
forces are too small. And we would say that surely we should be
doing more to honor the contract between America and those who
serve her in war. Reserves were meant to be reserves, not regulars.
Our regulars and reserves are not only proving themselves as warriors,
but as humanitarians and builders of emerging democracies. Our
armed forces, active and reserve, are once again proving their
value to the nation. We can honor their sacrifices by giving them
the manpower and the materiel they need.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution
places the power and the duty to raise and support the military
forces of the United States in the hands of the Congress. That
is why we, the undersigned, a bipartisan group with diverse policy
views, have come together to call upon you to act. You
will be serving your country well if you insist on providing the
military manpower we need to meet America's obligations, and to
help ensure success in carrying out our foreign policy objectives
in a dangerous, but also hopeful, world.
PNAC has gotten everything it has wanted
in the last three years. Parents of draft-age children should fear
this new call.
Nation Rocked to Sleep"
Neocons drive the nation toward ruin, Iraqi guerrillas kill our
soldiers, veterans are ignored, and Americans fall asleep
| By Stewart Nusbaumer
For three decades, since the end of the Vietnam
War, veterans of that bloody fiasco have said, "been there,
done that," implying Americans should listen to what they have
to say about war.
We fought a war so we understand the horror of war -- horror is
not always easy to remember, especially, when in youth, videogames
were one's greatest threat. We fought a war so we know war should
be the last option, which seems to have slipped the minds of most
Americans. We fought a losing war so we know the military needs
a clear, specific military goal, not some vague wishful goal. We
fought a losing war so we know that lifeless bodies shipped home
to the heartland will eventually speak louder than all those determined
words roaring out of Washington. But this can takes years and many
thousands of dead bodies.
All knowledge is not equal, nor can all knowledge be easily learned.
That which is learned from painful reflection after horrible experience
is often the most important knowledge. "No pain, no gain"
applies not only to biceps.
For those who experienced that ugly war, Vietnam was a hard experience
for learning what is possible and what is not possible -- a massive
sobering antidote, actually, to hubristic foreign adventures. Yet,
for those who fervently supported the Vietnam War yet refused to
fight in that war -- those now running this country -- what they
learned on the safe sidelines far from the fighting was something
quite different. They learned fantasy can survive bloody reality
and lies are more politically effective than truth. They learned
America can win any war, anywhere, anytime, as long as they are
in charge. They learned nonsense. But they run this country, not
The reality is, although America is a so-called superpower it does
not have super military power. Like all nations, our nation is restricted
and limited by resources and power. Like all nations, we need to
be thoughtful a nd cautious. We need leaders who are informed and
wise, and citizens who are skeptical and questioning. But our leaders
are dense, hubristic and blind, and too many Americans have followed
these dense, hubristic and blind leaders, followed them into another
foreign policy nightmare. And too many Americans never heard the
veterans' message of wisdom from a long ago failed war.
The guerrilla forces of the world cannot afford to be dense, hubristic
and blind. To survive, they are forced to be cunning and elusive,
sharp tigers exploiting the advantages of fighting on their own
Nearly all insurgency groups today understand the workings of asymmetrical
warfare: avoid your more powerful military adversary where it is
strong; strike the sluggish leviathan where it is weak. Time is
the opponent of t his expensive technically laden "stronger"
power but an asset of yours the no-frills "weaker" guerrilla
force. So guerrillas slowly bleed the powerful costly fighting machines.
And the U.S. military is being slowly bled. In May 2003 when President
Bush arrogantly proclaimed an end to major combat operations, there
was an average of 17 U.S. combat deaths a month. Today there is
an average of 82 c ombat deaths per month. (Actually, nothing slow
about this: in only 9 months fatalities have increased four-fold.)
During this same period, the number of wounded Americans has spiraled
from 142 a month to 808 a month -- n early a six-fold increase!
Meanwhile, the number of insurgent attacks has risen from 735 to
2,400 per month.
Back in the 1980s, on an isolated Philippine jungle island, I spent
several days with a group of communist guerrillas. We ate rice with
our fingers and drank rum late into the night. These illiterate
Filipino farmers turn ed communist fighters understood clearly how
the North Vietnamese defeated the superpower America. They couldn't
write, they couldn't read, but they understood the weak points in
the U.S. military machine and how to explo it them. Today their
sons probably know how the great Soviet Union fell in Afghanistan.
The same modern communication and transportation used to ferry
ideas and people around the globe for international business are
also being used by international insurgents. Instead of penetrating
remote economic areas for money making, they are spreading information
about effective military tactics and stymieing the world's most
powerful military power. Globalism is making foreign occupation
increasingly difficult; it has never been so di fficult for the
rich and powerful to occupy the weak and the poor.
The New York Times says 1,417 Americans soldiers have died and
10,622 Americans soldiers have been wounded in Iraq, more than half
of whom have been unable to return to duty. Now I hear a second
amputee ward has been open ed in San Antonio, Texas because Walter
Read Army hospital in Washington cannot accommodate all the incoming
amputees. When will there be a third amputee ward for our returning
And last week CNN said President Bush in his 21-minute inauguration
speech spoke the word "freedom" 27 times and "liberty"
15 times; that was a "freedom" or a "liberty"
every 20 seconds. But not once during his entire 21- minute speech
did he say the word "Iraq." And not once during that 21
minute, 1,260 second speech did he say the name of even 1 dead American
Here is the name of 1 dead American soldier: Casey Sheehan. And
here is a poem by Carly Sheehan, little sister to dead American
soldier Casey Sheehan:
Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
The torrential rains of a mother's weeping will never be done
They call him a hero, you should be glad that he's one, but
Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?
He must be brave because his boy died for another man's lies
The only grief he allows himself are long, deep sighs
Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?
Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's
They say that he died so that the flag will continue to wave
But I believe he died because they had oil to save
Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?
Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won't be so deep
But if we the people let them continue another mother will weep
Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
Stewart Nusbaumer is editor of Intervention Magazine. He served
with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam on the DMZ.
When more than 200,000 people died in a tsunami
caused by an Asian earthquake in December, the immediate reaction
in the United States was an outpouring of grief and philanthropy,
prompted by extensive coverage in the news media.
Two months earlier, the reaction in the United States to news of
another large-scale human tragedy was much quieter. In
late October, a study was published in The Lancet, a prestigious
British medical journal, concluding that about 100,000 civilians
had been killed in Iraq since it was invaded by a United States-led
coalition in March 2003. On the eve of a contentious presidential
election -- fought in part over U.S. policy on Iraq -- many American
newspapers and television news programs ignored the study or buried
reports about it far from the top headlines.
The paper, written by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University,
Columbia University, and Baghdad's Al-Mustansiriya University, was
based on a door-to- door survey in September of nearly 8,000 people
in 33 randomly selected locations in Iraq. It was dangerous work,
and the team of researchers was lucky to emerge from the survey
Neither the Defense Department nor the State Department responded
to the paper, nor would they comment when contacted by The Chronicle.
American news- media outlets largely published only short articles,
noting how much higher the Lancet estimate was than previous estimates.
Some pundits called the results politicized and worthless.
Les F. Roberts, a research associate at Hopkins
and the lead author of the paper, was shocked by the muted or dismissive
reception. He had expected the public response to his paper to be
On its merits, the study should have received
more prominent play. Public- health professionals have uniformly
praised the paper for its correct methods and notable results.
"Les has used, and consistently uses, the best possible methodology,"
says Bradley A. Woodruff, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
Indeed, the United Nations and the State Department have cited
mortality numbers compiled by Mr. Roberts on previous conflicts
as fact -- and have acted on those results.
What went wrong this time? Perhaps the rush by researchers and
The Lancet to put the study in front of American voters before the
election accomplished precisely the opposite result, drowning out
a valuable study in the clamor of the presidential campaign. [...]
The number of deaths in Fallujah was so much higher
than in other locations that the researchers excluded the data from
their overall estimate as a statistical outlier. Because of that,
Mr. Roberts says, chances are good that the actual number of deaths
caused by the invasion and occupation is higher than 100,000.
Mr. Roberts took a few days in Baghdad in late September to compile
and analyze the data. He discovered that the risk of death was 2.5
times as high in the 18 months after the invasion as it was in the
15 months before it; the risk was still 1.5 times as high if he
ignored the Fallujah data. Because he had found in many other wars
that malnutrition and disease were the most frequent causes of civilian
deaths, he was "shocked," he says, that violence had been
the primary cause of death since the invasion.
"On the 25th of September my focus was about how to get out
of the country," he recalls. "My second focus was to get
this information out before the U.S. election." In little more
than 30 days, the paper was published in The Lancet.[...]
Despite the sprint to publication, the paper did go through editing
and peer review. In an accompanying editorial, Richard Horton, editor
of the The Lancet, wrote that the paper "has been extensively
peer-reviewed, revised, edited, and fast-tracked to publication
because of its importance to the evolving security situation in
Dr. Horton declined repeated requests by The Chronicle for comment
on the study and the decision to publish it before the U.S. presidential
election. But three other major medical journals told The Chronicle
that they, too, occasionally put papers of immediate importance
on a fast track, and that the time from receipt to publication can
be days or a few weeks. [...]
The timing of the paper's publication opened the study to charges
of political propaganda. So did Mr. Roberts's admission to an Associated
Press reporter on the day that the paper came out that he opposed
the war. "That was the wrong answer," Mr. Roberts says
now, "because some of the other study members hated Saddam
and were in favor of the initial invasion." [...]
The Lancet released the paper on October 29, the Friday before
the election, when many reporters were busy with political coverage.
That day, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune each dedicated
only about 400 words to the study and placed the articles inside
their front sections, on Pages A4 and A11, respectively. (The news
media in Europe gave the study much more play; many newspapers put
articles about it on their front pages.)
In a short article about the study on Page A8, The New York Times
noted that the Iraq Body Count, a project to tally civilian deaths
reported in the news media, had put the maximum death toll at around
17,000. The new study, the article said,
"is certain to generate intense controversy." But
the Times has not published any further news articles about the
The Washington Post, perhaps most damagingly to
the study's reputation, quoted Marc E. Garlasco, a senior military
analyst at Human Rights Watch, as saying, "These numbers seem
to be inflated."
Mr. Garlasco says now that he had not read the paper at the time
and calls his quote in the Post "really unfortunate."
He says he told the reporter, "I haven't read it. I haven't
seen it. I don't know anything about it, so I shouldn't comment
on it." But, Mr. Garlasco continues, "like any good journalist,
he got me to."
Mr. Garlasco says he misunderstood the reporter's description of
the paper's results. He did not understand that the paper's estimate
includes deaths caused not only directly by violence but also by
its offshoots: chaos leading to lack of sanitation and medical care.
The U.S. government had no comment at the time and remains silent
about Iraqi civilian deaths. "The only thing we keep track
of is casualties for U.S. troops and civilians," a Defense
Department spokesman told The Chronicle.
Mr. Garfield now regrets the timing of the paper's
release because he believes that it allowed people to dismiss the
research. "The argument is an idiotic one of, 'You're playing
politics, so then the data's not true,'" he says.
Such logic angers him. "Hey," he says. "This is
valuable information. The fact that somebody wants to convince you
of it -- how is that suddenly illegitimate? Why is that a reason
to ignore it? If it's wrong, then ignore it. If it's dealing with
deaths of people that don't count in the world, then ignore it.
I don't think it's wrong, and I don't think Iraqi deaths don't count."
The reception of the Iraqi mortality study by scientists has been
far friendlier than by the news media.
Scientists say the size of the survey was
adequate for extrapolation to the entire country. "That's
a classical sample size," says Michael J. Toole, head of the
Center for International Health at the Burnet Institute, an Australian
research organization. Researchers typically conduct surveys in
30 neighborhoods, so the Iraq study's total of 33 strengthens its
conclusions. "I just don't see any evidence of significant
exaggeration," he says.[...]
The gap between the Lancet estimate and that of Iraq Body Count
does not trouble scientists contacted by The Chronicle. John Sloboda,
a professor of psychology at the University of Keele, in England,
and a co-founder of Iraq Body Count, says his team's efforts will
lead to a count smaller than the true number because not every death
is reported in the news media. [...]
Despite the muted public response, public-health professionals
are glad that the study brought to light the human toll of the Iraq
war and continuing occupation. Both the study and the Iraq Body
Count, says Mr. Sloboda, are "shoestring attempts by private
citizens" to do work he says the government ought to be doing.
Mr. Garlasco, of Human Rights Watch, is mystified that the Defense
Department is not publicly interested in such studies. "Civilian
casualties can be a bellwether for the actual conduct of the war-fighting,"
says Mr. Garlasco, who was an intelligence officer at the Pentagon
until 2003. "They're using all these
precision weapons, so one would expect that if you're striving to
minimize casualties, you'd have very low casualties. In Iraq we've
seen the exact opposite, so one has to wonder why."
Besides, he says, counting civilian deaths could actually be useful
for the Pentagon's public image. "I
truly believe when the U.S. military says we're not there to kill
civilians, it's absolutely true," he says. "The problem
is, though, there are many people who don't accept their reasoning.
The only way they'll change their minds is if the U.S. military
shows they take civilian casualties seriously enough that they quantify
them and attempt to minimize casualties in the future."
In the Lancet article, Mr. Roberts and his colleagues write, "It
seems difficult to understand how a military force could monitor
the extent to which civilians are protected without systematically
doing body counts or at least looking at the kinds of casualties
Dr. Coupland says, "The number of noncombatant deaths and
injuries would speak to the legality of the nature of the hostilities."
That's why surveys like the Lancet one are important, says the
World Health Organization's Dr. Meddings, even if the immediate
response is hesitant: "If you can put accurate information
out, it shifts the burden of proof onto militaries to substantiate
why what they're doing is worth this humanitarian cost."
At the end of the day, Mr. Roberts worries that his study may play
little part in that crucial debate. Although he blames the American
news media for being embedded not only with the military but also
with the military point of view, he also partly blames himself for
the lack of public response.
"Maybe we the scientists have mismanaged this information,"
he says. "We had a message that was of interest to most Americans.
We had a message that was extremely robust scientifically. And we
failed to get it out into society where they could use it."
Gunfire from Israeli occupation forces
in Gaza has killed a 10-year-old Palestinian
girl as she was standing with other children in a schoolyard
in a Rafah refugee camp.
An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate information on
the incident near the border with Egypt, where soldiers and resistance
fighters have frequently clashed during a four-year-old Palestinian
Witnesses said Nuran Did was lining up with classmates on Monday to
enter their school in the morning when she
was shot from the army's Termit post, 900m away.
"She suddenly screamed and fell to the ground, bleeding.
The girls started to run everywhere," one witness said.
The Palestinian resistance group Hamas said it fired five mortar
shells at a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for
the girl's death.
Witnesses said the shelling damaged a home in Neve Dekalim. There
was no immediate word on casualties.
Shot in the head
Doctors at Rafah hospital, where the 10-year-old was pronounced
dead, said she was shot in the head.
Violence has dropped sharply in the Gaza Strip over the past two
weeks after efforts by new Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to
coax fighters into a ceasefire. The latest death has strained a
ceasefire brokered by Abbas.
Palestinian security forces have deployed across the occupied
territory in a sign of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, but they
have not been stationed near the flashpoint Termit post, local residents
A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job
providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible
cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.
Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and
brothel owners – who must pay tax and employee health insurance
– were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.
The waitress, an unemployed information technology professional,
had said that she was willing to work in a bar at night and had
worked in a cafe.
She received a letter from the job centre telling her that an employer
was interested in her "profile'' and that she should ring them.
Only on doing so did the woman, who has not been identified for
legal reasons, realise that she was calling a brothel.
Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman
under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced
to take an available job – including in the sex industry –
or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment
rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number
out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.
The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral
grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish
them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking
for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse.
When the waitress looked into suing the job centre, she found out
that it had not broken the law. Job centres that refuse to penalise
people who turn down a job by cutting their benefits face legal
action from the potential employer.
"There is now nothing in the law to stop women from being
sent into the sex industry," said Merchthild Garweg, a lawyer
from Hamburg who specialises in such cases. "The new regulations
say that working in the sex industry is not immoral any more, and
so jobs cannot be turned down without a risk to benefits."
Miss Garweg said that women who had worked in call centres had
been offered jobs on telephone sex lines. At
one job centre in the city of Gotha, a 23-year-old woman was told
that she had to attend an interview as a "nude model",
and should report back on the meeting. Employers in the sex
industry can also advertise in job centres, a move that came into
force this month. A job centre that refuses to accept the advertisement
can be sued.
Tatiana Ulyanova, who owns a brothel in central Berlin, has been
searching the online database of her local job centre for recruits.
"Why shouldn't I look for employees through the job centre
when I pay my taxes just like anybody else?" said Miss Ulyanova.
Ulrich Kueperkoch wanted to open a brothel in Goerlitz, in former
East Germany, but his local job centre withdrew his advertisement
for 12 prostitutes, saying it would be impossible to find them.
Mr Kueperkoch said that he was confident of demand for a brothel
in the area and planned to take a claim for compensation to the
highest court. Prostitution was legalised in Germany in 2002 because
the government believed that this would help to combat trafficking
in women and cut links to organised crime.
Miss Garweg believes that pressure on job centres to meet employment
targets will soon result in them using their powers to cut the benefits
of women who refuse jobs providing sexual services.
"They are already prepared to push women into jobs related
to sexual services, but which don't count as prostitution,'' she
"Now that prostitution is no longer considered by the law
to be immoral, there is really nothing but the goodwill of the job
centres to stop them from pushing women into jobs they don't want
DALLAS -- Police continued to search for a
gunman today after a suspected road-rage shooting that left a 14-year-old
boy dead and his stepfather wounded.
The shooting happened about 2 p.m. Sunday in a shopping center parking
lot in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, about 3 miles west of downtown,
Ruben Juarez, 14, was killed. His stepfather, Gilbert Garza, 25,
was treated at Methodist Dallas Medical Center and later released.
A 14-year-old friend of Ruben's was also in the family's sport-utility
vehicle but was not injured.
Witnesses said the two vehicles were traveling in opposite directions
when they nearly collided. Garza told Dallas-Fort Worth television
station KDFW that he honked at the car, and the other driver honked
Dallas police Sgt. Gary Kirkpatrick said the gunman got out, pulled
a rifle out of his car and fired a single shot. The bullet went
through the driver's-side window, hit Garza, then struck Ruben.
|Air France Boeing 474 with 470 passengers aboard
made an emergency landing in Cairo after it was not allowed to touch
down at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport. Officials at the French
airport refused to give the plane the greenlight due to a navigation
problem, Russian Gazeta Ru agency reported. In Egypt twelve passengers
were given first aid treatment and the plane was refueled. The plane
has headed for the Belgian airport in Austin.
YOKOSUKA — Six U.S. Navy personnel on
board a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific off Chiba Prefecture
were injured, some seriously, Saturday when a fighter jet failed
in its landing attempt, the U.S. Navy in Japan said Monday.
Arrestor wires, used to bring a jet to halt, broke when an F/A-18F
Super Hornet made a landing attempt on the Kitty Hawk around 6:30
p.m. Saturday, hitting the deck crew, the U.S. Navy said. The fighter
overran the deck and plunged into the sea. The two crew members
aboard were rescued by helicopter and were not hurt.
SRINAGAR, India : Suspected Muslim rebels
killed 10 civilians, including three children, in a fresh spurt
of violence a day ahead of a crucial phase of municipal elections
in Indian Kashmir.
Police said four members of a Muslim family were killed, two of
them minors, and two wounded when hand grenades were hurled at their
home in southern Doda district today.
The wounded were in critical condition, a police spokesman said.
In the neighbouring district of Anantnag, suspected rebels overnight
stormed into another Muslim household wounding the owner and killing
"They (militants) abducted his student son and later hanged
him to death," the spokesman said.
In the state's summer capital Srinagar suspected militants overnight
shot dead a Muslim contractor, police said.
No group claimed responsibility for the latest civilian killings.
DUSHANBE : At least one person was killed and
four were injured when a car exploded in the heart of the Tajik
capital, an official in the country's emergencies ministry said.
The explosion occurred outside the emergencies ministry, breaking
windows and damaging the facade, said the official, who requested
He said the explosion appeared to have been an attack.
The person who was killed appeared to be the driver of a Russian-built
Volga sedan waiting outside the building. The automobile was destroyed
in the blast and several other vehicles were damaged.
BEIJING : An outbreak of meningitis across
11 cities in eastern China has claimed eight lives and left seven
people hospitalised, state media reported.
As of December 20, the disease had killed three in the eastern
city of Nanjing and five school children in Anhui province, also
in the east, provincial health authorities were quoted by China
Youth Daily as saying.
Anhui officials said 61 cases had been found, and that 49 had
Most victims were children aged 13 to 18 and most of the cases
were of group C meningitis, which generally causes more deaths than
groups A and B.
"Group C bacteria spreads easier and is more difficult to
control," said Du Changzhi, deputy director of Anhui health
The report did not say whether the outbreak could spark a large-scale
Heath and education authorities have asked schools to closely
monitor the health of students.
A flu epidemic might be declared in some Bulgarian
cities within days, Dr. Anguel Kunchev from the ministry's Epidemic
Control Department said.
Experts are still waiting for the latest data to decide whether
it is an epidemic.
Kunchev explained that the most endangered Bulgarian regions are
near the cities of Haskovo, Dimitrovgrad, Stara Zogara and Burgas.
Still, he underlined that the situation will be clear on Monday
and it will be then decided whether a flu epidemic will be declared.
An epidemic is declared when over 180 people from 100,000 are
sick, Dr. Kunchev explained.
BANGKOK : A strain of bird flu that can be
deadly to humans has been detected in two more Thai provinces, livestock
officials said, bringing to six the number of provinces affected
by the disease.
The H5N1 virus was detected in locally bred chickens in the northern
provinces of Nakhon Sawan and Uttaradit last week, the livestock
department said in a statement.
An outbreak was confirmed on January 24 in the Pichai district
of Uttaradit, where 78 chickens died of the flu and 22 others were
culled to prevent the disease from spreading, the department said.
Another outbreak was confirmed January 28 in Nakhon Sawan's Krok
Phra district, where 37 chickens died.
Both areas were placed under 21-day surveillance.
Twelve people have died in Thailand from the virus that has swept
Asia since December 2003.
An air pollution alert was put in effect Monday
for approximately the southern three-fourths of Minnesota, including
the Twin Cities, Rochester, St. Cloud, Brainerd and Duluth.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency extended the alert through
The agency said levels of soot in the air are in the "orange''
category, meaning unhealthy for sensitive groups such as those with
heart or lung disease, adults over 50, and healthy adults and children
doing vigorous exercise outdoors.
However, the agency said the air pollution in
the Twin Cities area is nearing the point where it's unhealthy for
A temperature inversion trapped fine particles in the air near
the ground, and more particles have moved into Minnesota from the
CREIGHTON, Pa. - A freight train carrying a
corrosive chemical derailed in a Pittsburgh suburb early today,
sending several cars into a river and forcing the evacuation of
200 residents, officials said.
Thirteen of the Norfolk Southern train's 83 cars derailed at about
5:30 a.m. in East Deer Township.
One of several cars that ended up in the Allegheny River leaked
an unknown amount of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride, a chemical used
in steelmaking, said Betsy Mallison, a state Department of Environmental
Protection spokeswoman. The tanker can hold up to 15,000 gallons.
There were no reports of injuries and Mallison said no significant
environmental impact was expected. Nearby residents were evacuated
as a precaution and it wasn't clear when they would be allowed to
return home, she said.
Colorado Springs, CO -- After decades of seeking possible answers
about a mysterious UFO-like design on a 17th century French copper
coin, a prominent numismatic expert says it remains just that: an
unidentified flying object. After a half-century
of research, the design has defied positive identification by the
"It was made in the 1680s in France and the design on one
side certainly looks like it could be a flying saucer in the clouds
over the countryside," said Kenneth E. Bressett of Colorado
Springs, Colorado, a former President of the 32,000-member American
Numismatic Association and owner of the curious coin.
"Is it supposed to be a UFO of some sort, or a symbolic representation
of the Biblical Ezekiel's wheel? After 50 years of searching, I've
heard of only one other example of it, and nothing to explain the
Bressett said the mysterious piece is not really a coin, but a
"jeton," a coin-like educational tool that was commonly
used to help people count money, or sometimes used as a money substitute
for playing games. It is about the size of a U.S. quarter-dollar
and similar to thousands of other jetons with different religious
and educational designs that were produced and used in Europe during
the 16th and 17th centuries.
"The design on this particular piece could be interpreted
as showing either a UFO or Ezekiel's wheel, but little else. Some
people think the Old Testament reference to Ezekiel's wheel may
actually be a description of a long-ago UFO," he explained.
"The legend written in Latin around
the rim is also mystifying. 'OPPORTUNUS ADEST' translates as 'It
is here at an opportune time.' Is the object in the sky symbolic
of needed rainfall, or a Biblical reference or visitors from beyond?
We probably will never know for certain," said Bressett.
"It is part of the lure of numismatics that makes coin collecting
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