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Picture of the Day



The State of the Union Address
February 2, 2005

Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives
The United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.

9:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, fellow citizens:

As a new Congress gathers, all of us in the elected branches of government share a great privilege: We've been placed in office by the votes of the people we serve. And tonight that is a privilege we share with newly-elected leaders of Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territories, Ukraine, and a free and sovereign Iraq. (Applause.)

Comment: And yet, Iraqis are still living under US occupation. There are still power outages and even a lack of water service in many parts of Baghdad. And don't forget the story of the orphaned children whose parents were gunned down for simply driving along towards a US checkpoint several days ago. You know, the incident where the father was shot in the head so many times that his skull caved in.

Yup, a free and sovereign Iraq...

Two weeks ago, I stood on the steps of this Capitol and renewed the commitment of our nation to the guiding ideal of liberty for all. This evening I will set forth policies to advance that ideal at home and around the world.

Tonight, with a healthy, growing economy, with more Americans going back to work, with our nation an active force for good in the world -- the state of our union is confident and strong. (Applause.)

Comment: Can a healthy, growing economy include a massive trade deficit? A daily influx of over $2 billion in foreign investment that is propping up the dollar? Personal debt on an unimaginable scale?

And how about the declaration that the state of the union is confident and strong... Bush and the neocons are certainly confident that they can shape reality to their liking, and we suppose that the ability to murder and torture civilians in Iraq while lying to the American population about what's really going on could be perceived as "strength" by some...

But here's a question: When was the last time an American president got up in front of the nation and declared, "My fellow Americans, the state of our union is awful" or "the state of our union could certainly use some improvement"? The majority of the American people don't want to hear anything that honest, and the leaders certainly don't want to go there either if they can avoid it.

Note also the severe lack of evidence of any of the claims made thus far by Bush. Who needs evidence when you're appealing to Americans' patriotism?

Our generation has been blessed -- by the expansion of opportunity, by advances in medicine, by the security purchased by our parents' sacrifice. Now, as we see a little gray in the mirror -- or a lot of gray -- (laughter) -- and we watch our children moving into adulthood, we ask the question: What will be the state of their union?

Comment: Oo! We know! The state of their union will be strong!

Members of Congress, the choices we make together will answer that question. Over the next several months, on issue after issue, let us do what Americans have always done, and build a better world for our children and our grandchildren. (Applause.)

Comment: ...at the expense of everyone else's children and grandchildren.

First, we must be good stewards of this economy, and renew the great institutions on which millions of our fellow citizens rely. America's economy is the fastest growing of any major industrialized nation.

Comment: Sez who? The LA Times reports:

China's economy grew at a surprisingly breakneck pace at the end of last year, the government said Tuesday in a report sure to increase pressure on Beijing to address its burgeoning trade imbalance with the United States and other countries. [...]

The economic acceleration at year-end lifted growth for all of 2004 also to 9.5%, the fastest rate in eight years. By comparison, the much-larger U.S. economy has been increasing at about a 4% annualized rate.

Either China doesn't count in Bush's eyes, or his figures are a bit biased in favor of the US.

In the past four years, we provided tax relief to every person who pays income taxes, overcome a recession, opened up new markets abroad, prosecuted corporate criminals, raised homeownership to its highest level in history, and in the last year alone, the United States has added 2.3 million new jobs. (Applause.) When action was needed, the Congress delivered -- and the nation is grateful.

Comment: As we have repeatedly shown here on the Signs page, Bush's tax relief primarily benefited the rich, the "recession" hasn't even begun yet in earnest, the prosecution of corporate criminals somehow managed to miss Bush and his pals, and homeownership is sky high only because of dangerously elevated personal and public debt levels.

Now we must add to these achievements. By making our economy more flexible, more innovative, and more competitive, we will keep America the economic leader of the world. (Applause.)

America's prosperity requires restraining the spending appetite of the federal government. I welcome the bipartisan enthusiasm for spending discipline. I will send you a budget that holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent, and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. (Applause.) My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: Taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all. (Applause.)

To make our economy stronger and more dynamic, we must prepare a rising generation to fill the jobs of the 21st century. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, standards are higher, test scores are on the rise, and we're closing the achievement gap for minority students. Now we must demand better results from our high schools, so every high school diploma is a ticket to success. We will help an additional 200,000 workers to get training for a better career, by reforming our job training system and strengthening America's community colleges. And we'll make it easier for Americans to afford a college education, by increasing the size of Pell Grants. (Applause.)

Comment: Unfortunately, all these highly educated children will graduate from college to discover that too many US jobs - from manufacturing to professional positions - have been outsourced to countries like India. Oops.

To make our economy stronger and more competitive, America must reward, not punish, the efforts and dreams of entrepreneurs. Small business is the path of advancement, especially for women and minorities, so we must free small businesses from needless regulation and protect honest job-creators from junk lawsuits. (Applause.) Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back by irresponsible class-actions and frivolous asbestos claims -- and I urge Congress to pass legal reforms this year. (Applause.)

Comment: In other words, the people will have to sacrifice even more rights to the psychopathic corporations.

To make our economy stronger and more productive, we must make health care more affordable, and give families greater access to good coverage -- (applause) -- and more control over their health decisions. (Applause.) I ask Congress to move forward on a comprehensive health care agenda with tax credits to help low-income workers buy insurance, a community health center in every poor country, improved information technology to prevent medical error and needless costs, association health plans for small businesses and their employees -- (applause) -- expanded health savings accounts -- (applause) -- and medical liability reform that will reduce health care costs and make sure patients have the doctors and care they need. (Applause.)

Comment: More affordable... Good coverage... More control over health decisions... Tax credits... Prevent needless costs... Reduce health care costs...

It all sounds good, right? Read yesterday's Signs page for some of the disturbing details and costs.

To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. (Applause.) Nearly four years ago, I submitted a comprehensive energy strategy that encourages conservation, alternative sources, a modernized electricity grid, and more production here at home -- including safe, clean nuclear energy. (Applause.) My Clear Skies legislation will cut power plant pollution and improve the health of our citizens. (Applause.) And my budget provides strong funding for leading-edge technology -- from hydrogen-fueled cars, to clean coal, to renewable sources such as ethanol. (Applause.) Four years of debate is enough: I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy. (Applause.)

Comment: None of this will make a dent in US dependence on petroleum. Look at the "progress" Bush has made in the war on terror - i.e. torture, the reduction of civil liberties, and complete disregard for international law. Look at his ties to Big Oil. Now ask yourself why he hasn't been as fanatical about alternative energy. Bush didn't need congress' help to declare war on Iraq, so why would he need their approval now for something far less important?

All these proposals are essential to expand this economy and add new jobs -- but they are just the beginning of our duty. To build the prosperity of future generations, we must update institutions that were created to meet the needs of an earlier time. Year after year, Americans are burdened by an archaic, incoherent federal tax code. I've appointed a bipartisan panel to examine the tax code from top to bottom. And when their recommendations are delivered, you and I will work together to give this nation a tax code that is pro-growth, easy to understand, and fair to all. (Applause.)

Comment: How many times have Americans heard this one before?

America's immigration system is also outdated -- unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny businesses willing workers, and invite chaos at our border. It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country, and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists. (Applause.)

Comment: That's funny. In November of 2004, just before the election, Bush pushed for a plan to legalize an estimated ten million illegal immigrants. Karl Rove indicated that it was an initiative that would be pushed in the new year. Is Rove just arrogant, or does it seem he knew Bush would "win" the election? In any case, on the November 11, 2004 Signs page, we made the following comments about the article:

There are an estimated ten million illegal immigrants in the US, Bush is pushing to legalize them, and yet he downplayed the amnesty issue during his re-election campaign. So, why the push to legalize illegal aliens?

One possible answer is quite simple: cannon fodder. The Bush administration already tried tempting illegal immigrants with citizenship if they sign up for Iraq duty, and that doesn't seem to be working too well anymore. If you know you are going to wage more Holy Wars in your Righteous Crusade Against Evil, you need a bigger army. The question then becomes: How do you draft men and women if you don't even know they are in the country? You don't. You offer them citizenship, then you draft them. If they don't accept amnesty, they could be viewed as unpatriotic, or even "terrorists"...

One of America's most important institutions -- a symbol of the trust between generations -- is also in need of wise and effective reform. Social Security was a great moral success of the 20th century, and we must honor its great purposes in this new century. (Applause.) The system, however, on its current path, is headed toward bankruptcy. And so we must join together to strengthen and save Social Security. (Applause.)

Today, more than 45 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, and millions more are nearing retirement -- and for them the system is sound and fiscally strong. I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you; for you, the Social Security system will not change in any way. (Applause.) For younger workers, the Social Security system has serious problems that will grow worse with time. Social Security was created decades ago, for a very different era. In those days, people did not live as long. Benefits were much lower than they are today. And a half-century ago, about sixteen workers paid into the system for each person drawing benefits.

Our society has changed in ways the founders of Social Security could not have foreseen. In today's world, people are living longer and, therefore, drawing benefits longer. And those benefits are scheduled to rise dramatically over the next few decades. And instead of sixteen workers paying in for every beneficiary, right now it's only about three workers. And over the next few decades that number will fall to just two workers per beneficiary. With each passing year, fewer workers are paying ever-higher benefits to an ever-larger number of retirees.

So here is the result: Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in. And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the year before. For example, in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra $200 billion to keep the system afloat -- and by 2033, the annual shortfall would be more than $300 billion. By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt. If steps are not taken to avert that outcome, the only solutions would be dramatically higher taxes, massive new borrowing, or sudden and severe cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs.

I recognize that 2018 and 2042 may seem a long way off. But those dates are not so distant, as any parent will tell you. If you have a five-year-old, you're already concerned about how you'll pay for college tuition 13 years down the road. If you've got children in their 20s, as some of us do, the idea of Social Security collapsing before they retire does not seem like a small matter. And it should not be a small matter to the United States Congress. (Applause.) You and I share a responsibility. We must pass reforms that solve the financial problems of Social Security once and for all.

Comment: The social security system is not actually in the midst of a great crisis as we are meant to believe. See the December 21, 2004 Signs page for more information.

Fixing Social Security permanently will require an open, candid review of the options. Some have suggested limiting benefits for wealthy retirees. Former Congressman Tim Penny has raised the possibility of indexing benefits to prices rather than wages. During the 1990s, my predecessor, President Clinton, spoke of increasing the retirement age. Former Senator John Breaux suggested discouraging early collection of Social Security benefits. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recommended changing the way benefits are calculated. All these ideas are on the table.

I know that none of these reforms would be easy. But we have to move ahead with courage and honesty, because our children's retirement security is more important than partisan politics. (Applause.) I will work with members of Congress to find the most effective combination of reforms. I will listen to anyone who has a good idea to offer. (Applause.) We must, however, be guided by some basic principles. We must make Social Security permanently sound, not leave that task for another day. We must not jeopardize our economic strength by increasing payroll taxes. We must ensure that lower-income Americans get the help they need to have dignity and peace of mind in their retirement. We must guarantee there is no change for those now retired or nearing retirement. And we must take care that any changes in the system are gradual, so younger workers have years to prepare and plan for their future.

Comment: Of course Bush doesn't want to upset all those Americans who will soon be retiring. There are a whole lot of Americans that fit that category, and Bush's strategists know they would be stupid to make such a move and risk providing a shock to a large group of Americans that might make them wake up a bit and withdraw some of their mostly unquestioning support of Dubya. Plus, if you shock older Americans, what influence might they have on their children's views? The Bush administration may be effectively butchering the social security and healthcare systems in preparation for economic disaster, but they are doing it in such a way that they raise as little suspicion as possible.

As we fix Social Security, we also have the responsibility to make the system a better deal for younger workers. And the best way to reach that goal is through voluntary personal retirement accounts. (Applause.) Here is how the idea works. Right now, a set portion of the money you earn is taken out of your paycheck to pay for the Social Security benefits of today's retirees. If you're a younger worker, I believe you should be able to set aside part of that money in your own retirement account, so you can build a nest egg for your own future.

Here's why the personal accounts are a better deal. Your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver -- and your account will provide money for retirement over and above the check you will receive from Social Security. In addition, you'll be able to pass along the money that accumulates in your personal account, if you wish, to your children and -- or grandchildren. And best of all, the money in the account is yours, and the government can never take it away. (Applause.)

The goal here is greater security in retirement, so we will set careful guidelines for personal accounts. We'll make sure the money can only go into a conservative mix of bonds and stock funds. We'll make sure that your earnings are not eaten up by hidden Wall Street fees. We'll make sure there are good options to protect your investments from sudden market swings on the eve of your retirement. We'll make sure a personal account cannot be emptied out all at once, but rather paid out over time, as an addition to traditional Social Security benefits. And we'll make sure this plan is fiscally responsible, by starting personal retirement accounts gradually, and raising the yearly limits on contributions over time, eventually permitting all workers to set aside four percentage points of their payroll taxes in their accounts.

Personal retirement accounts should be familiar to federal employees, because you already have something similar, called the Thrift Savings Plan, which lets workers deposit a portion of their paychecks into any of five different broadly-based investment funds. It's time to extend the same security, and choice, and ownership to young Americans. (Applause.)

Our second great responsibility to our children and grandchildren is to honor and to pass along the values that sustain a free society. So many of my generation, after a long journey, have come home to family and faith, and are determined to bring up responsible, moral children. Government is not the source of these values, but government should never undermine them.

Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage. (Applause.)

Because a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable, we must strive to build a culture of life. Medical research can help us reach that goal, by developing treatments and cures that save lives and help people overcome disabilities -- and I thank the Congress for doubling the funding of the National Institutes of Health. (Applause.) To build a culture of life, we must also ensure that scientific advances always serve human dignity, not take advantage of some lives for the benefit of others. We should all be able to agree -- (applause) -- we should all be able to agree on some clear standards. I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought and sold as a commodity. (Applause.) America will continue to lead the world in medical research that is ambitious, aggressive, and always ethical.

Comment: Call us crazy, but shouldn't a "culture of life" also include a respect for international law, the banning of torture, the banning of labeling prisoners "enemy combatants" and depriving them of any rights or even a fair trial, the banning of transferring said prisoners to countries that are known to practice torture, the destruction of US nuclear, chemical, and biological arsenals (after all, other countries aren't allowed to have WMD's, so why can the US keep them?), and the right for all people to choose their thoughts and beliefs regardless of the "moral" or "spiritual" inclinations of their unelected president?

Because courts must always deliver impartial justice, judges have a duty to faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. (Applause.) As President, I have a constitutional responsibility to nominate men and women who understand the role of courts in our democracy, and are well-qualified to serve on the bench -- and I have done so. (Applause.) The Constitution also gives the Senate a responsibility: Every judicial nominee deserves an up or down vote. (Applause.)

Comment: In other words, Bush will decide the law, and the judges he nominates better:
a) be appointed by the Senate
b) carry out the laws that he decides constitute "impartial justice"

Because one of the deepest values of our country is compassion, we must never turn away from any citizen who feels isolated from the opportunities of America. Our government will continue to support faith-based and community groups that bring hope to harsh places. Now we need to focus on giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail. Tonight I propose a three-year initiative to help organizations keep young people out of gangs, and show young men an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence. (Applause.) Taking on gang life will be one part of a broader outreach to at-risk youth, which involves parents and pastors, coaches and community leaders, in programs ranging from literacy to sports. And I am proud that the leader of this nationwide effort will be our First Lady, Laura Bush. (Applause.)

Because HIV/AIDS brings suffering and fear into so many lives, I ask you to reauthorize the Ryan White Act to encourage prevention, and provide care and treatment to the victims of that disease. (Applause.) And as we update this important law, we must focus our efforts on fellow citizens with the highest rates of new cases, African American men and women. (Applause.)

Because one of the main sources of our national unity is our belief in equal justice, we need to make sure Americans of all races and backgrounds have confidence in the system that provides justice. In America we must make doubly sure no person is held to account for a crime he or she did not commit -- so we are dramatically expanding the use of DNA evidence to prevent wrongful conviction. (Applause.) Soon I will send to Congress a proposal to fund special training for defense counsel in capital cases, because people on trial for their lives must have competent lawyers by their side. (Applause.)

Comment: Note exactly what Bush says here. He says that one of the main sources of national unity in America is the belief in equal justice - which does not necessarily imply the existence of equal justice itself in the US. He then continues on to say that the country must ensure that Americans of all races have confidence in the justice system - not necessarily that the justice system inspires confidence, but that Americans simply believe in the system, which itself does not have to be just.

If that seems like splitting hairs, think about the Patriot Acts I and II. Think about the disregard of human rights in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and everywhere else the US is involved in their war on terror. Think about the occupation of Iraq, including the murder of innocent civilians whose numbers aren't even being recorded by the Pentagon since it is apparently not important enough. Think about Bush's ability to declare anyone an enemy combatant and strip them of all rights. Then reread what Bush said above.

As for the expansion of the use of DNA evidence: why are we not surprised? So-called "DNA dragnets" are becoming increasingly popular in the US, and the samples gathered are kept on file even when an individual is found to be innocent.

Our third responsibility to future generations is to leave them an America that is safe from danger, and protected by peace. We will pass along to our children all the freedoms we enjoy -- and chief among them is freedom from fear.

Comment: Horse hockey. Fear is the neocons' greatest weapon. Their second greatest weapon is the lie - i.e. convincing the American people to fool themselves into thinking that they are not afraid. The more the people lie to themselves, the more they will believe the lies of others.

In the three and a half years since September the 11th, 2001, we have taken unprecedented actions to protect Americans. We've created a new department of government to defend our homeland, focused the FBI on preventing terrorism, begun to reform our intelligence agencies, broken up terror cells across the country, expanded research on defenses against biological and chemical attack, improved border security, and trained more than a half-million first responders. Police and firefighters, air marshals, researchers, and so many others are working every day to make our homeland safer, and we thank them all. (Applause.)

Our nation, working with allies and friends, has also confronted the enemy abroad, with measures that are determined, successful, and continuing. The al Qaeda terror network that attacked our country still has leaders -- but many of its top commanders have been removed. There are still governments that sponsor and harbor terrorists -- but their number has declined. There are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction -- but no longer without attention and without consequence. Our country is still the target of terrorists who want to kill many, and intimidate us all -- and we will stay on the offensive against them, until the fight is won. (Applause.)

Pursuing our enemies is a vital commitment of the war on terror -- and I thank the Congress for providing our servicemen and women with the resources they have needed. During this time of war, we must continue to support our military and give them the tools for victory. (Applause.)

Comment: Be sure to read PNAC's letter to Congress requesting an extra 25,000 new soldiers per year. Guess where Bush will get the extra troops?

Also in today's news: Marines come up short on recruits; Service fails to attain monthly quota for first time in a decade

Other nations around the globe have stood with us. In Afghanistan, an international force is helping provide security. In Iraq, 28 countries have troops on the ground, the United Nations and the European Union provided technical assistance for the elections, and NATO is leading a mission to help train Iraqi officers. We're cooperating with 60 governments in the Proliferation Security Initiative, to detect and stop the transit of dangerous materials. We're working closely with the governments in Asia to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and nine other countries have captured or detained al Qaeda terrorists. In the next four years, my administration will continue to build the coalitions that will defeat the dangers of our time. (Applause.)

In the long-term, the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder. If whole regions of the world remain in despair and grow in hatred, they will be the recruiting grounds for terror, and that terror will stalk America and other free nations for decades. The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom. (Applause.) Our enemies know this, and that is why the terrorist Zarqawi recently declared war on what he called the "evil principle" of democracy. And we've declared our own intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. (Applause.)

Comment: Let's see, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Zarqawi" said:

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

This is the part to which Bush was no doubt referring. Unfortunately, he left out a few other important statements:

The speaker warned Iraqis to be careful of "the enemy's plan to implement so-called democracy in your country." He said the Americans have engineered the election to install Shiite Muslims in power.

Well, that changes things dramatically, now doesn't it? It seems the context of a statement can be rather important...

The United States has no right, no desire, and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else. That is one of the main differences between us and our enemies. They seek to impose and expand an empire of oppression, in which a tiny group of brutal, self-appointed rulers control every aspect of every life. Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace. (Applause.)

Comment: Ah, the psychopath. He will always accuse others of that which he himself is guilty.

That advance has great momentum in our time -- shown by women voting in Afghanistan, and Palestinians choosing a new direction, and the people of Ukraine asserting their democratic rights and electing a president. We are witnessing landmark events in the history of liberty. And in the coming years, we will add to that story. (Applause.)

Comment: No doubt...

The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure. Tomorrow morning, Secretary of State Rice departs on a trip that will take her to Israel and the West Bank for meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas. She will discuss with them how we and our friends can help the Palestinian people end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent, democratic state. To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, is within reach -- and America will help them achieve that goal. (Applause.)

To promote peace and stability in the broader Middle East, the United States will work with our friends in the region to fight the common threat of terror, while we encourage a higher standard of freedom. Hopeful reform is already taking hold in an arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain. The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East. (Applause.)

Comment: Hopeful reform from Morocco to Jordan? Egypt as a proud nation and beacon of democracy? In the article Uncle Sam has his own gulag, we note the following:

According to a report leaked to the New York Times, the Swiss-based International Red Cross has accused the Bush administration for a second time of employing systematic, medically supervised torture against suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, and at U.S.-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The second Red Cross report was delivered to the White House last summer while it was trying to dismiss the Abu Ghraib prison torture horrors as the crimes of a few rogue jailers.

According to the report's allegations, many tortures perfected by the Cheka (Soviet secret police) -- notably beating, freezing, sensory disorientation, and sleep deprivation -- are now routinely being used by U.S. interrogators. [...]

The U.S. has been sending high-level anti-American suspects to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and, reportedly, Pakistan, where it's alleged they are brutally tortured with violent electric shocks, savage beatings, drowning, acid baths, and blowtorching -- the same tortures, ironically, ascribed to Saddam Hussein. [...]

To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act -- and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom. (Applause.) Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror -- pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you. (Applause.)

Comment:

Dear George,

Please provide even one small shred of evidence that anything you have claimed about Iran is even remotely close to being true.
Note that we did not place the word 'evidence' above in quotation marks.

Sincerely,
The Signs of the Times Editors

Our generational commitment to the advance of freedom, especially in the Middle East, is now being tested and honored in Iraq. That country is a vital front in the war on terror, which is why the terrorists have chosen to make a stand there. Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) And the victory of freedom in Iraq will strengthen a new ally in the war on terror, inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, bring more hope and progress to a troubled region, and thereby lift a terrible threat from the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Comment: Iraq under Saddam was a threat to Americans, their children, and their grandchildren? And here we thought that the Bush administration had already admitted that there weren't any WMD's in Iraq after all! That was why America invaded Iraq, demolished its infrastructure, and murdered countless civilians, wasn't it?

We will succeed because the Iraqi people value their own liberty -- as they showed the world last Sunday. (Applause.) Across Iraq, often at great risk, millions of citizens went to the polls and elected 275 men and women to represent them in a new Transitional National Assembly. A young woman in Baghdad told of waking to the sound of mortar fire on election day, and wondering if it might be too dangerous to vote. She said, "Hearing those explosions, it occurred to me -- the insurgents are weak, they are afraid of democracy, they are losing. So I got my husband, and I got my parents, and we all came out and voted together."

Comment:

In Tal Afar, this little Iraqi girl said, "I couldn't get my parents to go vote, because they were both torn to shreds by American bullets for no apparent reason just before the election, and I got to watch the whole thing."

Americans recognize that spirit of liberty, because we share it. In any nation, casting your vote is an act of civic responsibility; for millions of Iraqis, it was also an act of personal courage, and they have earned the respect of us all. (Applause.)

One of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Suhail. She says of her country, "We were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. Thank you to the American people who paid the cost, but most of all, to the soldiers." Eleven years ago, Safia's father was assassinated by Saddam's intelligence service. Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country -- and we are honored that she is with us tonight. (Applause.)

The terrorists and insurgents are violently opposed to democracy, and will continue to attack it. Yet, the terrorists' most powerful myth is being destroyed. The whole world is seeing that the car bombers and assassins are not only fighting coalition forces, they are trying to destroy the hopes of Iraqis, expressed in free elections. And the whole world now knows that a small group of extremists will not overturn the will of the Iraqi people. (Applause.)

We will succeed in Iraq because Iraqis are determined to fight for their own freedom, and to write their own history. As Prime Minister Allawi said in his speech to Congress last September, "Ordinary Iraqis are anxious to shoulder all the security burdens of our country as quickly as possible." That is the natural desire of an independent nation, and it is also the stated mission of our coalition in Iraq. The new political situation in Iraq opens a new phase of our work in that country.

At the recommendation of our commanders on the ground, and in consultation with the Iraqi government, we will increasingly focus our efforts on helping prepare more capable Iraqi security forces -- forces with skilled officers and an effective command structure. As those forces become more self-reliant and take on greater security responsibilities, America and its coalition partners will increasingly be in a supporting role. In the end, Iraqis must be able to defend their own country -- and we will help that proud, new nation secure its liberty.

Comment: Actually, that's the exact same thing Bush said many months ago. In September of 2004, a Pentagon document revealed that Bush's claim at the time that 100,000 Iraqi security personnel were trained and ready was dead wrong. The actual figure was 22,700, and they had received only enough basic training to make them "minimally effective" at their jobs. The idea was to have 125,000 Iraqis securing the country by the January election that just happened. We all know how that turned out, so there is no reason to assume that Bush is not once again full of hot air...

Recently an Iraqi interpreter said to a reporter, "Tell America not to abandon us." He and all Iraqis can be certain: While our military strategy is adapting to circumstances, our commitment remains firm and unchanging. We are standing for the freedom of our Iraqi friends, and freedom in Iraq will make America safer for generations to come. (Applause.)

Comment: Again, why?? The continuing American occupation of Iraq is doing nothing but increasing worldwide anger and frustration with the US.

We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out. We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself. And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned. (Applause.)

Right now, Americans in uniform are serving at posts across the world, often taking great risks on my orders. We have given them training and equipment;

Comment: Except in Iraq, where families and soldiers themselves have to buy body armor and other supplies, and even retrofit their vehicles with more protective armor plating...

Oh, and let's not forget the claims that some of the "bad apples" convicted of torture used "inadequate training" to explain their behavior...

and they have given us an example of idealism and character that makes every American proud. (Applause.)

Comment: If US torture, extradition of prisoners to other countries to be tortured and killed, and the atrocity that happened to the little girl in the above photo and her family is "an example of idealism and character", we are all in big trouble.

The volunteers of our military are unrelenting in battle, unwavering in loyalty, unmatched in honor and decency, and every day they're making our nation more secure. Some of our servicemen and women have survived terrible injuries, and this grateful country will do everything we can to help them recover. (Applause.)

Comment: Really? Watch the video The Ground Truth: The Human Cost of War [Part 1][Part 2] at Information Clearing House.

And we have said farewell to some very good men and women, who died for our freedom, and whose memory this nation will honor forever.

One name we honor is Marine Corps Sergeant Byron Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas, who was killed during the assault on Fallujah. His mom, Janet, sent me a letter and told me how much Byron loved being a Marine, and how proud he was to be on the front line against terror. She wrote, "When Byron was home the last time, I said that I wanted to protect him like I had since he was born. He just hugged me and said, 'You've done your job, Mom. Now it is my turn to protect you.'" Ladies and gentlemen, with grateful hearts, we honor freedom's defenders, and our military families, represented here this evening by Sergeant Norwood's mom and dad, Janet and Bill Norwood. (Applause.)

Comment: Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy and patriotic inside??

In these four years, Americans have seen the unfolding of large events. We have known times of sorrow, and hours of uncertainty, and days of victory. In all this history, even when we have disagreed, we have seen threads of purpose that unite us. The attack on freedom in our world has reaffirmed our confidence in freedom's power to change the world. We are all part of a great venture: To extend the promise of freedom in our country, to renew the values that sustain our liberty, and to spread the peace that freedom brings.

As Franklin Roosevelt once reminded Americans, "Each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth." And we live in the country where the biggest dreams are born. The abolition of slavery was only a dream -- until it was fulfilled. The liberation of Europe from fascism was only a dream -- until it was achieved. The fall of imperial communism was only a dream -- until, one day, it was accomplished. Our generation has dreams of its own, and we also go forward with confidence. The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable -- yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom.

Thank you, and may God bless America. (Applause.)

Comment: As Dwight D. Eisenhower once reminded Americans:

"In the counsels of Government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together."

It seems the citizenry were - and are - neither alert nor knowledgeable enough...

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Wings Damage Buildings

SOTT

Look at the picture below. It is a photo of a Canadair Challenger 600 corporate jet that crashed into a building after failing to take-off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, Wednesday, Feb 2, 2005. Notice the fact that the right wing struck the building as one might expect, leaving a hole (or at least damage) on the facade of the building at the impact point. The left hand wing appears to have broken when the plane dropped onto its left side, and did not impact the building.

Now look at the following picture

It shows the Pentagon facade immediately to the right of the impact point and where there should clearly be some damage from the right wing of the plane. There is none.

Likewise, in the following picture (click for larger version) we see that to the immediate left of the impact point (direct above car) where there should be evidence of damage to the facade caused by the the left wing, but, again, there is none. It should also be noted that there are two cars , one white, one black, directly in front of the left hand bar of the upside down "T" of the hole. While the white car is partially destroyed the black SUV seems to be fairly much intact, suggesting that the hole that it sits in front of resulted from a blast from the INSIDE of the building rather than part of any large plane that made the hole from the outside.

Even the government commissioned "Pentagon Building Performance Report" acknowledges that there is no damage to the building from either the wings, or the tail of the plane that would have reached up to the fourth floor of the building. (click below image for larger version)

The report suggests that perhaps one or other of the wings were sheared off before they struck the building, but in that case, where is the wreckage?

After even a cursory look at the evidence, it becomes clear that it is VERY unlikely that a plane the size of a Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon on 9/11. Of course, the entire issue could be put to rest if the US government would simply release the footage from the many confiscated video tapes that recorded the event. Sadly, the US government steadfastly refuses to do so, citing "national security concerns", which simply adds to the suspicions that something very strange happened at the Pentagon on September 11th 2001 and all of the evidence suggests that it had nothing whatsoever to do with "Arab terrorists".

Of course, the fact that the US government is lying about the events of 9/11 has not stopped them exploiting that lie to garner public support to wage war on the innocent and defenseless people of Afghanistan and Iraq. In believing the lie and supporting the liars, the average citizen becomes complicit in the crimes that are committed in their name.

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America: the new heart of darkness
By John Kaminski
skylax@comcast.net

Our creature comforts have
made silent cowards of us all

... absolute power corrupts absolutely.
— Lord Acton

All a man can betray is his conscience.
— Joseph Conrad


"We do it because we can," the military man said smugly. And by such philosophy, the corporate American war machine tries to take the world to its grave.

The former general and recent Secretary of State Colin Powell's words still ring in my ears: "We don't count the Iraqi dead," he said. Perhaps it was because he knew he couldn't count that high.

For a month I've looked around for something positive to say, something encouraging, uplifting, productive ... and failing that, perhaps something consoling, some obvious explanation of the twisted perversion that has wrapped its petrochemical tentacles around the throat of humanity and keeps squeezing.

Across the gray landscape of languid lies and malevolent misconceptions, I see nothing to cling to. No ray of hope. Only lies, self-serving twists of what used to be called logic. Freedom is no longer safe, they tell us. You must have a number. And while you're at it, take this toxic vaccine, and no, you won't be able to sue the manufacturer if you get sick. Just do it, as the slogan commands us.

The right to a fair trial is no longer guaranteed. You can be put in jail or executed for reasons that can be kept secret. And still, on the crumbling streets of America, most people go about their business as if nothing has happened.

Sensible people, who in the deepening darkness of their own secret hearts must realize something has definitely happened, that something definitely will happen. Sensible people, suddenly afraid to speak what they really believe for fear their neighbors will overhear and tell someone with a gun and a uniform, or worse, an employer with an important contract who wants no employees who don't agree with the way things are. And then, they think, paralyzed by fear, who will feed the kids? Scared silence follows.

Who would have thought that democracy would come to mean tyranny? OK, Orwell. And many other now unpopular voices, never heard in our manacled media.

Who would have thought, when all was said and done, that America would turn out to be the chief threat to the survival of all life on this planet? But as the announcer always reminds us, this is why we play the game. You never know how it will turn out.

How it has turned out is like this.

No one dares to speak the truth in America, because if they do, they will be removed from the corrupt system of profit-making that enables them to remain smug and secure (they think) in their never-paid-off homes. Just think of all those well-paid journalists and broadcasters who pretend to be such authorities on what's going on in the world.

Not one of them dares to mention, as they wax opportunistically compassionate over the quarter million dead from the suspicious tsunami in the Indian Ocean, that a nearly equal number of equally innocent corpses has been generated by their own hypocrisy in the gutters of various Fallujahs in countries they can barely remember the names of. Nobody’s even talking about the continuing genocide in central Africa.

Not one of them dares to mention that two brothers counted more than 80 percent of the votes in the recent American election (and both of them were publicly enthusiastic about re-electing the tyrant in office), that there were discrepancies in the counting of those votes ONLY in places where there was unverifiable computerized voting, and that poor people everywhere were physically and mentally discouraged from going to the polls. Or that even the candidate who lost didn’t really object to losing.

Not one of them dares to mention that America, their country, is deliberately killing its own soldiers by (1) putting them into a poorly organized military deployment where they will likely be killed by the very people they are trying to rape, kill, and intimidate into accepting the corporate totalitarianism that the killers don't even realize they are supporting, and (2) by polluting their bodies with dangerous ammunition that will kill them with cancer a few short years down the road. Almost no one realizes 10,000 Americans have died as a result of the first Gulf War. A few of the pundits (are you listening, Mike Ruppert?) mention that population reduction is a good idea, however, giving us all just a glimpse of the blood in the teeth of their smiles.

And not one of them dares to mention the contrived horror of 9/11, and the self-serving lies that followed, the total coverup that was called an investigation, and the vigilante hysteria that followed, unleashing a mindless bloodlust to kill who they told us to kill, who just happened to be people they wanted to steal from.

We see from American behavior in Iraq — the endless and deliberate killings of innocent bystanders, the indiscriminate bombing of a population we insist we are rescuing, and the corrupt prevention of independent reporting on the terrible crimes we are committing — that the United States is a nation of conscienceless killers, who have absolutely no regard for the welfare and safety of wholly innocent people who happen to reside outside their borders. Americans hide their atrocious deeds in self-serving rationalizations that nobody really believes, not even, I suspect, the people who are uttering them.

And we see from American behavior inside America — the acceptance of their government’s lies about 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and continuing promises of further invasions of other innocent countries — that the United States is a nation of foul, cowardly, heartless, psychotic and unprincipled murderers, who have blackmailed the rest of the world into accepting their racist imperalism and aggression at the point of their very big guns.

There is no terror threat. It was invented by the Israelis in the White House who wanted to take the focus off the genocide going on in Israel. The 9/11 deception will not be solved until the Israeli component of it is unearthed, and right now, that won’t happen because the entire 9/11 skeptics movement is riddled with Israeli moles and Zionist apologists.

How long will the world wait to do something about this menace, now that it has been proven that no matter how many actual Americans disapprove of this consumately sociopathic behavior, they are powerless to stop the corporate war machine, which they support by their silence, from plundering the planet into an irreversibly toxic condition.

By their actions over the past century, Americans have revealed themselves to be psycho killers in pursuit of profit at the expense of everyone else on the planet.

They must be stopped, and if Americans can’t stop themselves, then someone else must, for the benefit of what is good and right and noble and honest.

The real terrorists are the Americans (and their sidekicks the British, the Israelis and the Australians), and the rest of the world needs to wake up to that before it’s too late for everyone.

If the United States were ever to consent to the auspices of a genuinely honest World Court (which is why we won’t), its leaders would easily be convicted of widespread genocide and crimes against humanity, and be sentenced to the maximum penalty.

By their silent complicity, the American people are accessories to all these horrendous crimes before, during, and after the fact, and deserve the same punishment as its leaders.

It’s a little something to remember when on that fateful day the world finally comes calling to repay America for the gifts it has bestowed upon the world.

Just don’t say you didn’t know. Because people with guns don’t listen.

John Kaminski’s Internet essays can be seen on hundreds of websites around the world. They have been collected into two anthologies, the latest of which is titled “The Perfect Enemy,” about how the Zionist-controlled U.S. government created the terrorist group knowns as al-Qaeda.

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Not Worth My Son's Sacrifice
February 1, 2005
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Cindy Sheehan

I was supposed to be on the Larry King Live show last night. I was asked to be on the show to offer my opinion on the election in Iraq from the perspective of a mom whose son was killed in the war prior to the elections. One of the questions I was going to be asked was: Do I think my son's sacrifice was "worth it?" Well, I didn't get a chance to be on the show last night, because I was bumped for something that is really important: The Michael Jackson Trial.

If I was allowed to go on Larry King Live last night and give my opinion about the elections and about my son's sacrifice, this is what I would have told Mr. King and his viewers:

My son, Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan (KIA, Sadr City, 04/04/04) enlisted in the Army to protect America and give something back to our country. He didn't enlist to be used and misused by a reckless Commander-in-Chief who sent his troops to preemptively attack and occupy a country that was no imminent threat (or any threat) to our country. Casey was sent to die in a war that was based on the imagination of some Neo-Cons who love to fill our lives with fear.

Casey didn't agree with the "Mission" but being the courageous and honorable man that he was he knew he had to go to this mistake of a war to support his buddies. Casey also wondered aloud many times why precious troops and resources were being diverted from the real war on terror.

Casey was told that he would be welcomed to Iraq as a liberator with chocolates and rose petals strewn in front of his unarmored Humvee. He was in Iraq for two short weeks when the Shi'ite rebel "welcome wagon" welcomed him to Baghdad with bullets and RPG's, which took his young and beautiful life. I think my son's helmet and Viet Nam era flak jacket would have protected him better from the chocolates and flower petals.

Casey was killed after George Bush proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" on May 1, 2003 -- he was also killed after Saddam was captured in December of that same year. Casey was killed before the transfer of power in June of 2004 and before these elections. Four marines were tragically killed after the election. By my count, about five dozen Iraqis and coalition troops were killed on Election Day -- is that the definition of "Catastrophic Success?" But is that a good day in Iraq? Hundreds of our young people and thousands of Iraqis have been needlessly and senselessly murdered since George Bush triumphantly announced an end to "major combat" almost 2 years ago now. All of the above events have been heralded by this administration as "turning points" in the "war on terror" -- or as wonderful events in the "march of democracy." Really? I don't think, judging by very recent history, that the elections will stop the bloodshed and destruction.

I would have asked Mr. King if he would want to sacrifice one of his children for sham elections in Iraq. Would he or George Bush send their children to be killed, or maimed for life, for a series of lies, mistakes and miscalculations? Now that every lie has been exposed to the light for the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- why are our sons and daughters still there? NOT ONE MORE DROP OF BLOOD SHOULD BE SPILLED FOR THIS PACK OF LIES.

This war was sold to the American people by a slimy leadership with a maniacal zeal and phony sincerity that would have impressed snake oil salesmen a century ago. The average American needs to hear from people who have been devastated by the arrogance and ignorance of an administration that doesn't even have the decency or compassion to sign our "death" letters.

In the interest of being "fair and balanced" (oops, wrong network), I would have been pitted against a parent who still agrees with the "Mission" and the President. Although, I grieve for that parent's loss and I respect that parent's opinion, I would have defied Mr. King, or that parent to explain the "Mission" to me. I don't think anyone can do it with a straight face. The President has also stated that we need to keep our troops in Iraq to honor our sacrifices by completing this elusive and ever changing "Mission." My response to him is "Just because it is too late for Casey and the Sheehan family, why would we want another innocent life taken, in the name of this chameleon of a "Mission?"

Well, I was bumped from the show anyway. Now that Scott Peterson has been convicted and sentenced for his crimes and Laci and Connor's families have the justice they deserve, we have the new "trial of the century" to keep our minds off of the nasty and annoying fact that we are waging an immoral war in Iraq. We can fill our TV screens and homes with the glorified images of the Michael Jackson molestation trial. We can fill our lives with outrage over MJ's victims and hope they get justice; not even questioning the fact that George Bush, his dishonest cabinet, and their misguided policies aren't even brought to the court of public opinion. We won't have to confront ourselves with the fact that the leaders of our country and their lies are responsible for the deaths of 1438 brave Americans -- tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis -- and the loss of our Nation's credibility throughout the world. That might mean we would have to turn off our television sets and do something about it.

Oh yeah. In answer to the original question Larry: No it wasn't worth it!!

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Train wreck of an election
By James Carroll  |  February 1, 2005

IN THINKING about the election in Iraq, my mind keeps jumping back to last week's train wreck in California. A deranged man, intending suicide, drove his Jeep Cherokee onto the railroad tracks, where it got stuck. The onrushing train drew near. The man suddenly left his vehicle and leapt out of the way. He watched as the train crashed into his SUV, derailed, jackknifed, and hit another train. Railroad cars crumbled. Eleven people were killed and nearly 200 were injured, some gravely. The deranged man was arrested. Whatever troubles had made him suicidal in the first place paled in comparison to the trouble he had now.

Iraq is a train wreck. The man who caused it is not in trouble. Tomorrow night he will give his State of the Union speech, and the Washington establishment will applaud him. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are dead.

(Editor's note: Actually, this figure is not correct. According to a report in The Lancet in 2004, figures indicate over 100,000 Iraqi civilian's have died. This report came out in October before the slaughter in Fallujah, and estimates now may be closer to 200,000 dead.)

More than 1,400 Americans are dead. An Arab nation is humiliated. Islamic hatred of the West is ignited. The American military is emasculated. Lies define the foreign policy of the United States. On all sides of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there is wreckage. In the center, there are the dead, the maimed, the displaced -- those who will be the ghosts of this war for the rest of their days. All for what?

Tomorrow night, like a boy in a bubble, George W. Bush will tell the world it was for "freedom." He will claim the Iraqi election as a stamp of legitimacy for his policy, and many people will affirm it as such. Even critics of the war will mute their objections in response to the image of millions of Iraqis going to polling places, as if that act undoes the Bush catastrophe.

There is only one way in which the grand claims made by Washington for the weekend voting will be true -- and that is if the elections empower an Iraqi government that moves quickly to repudiate Washington. The only meaning "freedom" can have in Iraq right now is freedom from the US occupation, which is the ground of disorder. But such an outcome of the elections is not likely. The chaos of a destroyed society leaves every new instrument of governance dependent on the American force, even as the American force shows itself incapable of defending against, much less defeating, the suicide legions. The irony is exquisite. The worse the violence gets, the longer the Americans will claim the right to stay. In that way, the ever more emboldened -- and brutal -- "insurgents" do Bush's work for him by making it extremely difficult for an authentic Iraqi source of order to emerge. Likewise the elections, which, as universally predicted, have now ratified the country's deadly factionalism.

Full blown civil war, if it comes to that, will serve Bush's purpose, too. All the better if Syria and Iran leap into the fray. In such extremity, America's occupation of Iraq will be declared legitimate. America's city-smashing tactics, already displayed in Fallujah, will seem necessary. Further "regime change" will follow. America's ad hoc Middle East bases, meanwhile, will have become permanent. Iraq will have become America's client state in the world's great oil preserve. Bush's disastrous and immoral war policy will have "succeeded," even though no war will have been won. The region's war will be eternal, forever justifying America's presence. Bush's callow hubris will be celebrated as genius. Congress will give the military machine everything it needs to roll on to more "elections." These outcomes, of course, presume the ongoing deaths of tens of thousands more men, women, and children. And American soldiers.

Something else about that California train wreck strikes me. As news reports suggested, so many passengers were killed and injured because the locomotive was pushing the train from behind, which put the lightweight passenger coaches vulnerably in front. If, instead, the heavy, track-clearing locomotive had been leading and had hit the Jeep, it could have pushed the vehicle aside. The jack-knifing and derailment would not have occurred. The American war machine is like a train running in "push-mode," with the engineer safely back away from danger. In the train wreck of Iraq, it is passengers who have borne the brunt. The man with his hand on the throttle couldn't be more securely removed from the terrible consequences of his locomotion. Thus, Bush is like the man who caused the wreck, and like the man who was protected from it. Deranged. Detached. Alive and well in the bubble he calls "freedom," receiving applause.

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Iraq officials admit irregularities in poll
Wednesday 02 February 2005, 3:29 Makka Time, 0:29 GMT  

Tens of thousands of Iraqis - mainly Sunni Arabs - may have been denied their right to vote on Sunday because of insufficient ballots and polling centres, Iraqi officials have said.

Officials began compiling election results from around the country on Tuesday, but they said many citizens arrived late on Sunday to find ballot sheets had run out, possibly skewing results.

If true, the allegation that many voters were turned away could further alienate Sunnis who already say that they have been left out of the political process.

Iraq's interim President Ghazi al-Yawir said extra ballots had to be supplied to Iraq's third city of Mosul, which is mainly Sunni Arab, after twice running out on election day.

"Also, tens of thousands were unable to cast their votes because of the lack of ballots in Basra, Baghdad, and Najaf," said al-Yawir.

Deprived from voting

Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission acknowledged that some Iraqis were unable to vote because pre-election intimidation in two Sunni Arab provinces hampered preparations.

"The elections took place under difficult conditions and this undoubtedly deprived a number of citizens in a number of areas from voting," said Husain al-Hindawi, who leads the commission that organised the poll.

"The security situation was difficult in these areas and there may have been a shortage of materials in this area or that... Some centres were opened quickly, at the last moment."

Al-Hindawi said the commission was setting up an external committee made up of three Iraqi lawyers to investigate complaints. Each case would be explained in a detailed report.

Electoral sabotage

Mishaan Jiburi, a candidate and national assembly member, accused the commission of deliberately supplying insufficient materials in some Sunni areas, believing few would vote. "

Arab voters who initially intended to boycott the polls in the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk apparently had changed their minds after realising they would lose to Kurds. But by the time they arrived to vote, ballot sheets were gone, he said.

"I think the decision came from Baghdad. They were concerned with keeping Sunnis out of the game," he said.

Jiburi said ballot sheets were 36,000-40,000 short in Hawija, a largely Sunni Arab area southwest of oil-rich Kirkuk.

He estimated a shortfall of 28,000 ballot papers in Baiji, a northern Sunni city, and 6000 in nearby Shirqat.

Poor security

"I had a large number of voters in these areas. I am sure we will be in parliament, but if these people had been able to vote we would have won more seats," Jiburi said.

Of 5244 polling centres planned, 28 did not open, many in western Baghdad, because of poor security, the commission said.    

While there were 63,000 polling booths across Iraq, there were just 33,763 independent local monitors and 622 international monitors, it added.

Final results are not expected for up to a week. [...]

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Baquba attacks claim lives
Wednesday 02 February 2005, 16:46 Makka Time, 13:46 GMT

Two Iraqi policemen and a soldier were ambushed and killed in two attacks in the city of Baquba, local police said on Wednesday.

The two policemen were killed in a drive-by shooting while shopping, and died instantly. The soldier was killed near a city hospital, police said of the incidents which occurred on Tueday. 
 
The attacks, about 60km northeast of Baghdad, came as vote counting continued in Iraq after elections on Sunday. [...]
 

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Terror group warns Kuwait
By SARAH EL-DEEB
February 1, 2005 

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - A website statement posted Tuesday in the name of a previously unknown militant group promised to carry on its fight against the Kuwaiti government and the United States despite the arrest of a Kuwaiti Islamic militant during fierce clashes with Kuwaiti police.

There was no way to verify the authenticity of the statement, which the group noted was its first. It referred to Monday's gun battles with Kuwaiti police who raided suspected militant hideouts in a residential area, arresting a man authorities say is a Kuwaiti militant ringleader, Amer Khlaif al-Enezi, and four others. Five suspects and a bystander were killed.

Al-Enezi was referred to in the statement as an important figure, apparently within the group, which called itself Brigades of Martyr Abdulaziz al-Moqrin. The statement called him "sheik," a title indicating seniority and wisdom. The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.

"Don't think even the thought that we are finished following the arrest of Sheik Amer Khlaif al-Enezi, God grant him freedom. We have only began," the group said, addressing Kuwaiti state security. "God willing, the raids will include you. You will regret it, you pigs of Al Sabah (ruling family in Kuwait), you servants of the Americans."

The statement appealed to Kuwaitis to stay away from places where "infidel soldiers" congregate. Kuwait is a close ally of the United States and has been battling Islamic extremists who oppose the presence of American troops in the country.

"God knows we didn't come to fight you or terrorize you, but to fight the infidel soldiers who are occupying your land," the statement said.

It said any loss of innocent lives would be the responsibility of the Kuwaiti government for allying itself with the United States and allowing it military bases in the country. [...]

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Kabul rejects UN aid conditions

Wednesday 02 February 2005, 21:13 Makka Time, 18:13 GMT

War-scarred Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium

Afghanistan has rejected proposals by a senior UN drug official that aid given to the war-ravaged country should be linked to the results it showed in fighting opium production.

The newly created Afghan counter-narcotics ministry in Kabul said on Wednesday it had objected to a recent statement from the world body that created conditions for investment.

The ministry statement attributed the UN suggestion to Antonio Maria Costa and said "Afghanistan will not accept aid conditionality".

Costa, a senior official from the UN Organisation for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said last week that international aid to Afghanistan should be made conditional on the country showing real results and progress in the fight against opium production. [...]

Comment: Afghanistan was not always the largest producer of opium:

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (February 15, 2001)

U.N. drug control officers said the Taliban religious militia has nearly wiped out opium production in Afghanistan -- once the world's largest producer -- since banning poppy cultivation last summer.

A 12-member team from the U.N. Drug Control Program spent two weeks searching most of the nation's largest opium-producing areas and found so few poppies that they do not expect any opium to come out of Afghanistan this year.

It was only after the US invasion and installation of Unocal representative Kharzai that Opium production exploded.

Immediately following the installation of the US puppet government under Prime Minister Hamid Kharzai, opium production soared, regaining its historic levels. According to the UNDCP, opium cultivation increased by 657 % in 2002 (in relation to its 2001 level). In 2001, opium cultivation had fallen to an estimated 7606ha. It is currently estimated by the UNDCP to be of the order of 45 000 -65 000ha.

So, of course the CIA and Mossad, by way of Karzai, are not going to allow the UN to force the reduction of opium production in Afghanistan, after all, generating vast incomes by selling Afghanistan's heroin to Europe is one of the major reasons that the US invaded that country in the first place.

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Bomb defused near U.S. base in Turkey
By James C. Helicke, Associated Press Writer  |  February 2, 2005

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Turkish police discovered a bomb in a nightclub near a southern Turkish military base used by the United States, a U.S. military official said Wednesday. The semiofficial Turkish news agency said the homemade bomb was defused by police.

"We were advised that a bomb was found off of the base," the U.S. military official said on condition of anonymity. "We are taking protective measures."

Private CNN-Turk television said the bomb, containing 11 pounds of explosives, was found late Tuesday in a club near the entrance of Incirlik air base, where some 1,400 U.S. troops are based as part of a NATO mission. A number of bars and cafes are located in the area.

The semiofficial Anatolia news agency, citing police, said the homemade bomb was made of fertilizer and was defused by Turkish police. CNN-Turk said the bomb contained the explosive TNT.

Police were searching for two people in connection with the bomb, one of them a woman, Anatolia said.

The incident came ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Turkey this weekend. Washington wants to expand its use of the base, which is only an hour's flight from Iraq.

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Georgia's PM killed by gas leak

Staff and agencies
Thursday February 3, 2005

The prime minister of Georgia, who helped lead the country's revolution in November 2003, died today after an apparent gas leak at the flat where he was staying.

Zurab Zhvania was at a friend's home when he died. He had gone to the flat at around midnight (8pm GMT) and security guards broke into the apartment at some time after 4am when they realised they could hear no signs of life.

Inside they found Mr Zhvania slumped in a chair, and the body of his host, Zurab Usupov, the deputy governor of Georgia's Kvemo-Kartli region, in the kitchen. The guards tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate Mr Zhvania, according to the country's interior minister, who made a live broadcast on television.

Vano Merabishvili insisted in the broadcast that there were no signs of foul play. A gas-powered heating stove was found in the main room of the apartment, next to a table with a backgammon set lying open upon it. Central heating is rare in Georgia, and many people use gas or wood stoves in their homes. "It was an accident," Mr Merabishvili said. "We can say that poisoning by gas took place ... It all happened suddenly."

Mr Zhvania, 41, was part of the opposition to the former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. He played a prominent role in protests that ousted the former president after allegedly fraudulent elections in November 2003. The current president, Mikhail Saakashvili, who led the protests, appointed Mr Zhvania following his landslide election in January 2004. The prime minister was considered a moderate counterbalance to the more impetuous president, and was trying to negotiate settlements with Georgia's separatist regions. Like President Saakashvili, Mr Zhvania was a one-time ally of Mr Shevardnadze. The president convened an emergency cabinet meeting this morning, which began with a moment of silence. "In Zurab Zhvania, Georgia has lost a great patriot, who devoted his entire life to serving the motherland. Zurab's death is a great blow to Georgia and to me personally," he said. "I lost a very close friend, a reliable adviser and a great ally.

"I want to call on you all to be strong, because there is no greater responsibility than loyal service to our country and our people," he said, before leaving the meeting to visit Mr Zhvania's wife and three children.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram of condolence to his Georgian counterpart, saying that Mr Zhvania "was well known in Russia as a supporter of the development of friendly, good-neighbourly relations between the Russian and Georgian peoples".

Comment: Of course! Two high-flying young politicians, one of them the PM of a country, are chatting in a room. After a while. they smell gas and decide to simply sit there until they are overcome with the fumes and expire. Happens all the time.

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Georgian ambassador denies "Russian trail" in Zhvania's death

Feb 3 2005 6:22PM

MOSCOW. Feb 3 (Interfax) - Georgian Ambassador to Russia Valery Chechelashvili does not see a "Russian trail" in the death of Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania.

"I do not see any such motives," he told reporters at a briefing in the Georgian Embassy in Moscow on Thursday.

"I am more than sure that this is an accident and a tragic set of circumstances," Chechelashvili said commenting on a statement by a Georgian parliamentary deputy, who said that he saw "the hand of Moscow" in Zhvania's death.

At the same time, he said that he had not heard the statement word for word.

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Georgia: Government Says Premier Died In Accident As NGOs Demand Independent Probe

By Jean-Christophe Peuch

Georgian authorities say Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania died of carbon monoxide poisoning and are treating the case as an accident. Zhvania and a friend, Raul Yusupov, were found dead early this morning in Yusupov's Tbilisi apartment. Rights groups are already questioning the official version and demanding an independent investigation.

Prague, 3 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Interior Minister Ivane (Vano) Merabishvili, who first broke the news of Zhvania's death, identified Yusupov as the deputy governor of Georgia's predominantly ethnic Azeri eastern region of Kvemo Kartli.

Regional officials, however, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that Yusupov was working as a junior government official and that he was expected to be appointed deputy governor sometime soon. Reports say Yusupov was a long-time political ally of Zhvania, who brought him into government after the change in political leadership that followed President Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation in November 2003.

Addressing reporters at a press conference today, Merabishvili said both men were found dead by state security officers in the middle of the night. "According to our information, Mr. Zhvania arrived at his friend's apartment at about midnight. His security team waited outside for a long time. Since the prime minister was not answering either their telephone calls or the door bell at around 4 or 4:30 a.m., they broke a window and discovered the bodies of Mr. Zhvania and his friend in the apartment.," Merabishvili said. [...]

Government officials quickly dismissed suspicions that Zhvania's death could have been anything but accidental. They also denied any possible link with the bomb attack that left three policemen dead in the central city of Gori on 1 February.

But some are already questioning the official version. Nana Kakabadze, chairwoman of an NGO known as Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights, told RFE/RL that her group and other NGOs are demanding that a commission made up of journalists, independent legal and medical experts, and others be set up to supervise the official investigation into Zhvania's death.

"We believe that what happened tonight is so important that the people should know the truth," she said. "[They should know] who stands behind [Zhvania's death]. Therefore, we think it is important to us to participate in that [commission]."

Zakaria Kutsnashvili, a former member of the Georgian parliament who now works as an independent legal expert, told RFE/RL that he also supports an independent investigation. "We believe the investigation should be conducted in a very transparent manner so that everyone should know whether this was an accident, a murder, or a suicide," he said. "Since we can rule out suicide, the investigation must concentrate its efforts so that the second version -- murder -- is definitely ruled out."

Kakabadze said the official version of Zhvania's death was not convincing. "We have some doubts," she said. "For example, Interior Minister Merabishvili said [Zhvania's] bodyguards broke a window [to enter the apartment.] But when journalists went there to inspect the building, they didn't notice anything unusual and saw that all windows were in place." [...]

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Georgia car bomb kills three
Tuesday 01 February 2005, 16:02 Makka Time, 13:02 GMT

A car exploded outside a police station in Georgia, killing at least three people, an interior ministry spokesman said.

He said the blast had almost totally destroyed the police headquarters in the town of Gori, 80km to the west of the capital Tbilisi.

"According to preliminary information, this was a terrorist act," said spokesman Guran Donadze.

About 10 people had been injured in the blast and several cars had been gutted. [...]

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Ukraine: Kyiv Accused Of Selling Weapons To Iran In 2002
By Valentinas Mite
2 February 2005

Prague, (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko has alleged in a public letter to President Viktor Yushchenko that Ukraine illegally sold cruise missiles to Iran in violation of international nonproliferation treaties.

The allegations are not new. RFE/RL Ukraine analyst Roman Kupchinsky, who is currently in Kyiv, says the investigation began last year.

"The criminal investigation began last year before the [presidential] election. The investigation was begun by the security service of Ukraine, the SBU, and in October, last year, the first indictments were handed out against high-ranking officials of UkrSpetzExport, the Ukrainian state arms [sales] company," Kupchinsky says.

"Kupchinsky says that more indictments are likely to come. Omelchenko is an ally of President Viktor Yushchenko.

However, other experts say it will be difficult to find evidence against those persons who may have been involved in the alleged arms exports to Iran in 2002.

Oleksandr Sushko is director of the Center for Peace, Conversion, and Foreign Policy, a Kyiv-based think tank. He says it is difficult to believe that Ukraine sold cruise missiles to Iran and managed to hide such an illegal deal for several years.

"I doubt it very much, very much indeed. It is not the kind of weapon that can be sold secretly without somebody knowing about it," Sushko says. [...]

Leonid Palyakov, a military expert at the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies, also known as the Oleksandr Razumkov Center, agrees that the investigation of reported arms deals will be extremely difficult. He says that it is premature to say that Ukraine has sold weapons to Iran.

"An investigation should be carried out and only after the investigation is it possible to say happened and what did not. Without an investigation -- or trying to be too quick to judge -- we will find ourselves in the same situation we were during almost all of the years of independence, when the mass media kept publishing different stories, making accusations and reports which, up to now, have not even been confirmed once," Palyakov says.

However, Palyakov says the scandal gives him fresh hope. He says he hopes that the new administration will investigate the accusations of arms sale to Iran and will give a definite verdict, not just leave it uninvestigated and forgotten by both the press and society.

Meanwhile, RFE/RL analyst Kupchinsky, who interwieved Omelchenko, says that the facts in Omelchenko's letter seem somewhat credible at the moment.

"It's a very credible report, which names dates, names, the bank accounts, fictitious shell companies that were set up to extradite the transfer of money from Iran. Plus there's collaborating evidence to this whole affair," Kupchinsky says.

Neither Iranian officials or representatives of the Ukrainian state arms sales company, UkrSpetzExport, were available to comment.

Comment: It seems curious that these old reports of Ukraine selling cruise missiles to Iran should be surfacing now, just when the U.S. is clamouring for a reason to go to war in Persia. It is also suspect that the public letter making these allegations was written by an ally of President Yushchenko, who is pushing for closer ties to the west. In any case, it is likely that news of this sale will be used by the Bush administration to further demonize Iran as a rogue nation with evil intentions, and further justify Washington's case for war.

And no sooner is the story published in Radio Free Europe, when it is picked up by the Financial Times, who do precisely that.

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Iran and China linked to Ukraine missiles
By Tom Warner in Kiev
Published: February 2 2005 22:01

An investigation by the Ukrainian secret police has found that Iran and China bought long-range missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads from Ukraine, one of the country's politicians said on Wednesday.

Grigory Omelchenko, an ally of the country's new leadership and a former head of the anti-mafia committee in the Ukrainian parliament, claimed on Wednesday that Ukraine's SBU secret police had found that 12 Kh-55s were illegally exported in 1999-2001. He said six of the air-to-ground cruise missiles were sold to Iran, and six to China.

The Kh-55 - which the US calls the AS-15 - has a highly accurate guidance system and a range of up to 3,000km, which would put Israel in striking distance of Iran. The missile was part of the Soviet bomber fleet weaponry left behind in Ukraine.

The allegations, made in Ukraine's parliament yesterday, bolster claims by the US and other governments that Iran is seeking to develop the ability to produce nuclear weapons. They also raise concerns about Iran and China's efforts to improve long-range missile technology.

Mr Omelchenko, a one-time SBU officer, said that last year the SBU prevented an attempt to export 14 Kh-55s and arrested a former SBU officer, who is being tried in Kiev's Regional Appeals Court.

He accused high-ranking officials linked to Leonid Kuchma, the former president, of covering up the SBU's findings about the sale to protect a "highly placed person from the circle of President Kuchma, who was involved in the illegal arms sales".

Last November, Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, said he had seen intelligence that Iran was working to adapt missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon.

In September the US slapped sanctions on a private Ukrainian company for violating a US ban on proliferation to Iran, without specifying what it was suspected of selling.

Comment: Of course, if the U.S. government were serious about cracking down on rogue nations selling arms to Iran, they would do well to harken back to the year 1986 and take a long hard look in the mirror...

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Flashback: The arms-for-hostages deal

Wikipedia
January, 1986

The Israeli government approached the United States in August 1985 with a proposal to act as an intermediary by shipping 508 American-made TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran in exchange for the release of the Reverend Benjamin Weir, an American hostage being held by Iranian sympathizers in Lebanon, with the understanding that the United States would then ship replacement missiles to Israel. Robert McFarlane, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, approached United States Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and arranged the details. The transfer took place over the next two months.

In November, there was another round of negotiations, where the Israelis proposed to ship Iran 500 HAWK anti-aircraft missiles in exchange for the release of all remaining American hostages being held in Lebanon. General Colin Powell attempted to procure the missiles, but realized that the deal would require Congressional notification as its overall value exceeded $14 million. McFarlane responded that the President had decided to conduct the sale anyway. Israel sent an initial shipment of 18 missiles to Iran in late November, but the Iranians didn't approve of the missiles, and further shipments were halted. Negotiations continued with the Israelis and Iranians over the next few months.

In January of 1986, Reagan allegedly approved a plan whereby an American intermediary, rather than Israel, would sell arms to Iran in exchange for the release of the hostages, with profits funnelled to the Contras. At first, the Iranians had refused the weapons from Ghorbanifar, the Iranian intermediary, when both North and Ghorbanifar created a 370% markup (WALSH, Lawrence E. "Firewall").

Another intermediary was used to sell 500 TOW missiles. With the marked-up income of $10 million from the $3.7 million before, and the Iranians capturing new hostages when they released old ones, was the end of the arms-for-hostages deal. In February, 1,000 TOW missiles were shipped to Iran. From May to November, there were additional shipments of miscellaneous weapons and parts.

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North Korea linked to sales of uranium to Libya
02/02/05
DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD
New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON - Scientific tests have led American intelligence agencies and government scientists to conclude with near certainty that North Korea sold processed uranium to Libya, bolstering earlier indications that the reclusive state had exported sensitive fuel for atomic weapons, according to officials with access to the intelligence.

The determination, which has circulated among senior government officials in recent weeks, has touched off a hunt to determine if North Korea has also sold uranium to other nations, including Iran and Syria. So far, there is no evidence such additional transactions took place.

Nonetheless, the conclusion about the uranium transfer to Libya, which is contained in a classified briefing that has been described to The New York Times, could alter Washington's debate about the assessment of the North Korea nuclear threat.

In the past, some Bush administration officials have argued that there is time to find a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear problem because there was no evidence that the government of Kim Jung Il was spreading its atomic technology abroad.

Nine months ago, international inspectors came up with the first evidence that the North may have provided Libya with nearly two tons of uranium hexaflouride, the material that can be fed into nuclear centrifuges and enriched into bomb fuel. Libya surrendered its huge cask of the highly toxic material to the United States when it dismantled its nuclear program last year.

Intelligence officials say extensive testing at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory over the past several months concluded that the material did not originate in Pakistan or other suspect countries, and one official said that "with a certainty of 90 percent or better, this stuff's from North Korea.''

It is unclear if there are any dissenting views within the government, though some outside experts have accused the administration of overstating intelligence on North Korean.

Officials cautioned that the analysis of the uranium was hampered because the United States has no sample of known North Korean uranium for direct comparison with the material recovered in Libya. The study was done by eliminating other possible sources of uranium, a result that is less certain than the nuclear equivalent of matching DNA samples.

One recently retired Pentagon official who has long experience dealing with North Korea said that the finding was "huge, because it changes the whole equation with the North.''

"It suggests we don't have time to sit around and wait for the outcome of negotiations,'' the officer said. "It's a scary conclusion because you don't know who else they may have sold to.''

President Bush is expected to mention North Korea in his State of the Union address on Wednesday night. In that speech three years ago, he identified the country as part of an "axis of evil,'' with Iran and Iraq. Two weeks ago, Condoleezza Rice, in her confirmation hearings for secretary of state, included North Korea in a list of six nations she called "outposts of tyranny,'' but a senior administration official said Bush was not planning to use that phrase on Wednesday evening.

On Tuesday, in an interview with Reuters and Agence France-Presse, Rice said of North Korea, "We made a very good proposal at the last round of six-party talks and it's on the table for the taking.''

"The idea that somehow the United States is hostilely going to attack North Korea couldn't be more far fetched,'' she said. A spokesman for the National Security Council, Frederick Jones, declined to comment Tuesday night on the report of the new North Korea findings, citing "intelligence concerns.''

Questions of how to deal with North Korea - through engagement and dialogue or sanctions and pressure to crack its ruling regime - have divided the Bush administration since its first days. Vice President Dick Cheney has led the hawkish faction of the administration, declaring that "time is not on our side.'' While some of the officials interviewed about the most recent North Korean evidence have been involved in that policy debate, others have not been, and have either examined the scientific evidence or received intelligence briefings about its conclusions.

Some of those findings have been shared with some American allies and with the Chinese, who have long doubted that North Korea has an active uranium program.

There is also some skepticism in the United States: Selig Harrison, a North Korea scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, has questioned the evidence that North Korea is secretly pursuing uranium weapons to complement the small arsenal it is believed to have produced out of plutonium. He wrote in Foreign Affairs recently that the Bush administration has relied "on sketchy data'' and "a worst case assessment'' of the North's capabilities.

The government's most recent intelligence reports, however, strongly suggest that North Korea has begun turning raw uranium - which the country mines - into uranium hexaflouride, a modestly complex process.

"This pushes along our understanding of the North Korean program,'' said Leonard S. Specter, the deputy director of the Monterrey Institute's Center for Non-Proliferation Studies. "It means the North Koreans have built a facility to process uranium. And it raises the disturbing prospect that they've now made enough of it to feel comfortable selling some.''

Western intelligence officials have known for years that North Korea has supplied conventional missiles and missile technology to other countries, including Iran and Pakistan, but while officials searched for years for evidence of North Korea export of nuclear material, they found none until recently.

Nuclear intelligence experts said the new clues that implicate North Korea as Libya's supplier involve the fingerprints of uranium isotopes, or different forms of the element. Federal analysts, they said, took samples of the Libyan uranium and compared its isotope fingerprint to those of uranium samples from other countries and, by process of elimination, concluded that the uranium came from North Korea. Uranium has three main isotopes. The most prevalent is U-238, which accounts for the vast majority of natural uranium. The U-235 isotope is rare, but it is prized because it easily splits to produce the bursts of atomic energy that power reactors and nuclear warheads.

To trace the origins of the Libyan uranium, the government sleuths focused on an even rarer isotope, U-234. They did so because it turns out that concentrations of that isotope vary widely among uranium deposits and mines around the world.

"The science is pretty clear,'' said a senior federal intelligence official with knowledge of the secret North Korean finding.

He noted that the open scientific literature makes references to U-234's variability. For instance, Russian scientists described U-234 fluctuations in the April 2002 issue of Atomic Energy, a journal published by Springer Verlag, which is based in New York City. The scientists looked at U-234 in uranium mined from 20 deposits in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.

The U-234 content "fluctuates over a wide range,'' the Russian scientists reported.

A nuclear scientist who consults for federal intelligence agencies but was unaware of the North Korean finding said analysts could use such U-234 information to track down the origin of a particular uranium sample, much as detectives identify fingerprints from a crime scene by matching them to samples in fingerprint archives.

He said the analysts could examine the U-234 concentrations in the Libyan sample and compare it to samples from deposits from around the world. Since western intelligence agencies have no known samples of North Korean uranium, he added, the analysis would proceed by the process of elimination.

Therefore, the strength of the North Korean conclusion would grow in proportion to the number of samples the scientists had from around the world. It is unknown how many samples exist from various uranium deposits or how many samples the federal analysts scrutinized for signs of similarity.

A second nuclear scientist who consults for the federal government on North Korea said he suspected that Pakistani scientists had helped the North Koreans not only make uranium centrifuges but build a plant that transformed the raw uranium from the country's mines into uranium hexafluoride, the form of uranium that centrifuges can enrich.

"I don't think the DPRK did it by itself,'' he said of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's making the uranium plant. Another former official suggested that the components for the plant may have been purchased elsewhere, perhaps from Japan or Europe.

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Bush promotes 'nuclear hawks'
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Published: February 1 2005 00:39

A group of hardline officials known as “nuclear hawks” is being promoted in a shake-up of the Bush administration's arms control and non-proliferation teams, according to officials close to the administration.

The latest appointment, announced by President George W. Bush on Monday, saw Jack Crouch, the ambassador to Romania, become deputy national security adviser. Mr Crouch, who served in the Pentagon from 2001 to 2003 as assistant secretary of defence for international security policy, has a long background in arms control. In his Senate confirmation hearing in 2001 he was questioned on his support for US testing of nuclear weapons, his 1995 recommendation for destruction of North Korea's nuclear complexes in the absence of a satisfactory agreement, and the mistake he said was made by George H.W. Bush when president in withdrawing US nuclear weapons from South Korea.

Also entering the National Security Council is John Rood, a senior Pentagon official who replaces Bob Joseph as special adviser. Mr Joseph is expected to move to the State Department to replace John Bolton, undersecretary for arms control.

Mr Bolton had the reputation for being the hawk of hawks in the Bush administration, but one adviser, who asked not to be named, said European governments were naive to believe that his resignation signalled a moderate approach. The promoted officials, he said, had less regard for arms controls and more commitment to building new generations of nuclear weapons and missile defence systems.

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Karl Rove's Memo to Bush on the Middle East
Juan Cole

Note to the humorless: Satire Warning

M E M O

From: Karl Rove
To: W.
Re: State of the Union and the Middle East

Problem: The big steps toward open parliamentary elections in the Arab world have happened in Morocco, Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain. We didn't have much to do with this. And they were actually way more democratic and less problematic elections than the ones we just pulled off in Iraq. What was that? I hear they didn't know the names of the candidates! (I kind of like it. Imagine how much easier it would have been to sell a Republican president in 2000 if we hadn't had to say who he was. No offense.)

Solution: You could mention Morocco, Jordan and Bahrain with some sort of heavy hint that we were behind it all. Taking credit for local developments that we paint as positive is cost-free. It is not as if Abdullah II is exactly going to complain. And we won't mention about how they still have that secret police.

Problem: We depend heavily on the Saudis, who run an absolute monarchy, and on General Musharraf in Pakistan, who refuses to take off his uniform even though he insists he's a president, now. Some people might think that's out of line with our
"democratization" policy. I have to remind you again, W., that policy is only for the regimes we don't like. The others can stay like they are. The scare quotes are there for a reason.

Solution: Praise them for arresting al-Qaeda operatives. It has the advantage of being true. Hell, the Pakistanis have arrested far more of those guys, with FBI help, than Rumsfeld ever did. The Saudis only got down to business when al-Qaeda started trying to kill the princes, but better late than never.

Problem: We really want to take out the mullas in Iran. But we don't have anything on them. They were cooperative in Afghanistan and Iraq. They haven't done anything to us for years. They haven't been involved in terrorism for years, either. The Hezbollah thing in southern Lebanon was mostly just a struggle to get the Israelis back off Lebanese territory. We don't have any proof they have a nuclear weapons program.

Solution: This one is easy. We've already proved with Iraq that you can just hint around or lie about a regime that the public doesn't like, and there are no bad consequences. So just tell them that Iran is the major sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and that the Iranians are all busy concocting nukes in their basements with their cuisinarts. Nobody will ask "what terrorism, exactly?" or "what proof do you have about a weapons program?" No one will even bring up our own reliance on the terrorist group, Mojahedin-e Khalq, which was hand in glove with Saddam and has killed hundreds of innocents with bombs. MEK is giving us excellent reports on the Iranian nukes. We haven't had a source this good since Ahmad Chalabi. If we don't mention them, nobody else will.

Problem: During the past few years, Sharon gratuitously destroyed a lot of police stations and other security infrastructure in the Occupied territories and now we're going to have to pick up the bill for them. It's like having a hyperactive five-year-old in a crystal shop, and we're liable for everything he breaks. You'd think the Israelis, who have a per capita income of $17,000 a year, could pay for their own sprees of destruction.

Solution: Tell the American public that we are giving $350 million to the Palestinians for democratization and to help out that nice Mahmoud Abbas. Isn't he an Abu Something, too? Forget it, they're all Abus. It will confuse the public if you bring it up. Anyway, we won't mention we're cleaning up Sharon's mess, and nobody else will.

Oh, and remind them about that crisis in Social Security. I'm working on inventing some other crises. I love it. Tell them there's a crisis and they'd let you sell their grandchildren into slavery. A crisis in social security. That's rich. Wait till I tell you about the next one.

Oh, and W. Try to give them the impression you've done something about those CEO cronies of yours that stole the public's investments and retirement accounts to the tune of billions. Everyone knows we put Martha away. Tell her again I'm sorry about that when you talk to her in April. But it was either someone high profile like her or Ken Lay, and Ken plays too good a game of golf to let him disappear for years behind bars.

Comment: We would add as a P.S. to this memo:

And, of course, if this fails, we'll just do a repeat of 9/11.

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Al Jazeera 'for sale' is a sad sign for all
By Linda S. Heard
It is been bombed, banned and lambasted. It is been accused of aiding terrorists and serving as a mouthpiece for Osama Bin Laden as well as Saddam Hussain.

It boasts huge audiences throughout the Arab world because it reflects public opinion and yet advertisers treat it like the plague, fearful of offending the governments it regularly attacks.

I'm referring, of course, to Al Jazeera, the satellite television station that put tiny Qatar firmly on the international map.

In a region where until recently censorship was rife, Al Jazeera's programming was revolutionary.

Even as terrestrial networks were feeding their viewers a steady diet of Egyptian soaps, flickering black and white movies and endless scenes of visiting official dignitaries shaking hands, Al Jazeera startled audiences with heated political debate and in-depth documentaries.

Its telephone lines red hot with the voices of impassioned callers, it has been likened to a loose valve on a pressure cooker providing an outlet for viewers to blow off steam.

Launched in 1996 under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, Al Jazeera has become a victim of its own popularity, enraging the American government due to the influence it wields.

The United States has accused it of fomenting anti-Americanism and slammed the station for showing graphic horrors of war. It is no secret that the Bush administration would like it to disappear.

It had hoped its own Al Hurra satellite channel broadcasting out of the United States would take Al Jazeera's place in the affections of Arabs but that creation is viewed with scepticism as an American propaganda-spewing machine.

According to an article in last Sunday's New York Times, it looks as though Qatar may bow to American pressure.

Al Jazeera may be up for sale, although buyers may be few and far between, considering it is still a loss-making enterprise, requiring an annual financial injection of more than $50 million (Dh183.5 million).

To turn it around financially, a buyer would be obliged to pull its teeth, which would incense its team of professional journalists, many of whom formerly worked for the BBC.

The day that Al Jazeera is closed down or sold off will be a sad one.

In the way that Rupert Murdoch's "fair and balanced" Fox News reflects the views of conservative right-wingers portraying American soldiers in Iraq as cuddly do-gooders, Al Jazeera doesn't shrink from showing the results of their handiwork.

Banned from reporting

This is why it has been banned from reporting in Iraq. Faithful footage of dead babies and maimed children do little to enhance America's image. At the same time, Fox along with its jingoistic gung-ho Saudi-bashing presenters have been shut out of Canada.

When it comes to Al Jazeera the Bush administration's hypocrisy is glaring. After the network showed captured Marines during the invasion of Iraq, Pentagon officials, including General John Abizaid, rounded on one of its reporters for breaching the Geneva Conventions.

Yet the United States had no compunction in publicly parading the corpses of Saddam's sons or showing the former dictator having his head checked for lice.

Isn't it the height of hypocrisy, too, for a nation, which lauds democracy as the Holy Grail to strong-arm Qatar into abandoning a forthright, editorially independent broadcaster? Free speech and an unfettered media are integral elements of any democracy.

Adding salt to the charge are the American government's media payola activities. Last Friday, it was forced to admit that it had paid a third conservative columnist to parrot the party line, while hinting there may be more.

An outraged Congress has launched its own enquiry. Senators Edward Kennedy and Frank Lautenberg plan to introduce a bill titled "The Stop Government Propaganda Act" to the Senate this week.

"It is time for Congress to shut down the administration's propaganda mill," said Lautenberg. "It has no place in the United States government."

There is no such indignation over propaganda exported to the Middle East, though, via Hurra and Radio Sawa. Attempts to brainwash Arabs concerning the benign intentions of Israel and the United States are fine and dandy, it seems.

Signs indicate that Al Jazeera, shocked by the bombing of its offices in Kabul and Baghdad, as well as the arrest of its senior reporter Tayseer Allouni in Spain for alleged terrorist links, has already toned down the rhetoric.

The journalist John R. Bradley, in an article titled "Will Al Jazeera bend?" reports how the station's website pulled "two cartoons deemed inflammatory" on the same day a US official called to complain.

Bradley also cites a British minister, who after being interviewed on the network "thought he detected a more balanced tone emerging".

It is thought that Al Jazeera sacked Yvonne Ridley the British journalist and Muslim convert imprisoned by the Taliban during a daring excursion into Afghanistan due to her strident pro-Iraq, pro-Palestinian stance.

While in charge of the station's popular English-language website, Ridley wrote stories of US soldiers tying up women and children during house-to-house searches and was warned not to publish pictures of a seven-year-old girl in plastic hand restraints.

Her sacking evoked the ire of not only Muslim groups but also left-wing British politicians and activists.

Some of the time

In other words, Al Jazeera can only please some of the people some of the time. Hate it or love it, advocates of democracy and freedom should ensure its continued existence. Whether one agrees with it or not, its right to broadcast should be defended. Else what is the message here?

Whatever his ultimate decision, Shaikh Hamad should be proud of his creation. Al Jazeera is on everyone's lips from Los Angeles to Lahore and its 50 million viewers put it streets ahead of its competitors.

Qatar has already bent over backwards to be amenable to America and its war on terror. How ironic would it be if Qatar fell victim to US intimidation, another terror of sorts?

Ahmad Shaikh, Al Jazeera's news editor, said: "We understand that Americans are not happy with our editorial policies, but if anyone wants us to become their mouthpiece, we will not do that. We are independent and impartial, and we have never come under any pressure from the Qatari government to change our editorial approach."

Could The New York Times or the Washington Post, which both said their mea culpas vis-à-vis their pathetic coverage of the invasion of Iraq and their burial of anti-war points of view, say as much?

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at lheard@gulfnews.com

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Russia, China tighten security links
www.chinaview.cn 2005-02-03 11:19:23
BEIJING, Feb. 3 -- Russia and China will hold regular security consultations, President Vladimir Putin and visiting Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan announced Wednesday, moving to further strengthen close military cooperation between the two countries.

Tang Jiaxuan told Putin that Beijing does not have such a consultation mechanism with any other country. He called Russia China's "main partner for strategic cooperation."

"This is the first time ever that China is establishing a mechanism of national security consultations with another country," said Tang, who said he had discussed details of the initiative with Russian Security Council secretary Igor Ivanov earlier in the day.

"We decided to establish such a mechanism with Russia because we have close positions regarding the international situation, key international and regional issues, as well as issues related to maintaining peace and helping global development," Tang said. "We have common strategic interests related to those issues."

Putin hailed an increasingly close cooperation between the two countries, saying that "relations in the political, economic and security sphere and in the field of military cooperation have been developing intensively."

Putin said that Moscow is looking forward to a joint Russian-Chinese military exercise set for later this year.

The maneuvers, set to begin in August, were seen by many observers as Russia's response to the cooling of relations with the United States and other Western nations, most recently over the presidential election in Ukraine.

Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov, Russia's air force chief, said last month that Tu-22M and Tu-95 bombers will take part in the exercises.

Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic partnership since the 1991 Soviet collapse, pledging their adherence to a "multipolar world," a term that refers to their opposition to a perceived U.S. domination in global affairs.

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Medical bills spark 46% of U.S. personal bankruptcies: study
Last Updated Wed, 02 Feb 2005 18:05:49 EST
CBC News

BOSTON - Nearly half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are triggered by big medical bills racked up because of serious illnesses or accidents, a Harvard University study suggests.

The study, published Wednesday in the online journal Health Affairs, looked at 1,771 people who had declared personal bankruptcy to seek court protection from creditors in five American states in 2001.

Researchers from Harvard's law and medical schools later talked to 931 of them. They determined that illness or medical bills were either the main cause or a contributing factor in 46.2 per cent of the bankruptcies.

"Even middle-class insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick," an abstract of the study noted.

More than 43 million people in the United States have no health insurance.

But even people who had health insurance through their employer were among those forced to declare bankruptcy in an effort to escape overwhelming debts that they could not pay, the study found.

About 75 per cent of those who said medical bills triggered their bankruptcy had insurance coverage at the beginning of their illness.

In 38 per cent of the cases studied, that insurance lapsed while they were still being treated, or covered only catastrophic illnesses and not more minor but ongoing conditions.

Among the people whose medical bills contributed to their bankruptcy, the study said, "out-of-pocket costs average[d] $11,854 [US] since the start of illness."

The study's authors said that when the national numbers were crunched, and the dependents of the filers were included, between 1.9 million and 2.2 million Americans experienced "medical bankruptcy" in 2001. That figure includes 700,000 children.

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Eastern states cop bizarre weather
February 3, 2005 - 12:48AM
AAP

Australia's eastern states have been battered by extreme weather conditions this week.

Heavy rain, lightning, strong winds and hail hit Sydney yesterday afternoon for the second day running.  

Sydney emergency workers had to rescue three people trapped in cars in rising floodwaters in Bexley North and almost 100,000 homes and businesses were left without power.

The winds of more than 90kph brought down trees and power lines and tore roofs off buildings, while the downpour flooded roads. 

The SES received about 1,350 calls for help while the Ambulance Service responded to almost 170 triple-0 calls.

Further north, towers of red dust swept through western Queensland and northern New South Wales forcing the closure of 20 regional airports in Queensland.

Longreach Mayor Pat Tanks described the dust storm as the worst seen in a decade.

At the same time, Melbourne recorded its coldest February day on record with 13.5 degrees. It also had the heaviest February rainfall in over a decade.

Strong winds hit northern Tasmania  last night, ripping roofs from buildings in Launceston and downing trees and powerlines, Tasmania Police said.

The extreme conditions were all caused by the same thing, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

"It's all associated with the same general system," said Andrew Haigh, a severe weather forecaster with the bureau.

"You've got a very strong cold front and a low-pressure system combining. There's very cold air in the upper atmosphere over southern NSW and Victoria."

The storms that struck Sydney today had preceded a cold front which extended into Queensland and had been moving east, bringing strong winds and rain, Mr Haigh said.

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Melbourne braces for another lashing
February 3, 2005 - 8:12AM

The State Emergency Service (SES) received more than 2,500 calls for help overnight as heavy rain and winds flooded houses and brought down trees, with further calls expected as the wild weather continues today.

"It has certainly been a very busy night with every suburb of Melbourne, parts of eastern Victoria, and the Geelong/Bellarine Peninsula areas being affected," SES spokesman Peter Cocks said.

"This is shaping as one of our busiest storm operations ever as the rain and wind continues to lash Melbourne.

"The number of calls has stretched resources to the limit and I ask people to be patient as many volunteers have been on the go all night."

More than 50 SES teams from all 31 Melbourne metropolitan SES units worked overnight, supported by Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Country Fire Authority crews, Mr Cocks said.

Mr Cocks said flash flooding was widespread and warned motorists to take care.

"The extreme weather is expected to continue over the next few hours and the SES expects to receive a further increase in calls as people awaken to find storm damage not yet detected," Mr Cocks said.

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Floods block access to airport
By Alex Wilson
February 03, 2005
From: AAP

THE road into Melbourne Airport has been flooded and flights have been diverted after wild storms lashed Melbourne.

Traffic banked up on the Tullamarine Freeway today because of the flooding, and frustrated travellers were forced to sit in their cars as their flights took off without them.

Melbourne Airport spokeswoman Brooke Lord said the two lanes that ran into the airport from the Tullamarine Freeway were flooded by the heaviest rainfall on record and access to the airport had been completely blocked.

"The rains have actually flooded the entrance to the airport which was completely closed with traffic banked up," she said. [...]

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West swelters as storms hit east
03feb05

LARGE areas of Western Australia's north-west are suffering severe heat, in contrast to the unseasonal storms and hail affecting the nation's eastern seaboard.

Searing temperatures in the north west have dominated weather news in recent weeks, with centres such as Nyang Station and Marble Bar averaging 44.8C and 44.6C respectively throughout the month of January – an all-time record.

Perth averaged a comparatively mild 30C during the first month of the year.

However, the city's 1.4 million residents are expected to swelter in the next 48 hours with the mercury tipped to reach 38C today and 37C tomorrow.

The weather bureau reported today serious to severe rainfall deficiencies in the interior and north of WA, with large regions experiencing its driest July-January period on record.

The south-west tip of WA is also in drought, with the bureau noting serious rainfall deficiencies after a dry winter.

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Guam Rocked By Earthquake; Tsunami Fears Sweep Island
POSTED: 6:03 pm PST February 2, 2005

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands -- A magnitude 6.3 earthquake jolted the Northern Marianas and Guam on Wednesday, but seismologists assured terrified residents that the quake wouldn't generate a tsunami.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage on the islands.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which is located in Hawaii, did not issue a tsunami warning. Despite assurances from local and federal agencies, many terrified residents ran out of buildings and looked out to sea for any sign of a tidal wave.

Rudolfo Pua, head of the emergency management office in the Northern Marianas, said the threshold for issuing a tsunami watch or alert is a magnitude 7.0 quake.

The epicenter of the quake was located about 35 miles west of Rota and 45 miles north of Hagatna, Guam.

Also Wednesday, volcanic haze and ash from Anatahan volcano in the Northern Marianas were continuing to cause respiratory problems for some residents. More than 120 students stayed home from school and at least a dozen people have been treated at hospitals for asthma-related problems in the last two days.

Anatahan, located about 75 miles north of Saipan, began its third recorded eruption in early January. The U.S. Geological Survey said several violent explosions are occurring per minute and ash is spewing up to 15,000 feet.

The smoke and ash, which were previously confined to Saipan and Tinian, has reached Rota and Guam in recent days due to the winds.

Pua said the quake was likely not a result of the eruption at the volcano.

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Earthquake Shakes South-Eastern Turkey
7:59am (UK)
"PA"

A moderate earthquake today shook the area near Turkey’s border with Iran, seismologists said. There were no immediate reports of any damage or injuries.

The magnitude 4.3 quake in Hakkari province followed a string of moderate earthquakes last week in the province that killed two people and damaged buildings in the area. Several aftershocks were also reported.

CNN-Turk television said residents rushed outside following the temblor, but that there was no indication of any damage or injuries.

Quakes are frequent in Turkey, much of which lies atop the active North Anatolian fault.

Two devastating earthquakes killed about 18,000 people in north-western Turkey in 1999.

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Earthquake aftershocks top 500
DENVER, Feb. 2

More than 500 aftershocks have now struck the Indian Ocean area where a giant earthquake hit on Dec. 26.

Data from the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center, which is continually updated, now show 516 signficant aftershocks have hit the area, consisting of the northern tip of the large Indonesian island of Sumatra, and the Nicobar and Andaman islands to the northwest, which are the territory of India.

Four moderate quakes joined the list Wednesday, ranging from magnitude 4.7 to magnitude 5.1. The original event registered magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale, making it the world's largest earthquake in 40 years, one that generated a series of tsunamis around the Indian Ocean basin, powerful waves that killed about 250,000 people.

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Small earthquake shakes the area
Staff Reports

DEVORE An earthquake, magnitude 3.2 and centered near Devore shook parts of the county late Wednesday.

United States Geological Survey seismology equipment registered the small tremor at 8:52p.m.

The epicenter was determined to be 4miles southwest of Devore, 4miles north of Fontana, 5miles northwest of Rialto and 8miles northwest of San Bernardino.

No damage or injuries were reported.

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3.0 earthquake shakes north Puget Sound

By KING5.com

WHIDBEY ISLAND — A 3.0 magnitude earthquake shook the north Puget Sound area early today, jolting many Whidbey Island residents awake but causing no major damage or injuries so far.

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Arctic ozone hole may open wide, scientists warn
WebPosted Feb 1 2005 07:43 AM MST
CBC News

IQALUIT - A group of European scientists is predicting a potential record loss of ozone over the Arctic this year.

Temperatures in the stratosphere in the last two months have been much colder than usual, and Cambridge University chemist Neil Harris says that's creating clouds in the upper atmosphere that contribute to ozone depletion.

Harris says if those low temperatures continue until spring it could lead to the biggest loss of ozone in more than 50 years.

"That's the big 'if' here," he says. "But if it stays cold – and there's no sign of it warming up in our 10 day forecasts – then these large losses are very likely to happen. At particular altitudes it would be 50, 60, 70 per cent, and in the total column, 25 to 30 per cent."

Harris says the greatest loss in ozone would be above the 65th parallel.

A thinner ozone layer leads to more ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth, which has been linked to a rise in some types of skin cancer.

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