Translations from other sites
Travel Log! The
Quantum Future Group Goes to Rennes-le-Chateau
Control, Thought Control, World Control
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
Feb. 4, 2005 -- Almost 50 percent
of Americans, according to recent polls, and millions of people
elsewhere in the world believe that UFOs are real. For many it is
a deeply held belief.
For decades there have been sightings of UFOs by millions and millions
of people. It is a mystery that only science can solve, and yet
the phenomenon remains largely unexamined. Most of the reporting
on this subject by the mainstream media holds those who claim to
have seen UFOs up to ridicule.
On Feb. 24, "Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs — Seeing
Is Believing" takes a fresh look at the UFO phenomenon. "As
a journalist," says Jennings, "I began this project with
a healthy dose of skepticism and as open a mind as possible. After
almost 150 interviews with scientists, investigators, and with many
of those who claim to have witnessed unidentified flying objects,
there are important questions that have not been completely answered
— and a great deal not fully explained."
"Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs — Seeing Is Believing"
airs Thursday, Feb. 24 from 8-10 p.m. ET on ABC. The program will
be broadcast in High Definition.
This two-hour primetime special reports on the entire scope of
the UFO experience — from the first famous sighting by Kenneth
Arnold in 1947 to the present day. The program draws on interviews
with police officers, pilots, military personnel, scientists and
ordinary citizens who give extraordinary accounts of encounters
with the unexplained. Also included are the voices of professional
skeptics about UFOs, including scientists who are leading the search
for life forms beyond earth elsewhere in the universe.
The program explores the facts behind the enduring mystery of the
incident at Roswell, N.M., and looks into the strange stories of
alien abductions. Among the UFO cases presented:
Minot Air Force Base, N.D., October 1968 — Sixteen airmen
on the ground and the crew of an airborne B-52 witness a massive
unidentified object hovering near the base.
Phoenix, Ariz., March 1997 — Hundreds witness a huge triangular
craft moving slowly over the city.
St. Clair County, Ill., January 2000 — Police officers in
five adjoining towns all independently report witnessing a giant
craft with multiple bright lights moving silently across the sky
at a very low altitude.
Today if you report a UFO to the U.S. government you will be informed
that the Air Force conducted a 22-year investigation which ended
in 1969 and concluded that UFOs are not a threat to national security
and are of no scientific interest. But as one of the world's leading
theoretical physicists says in the program, "You simply cannot
dismiss the possibility that some of these UFO sightings are actually
sightings from some object created by … a civilization perhaps
millions of years ahead of us in technology."
"Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs — Seeing Is Believing"
is produced by PJ Productions and Springs Media for ABC News. Mark
Obenhaus and Tom Yellin are the executive producers.
British MP says, ”We’re
living in a bowling alley.”
I hope you will excuse my cynicism but there is something quite
remarkable about this interview with Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat
Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire. You will not find one
single trace of political gobbledegook or point scoring.
What you will find are the thoughts and feelings of an individual
who passionately believes in what he is trying to achieve. This
is a brave man carrying a message that no one wants to hear and
he is prepared to take the brickbats and mocking that inevitably
accompany such a message.
What other tribute could I possibly offer, aside from accusing
him of also being a very warm, approachable human being, other than
to say that I only wish he was my Lembit Opik MP...
Lembit is the leading voice in the UK on
asteroids and the little matter of one of them smacking into us,
probably sooner rather than later. And one of those bits
of rock doesn’t have to be particularly large in order to
cause immense devastation and loss of life. Or rather, let me put
it this way. If on Christmas day last year I had told you that a
giant wave would sweep across south East Asia, hit land and cause
the loss of 220,000 lives (so far), you would not have believed
me. There’s no argument – you wouldn’t have believed
me. The next day it happened.
We need to wake up rapidly and do something.
SM: You are very well known for your interest in near earth objects.
How long has it been a subject of interest to you?
LO: 33 years.
SM: Is this as a result of your grandfather?
LO: I would say that I started taking a very significant interest
in meteors, comets and so forth when I was about 6 because, as you
said, directly as a result of the influence of my grandfather. So
I was reading astronomy books when most people were reading “Janet
and John”. That was probably the very early 1970s and I actually
converted that into a practical interest in the sense of doing something
about it in 1998 when I first raised it in the Houses of Parliament.
SM: Was it that Horizon programme that triggered your interest?
LO: The practical trigger to action was a chance meeting with a
man called J. Tate who is Director of Spacegaurd UK, at a meeting
of the Shropshire astronomical Society. He was making a presentation
about Spacegaurd’s work and was explaining that the odds were
stacked in favour of an impact and he went on to describe the colossal
damage that these objects would do.
He explained furthermore that there was something we could do to
prevent them by tracking them and finding ways to divert or to prevent
an impact from occurring if we had enough notice.
That was in 1998 and at that point I spoke with J and since the
science was absolutely cast iron, we had the evidence to turn this
into a political matter of investment by the Government and I got
my adjournment debate in March 1999. But it was the meeting with
J. Tate that finally kicked me into political action.
Then I really decided to carry on in the political sphere, as my
grandfather had done in the astronomical sphere. He spoke about
the threat and danger of impact long before it was fashionable to
do so, even in the astronomical world in the 1950s for example.
The Horizon programme was about the Chicxulub impact which wiped
out the dinosaurs, probably, and it was fortuitous timing because
it came out at just about the time I was trying to get this issue
on to the political map. I like to think there are some other programmes
that have been prompted by the campaign that we have run because
everyone now knows about asteroid impacts and I’m not so sure
that would have happened had we not turned it into a political issue.
SM: I would imagine that you find the whole
process of dealing with the UK government on this subject incredibly
LO: It is, it’s very difficult to
get the British Government to act on it and I can understand why.
On the face of it, this sounds like cranky science fiction. It sounds
like a case of an Ed Wood 1950s B movie. That’s because the
idea of a catastrophic impact by a celestial body has not got any
bearing on recent Human experience. There are maybe echoes of previous
impacts in the cultural legends of the Human race but there hasn’t
been a catastrophic impact leading to a major loss of life in recent
So, since politics lives in the present and the future more than
in the past, it’s not surprising that politicians have said,
“Well, this seems too small of a risk for us to take seriously.”
SM: Do you think that one of the positive benefits, if one can
use such a phrase in relation to the tsunami in south East Asia
is that Mankind is vulnerable to major natural disasters and do
you think there is a chance that this might actually wake some people
LO: Yes, I agree. I’m pretty sure
that the tsunami has been something of a geological wake up call
to World governments and until last Christmas, December 26th 2004,
the word “tsunami” sounded like a foreign phrase. Now
it sounds like a catastrophe. It’s just reminded a lot of
people about the power of nature and crucially, it’s caused
people to make the calculation about prevention versus cure. It’s
perfectly obvious that the benefit of prevention of loss of life
would have far exceeded the cost of having an early warning system.
Exactly the same applies to asteroids. What I worry about is this;
do we have to have a significant impact before people think, “Oh,
we need to have an early warning system after all” which is
exactly what has happened with the tsunami.
To the British Government’s credit, they did take my advice
and commissioned a Near Earth Object task group to look into the
danger and to report back. The task group, not surprisingly, confirmed
everything I’d been claiming. For example, the statistic which
has chilled many people is that you are 750 times more likely to
die as a result of an asteroid impact than you are to win the National
Lottery. Suddenly the statistics have come into the grasp of the
general public. Some people do win the National Lottery! To use
the National Lottery phrase, “It could happen to you”.
So we’re winning the public debate but the
government, having commissioned a report and having received a list
of 14 recommendations for action, have only actually acted on a
tiny number of them. I think there’s maybe one that’s
been completed, a couple are work in progress and some haven’t
been touched at all.
SM: Obviously the 14 recommendations involve expenditure. Is there
this feeling that the government aren’t bothered because NASA
has supposedly got it covered?
LO: To an extent I think the British would like to leave it to
the Americans but I think there’s a bigger problem here, and
it’s this. The government subconsciously make their calculation
that even if their own task group recommends 14 action steps, they
themselves don’t need to carry them out because somehow, psychologically,
they still feel far away from the danger and the problem.
But I also think there’s a political fear here in that if
they invest money on a tracking programme they will get criticised
by opposition parties for wasting tax payer’s money on a Mickey
Mouse - Flash Gordon project.
SM: So there’s still a problem about being taken seriously?
LO: I think there is because there are contradictions in how the
government approaches risk. They’re willing to impose all
kinds of incredibly strict regulations on farming to try and eliminate
miniscule health dangers but they stand by doing very little about
a potentially Armageddon type impact which in actuarial terms stands
to kill far more people than CJD, BSE, food poisoning and phosphates
put together. Therefore it’s not joined up thinking about
risk management, which is causing the problem.
SM: Do you attach any responsibility or blame if I can use that
word to Lord Sainsbury for this?
LO: I don’t actually in the sense that Lord Sainsbury has
been more pro-active than just about anybody else in government.
He took the risk of commissioning the report, admittedly on my advice
but he was the guy in the front line. He also has met on a number
of occasions with me and others to consider the issue. And in fairness,
he has caused the release of significant amounts of money to the
British National Space Centre to provide an information service
to the general public about this issue.
So, while I would like Lord Sainsbury to pro-actively lobby the
Prime Minister to raise this as part of the next G8 agenda, I don’t
hold him responsible for inaction because had it not been for his
willingness to take a risk personally, we wouldn’t have got
So actually I think he’s one of the heroes of the piece.
I think a fear of falling is the greatest culprit. There’s
a mixed up risk management strategy by this government. They
are willing to commit us to a questionable war in Iraq but they’re
resistant to making a small investment with the other G8 countries
on a dead certified Earth threatening risk.
SM: It’s weird logic.
LO: It is. We’re off to fight a war in Iraq on the basis
of imaginary weapons of mass destruction. They’re willing
to do nothing in the face of a guaranteed weapon of mass destruction
which already has Earth’s name written all over it and which
we haven’t yet identified.
SM: Is there any consensus at the moment about the best way of
dealing with an asteroid that’s hurtling towards us?
LO: No. There are various options from a nuclear detonation to
using a rocket as a tug, to encasing the object in a big cosmic
bin bag and towing it out of harms way. There are two problems.
We don’t know for sure what these things are made of and Deep
Impact will help us a lot in our understanding of what comets are
like and whether they are one single, solid object or whether they
are like an ashtray held together by very week gravity. We need
to know the answer to that before we can be sure what to do.
Secondly, there hasn’t been enough work done on deflection
processes but ironically, one of the best lines of approach of investigation
is the American Star Wars programme, from which Deep Impact itself
SM: That’s a very weird programme. There are all sorts of
theories that have been spawned about that.
LO: The principle is the same because in both cases one is trying
to intercept a small very fast moving object from a great distance
and one needs a very high degree of reliability in achieving that
kind of contact. Interestingly, although there are many flaws in
the “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact” films,
at the very, very most basic level the general idea was right. You
have to intercept and divert these objects.
SM: How deeply involved are you with Spaceguard?
LO: You’re probably best to ask Spaceguard that but I feel
closely connected to the key players and I feel they have helped
me in this campaign more than I can say in words. Had it not been
for J. Tate, I would probably not have raised it in Parliament and
furthermore, had it not been for J. Tate’s continuing, ceaseless
efforts to keep this on the political map, together with the likes
of Mark Bailey from Armagh Observatory, Bill Napier from there and
a number of other people from around the country, then this subject
would go off the radar. It’s thanks to them it’s on
the radar and in many ways I regard myself as their political servant
to raise it in those circles when I can, when they feel it’s
appropriate for me to do so or when the opportunities arise.
In terms of my own commitment, I want to see this to a conclusion.
I define success as whenever I get the British Government to agree
an accord with the other seven G8 countries to invest perhaps a
million pounds a year each in a tracking programme, which should
track nine tenths of the objects that could potentially threaten
As the campaign began, Spaceguard, by coincidence, moved to a location
about 12 miles from my constituency. They’re based at the
observatory at Knighton.
SM: Have you ever been laughed at or mocked for your views?
LO: Oh yes. When I first started, an unusually large number of
people turned up for the original debate because they thought I
was writing a cosmic suicide note on my political career. And there
was sniggering and laughing, and I made it worse by starting with
the phrase, “Mr. Deputy Speaker, I’ve got a problem
with asteroids”. Of course, every Smart Alec in Britain decided
to send me some kind of ointment.
By the end of the speech, when I’d explained that the dinosaurs
were probably wiped out by an asteroid and that the earth had suffered
cataclysmic events many times in its past, that the Earth had indeed
been created by a series of bombardments from space in the early
days of the solar system and that the moon itself was the result
of an earth sterilising and melting event about 3,900 million years
ago, when I told them about the fact that the Earth is continually
hit by fifty thousand tons of space debris every year and that the
most recent time an object large enough to incinerate London hit
the Earth on 30th June 1908, they weren’t laughing at the
end of it.
I went into this knowing that it would be a hard sell and that
people would laugh, but so sure have I been of the science that
I knew that the facts would run out in the end, and that is exactly
what has come to pass.
SM: Given that the British government is dragging its feet on this
at the moment, what advice would you give to members of the public
who are concerned about this subject in terms of what they can do?
LO: My request is always the same, and it’s this; please,
please, please write to your member of parliament and ask them in
your own words to get the government to take action on this, and
request a reply to your letter. Sometimes they will ask me about
it, MPs from all parties come and ask me about it and that’s
fine because I can provide them with the kind of information they
need to see that this is science fact, not science fiction.
But more than anything, if MPs are getting letters from their constituents,
then they’ll understand this is an issue on the political
radar. And the more letters they get, the more likely it is that
they will act. That’s all I ask. It would just help me so
much, that people who are concerned about this put pen to paper
and send their letters of concern to their MPs. I can do the rest
I’m absolutely sure there is going to be
a significant impact at some point in the next few years. There
SM: One frustrating thing is that NASA scientists are constantly
being criticised for crying wolf.
LO: That’s true but I must be honest and say that it’s
in our interests to have these claims that objects are coming close
because it raises the ante. Sometimes these objects are leaving
the Earth’s environment before we even spot them. There was
one 300 metre object that actually travelled between the moon and
the Earth. Now had that hit us that would have incinerated Asia
or Europe. And that’s the problem.
We’re living in a ten pin bowling alley where these things
are the balls and we’re one of the pins.
So I don’t mind a little bit of sensationalism because frankly,
no measure of media sensationalism would really prepare people for
the calamity of an impact. J. Tate isn’t so keen on that,
he thinks the sensationalism isn’t so good but, from a political
point of view, it helps because it keeps the subject in front of
the public. The politics of fear sent men to the moon. It’s
a sad thing. I’d love there to be a positive dynamic here
but frankly if it’s fear we have too use, so be it.
NASA's Near Earth Object
Paul Chodas, Steve Chesley, Jon Giorgini and Don Yeomans
February 3, 2005
Radar Observations Refine the
Future Motion of Asteroid 2004 MN4
Radar observations taken at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico
on January 27, 29, and 30 have significantly improved our estimate
for the orbit of asteroid 2004 MN4 and changed the circumstances
of the Earth close approach in 2029. On April 13, 2029, the predicted
trajectory now passes within 5.7 Earth radii (36,350 km or 22,600
miles) of the Earth's center - just below the altitude of geosynchronous
However, an Earth collision in 2029 is still ruled out. The asteroid's
motion subsequent to the 2029 Earth close approach is very sensitive
to the circumstances of the close approach itself and a number of
future Earth close approaches will be monitored as additional observations
are received. However, our current risk analysis for 2004 MN4 indicates
that no subsequent Earth encounters in the 21st century are of concern.
deGrasse Tyson is the Director of the Hayden
Planetarium at the American Museum
of Natural History in New York, and also a Visiting Research Scientist
at Princeton University's Department
of Astrophysics. He writes a monthly column called "Universe" for
Natural History magazine,
and is the author of several books, including "One
Universe: At Home in the Cosmos" and "The
Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures in an Urban Environment".
His most recent project is the NOVA four-part series, "Origins."
As host of the PBS miniseries, Tyson guides viewers on a journey into
the mysteries of the universe and the origin
of life itself.
In this interview with Astrobiology
Leslie Mullen , Tyson discusses the human tendency of being self-centered,
and how that can shape our reality and cloud our vision of the truth.
AM:One interesting point you make in the
Origins companion book is that while we are just a tiny part of the
galaxy, UFO and alien stories imply we are the center of attention
in the universe. You also note that, because of the vast interstellar
distances between possible civilizations, contact may never be possible.
If that's true, then how would our "self-centered" viewpoint be harmful?
Just how bad is it that we're so self-centered?
deGrasse Tyson (NT): I think our big human ego can blind
us from making or accepting certain kinds of scientific discoveries.
It's why it was hard to accept the decentralization of our position
in the cosmos: that the Earth revolves around the sun and not vice
versa. There's no reason why this information should be hard to accept
unless you have an ego or dogma that's fighting it.
But I think a consequence of greater impact is in view around the
world today. So much of the world's problems come about because some
people see themselves as more important than others. The simple notion
- "I'm more important than you" - can lead to devastating political
social consequences, like war and other forms of bloodshed like civil
unrest. An attitude of self-importance can show up politically, culturally,
religiously, spiritually, or in whatever way people divide themselves.
They choose up sides, one side thinks they're better than the other,
and go to war over it.
I don't know if I'm just a hopeless dreamer, but I'd like to believe
that the cosmic perspective, which is brought about by any kind of
study of our smallness in the universe, makes you vastly more humble
as a citizen of the planet. And from my reading, it makes you less
likely to take up arms against one another, or to invade another nation.
The world might just be compelled to live in greater peace when we're
made aware of our statistical, temporal, and spatial insignificance
in the cosmos. [...]
| Details of Britain's most recent
UFO sightings are revealed in previously secret documents disclosed
to The Independent .
The files, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show
that, last year, the Ministry of Defence's UFO unit received 88
reports from military staff and members of the public worried about
unexplained objects in our skies.
The classified files help to complete a picture of the scale of
UFO sightings first revealed by this paper last month. These updated
"X-files" show the most recent observations were made
on 15 January this year following two separate reports from Chatteris,
Cambridgeshire, and Whitstable, Kent. The reports refer to "strange
lights seen in the sky".
Other sightings give more detail. A report from Devizes in Wiltshire
on 24 September last year records an object that: "Looked liked
a big ball of fire coming down from the sky with a tail and sparks
coming off the end of it." Another, from Somerset the week
before, states: "The object looked like a great bright light
and was really intense, like a ball of fire coming down from the
sky, rapidly moving towards the ground."
Although such reports might be discounted as meteor showers or
other astronomical phenomena, other sightings are not so easy to
dismiss. A report from Surrey on 20 May last year describes a UFO
as having "grooves and windows" but no room for humans.
Even the MoD inspector notes that the "witness had seen the
object so clearly".
Many of the other sightings refer to UFO's changing colour, speed
and shape. The most common colours are yellow, orange or black.
A report from Goole, East Yorkshire, recorded in April last year,
noted: "The object looked like a boomerang and was stationary
over a power station. An aircraft was circling the object."
In the same month, a UFO observer from Seaforth, Merseyside, noted:
"I saw a UFO with a cluster of four bright lights in a ring
shape on it. Three beams of white light shone upwards and disappeared."
These latest files to be declassified by the MoD are not as complete
as reports from mid-1976 and 1977 released last month. Hundreds
of documents previously kept secret by the Ministry of Defence's
special UFO department, known as S4F, detail many reports of a possible
visit by extraterrestrial life-forms. One is made by an RAF pilot
and two NCOs at RAF Boulmer, Northumberland.
In July 1977 Flt-Lt A M Wood reported "bright objects hanging
over the sea''. The MoD document adds that the RAF officer said
the closest object was "luminous, round and four to five times
larger than a Whirlwind helicopter". The UFOs were reported
to be three miles out to sea at a height of about 5,000ft.
The officer, whose report is supported by Cpl Torrington and Sgt
Graham, said: "The objects separated. Then one went west of
the other, as it manoeuvred it changed shape to become body-shaped
with projections like arms and legs." The report describes
Flt-Lt Wood as "reliable and sober".
That account was deemed so sensitive to the national interest that
the MoD had delayed its release for an extra three years. But under
the Freedom of Information Act, which came into force on 1 January,
the file has been declassified.
But he was among the first to
get Meier's book, in 2001, warning of U.S. attack on Iraq, recent
BBC, Drudge, Frontline news stories, etc.
Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) February 3, 2005 – A heated controversy
is already erupting between Michael Horn, the U.S. researcher who
represents the UFO case of Billy Meier, from Switzerland, and noted
conservative talk show host Dennis Prager. At the center of the
dispute, is Horn's assertion that discussion of the amazing story,
now splashing across news sites and airing on stations all over
the world, isn"t taking place on some conservative shows here
in the U.S. that, Horn thinks, should welcome controversial but
While interest in Horn's recent appearance on one show resulted
in over 250,000 hits to his website, he's gotten a rather chilly
reception from the shows that, Horn thinks, are more comfortable
with maintaining the status quo, based on narrow political and/or
religious thinking, at a time in history when such thinking contributes
more to our problems than to solving them.
But Horn points out that his frustration may be understandable
when people learn that noted talk show hosts, like Prager and Michael
Medved, were actually among the very first people, in 2001, to receive
a copy of "And Yet They Fly!" containing Meier's accurate
warnings about events that hadn"t occurred yet, like the U.S.
attack on Iraq, the increase in Islamic terrorism, the spread of
Mad Cow disease, etc. Horn thinks that people should know that these
hosts, and thousands of other people, still have this book sitting
on their bookshelf and, may be unaware or, worse, uninterested that
it not only contains the amazing proof of foreknowledge of events,
it also contains warnings of calamitous things still to come …
should humanity not heed the warnings. "This is either true
or not true, there's really nothing in between. And, if it's true,
there is no bigger story in all of history. The problem facing the
media is how to the question the credibility of a controversial
guest who sent you information about events … before they
"I also understand," Horn added, "why ideologues
or zealots of any stripe are avoiding Meier if their primary justification
for war or policing the world emanates from their belief in an unproven
divine right to do so. Both Prager and Medved, as well as other
self-described religious, conservative radio hosts, are well-known
supporters for the president's going to war, which many people view
as an unconscionable act of unprovoked aggression sold under the
guise of an imminent threat to the nation. But my concern is that,
in 1981, Meier clearly warned of catastrophic destruction befalling
the U.S., our own country, as a result of just these types of aggressive
military policies, and further elaborated chillingly about it in
1987. Because Meier's record of accuracy is well beyond the ability
of any radio host to summarily dismiss on the air, they avoid dealing
with the information."
Asked if he thought that someone like Michael Moore would be more
receptive to the story, Horn said, "Look, don"t even get
me started on Michael Moore and those on the far-left who don"t
control the airwaves anyway. And I"m not as interested in trying
to change Mr. Prager's mind as I am in putting the case before his
audience, and other conservative audiences, and letting them challenge
it and decide on its validity themselves. Why should information
of such potentially monumental importance to their lives, and their
survival, be hidden from them, especially when these hosts have
been privy to it for many years?"
"This could be the ultimate "if we only knew then what
we know now" story and the problem is that we do know now and
important people in a position to do something about it, perhaps
to even help re-write our future history, are not taking that opportunity.
It may never come again," said Horn.
WASHINGTON - The FBI investigation
into the Pentagon mole affair has expanded beyond data analyst Larry
Franklin's immediate circle to encompass the entire issue of Jewish
influence on the neoconservative part of the administration.
The FBI queries have recently been focusing on a number of officials,
all from the neoconservative wing, who had access to the debates
on Iranian affairs, the Washington Post reported yesterday.
The officials include Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; Pentagon
adviser Richard Perle; adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, David
Wormser; and Iran specialist Harold Rhode, all of them Jews.
The Washington Post reported that FBI people recently
spoke to administration officials and Middle East experts to sound
them out on the suspicion that senior officials funneled secret
material to Israel. They asked each official whether he believes
that a certain group of people could spy for Israel and transfer
The investigation now appears to center on the claim made by the
opponents of the neoconservatives in the administration -
that the latter are responsible for the U.S. Middle East policy
and that they are suspected of bias in favor of Israel's interests.
The issues being queried have also increased. It
transpires that the FBI is investigating, in addition to funneling
classified information to Israel, the possibility that secret information
had been given to Ahmed Chalabi, of the Iraqi opposition.
Chalabi was close to many of the people mentioned in the affair
and was a central source of information to the Americans on the
goings-on in Iraq before the war.
The Washington Post said the FBI asked the administration officials
about Israeli embassy officials in Washington
who allegedly held contacts with administration officials to procure
secret information. So far, only the name of Naor Gilon, the political
adviser in the embassy, was mentioned as involved in the affair.
The L.A. Times reported on Friday that the American
administration does not believe Israel's contention that it does
not spy on America and that U.S. government officials say Israel
secretly maintains a large and active intelligence-gathering operation
in the U.S.
The officials said the FBI and other bodies spy on Israeli diplomats
in Washington and New York as a matter of routine. The report said
that Israel has long attempted to recruit U.S. officials as spies
and to procure classified documents, according to the Times.
Israel said it set a policy of not spying on the United States
after Jonathan Pollard's arrest in November 1985 and the damage
it did to bilateral relations in general and to intelligence and
security ties in particular. For 20 years, Israel said, that policy
has translated into unequivocal directives to the intelligence and
defense communities: They are not allowed to locate candidates for
recruiting as agents, cannot recruit and operate agents, nor pay
There's a story behind the story.
And it is a messy tale of deceit, cronyism and corruption. Ahmad
Chalabi's apparent falling out with the U.S., and some recent reports
indicating that U.S. Undersecretary of Defense, Douglas Feith may
be losing influence in the Administration, represent only the latest
chapter in their sordid histories and relationship.
Back in 2001, when Feith's name was first mentioned for the number
three position in the Pentagon, I wrote two lengthy articles on
his business dealings and his ideology. Part of the Reagan-era Defense
Department neo-conservative group, Feith left government service
and trading off of his political contacts, he became a lobbyist
and foreign agent, representing Turkey and some Israeli interests
as well. In 1996, Feith, a supporter of the Likud in Israel, co-authored
a paper for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advising
him to end the Oslo peace process. When Netanyahu signed the Wye
Agreement, Feith broke with him, accusing the Israeli leader of
compromising away his values.
Chalabi has a long and well-known history of shady business dealings.
His active courting of pro-Israel and neo-conservative groups leading
to the passage by Congress of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (ILA),
is also quite well-known.
So much for their separate histories. [...]
In any case, for reasons unrelated to this sordid web of corruption
and cronyism, it appears that Feith and his friend and co-conspirator
Ahmad Chalabi have fallen on hard times.
Feith, for example, has been implicated in the Abu Ghraib debacle.
It was his office that had general oversight over post-war planning
(and pre-war propaganda). And it was apparently his office that
dismissed the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the detained
of Iraqi prisoners. Growing displeasure with his work in this regard
(Gen. Tommy Franks has been quoted as calling Feith "the. .
.stupidest guy on the face of the earth.") has caused him to
be sidelined. There are also hints he may soon step down from his
For his part, Chalabi recently caused some irritation by proudly
boasting that it didn't matter that the intelligence he provided
the Pentagon was faulty, because it got the job done. He has also
angered his neo-con and pro-Israeli supporters by apparently turning
his back on commitments he made to them. He is also now in trouble,
having been accused of providing important secrets to Iranian intelligence.
His home was recently raided by U.S. and Iraqi forces.
What is intriguing is that in all the recent U.S. media coverage
of the changing fortunes of both Feith and Chalabi, there is very
little mention made of the questionable business dealings by those
closely connected to them. Only a handful of reporters have actually
dug deeply into this story.
Both Feith and Chalabi may be facing some difficulties, but don't
count them out quite yet. Feith may leave government, but the last
time he left the Pentagon, he turned his departure into business
connections and a handsome profit. And Chalabi, the wily manipulator,
also has a record of rebounding from set-backs that have marked
With Zell and Salem in business, both Feith and Ahmad have a place
to go. The final chapter in this sordid tale has yet to be written.
| THE Department of Foreign Affairs
remained tight-lipped today about the apparent expulsion of an Israeli
diplomat from Australia as the opposition complained it was not informed.
A senior diplomat based in Canberra was forced to leave the country,
according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv.
The report said the expulsion had been covered
up for several weeks and could be linked to a scandal last year
in which two alleged agents of the Israeli spy service, Mossad,
were arrested in New Zealand.
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd criticised the Government
for failing to uphold the convention of informing the opposition
of significant security matters.
Labor had only been contacted last night about the diplomat's removal,
after it became obvious the media had found out, Mr Rudd said.
"The normal convention is that the opposition is briefed on
matters of national security," he said.
"We are annoyed by the fact that stories like this break without
(us) being informed."
Mr Rudd said the lack of consultation represented the Government's
increasing arrogance on security matters.
He expected a full briefing on the situation on Monday when he
returned to Canberra.
New Zealand suspended high-level contacts with Israel in July last
year after two suspected Mossad agents were convicted of trying
to fraudulently obtain a New Zealand passport.
At the time, Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty
said one of the two men had spent time in Australia.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and Foreign Affairs Minister
Alexander Downer's office both refused to comment.
Ten-year-old Nuran Iyad Dib
went to school as ecstatic as any schoolgirl should be. But this
crisp winter day was special: she would receive her bi-annual report
As it turned out, she passed with flying colours, which meant a
gift from her parents, who had been saving up their dwindling funds
for this occasion. The teacher's comment on top of her report read:
We predict a very bright future for Nuran.
But Nuran would have no such future, and her gift lies abandoned
in a corner of her family's grieving home. On the afternoon of 31
January 2005, Israeli sniper fire ripped through her face as she
stood in her school's courtyard, lining up for afternoon assembly.
The last thing Nuran's mother remembers of her daughter before
she left for school that morning was hearing her say her morning
prayers, during which she recited a verse about God having created
death - and life - as a test for mankind.
In retrospect, Nuran's mother believes it was a premonition of
what was to come.
"Then she left for school. She was a completely selfless child.
She was thinking of her sisters till the last second. She came back
after she had left the house, and said: 'Mommy, it's cold - please
put some sweaters on my sisters before they leave'," her mother
"What more can I say except that she was a breath of fresh
air in these hard times? Her name was Nur [light] and that's exactly
what she was."
Her death has many here questioning Israel's commitment to a ceasefire
amid a one-sided truce and virtual period of calm.
"We extended an olive branch to them and instead of reciprocating
they cut our hand off," Nuran's mother cried, sitting in an
unpainted cement-block bedroom with nothing but thin foam mattresses
on the ground.
"What did she ever do to deserve such a fate? Or her sister,
who saw Nura die in front of her? Every night she wails out in her
sleep: 'Bring me my sister, bring me my sister'".
Fifth child killed
But Nuran was not the first innocent Palestinian child to meet
such a violent death in occupied Gaza. In fact, she was the fifth
to be shot dead or maimed by Israeli occupation forces while on
the premises of their UN-flagged schools in the past two years.
A day after the incident, Israeli authorities
said their initial investigation indicated it was fire from jubilant
Palestinian police celebrating the return of Hajj pilgrims, not
Israeli sniper fire, that killed Nuran.
But the pockmarked wall of the UNRWA school, which
stands 600m away from an Israeli sniper tower and far away from
residential blocks, tells a different story.
"There is nothing around us here, and there were no pilgrims
that we know of celebrating that day. There is just an outpost a
few hundred metres away - one from which sniper fire has frequently
hit our school," school principal Siham al-Ghoff said.
Al-Ghoff says if the fire was indeed Palestinian, the bullet would
not have hit Nuran in the face but rather landed on top of her head,
as rifles fired in celebration usually point upwards.
Both Palestinian security sources and UN officials confirm the
account, saying that the way the bullets were scattered, along with
witness testimonies, point to Israeli gunfire.
"Everything is pointing to the fact
that it was the Israelis. There were a number of shots, and
the way they were scattered gives us an indication of the direction
where they came from, and that corresponds with witness reports
that the firing came from an [Israeli] APC or tank in the area,"
one official said [...]
The Palestinian Authority has filed a formal complaint
with the Israeli side about the girls' shooting, but it is unlikely
Nuran's family will ever get answers about their daughter's death.
Back in her family's home, Nuran's mother sat gazing in disbelief
at her daughter's report card, while her father Iyad stood weeping
Nearby, an Israeli tank shell rattled the windows of the room,
which together with young Nuran's death served as a reminder that
if there is any calm it has not yet reached Rafah.
"When Nuran died, a part of me died also," her mother
"She was a bright light that was extinguished. For me, there
can be no more peace."
BERLIN (AFP) - US Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice is in Europe to promote American policies
in Iraq and the Middle East, but the start of her first trip as
chief diplomat has been dogged by the spectre of Iran.
Two days into her week-long tour, Rice has been besieged by questions
about US policy towards the Islamic Republic's suspected nuclear
weapons program and bleak human rights record. [...]
The persistent probing and inconclusive US response
have forced Rice on the defensive, where she had hoped to put Tehran.
"It is the Iranians that are isolated on this issue, not the
United States," she pleaded Friday.
This was not entirely the trip envisioned by one of US President
George W. Bush's most trusted aides when she embarked on a tour
of eight European capitals, Israel and the West Bank.
The trip, a warm-up to Bush's own European swing later this month,
was billed as a fence-mending mission aimed at capitalizing on the
success of Iraq's national elections and new momentum in the Middle
East peace process.
But on the plane over, Rice turned the focus on Iran with unusually
harsh criticism of the mullahs in Tehran, calling their treatment
of their people "something to be loathed".
She also raised eyebrows by ducking repeated questions on regime
change -- even as her spokesman in Washington was telling reporters
that officials "have been very clear that we do not have a
policy of regime change toward Iran."[...]
"The president and the secretary have made it more explicit
that we support the aspirations of the Iranian people to control
their own government," said a senior official, who asked not
to be named.
The United States has been sharpening its rhetoric against Iran
for weeks. Bush, who famously lumped Tehran in his "axis of
evil" three years ago, called it Wednesday "the world's
primary state sponsor of terror".
Vice President Dick Cheney said last month that Iran was "right
at the top of the list" of global trouble spots and worried
that Israel might launch its own strikes to shut down Tehran's nuclear
program if nobody else does.
With US officials refusing to take any option off the table, Rice
sought Friday to allay fears among US allies of a strike against
Iran, saying "the question is simply not on the agenda at this
Initial reaction in Europe sounded unconvinced.
Emma Udwin, spokeswoman for EU external relations commissioner
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, was worried by Rice's addendum "at
this point" and said, "I don't know if that clarified
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who had what he called "extensive
discussions" with Rice on Iran, said the Europeans would do
"everything and anything to come to a diplomatic and political
Schroeder and Straw both basically endorsed the United States'
tough line on democratic reforms in Iran. But the EU's Udwin was
"The objective of democracy ... is one we share with the Americans.
We have a different way of going about implementing our policy,"
| On Iraq 'We're
going to seek a peaceful solution to this. We think one is possible'
- 20 October 2002
On Iran 'The question
[of a military strike] is simply not on the agenda at this point
in time. We have diplomatic means to do this' - Yesterday
She refused to utter the words "regime change".
She declined to be drawn on future military adventures. But what
Condoleezza Rice, the new US Secretary of State, did say yesterday
in London was that Iranian "behaviour, internally and externally,
is out of step with the direction and desires of the international
Asked directly whether the US planned an attack
on Iran, Ms Rice said: "The question is simply not on the agenda
at this point in time. We have diplomatic missions to do this."
It was an answer that had a familiar ring.
Over the coming week, Ms Rice will encounter many who recall hearing
such assurances in the recent past. Labour MPs who opposed the war
in Iraq said last night that the assurances by Ms Rice were "unconvincing"
and they remained deeply concerned that Tony Blair will be dragged
into a second Middle East conflict by the Bush administration. "Blair
has already announced he is going. We have no sanction against Blair
if he goes to war alongside Bush again," said Peter Kilfoyle,
the former defence minister. "We had the same assurances before
they went to war against Iraq."
The outcome of the elections appears to be making matters worse,
not better. Religious parties, backed and financed by Tehran, are
sweeping the board in Iraq's first free elections. The
first count showed that the United Iraqi Alliance, the largely Shia
coalition of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has won more than two-thirds
of the 3.3 million votes counted so far.
A secular democracy is not about to be formed in Iraq. Even Iyad
Allawi, the interim Prime Minister, who Washington hoped would hold
the balance of power, saw his coalition trounced. The theocrats
of Iran, not the neo-conservatives of Washington, now appear to
hold the keys to Iraq's future. For Ms Rice the problem of Iran
has become more urgent than ever.
With the US military bogged down in Iraq and no exit strategy in
sight, Washington faces an acute dilemma: how to bring about regime
change in Tehran without repeating the mistakes of Iraq. The Rice
solution, for now, is to seek an old-fashioned coalition with Old
The focus for her and her hosts was Iran and its race to acquire
the nuclear bomb that Saddam Hussein infamously never possessed.
Ms Rice criticised the "unelected mullahs" who hold power
in Iran and described Tehran's human rights behaviour as loathsome.
The prospect of a nuclear Iran was "deeply destabilising"
for the region. She said Britain and the US shared a "unity
of purpose" on the dangers posed by Iran.
Ms Rice's next stop was Berlin, where Chancellor Gerhard Schröder,
one of the staunchest opponents of the Iraq war, agreed "that
[Iran] must not have the potential of a nuclear weapon whatsoever".
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who has led British pressure
on the White House to allow diplomacy to work, revealed that the
International Atomic Energy Agency had found fresh evidence that
the Iranians were not complying with an order to suspend its nuclear
programme. Yet the limits of US power are manifest. Military action
is all but unthinkable. The overstretched US military has its hands
more than full in Iraq. If the US acted, moreover, it would do so
In his inauguration speech, President Bush denounced Iran as "an
outpost of tyranny". But in the wake of the Iraqi elections
and the emergence of a "Shia crescent" of countries, the
mullahs' regime looks less of an outpost and more a capital of a
remade map of the Middle East.
In Washington, overt (or covert) action is already being taken
to help Iranian reformers.
Ms Rice said after her talks: "Let me state quite clearly
what we hope to achieve concerning the Iranian regime. We have complete
unity of purpose on a number of areas. First of all that Iran engages
in activities that are destabilising to the region, particularly
when it comes to support for terrorism.
"Secondly we are completely united in our view that Iran should
not use the cover of civilian nuclear development to sustain a programme
that could lead to a nuclear weapon.
"The Iranians ought to take the opportunity that's being presented
to them to show that they are living up to their international obligations.
"Thirdly we are united in our view that the Iranian regime
should have transparent relations with its neighbours in Afghanistan
and Iraq.Fourthly we have all been concerned about the abysmal human
rights record of the Iranian regime."
Fascism is coming back into fashion,
at least in the propaganda wars. For the right, it comes in the
shape of a new word: "islamofascism". That conflates all
the elements into one image: suicide bombs, kidnappings and the
Qur'an; the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan; Iranian clerics and
The term seems to have appeared first in the Washington Times in
a reference to Islamist fundamentalists. Coined by Khalid Duran,
a Muslim scholar seeking to explain Islam to Jews, the word was
meant as a criticism of hyper-traditionalist clerics - who in turn
denounced Duran as a traitor to the faith.
Usage has gathered momentum among commentators and academics who
seek a verbal missile to debilitate those who disagree with them.
They have adopted it as a sort of Judeo-Christian war cry - look
for it soon in the title of a neo-conservative think tank conference.
For the left, the term "fascist" lost its power in the
1970s, when it was sprayed on every authority figure in sight, from
the Nixon-Kissinger White House to university provosts to the neighbourhood
To make Bush-Hitler comparisons work requires
more nuanced historical references - to the night of the long knives,
for example, as Sidney Blumenthal did about the dismissal of Colin
Powell. Unfortunately for liberals, those references don't work
as efficiently as islamofascism does for the right, because to imagine
the appropriately creepy picture requires a familiarity with German
history of the 1920s and 30s. Nazism is better known for its death
camps than for Leni Riefenstahl or the Reichstag fire, so analogies
between the Nazis' early years and current Republican party behaviour
seem hollow, no matter how strong some parallels might be.
Christopher Hitchens, a former socialist who now sits on the other
end of the political see-saw, sprinkles islamofascism about like
paprika. He and Andrew Sullivan, a voice of the right, both wrongly
receive credit in some quarters for coining the term.
Long before September 11 2001, Duran was commissioned by the American
Jewish Committee to produce one side of an interfaith project. Duran
responded to attacks on his book, Children of Abraham,
by deriding those who sought "to impose religious orthodoxy
on the state and the citizenry". In that sense, he said, extreme
islamism is "islamofascism."
It took a couple of years for the word to seep into frequent usage.
By then its meaning had expanded. Last year, Sullivan cited "five
elements that make it particularly dangerous", including the
"broken, medieval societies" that foster it, the "unquenchable
extremism" of its motivation, and "the destructive technology"
its adherents seek.
Use of the term to describe Muslim clerics and stateless terrorists
has neatly pre-empted any chance of labelling Bush a fascist - no
matter how many suspects are kidnapped by the US authorities and
tortured; no matter how impervious the border; no matter how effective
the use of propaganda to destroy the opposition; no matter how many
countries are invaded on false pretenses; no matter how strongly
a minority religion may become a mark of guilt.
United States Divided: How much
do some Pro-Bush crazies hate those who oppose the war?
The words "libelous" and 'the New Republic" have
a proud history of walking arm-in-arm. Now, in the esteemed tradition
of [former TNR writer who peddled fiction as fact] Stephen Glass,
The New Republic has stooped to a new low, publishing a piece that
calls for violence, torture, and even death for leading leftists
who dare oppose Bush's war on terror and the slaughter in Iraq.
Author Tom Frank -- clearly from the Glass School of Journalism
the New Republic has made famous -- described sitting in on an anti-war
panel sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, the
Washington Peace Center, the DC Anti-War Network and other groups.
After having heard the 100 plus attendees cheer sentiments like
"Money for Jobs and Education Not For War and Occupation,"
Frank became so riled up, he unloaded a deranged harangue about
the suffering he would like to rain upon people daring to organize
against this war. After Stan Goff, a former Delta Forces soldier
and current organizer for Military Families Speak Out, expressed
sentiments like "We ain't never resolved nothing through an
election," Frank's jag began. Clearly too doughy to do it himself,
Frank started to fantasize about a Teutonic strongman who could
shut Goff up.
Frank writes, "What I needed was a
Republican like Arnold [Schwarzenegger] who would walk up to [Goff]
and punch him in the face."
As the panel continued, every cheer and standing ovation seemed
to set Frank deeper down a path of psychosis. After International
Socialist Review editorial board member Sherry Wolf asserted that
Iraqis had a "right" to rebel against occupation, Frank
upped the ante in his efforts to intimidate anyone considering entry
into the anti-war movement.
He wrote, 'these weren't harmless lefties. I didn't
want Nancy Pelosi talking sense to them; I wanted John Ashcroft
to come busting through the wall with a submachine gun to round
everyone up for an immediate trip to Gitmo, with Charles Graner
on hand for interrogation."
Later, when Wolf quoted Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy's
defense of the right to resist, Frank was sent into such a state
of panic, he once again dreamed of the mighty hand of state repression,
writing, "Maybe sometimes you just want
to be on the side of whoever is more likely to take a bunker buster
to Arundhati Roy."
Interestingly, Frank didn't have the guts to slander another one
of the panel speakers, exonerated death row inmate Shujaa Graham.
Graham, who has been moved to speak out against the torture of Iraqi
prisoners by intimately connecting their pain with his own experience
of torture in California's death row, escaped Frank's pen. I guess
it's hard to pose fantasy threats of torture and death toward someone
who has actually looked it in the face.
We can write this piece off as just another one of the smarmy New
Republic 20-something writers getting his jollies slamming the left.
We can say that Frank -- his entire piece an exercise in poorly
executed humor, ill-written grammar, and awkward phrasing -- just
forgot to break his Prozac in half that morning. But there is something
far more insidious at work here.
This piece is yet another effort to intimidate and silence people
who aren't willing to toe the "party line" espoused by
Democrats and Republicans alike that the death of 1,400 US troops
and 100,000 Iraqi civilians is somehow justified. Frank's piece
is an exercise in hate and intimidation. To be quiet in its face
is to give ground in a period when we have precious little to give.
Therefore, this is a call for people to e-mail The New Republic
and let them know what you think about humorous musings on killing
Arundhati Roy or torturing Stan Goff. Let them know that a disgraced
magazine will not intimidate us, especially one with the credibility
of The National Enquirer. Let them know that we will publicly debate
Tom Frank or any of their 20 something post-graduate hacks on the
merits of this war anytime and any place. This is the only way to
deal with darkness: shine as bright a light as possible -- right
in it's face.
DURANGO, Colorado - A Colorado judge ordered
two teen-age girls to pay about $900 (480 pounds) for the distress
a neighbour said they caused by giving her home-made cookies adorned
with paper hearts.
The pair were ordered to pay $871.70 plus $39
in court costs after neighbour Wanita Renea Young, 49, filed a lawsuit
complaining that the unsolicited cookies, left at her house after
the girls knocked on her door, had triggered an anxiety attack that
sent her to the hospital the next day.
Taylor Ostergaard, then 17, and Lindsey Jo Zellitte, 18, paid the
judgment on Thursday after a small claims court ruling by La Plata
County Court Judge Doug Walker, a court clerk said on Friday.
The girls baked cookies as a surprise for several of their rural
Colorado neighbours on July 31 and dropped off small batches on
their porches, accompanied by red or pink paper hearts and the message:
"Have a great night".
The Denver Post newspaper reported on Friday that the girls had
decided to stay home and bake the cookies rather than go to a dance
where there might be cursing and drinking.
It reported that six neighbours wrote letters
entered as evidence in the case thanking the girls for the cookies.
But Young said she was frightened because the two had knocked on
her door at about 10:30 p.m. and run off after leaving the cookies.
She went to a hospital emergency room the next
day, fearing that she had suffered a heart attack, court records
The judge awarded Young her medical costs, but did not award punitive
damages. He said he did not think the girls had acted maliciously
but that 10:30 was fairly late at night for them to be out.
PITTSBURGH - A man says a traffic ticket a
state trooper gave him is for the birds — or at least for
flipping the bird. Stephen Corey, 42, filed a federal lawsuit because
he says he had a First Amendment right to flip his middle finger
at the trooper in July.
Trooper Samuel Nassan III gave Corey, a flight attendant from Pittsburgh,
a ticket for following another vehicle too closely, then wrote him
up for giving "an improper hand signal while passing my patrol
car, namely middle finger up," according to Corey's lawsuit.
Corey's attorney, Joel Dresbold, denies Corey made the gesture.
But he said it also doesn't matter because Nassan filed the ticket
as though Corey committed a motor vehicle violation — that
Corey made an illegal turn signal using his hand.
"It really doesn't matter if he did it or not," Dresbold
said. "Either way it's an abuse of his constitutional rights.
It's lawful under the Constitution to (give the middle finger),
and you can't give a ticket for doing that."[...]
Nassan chuckled when told of the lawsuit — but said the ticket
was proper because he said Corey gave him the finger as part of
a gesture that indicated he was changing lanes, making it an improper
turn signal. Nassan also acknowledged that Corey has a right to
give him the finger under some circumstances.
"Absolutely, he has a right to shoot his
middle finger at me unless it's in plain view of the motoring public,"
ROCK HILL, S.C. - A doughnut shop employee
has been arrested after police say he spit into an officer's coffee.
Detectives think Chad Patrick Stalnaker, 19, of Fort Mill spit
into the coffee before it was handed to Sgt. Keith Dugan in the
drive-thru window at a Dunkin Donuts store earlier this month.
Dugan, a veteran Rock Hill police officer, was on duty and driving
a marked patrol car at the time.
Dugan got the coffee on his way to the doctor's office for a checkup,
so he took it with him and removed the lid to take his first sip
as he sat in the waiting room. He noticed a substance floating in
It turned out to be a mixture of mucus and saliva, police say.
The cup has been sent to the State Law Enforcement Division for
testing, said Lt. Jerry Waldrop.
On Monday, police arrested Stalnaker and charged
him with misdemeanor assault and battery in connection with the
A Dunkin Donuts manager said Stalnaker is no longer employed at
Almost 50,000 people were forced into bankruptcy
last year as successive rises in interest rates added to debt burdens
and pushed insolvency numbers to a record high.
Figures from the Department of Trade and Industry showed personal
insolvencies jumped to 13,013 in England and Wales in the final
quarter of last year, up 8% from the third quarter and 34.6% up
from the same three months a year earlier.
For 2004 as a whole, the number was 46,651, up 30% on 2003's figure
of around 36,000, which was the same as the previous peak during
the recession of the early 90s.
"Personal insolvency levels have gone through the roof,"
said Mike Gerrard, a personal insolvency expert at accountants Grant
"Over the past 10 years more than 300,000 people have entered
personal insolvency - that's more than the population of Coventry."
Last year, personal debt levels in Britain broke through the £1
trillion level for the first time, just as the Bank of England was
attempting to cool the economy by raising interest rates by a third
"The interest rate rises were the straw that has broken the
camel's back for some people," said Dan Levene, spokesman for
the Citizens Advice Bureau.
He said debt problems had become the biggest single problem the
CAB was dealing with.
"The number of people coming to see us about debt is rising
fast and was 1.1 million people in our 2003-04 year." [...]
Mr Gerrard said that 10 years ago most personal bankruptcies were
self- employed people whose business had failed. Now they were over-burdened
consumers with large amounts of unsecured credit and loan debt,
typically in excess of £50,000.
PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that insolvencies were likely to
carry on rising through 2005 and that the stagnation of the housing
market would make it more difficult for people to raise money against
"Many consumers have been on a spending binge over the last
few years and, while the party may be coming to an end, for some
the hangover is likely to be drawn out and painful," said Charles
Turner, director in PwC's business recovery practice. [...]
Russia said yesterday it had abandoned efforts
to tie the rouble's movement closely to the dollar and switched
to shadowing both the euro and the US currency.
The move heightened expectations that other countries
operating de facto dollar pegs, such as China, could follow suit.
With 81 per cent of Russia's oil exports currently sold to Europe,
the move also provoked fresh speculation that Russia could decide
to denominate its oil in euros. Russia is the world's second-largest
oil exporter, behind Saudi Arabia.
"Russia has talked about the idea of pricing its oil in euros.
If it is starting to put more weight on the euro in terms of its
forex regime and reserves, then that speculation will be re-ignited,"
said Ian Stannard, currency strategist at BNP Paribas.
Russia had announced its intention to introduce a basket arrangement
last April but did not set a firm date for the change. The
Bank of Russia, the central bank, has been building its euro reserves
in readiness, with some 30 per cent of its reserves now estimated
to be in euros, against just 5 per cent in 2000. Traders
said it appeared Russia had begun to loosen its peg to the dollar
in October, when the rouble began to strengthen against the dollar
while the US currency fell strongly against the euro.
The bank yesterday indicated that its efforts to keep the rouble
closely pegged to the dollar had caused the Russian currency to
suffer against the strengthening euro, rendering the old policy
The rouble has fallen by 30 per cent against the euro since January
2002, fuelling inflation in a country that conducts about 65 per
cent of its trade with the eurozone.
"The rouble's performance has been highly correlated with
the dollar. Now it will be more aligned with the euro," said
Paul Timmons, economist at Moscow Narodny Bank.
He added that the new policy would help Russia move towards a free
float of its currency in 2006, a target set by President Vladimir
This euro weighting will be increased in future to "a level
that corresponds to [the] tasks of the exchange rate policy",
leading some to conclude that the euro could ultimately account
for 65 per cent of the basket, prompting a further re-balancing
of Moscow's $128bn (€99bn, £68bn) of gold and forex reserves.
Julia Tsepliaeva of ING Financial Markets said that with inflation
currently running at 11.7 per cent, Russia had been forced to stem
rouble weakness in order to meet its 2005 inflation target of 8.5
Moscow's move illustrates the growing global importance
of the euro at a time when a number of central banks have been shifting
reserves out of the dollar into the shared European currency.
"It is symptomatic of a global trend and reflects the growing
international role of the euro," said Ralph Sueppel, head of
emerging Europe strategy at Merrill Lynch.
"It is beginning to take its place in portfolios."
The Bank of Russia said it has been using a basket consisting of
0.1 euro and 0.9 dollars to target exchange rate policy since February
1. With the euro trading near $1.30, this currently gives the euro
a 13 per cent weighting in the basket.
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) - A member
of the Georgian presidential clemency commission has committed suicide,
police said Saturday, two days after the death of Prime Minister
Zurab Zhvania. Officials denied any political connection between
the victim and the premier.
Georgy Khelashvili, 32, was found dead at his home Friday night
of a gunshot wound, said Tbilisi police official Irakli Pirkhalala.
Khelashvili was a member of the presidential commission on pardons.
Initial media reports said he also had been a member of Zhvania's
former United Democrats political bloc.
But Karlo Tskhitishvili, head of the parliament's protocol staff,
said Khelashvili did not have any political affiliation with Zhvania,
whose United Democrats later merged into the National Movement political
bloc. Khelashvili previously had worked for the protocol staff.
Pirkhalala said Khelashvili shot himself with a hunting rifle that
he had borrowed from a neighbor on the pretext of taking a hunting
trip. He left a note asking for forgiveness, Pirkhalala said, but
did not give further details of the note's contents.
Officials confirmed Friday that Zhvania died of carbon-monoxide
poisoning, apparently as a result of an improperly ventilated space
heater at the apartment of friend, who also died.
Georgians, meanwhile, continued to grapple with Zhvania's sudden
death and its implications for the country's reform efforts.
The 41-year-old Zhvania was a key figure in attempts to lift the
country out of its post-Soviet economic collapse and political turmoil.
He was also one of the leaders of the 2003 "Rose Revolution"
protests that propelled President Mikhail Saakashvili to power and
brought down his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze.
Zhvania earned deep respect and affection and was seen as a moderating
balance to the sometimes-incendiary boldness of Saakashvili, who
was elected president in 2004.
"After the Rose Revolution, when the country was in complete
collapse, he was able to get us out of economic difficulties. Teachers
started getting paid on time, pensioners got their pensions,"
said mourner Ksenia Kuparadze, a 70-year-old pensioner outside the
apartment of Zhvania's grieving mother, where the body was brought
Zhvania's body was scheduled to be moved from his mother's home
later Saturday to Tbilisi's Holy Trinity Cathedral, where a funeral
will be held Sunday.
Among the dignitaries traveling to Georgia for the funeral is Sen.
Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
who was designated by President Bush to head the U.S. delegation.
Authorities have called Zhvania's death an accident, another of
the many carbon-monoxide poisonings that have troubled the capital
since its central-heating system went out of service in 1992. Many
residents have turned to wood and gas stoves to keep warm.
Even before the suicide of Khelashvili, many Georgians wondered
whether authorities were telling the truth about Zhvania's death.
Georgia has a history of political intrigue and violence,
"There were plenty of people who envied Zurab, many were hoping
that a conflict would break out between him and the president,"
said historian Grigory Dardzhanian.
They were still playing
golf at the course outside Kathmandu airport yesterday. Next door,
flights were beginning to arrive from the outside world again. But
they were coming to a Nepal that seemed almost surreally oblivious
to the political crisis engulfing it. The king might have
just seized absolute power, sacked the entire government and put
the Prime Minister under house arrest, but you would not have known
it in the tourist bazaars of the Thamel quarter, which were doing
the usual roaring trade in Buddhist devil masks and cheap Tintin
But then in Nepal, crisis is nothing new. The past few years have
been one long, slow crisis. Yesterday every telephone line and internet
connection had been disconnected by royal decree. The king had mobile
phones cut off. But that's nothing in a country where, three and
a half years ago, almost the entire royal family was wiped out,
apparently after the crown prince went on a berserk rampage through
A strong earthquake jolted the
northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific, Hong Kong seismologists
said Saturday. It's not immediately clear whether there were casualties
The 6.3-magnitude tremor hit the islands at 0340 GMT Saturday,
the Hong Kong Observatory said. The epicenter was about 100 kilometers
(62 miles) northeast of Saipan.
The quake came three days after another 6.3 magnitude rattled the
Mariana islands and Guam, where terrified residents ran out of buildings
and looked out to the sea, fearing that the tremor would generate
But none came and there were no reports of injuries.
| Energy from the giant Sumatra earthquake
traveled 7,000 miles to shake up an Alaska volcano.
Mount Wrangell experienced "a small flurry of events"
about one hour after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the
coast of Sumatra on Dec. 26, 2004, according to John Sanchez of
the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Sanchez checked out a number of
Alaska volcanoes for increased activity following the giant earthquake
and he found that Mt. Wrangell, a 14,163-foot volcano about 50 miles
east of Copper Center, shook with at least 12 tiny earthquakes as
the energy waves from across the globe passed through the mountain
during a 10 minute-period.
"It's very unlikely that this group of events, spaced regularly
in time, happened just by chance," Sanchez said. "We think
the earthquake gave the volcano a little nudge that allowed these
events to happen."
Large earthquakes often trigger volcanic activity-the 7.9 Denali
Fault earthquake in 2002 triggered similar unrest in volcanic features
at Yellowstone and northern Mexico-but the Sumatra-Mt.Wrangell connection
covers more than one quarter of the globe.
"If in fact seismicity at Wrangell was triggered by the Sumatra
quake, this would be the long-distance record at about 11,000 kilometers
(about 7,000 miles)," Sanchez said.
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