Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity 
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911 Eye-witnesses

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Picture of the Day



The UFO Phenomenon -- Seeing Is Believing

ABC News

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.

Comment: Watch it happen. Slowly, very slowly, more and more mainstream media outlets will begin to report on "UFOs" in a more rational and measured way. Not long thereafter, something very strange will begin to happen - the sleeping masses will begin to "think" differently about the phenomenon.

How strange.

Society will begin to take the subject seriously and, at the same time, "science" will stumble upon startling "new" information about the possibility of life on other planets - microscopic life at first of course, in order not to startle grandma stock market investor. After that, who knows what will be revealed.

Readers who wish to know the real deal on the UFO phenomena and how it related to humanity as a whole, should refer to Laura Knight-Jadczyk's article The High Strangeness of Dimensions and the Process of Alien Abduction which is extracted from her book of the same name and where she states:

"I would like to draw your attention to particular remarks made by Dr. Hynek":

...a global phenomenon ... so strange and foreign to our daily terrestrial mode of thought... it carries with it many implications of the existence of intelligences other than our own ... [It] bespeaks the action of some form of intelligence... but whence this intelligence springs, whether it is truly extra-terrestrial, or bespeaks a higher reality not yet recognized by science, or even if it be in some way or another a strange psychic manifestation of our own intelligence, is much the question..

These remarks address the "High Strangeness" factor. "High strangeness" describes those UFO cases that are not only peculiar but that can often be utterly absurd. In some cases, there are events before, during, and after the "sighting proper" imbued with elements of time and space distortion, bizarre synchronicities, strange states of consciousness, beings that act absurd, strange ‘creatures’ associated with the sighting, but not necessarily part of the sighting, anomalous phone calls, electronic glitches, paranormal events including poltergeist type activity, and what are popularly known as MIB - Men in Black.

French scientist, Jacques Vallee writes in a paper about High Strangeness:

A primary objection to the reality of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena events among scientists is that witnesses consistently report objects whose seemingly absurd behavior "cannot possibly" be related to actual phenomena, even under extreme conditions. [...] Skeptics insist that superior beings, celestial ambassadors or intelligent extraterrestrial (ETI) visitors simply would not perpetrate such antics as are reported in the literature. [...]

Dr. Hynek wrote in a paper presented at the AIAA 13th Aerospace Sciences Meeting Pasadena, Calif., January 20-22, 1975, entitled "The Emerging Picture of the UFO Problem":

But one element that is common to all scientific endeavor is the problem of signal-to-noise ratio; in the UFO phenomenon this problem is a major one. The UFO problem is, initially, a signal-to-noise problem. The noise is, and has been, so great that the existence of a signal has been seriously questioned. Isaac Asimov, whom no one could accuse of lacking in imagination, writes:

"Eyewitness reports of actual space ships and actual extraterrestrials are, in themselves, totally unreliable. There have been numerous eyewitness reports of almost everything that most rational people do not care to accept - of ghosts, angels, levitation, zombies, werewolves, and so on... The trouble is, that whatever the UFO phenomenon is, it comes and goes unexpectedly. There is no way of examining it systematically. It appears suddenly and accidentally, is partially seen, and then is more or less inaccurately reported. We remain dependent on occasional anecdotal accounts". (From the December 14, 1974 issue of TV Guide, a media magazine with a very great circulation and hence powerful in forming public opinion.)

Here we see a very important part of the UFO problem, that of the presentation of data to men of science, and to men, like Asimov and others who excel in writing about science.

Scientific efforts can be seriously hampered if the popular image of a subject is grossly misleading. Funds can be curtailed and good men of science who wish to give time to the subject are apt to face misrepresentation whenever their work receives any public attention. Ball lightning is just as much an unknown as the UFO phenomenon, yet scientists can openly discuss these "balls of light" but are likely to be censured if they talk about similar unidentified lights which last much longer, are brighter, and move over greater distances, but are labeled UFOs. Proper presentation of the UFO phenomenon to the media may not seem an integral part of the UFO problem, per se, but its effects loom large.

The signal-to-noise aspect of the UFO problem is aggravated to a high degree because the signal is a totally unexpected signal, and represents an entirely new set of empirical observations which do not fit into any existing framework in any of the accepted scientific disciplines. One may even contemplate that the signal itself signals the birth of a new scientific discipline.

I return to the out-of-hand dismissal of the UFO phenomenon by persons like Isaac Asimov, in part, because of the poor presentation of the data to such persons. This is an important facet of the UFO problem itself and must be taken into account if we are to make any progress with the study of the signal.

An analogy may be useful here: In the isolation of radium, Mme. Curie was obliged to work through tons of pitchblende to obtain a minuscule amount of radium. Yet there was no question of the signal in the "pitchblende noise". The radioactivity of the pitchblende was unquestioned. Let us suppose that instead there had been a rumor - an old wive’s tale, or an alchemist’s story - that there existed a miraculous unknown element which could be used in the transmutation of elements, and which had miraculous healing powers and other exotic properties. Would any scientist, on the basis of such an alchemist’s tale, have done what Mme. Curie did to lift the signal out of the noise of tons of pitchblende? Hardly. Mme. Curie knew that there was a signal - it wasn’t a rumor. And although the labor was immense, there was a definite, scientifically accepted methodology for separating the signal from the noise.

Now, in the UFO problem we did not know at the start that there was a signal - there were merely tales, unacceptable to scientists as a body. Only those of us, through a long exposure to the subject, or motivated by a haunting curiosity to work in the field and to get our hands dirty with the raw data, came to know there was a signal.

We know that we cannot find a trivial solution to the problem, i.e., a common sense solution that the phenomenon is either entirely a matter of misidentification, hallucinations, and hoaxes, or a known phenomenon of nature, e.g., of a meteorological nature. We know that there exists a subset of UFO reports of high strangeness and high witness credibility for which no one - and I emphasize - no one, has been able to ascribe a viable explanation. But the Isaac Asimovs and the trained scientists, as well as large segments of the public, do not know this. And we cannot expect them to know this unless we present data to them properly and thus provide motivation to study the subject. We who have worked in the UFO field are somewhat in the position of Einstein who wrote to Arnold Sommerfeld in response to Sommerfeld’s skepticism of the General Theory of Relativity:

"You will accept the General Theory of Relativity when you have studied it. Therefore I will not utter a word in its defense."

Emotional defense of the UFO phenomenon is pointless; the facts, properly presented, must speak for themselves.

With the noise level so high, and with the popular interpretation of UFOs as visitors from outer space rather than simply what their initials stand for, Unidentified Flying Objects - an unidentified phenomenon whose origin we do not know - it is very difficult for one to be motivated to study the subject.

The noise in the UFO problem is two-fold. There is the obvious noise, and also the more "sophisticated" noise, which might even be part of the signal. The obvious noise is akin to that well known to any scientist. An astronomer recognizes the noise of errors of observation, of instrumental errors, or that introduced by atmospheric distortion, by photon statistics, etc.

In our problem the noise is likewise comprised of errors of observation (though to a much greater degree), but also to wishful thinking, deliberate substitution of interpretation of an event for the event itself, as, "I saw a space ship last night" for "I saw a light in the sky last night", and the totally extraneous noise of the unbalanced imaginations of the pseudo-religious fanatics who propagate unfounded stories and who uncritically accept anything and everything that appeals to their warped imaginations. [...]

The question of whether the UFO phenomenon is a manifestation of some type of intelligence, whether extraterrestrial, "meta-terrestrial", or indeed some aspect of our own, is a critical one.

Certainly, in those close encounter cases in which creatures or occupants, ostensibly the pilots of the craft, are reported, intelligent behavior of some sort seems obvious. Even if the occupants are robots, a more distant intelligence is implied. The almost universally reported response to detection by these occupants is an important part of the picture; upon detection the creatures are reported to disappear quickly and take off. Except in certain cases, there appears to be no desire for any involvement with the human race. [...]

Given the elements of the present picture of the UFO phenomenon, it is clear that any viable hypothesis that meets these picture elements satisfactorily will be, according to present views, "far out".

There have been other times in the history of science when striking departures from classical concepts were necessary. Since new hypotheses must in some way use present knowledge as a springboard, it is a sobering thought to contemplate that the gap between the springboard of the known and a viable UFO hypothesis might even be so great as to prevent the formulation of an acceptable hypothesis at present.

Thus, for example, only a century ago, an inconsequential period of time in total history, the best scientific minds could not have envisioned the nuclear processes which we now feel certain take place in the deep interiors of stars. The question of energy production on the sun capable of maintaining the sun’s prodigious outflow of energy for hundreds of millions of years - a time period demanded by the fossil history millions of years - was simply not answerable by any hypothesis conceivable to the scientists of a century ago.

It is indeed sobering, yet challenging, to consider that the entire UFO phenomenon may be only the tip of the proverbial iceberg in a signaling an entirely new domain of the knowledge of nature as yet totally unexplored, as unexplored and as unimagined as nuclear processes would have been a century ago.

Dr. Hynek is often referred to as the father of rigorous scientific UFO investigation. He was a scientific consultant for the Air Force’s UFO investigation, Project Bluebook which later research shows to have been intended to debunk the subject. But after studying so many credible cases, Dr. Hynek was to go on to found the Center For UFO Studies (CUFOS). He also invented the classification for UFO sightings, terming the phrase ‘Close Encounter.’ He is the author of the landmark UFO book, The UFO Experience: A Scientific Study. Dr. Hynek served as director of CUFOS until his passing in 1986.

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Major Impact Soon

STUART MILLER
Phenomena News Editor
Monday, January 31, 2005

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 frustrating.

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 times.

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 up?

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 this far.

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 was spawned.

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 the Earth.

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 then.

I’m absolutely sure there is going to be a significant impact at some point in the next few years. There just is.

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.

Comment: It is highly unlikely that World Leaders at the highest level are unaware of the threat of a meteorite impact. We have been suggesting that they ARE aware for a very long time. The reader might wish to peruse Laura Knight-Jadczyk's "Adventures With Cassiopaea" series for details of just what the Heads of State of our planet have in store to prepare us. You could even say that the War in Iran is part of that preparation. Why? Because they are also aware that they cannot do anything to prevent impacts such as those described in the above article. And so, they marginalize the subject and feign disinterest all the while they are making their own preparations to survive.

There is much evidence to strongly suggest that much of the landmass of Western Europe was destroyed in an meteorite impact around 540AD, ushering in what is known today as "the dark ages". Further evidence from the study of fosilised tree rings and ice core samples, not to mention historical records, suggests that this most recent event was but one of many events that have happened in a cyclical pattern throughout the course of human history.

The major point that is overlooked when dealing with the prospect of a cataclysmic event on earth is that the elemental forces involved in such "threats" to humankind are not analogous to the threat from a "rogue nation", and as such they cannot be attacked or bombed into submission.

As far as we know, no human has ever got out of life "alive". Perhaps now that the "universe", by posing a clear and present danger to our very existence, is drawing attention to that existence, we might all begin, even at this late hour, to ponder just what the real meaning of our lives, individually and collectively, really is.

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Asteroid Encounter

NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office
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 Earth satellites.

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.

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Templating Ourselves
Astrobiology Magazine
Jan 31, 2005
Neil 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 Magazine editor 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?

Neil 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. [...]

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The truth is out there: declassified reports of UFO sightings reveal 88 sightings last year
By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent
03 February 2005
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.

Comment: You know that they are out there. We know they are out there. The governments of the world know they are out there. But let's just pretend that they aren't. If, somehow, we are forced to discuss it, let's do it in terms of 50s sci-fi movies and pretend they come from another planet. Above all, let's not start looking at the possibility of hyper dimensional beings because that would really open a can of worms.

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Conservative Radio Host Won't Discuss Controversial News Story on Show
Thu Feb 3, 7:00 AM ET

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 well-documented stories.

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 occurred."

"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.

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FBI probes Jewish sway on Bush government

By Nathan Guttman
Haaretz.com

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 secret information.

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 for information.

Comment: Yeah, sure, and Nixon wasn't a crook because he said so. If it is generally accepted by the US administration that Israel does indeed conduct covert operations on American soil, how is it possible that the members of the Israeli spy ring that were arrested for their close involvement with the 9/11 hijackers were released and allowed to return to Israel? Why is it that of the many Israeli operatives that have been arrested in extremely suspicious circumstances in the US over the past few years (attempting to gain access to a US naval base being but one example) have all been prosecuted ONLY for visa violations and then deported to Israel, or in one case allowed to remain in the US?

The problem is that members of the Jewish lobby in American politics have for many years been passing classified information to Israel.

As Michael Collins Piper notes in his excellent book "The High Priests of War":

[Richard] Perle's Capitol Hill associate, Stephen J Bryen was under observation by the FBI beginning as early as 1977 when he was suspected of using his position as a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer to obtain classified Pentagon information, particularly related to Arab military matters, that the Defence Intelligence Agency suspected Bryen was turning over to the Israelis.

Then, on March 9, 1978, Bryen was overheard in a private conversation over breakfast with four Israeli intelligence officials at the coffee shop of the Madison Hotel in Washington. It was clear, based on the content of the conversation, that he was providing the Israeli officials with high level military information.

What was so amazing however was that Bryen (an American and US government employee) was heard continually referring to the US government as "they" and to use the pronoun "we" when referring to his - and the Israeli government's - position.

A very similar investigation was conducted by the CIA in the mid 70's when it became known within US intelligence circles that the then Israeli lobby (which included many of today's Neocons) were attempting to distort intelligence information to show that Russia posed a significant threat to the US and thereby increase US funding to the state of Israel which supposedly acted to limit Russian influence in the Middle East.

The "Team B" affair, as it came to be known, centered around Richard Pearle and a small tightly-knit group of Israeli sympathisers in the US government who called for an independent investigation into the CIA intelligence report showing that Russia was essentially decaying from within and posed little or no threat to the US. Of course, the members of "independent" committee, aka "Team B", that would investigate the report, were made up of the same Israeli sympathisers who had attacked the CIA report.

Then CIA director George Bush assembled his own "Team A" to investigate the matter and appointed recently retired CIA agent John Paisley to act as the CIA's liaison between the CIA's Team A and the Israeli-influenced Team B. Meade Rowington, a former US counterintelligence analyst quoted by Andrew St George in "The Spotlight" on Feb 5 1996 noted:

"It soon became clear to Paisley that these cosmopolitan intellectuals were simply trying to discredit the CIA's recommendation and replace them with the alarmist view of Soviet intentions favored by Israeli estimators".

The final outcome of the struggle for control of US foreign policy and defence spending was decided in a way that has become a hallmark of Israeli diplomacy. Collins Piper tells us:

Although Team B's final report was secret, with access reserved to a handful of government leaders, John Paisley reportedly got his hands on a copy of the report in the summer of 1978 and set to work writing a detailed critique that would destroy the Israeli disinformation. But Paisley was murdered before he could ever complete his task.

One final note. In the above article reference is made to "Israeli embassy officials" who are alleged to have been taking receipt of the classified information. More often than not, such individuals are actually members of the murderous Israeli intelligence service "Mossad".

Okay, one more note. Chalabi is referred to as possibly being one of the recipients of the stolen information, which is an interesting in light of the fact that one of the chief Zionist Washington Neocons - Douglas Feith - is a business partner of Chalabi's son.

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Chalabi, Feith and Company: A Sordid Tale

Dr. James J. Zogby
President
Arab American Institute

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 post.

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 his past.

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.

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Israeli envoy secretly expelled
February 05, 2005
From: AAP
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.

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Killing of Palestinian girl by IDF shatters family

By Laila El-Haddad in Gaza
Friday 04 February 2005, 16:05 Makka Time, 13:05 GMT

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 card.

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 said.

"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.

Pockmarked walls

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 silently.

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 said.

"She was a bright light that was extinguished. For me, there can be no more peace."

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Rice's European trip clouded by Iran
Fri Feb 4

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 point".

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 matters."

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 solution." [...]

Schroeder and Straw both basically endorsed the United States' tough line on democratic reforms in Iran. But the EU's Udwin was less enthusiastic.

"The objective of democracy ... is one we share with the Americans. We have a different way of going about implementing our policy," she said.

Comment: We all know where the US is going with this: the toppling of the government in Iran. Rice is the new good cop, with her statements about this being the time for diplomacy. But everyone knows that this is simply window dressing and that the big boys behind the scenes are drawing up the plans for the war while we speak. How it will play out is still to be determined. It might take an "Iranian-backed" 9/11 in order to whip the world into the needed hysteria, you know, one of those events where they just happen to find a photo of the Ayatollah Khomeini with "Death to US imperialism" scrawled across the back somewhere near the site of the attack, perhaps stuck between the leaves of a Persian language manual for the explosives used.

What we wonder about is whether the Bush gang really believes that the Europeans are as stupid as Rice appears to believe. "Gee, George. It worked last time. I just don't know why they aren't buying it this time around."

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Rice talks language of diplomacy - but it has alarming echoes
By Julian Coman, Colin Brown and Rupert Cornwell
05 February 2005
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 community".

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 Europe.

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 alone.

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."

Comment: While the author above may think the Shi'ite coalition's show in the Iraqi elections bodes ill for the US occupation force, it may in fact be the way for the US to justify an attack on Iran. Sistani, and other Shi'ite mullahs, are Iranian citizens. This 'foreign' nationality protected them under Saddam. Now, however, it might lead to US accusations of Iranian influence in Iraq. In spite of such accusations being a fine example of the pot calling the kettle black, it'll fly in Pretoria, the only electorate that counts for Bush.

If the problems the US occupation force is facing in Iraq can be blamed on Iran, then fighting to topple the Iranian government becomes an extension of getting "mission accomplished" in Iraq.

It never ceases to amaze us when we hear arguments that the US to too far extended to launch another war. Since when did reality ever stop the neocons from going ahead with their plans?

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How the right played the fascism card against Islam

1-0 in the propaganda war

Albert Scardino
02/04/05 "The Guardian"

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 Hitler.

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 cop.

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.

Comment: The psychopath blames the victim. The psychopaths in the Bush administration, their hangers' on, and the the psychopaths in various Jewish neocon organisations excel at this. They said that Saddam was a threat to the US when it was the US that was the threat to Iraq. They say that Arafat was a terrorist with whom Israel could not negotiate when Israel had no intention of negotiating and was sending out Palestinian dupes as suicide bombers.

Now, the fascist label is being stuck onto Moslems while liberties in the US are disappearing and individual intolerance and general craziness is on the upswing.

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New Republic Writer Calls For Anti-Bush Left-Wingers To Be Killed

By Dave Zirin
Feb 4, 2005

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.

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Girls fined for giving neighbour cookies
Reuters
Fri Feb 4, 2:19 PM ET

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 said.

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.

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Pa. Man Sues Trooper Over 'Finger' Ticket
AP
Fri Feb 4 2005

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," Nassan said.

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S.C. Teen Arrested for Spitting in Coffee
AP
Fri Feb 4 2005

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 the cup.

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 incident.

A Dunkin Donuts manager said Stalnaker is no longer employed at the shop.

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47,000 fall into bankruptcy

Personal insolvencies at record high as rates rise

Ashley Seager
The Guardian
Saturday February 5, 2005

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 Thornton.

"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 to 4.75%.

"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 their houses.

"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. [...]

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Russia ends de facto dollar peg and moves to align rouble with euro
By Steve Johnson in London
Financial Times
February 5 2005 02:00

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 "inexpedient".

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 Putin.

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 per cent.

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.

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Political Associate of Dead Georgian Prime Minister Commits Suicide, Police Say

By Jim Heintz Associated Press Writer
Published: Feb 5, 2005

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 late Thursday.

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.

Comment: Just remember: Our leaders do not lie. There are no state-sponsored assassinations. There are no conspiracies. There is no global elite. 9/11 really was carried out by a bunch of brain dead Arab rednecks. Bush really is spreading freedom and democracy around the world. There is no threat to the planet from meteorites. We really are alone in the universe. Repeat 1,000 times.

Now, do you feel better? Still a little upset by those reality-mongers? Well, just write a letter to Santa Claus and he will send the tooth fairy to give you some more Prozac.

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Human rights the first casualty after Nepal's palace coup
By Justin Huggler in Kathmandu
03 February 2005

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 T-shirts.

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 the palace.

Comment: Kind of like the US, isn't it?

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Strong earthquake strikes Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific
(updated PM 04:11) 2005/2/5
HONG KONG (AP)

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 or damage.

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 a tsunami.

But none came and there were no reports of injuries.

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Sumatra earthquake shakes up Alaska volcano
by Ned Rozell
February 04, 2005
Friday
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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