Canary in The Mine
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
Picture of the Day
from Kilauea volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park enters the
Pacific Ocean at dawn on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2005, in Volcano, Hawaii.
| ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Russia needs
to show a commitment to a free press and other "basics of democracy,"
and co-operate with former Soviet republics such as Georgia and Ukraine
where democracy is taking hold, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice said Saturday.
Rice, moving quickly through Europe on her first trip as U.S. President
George W. Bush's chief diplomat, also said European diplomats seem
eager to put in the past the estrangement caused by the U.S.-led
war in Iraq.
Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld said as much after meeting
with Rice in Warsaw. Poland was an early and durable participant
in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. But the stationing of Polish
troops there has proved unpopular at home and with Poland's neighbours.
"The unfortunate concept of old and new Europe is a total
misunderstanding," Rotfeld said.
His comment was a reference to U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's
distinction between opposition in France, Germany and elsewhere
to the Bush administration's policy on Iraq and help provided by
countries such as Poland.
The description of France and Germany as part of "old Europe"
caused bad blood in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
Russia, also critical of the war, has retreated during President
Vladimir Putin's tenure from some of the democratic advances since
the collapse of communist rule. Putin has consolidated economic
and political power and clamped down on the press.
"We have concerns, and we've made it clear, about internal
developments in Russia," Rice said in Poland.
"It is important that Russia make clear to the world that
it is intent on strengthening the rule of law, strengthening the
role of the independent judiciary, permitting a free and independent
press to flourish," Rice said. "These are all the basics
She said Russia is a valuable ally and partner in many areas, including
the fight against terrorism and efforts to curtail the spread of
"We've made no secret" of U.S. displeasure, Rice told
reporters en route to Turkey. "But we're not going to stop
working on it, we haven't stopped talking about it."
Rice's eight-day trip is focusing on European ties and the prospects
for peace in the Middle East. An additional goal is laying the groundwork
for Bush's summit meeting with Putin on Feb. 24 in Slovakia. That
was one reason for her lengthy dinner meeting Saturday in Ankara
with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The backsliding of democracy in Russia could become
an irritant in Bush's second term and a sour note as the White House
presses for expansion of liberty in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Bush's inaugural speech last month contained what was perceived
as a warning by some countries, including allies or partners with
imperfect democratic credentials.
"We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler
and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is
always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right," Bush
"We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear
that success in our relations will require the decent treatment
of their own people," he said.
Rice said the United States had made its concerns clear to Russia
even before that speech Jan. 20, and she reaffirmed that the address
was not intended to represent a dramatic change in policy toward
allies such as Saudi Arabia.
The United States wants to see Russia support "democratic
processes elsewhere," including in its own backyard, Rice said.
She said it is encouraging that after a rough start, Russia has
reached out to the newly elected Ukrainian president and has improved
ties with Georgia.
In Georgia, longtime leader Eduard Shevardnadze was forced from
power by popular protests in late 2003, led in part by Zurab Zhvania,
who became prime minister. After he was found dead Thursday following
an apparent gas leak from a heater, the State Department said in
a statement that he was "a catalyst for democratic change in
Georgia, a dynamic leader and a friend."
The election in Ukraine strained U.S.-Russian
relations as a result of Washington's refusal to recognize the fraud-tainted
victory of a Kremlin-backed candidate. The Bush administration threw
its support behind a Western-leaning reformer, Viktor Yushchenko,
who won in a second round of voting.
Rice was travelling to Jerusalem for meetings Sunday with the Israeli
and Palestinian leaders. She also plans a major speech in Paris,
a venue chosen in part to respond to French criticism of American
Anti-war protesters greeted Rice outside her hotel in Berlin on
Friday night, and there were small demonstrations Saturday in Turkey
against Rice, Bush and the war.
| ANKARA, Feb. 6 (Xinhuanet) -- Modern
world can not accept terrorist acts perpetrated by terror groups like
al-Qaida and the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), visiting US Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice said here Sunday.
Speaking at a joint press conference with her Turkish counterpart
Abdullah Gul, Rice said she was aware of Ankara's decisiveness to
eradicate terrorism in its region.
Rice pledged help to Turkey in this field since "Turkey and
the United States share common interests and close relations."
For his part, Gul said Turkey and the United States are working
together for global peace and stability.
"We are in constant exchange of ideas on economic developments
and fight against terror," he said.
Cyprus, Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts also topped
their meeting agenda, Gul added.
Rice would head to Israel and the West Bank for talks with Israeli
and Palestinian leaders later on Sunday.
Turkey is the fourth leg of Rice's week-long Europe and Mideast
tour. She has visited Britain, Germany and Poland in her first overseas
trip as US secretary of state.
ANKARA, Feb. 6 (Xinhuanet) --
Visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Turkish
private NTV channel Sunday that the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk
must be a place where all Iraqis could live without fear.
Her interview came amid Turkey's criticism of the US failure to
heed Turkish concerns over tensions in the disputed Iraqi city,
with Turkish military and government implying possible intervention
in northern Iraq to stem what Ankara sees as Kurdish attempts to
dominate Kirkuk at the expense of other residents of the ethnically-mixed
The criticism aroused tensions not only between Ankara and Washington
but also between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds.
In the interview, Rice stressed the US approach
to Iraq's territorial integrity was clear. "We want to see
an Iraq where all are represented and their rights respected. We
want a unified, single Iraq," Rice said.
The United States encouraged all groups to live side by side peacefully
in Kirkuk, Rice added.
On the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), Rice said the United
States would not tolerate any form of terrorist attacks originating
from northern Iraq.
"The United States regards the PKK/Kongra-Gel as a terrorist
organization," said Rice, adding that "aside from military
related ones, we will cut off the financial assistance provided
to this terrorist organization."
The PKK, which wants to establish an independent Kurdish state
in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq, launched an armed campaign
against the Turkish government in 1984.
Fighting subdued significantly in 1999 when Turkey captured PKK
commander Abdullah Ocalan, but the group called off its unilateral
ceasefire in 2004, threatening to wreck the fragile peace.
Rice also said the US administration expected Turkish people to
understand the US firm stand in Iraq.
On Iran, Rice said the Iranians must take full
advantage of the opportunity provided to them, saying "we believe
that the Iranian topic could be resolved through diplomacy."
In regard to Israeli-Palestinian relations, Rice said "the
Israelis and Palestinians must go back to the roadmap and take the
"Although we have a long road ahead of us in the Middle East,
I am hopeful for the future," said Rice.
Rice was later received by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer
at the Cankaya Presidential Palace in Ankara.
Rice is scheduled to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul
later Sunday and they will hold a joint press conference following
Rice arrived in Ankara Saturday on a visit aimed at improving
relations with its Muslim ally of NATO, where anti-American sentiments
have been strong since the start of the war in neighboring Iraq.
Upon arrival, she met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan at the airport for talks over bilateral ties.
Relations between the United States and Turkey have been strained
since Turkey's parliament in 2003 rejected a US request to use its
land as a launch pad for the Iraqi war from the north, which most
Turks strongly opposed.
Turkey is the fourth leg of Rice's week-long Europe and Mideast
tour, which has taken her to Britain, Germany and Poland and will
also take her to Israel and the Palestinian lands.
TEHRAN, February 6 (IslamOnline.net
& News Agencies) – The Israeli intelligence services (Mossad)
has set up in cooperation with US occupation troops radars and spying
devices near the southern Iraqi city of Basra to monitor Iranian
military and security activities, well-placed Iranian sources have
The radars have been fixed to 50-meter-high lampposts in the southern
island of Um Al-Rosas, only 800 meters from the Iranian harbor of
Khourmushar, the sources told the London-based Arabic language daily
Al-Hayat on Sunday, February 6.
“The radars can be seen by the naked eye from Iranian soil,”
The spying devices can detect radio signals and intercept cellular
calls as deep as 50 kilometers into the Iranian territories, the
The New Yorker veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh said
Israeli intelligence and military operatives were quietly at work
in northern Iraq, providing training for Kurdish commando units
and running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria.
A center of the Washington-based and Mossad-linked Middle East
Media Research Institute (MEMRI) was opened in Baghdad, in a provocative
move seen by Iraqi academics as the beginning of an Israeli scheme
to infiltrate Iraqi society.
Last month, Hersh revealed that American commandoes have been conducting
secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer.
A former high-level intelligence official told the acclaimed journalist
that an American commando task force has been set up in South Asia
and has penetrated Iran from Afghanistan to pinpoint targets for
possible air strikes.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in London on Friday,
February 4, that an attack on Iran was not on the agenda “at
this point in time.”
In his State of the Union address on Wednesday, February 2, US
President George W. Bush called Iran “the world's primary
state sponsor of terror” and repeated accusations that Iran
was trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran refutes the claim and maintains that its nuclear program is
aimed solely at generating power for civilian use.
In a major breakthrough, the UN nuclear watchdog confirmed on November
29, that Tehran has suspended all uranium enrichment activities.
“The aim of the Senate review is to ensure that any weaknesses
in American intelligence on Iran are being disclosed to policymakers,”
In a related development, US Senators have launched a review of
intelligence on Iran to avoid pitfalls that marked the path to the
occupation of Iraq, Reuters reported Saturday, February 5, quoting
The Los Angeles Times.
“We have to be more pre-emptive on this committee to try
to look ahead and determine our capabilities so that you don't get
stuck with a situation like you did with Iraq,” said Republican
Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Intelligence
“The aim of the Senate review,” Roberts added, “is
to ensure that any weaknesses in American intelligence on Iran are
being disclosed to policymakers, and that US spy agencies have adequate
resources to fill gaps in collecting information on the Islamic
Sen. John Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the
committee, said in a statement cited by the paper: “One of
the lessons we learned from Iraq was not to take all information
at face value and to ask more questions in the beginning than in
Arab political parties in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk have accused
Kurds of fixing the result of provincial elections held on the 30
Official results for the election held on the same day as Iraq's
national vote have not yet been released.
But Turkmen and Arab parties in the northern city on Sunday said
that Kurds from other parts of the country flooded the city on election
day to inflate the community's vote.
According to local Kurdish media, the Kurdish list expects to get
about 63% of the vote for the Tamim provincial council which includes
"The elections lack credibility because of the major violations
and the absence of international observers," a Turkmen candidate
for the provincial election, Saad al-Din Arkaj, said after a meeting
of Turkmen parties in Kirkuk.
Arkaj said the Iraqi election commission should review the whole
vote count and investigate the complaints of Arab and Turkmen parties.
"The results fixed by the Kurds will cause a catastrophe,"
"The Turkmen cannot accept this plot through which the Kurds
want to join Kirkuk to Kurdistan."
An Arab candidate for the provincial council also called the election
organisation a "plot". [...]
Australian authorities demanded
the repatriation of an Israeli diplomat with links to two Mossad
agents who were detained for trying to fraudulently obtain a New
The Sydney Morning Herald said that the expulsion
of the Canberra-based diplomat - described as a consul in Israel
– was covered up for many weeks.
It noted that the news was revealed in a report
in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, which said that the repatriation
may be closely linked to last year's spy scandal in New Zealand.
Last year, a New Zealand court sentenced Uriel Kelman, 31, and
Eli Cara, 51, to six months in jail and ordered them to pay $100,000
to the Cerebral Palsy Society for fraudulently trying to obtain
New Zeland’s Prime Minister Helen Clark and Foreign Minister
Phil Goff said at the time that there were "very strong grounds"
to believe that the two men were working for the Mossad, Israel’s
Israel never admitted that the men were spies but the case caused
a major crack in Israel’s relations with New Zealand.
After serving two months of their sentences, both
men were deported in September.
The Herald said that one of the diplomat’s tasks was to visit
the two Mossad agents in the New Zealand jail.
It also said that a source close to the Israeli cabinet suggested
that the reason for the incident must have been serious, given the
friendly ties between Israel and Australia.
The paper added that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade said that if Israel didn’t withdraw its diplomat
voluntarily, steps would be taken to consider him persona non grata
and to start proceedings for his deportation.
In response, the Israeli Foreign Ministry ordered the diplomat,
whose identity wasn’t revealed, to leave the country and return
home immediately, the Herald said, quoting unidentified sources.
WASHINGTON -- A U.S. senator
demanded Wednesday that the CIA director release thousands of pages
of documents detailing the agency's ties with former Nazis who aided
in Cold War espionage against the Soviet Union, officials said.
Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, Republican co-author of a 1998 bill
ordering the disclosure of government records on Nazi war criminals,
wants CIA Director Porter Goss to say publicly why his agency has
not agreed to divulge the records.
DeWine has asked Goss to appear this month at an open hearing of
the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which the Ohio lawmaker sits,
a Senate aide said. The CIA had no immediate comment on the invitation.
"Senator DeWine wants an explanation from the CIA. Our hope
would be to have [Goss] there and that's what we're working toward,"
said DeWine spokeswoman Amanda Flaig.
Congressional officials said DeWine and Democrat Carolyn Maloney
of New York, lead sponsor of the 1998 bill, were also trying to
broker agreement on the documents through closed-door dialogue.
The CIA has already released an estimated 1.25 million pages of
documents about Nazi war criminals. Most are records of the agency's
wartime predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services.
The Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998 requires federal agencies
to make public records of individuals alleged to have committed
Nazi war crimes by turning them over to a special working group.
The working group, known formally as the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese
Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, includes
officials from the National Archives, the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and
other agencies. Goss cosponsored the legislation during his tenure
in the House of Representatives, where he led the chamber's intelligence
But the CIA has refused to disclose documents about its postwar
dealings with former Nazis who have not been accused of war crimes
but belonged to organizations like the German Nazi party and the
SS, congressional officials said. Some of the material is believed
to deal with former Nazis who joined the Cold War effort against
the Soviet Union in Europe, the officials said. The CIA defines
the 1998 law to require only the disclosure of documents on war
"Any material identified in our files as dealing with the
commission of war crimes has been released," a CIA spokesman
said. But congressional officials and public members of the working
group interpret the statute to require disclosures on anyone connected
with organizations involved in war crimes.
"Where material has been withheld, the auditors from the working
group have been able to see that material. This has not been a closed
process in that respect," the CIA spokesman said.
But with the working group scheduled to dissolve at the end of
March, lawmakers, including DeWine and Maloney, have joined other
group members in pressuring the CIA for a fuller disclosure.
WASHINGTON - President Bush's budget for 2006
cuts spending for a wide range of public health programs, including
several to protect the nation against bioterrorist attacks and to
respond to medical emergencies, budget documents show.
Faced with constraints on spending caused by record budget deficits
and the demands of the war in Iraq, administration officials said
on Friday that they had increased the budget for some health programs
but cut many others, including some that address urgent health care
The documents show, for example, that Mr. Bush would cut spending
for several programs that deal with epidemics, chronic diseases
and obesity. His plan would also cut the
budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 9 percent,
to $6.9 billion, the documents show.
The cuts are part of an attempt to control the federal deficit,
while increasing spending on certain priority programs. Administration
officials have said that in the budget, to be unveiled on Monday,
Mr. Bush will propose that overall domestic spending, aside from
entitlements, grows less than the rate of inflation next year.
But the administration is proposing to increase the Pentagon budget
by 4.8 percent, to $419.3 billion in the 2006 fiscal year, according
to Defense Department budget documents obtained by The New York
Times. That sum does not include the costs of operations in Iraq
and Afghanistan, now running about $5 billion a month. Within a
few weeks, the administration is expected to request about $80 billion
to cover those costs.
The president's approach to domestic programs is illustrated in
the way he balances competing claims at the Centers for Disease
Mr. Bush requests money to expand a national
stockpile of vaccines and antibiotics. But
the public health emergency fund of the centers, which helps state
and local agencies prepare for bioterror attacks, would be cut 12.6
percent, to $1 billion.
In the event of an attack, states could use that
money to distribute drugs and vaccines from the stockpile - for
example, by conducting a mass immunization campaign against smallpox,
anthrax or other infectious agents.
Kim A. Elliott, deputy director of the Trust for America's Health,
a nonprofit advocacy group, said, "It's
robbing Peter to pay Paul when you build up the national stockpile
at the expense of bioterrorism preparedness activities at the state
and local level."
Administration officials acknowledged that some of the proposed
cuts would affect high-priority programs. But they said that the
budget this year was exceptionally tight and that, in some cases,
several programs served the same basic purpose.
Over all, the president's budget would reduce the Department of
Health and Human Services' discretionary spending - the amounts
subject to annual appropriations - by 2.4 percent, to $68 billion.
According to documents, obtained from budget analysts who opposed
the cuts, those figures do not include Medicare
costs, which will increase sharply with the addition of a prescription
drug benefit in 2006.
A Public Health Service program for "chronic
disease prevention and health promotion" would be cut by 6.5
percent, to $841 million in 2006. The program finances efforts
to prevent and control obesity, which federal health officials say
has reached epidemic proportions.
The president's budget would also eliminate
a block grant that provides $131 million for preventive health services.
Under federal law, the money is used to "address urgent health
problems," which vary from state to state.
Under the president's request, the budget of the National Institutes
of Health, which doubled from 1998 to 2003, would rise by 0.7 percent,
to $28.7 billion next year. That is much
less than what would be needed to keep pace with the costs of biomedical
research, which are rising more than 3.5 percent a year.
For the National Science Foundation, Mr. Bush will request $5.6
billion in 2006, an increase of 2.4 percent, budget documents show.
Mr. Bush requested an increase last year as well, but Congress ended
up making a small cut in the agency's budget for this year.
At the Food and Drug Administration, buffeted in recent months
by concerns about drug safety, the budget would increase by 4.5
percent, to $1.9 billion. Most of the $81
million increase would go toward the evaluation
of prescription drugs and the inspection
of food shipments.
Mr. Bush says he wants a community health center in every poor
county. The budget would increase spending for such clinics by 17.5
percent, to $2 billion. Budget officials said these clinics would
care for 16.4 million people next year, up from 14 million this
The president is also seeking $718 million for a new effort to
enroll more children in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance
Program. Millions of uninsured children are eligible but not enrolled.
Budget documents also include these domestic proposals:
- The budget for training nurses, dentists
and other health professionals would be cut 64 percent, to $160.5
million in 2006. The president would cut $100 million, or 33 percent,
from a $301 million program that trains doctors at children's hospitals.
- Mr. Bush seeks a $38 million increase in programs promoting sexual
abstinence, which would bring the total to $192.5 million in 2006,
an increase of more than 50 percent since 2004.
- The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program, which helps people
pay their heating bills, would be cut 8.4 percent, to $2 billion.
High prices for home heating oil make this
a particularly contentious proposal.
- The Centers for Disease Control would receive $306 million, a
4.2 percent increase, for global health activities, including work
- Mr. Bush requests $120 million to deal with the threat of a global
flu epidemic. That represents an increase of 21 percent.
The budget would also eliminate a $9 million program for the treatment
of people with traumatic brain injury and a $9.9 million program
to collect stem cells from blood found in the umbilical cord after
childbirth. Scientists say such cells may prove useful in the treatment
of many diseases, and do not raise the ethical issues involved in
taking stem cells from human embryos.
Mr. Bush said Friday that he would curb spending for political
as well as fiscal reasons. "People in
Congress on both sides of the aisle have said, 'Let's worry about
the deficit,' " he said in Omaha as he campaigned for his Social
Security plan. "I said, 'O.K. we'll worry about it again.'
My last budget worried about it. This budget will really worry about
Echoing a vow made in his State of the Union address, Mr. Bush
said: "We're going to eliminate or vastly reduce 150 programs
that aren't meeting needs, aren't meeting priorities and are not
getting the job done. It's time to be wise with the people's money."
At the Treasury Department, Mr. Bush is
seeking an increase of $500 million, or 7.8 percent, to police compliance
with the tax laws. That would increase the enforcement budget
of the Internal Revenue Service to $6.9 billion. The
Treasury said the additional money would be used to examine more
tax returns, collect past due taxes and investigate cases of tax
The Defense Department is proposing to cut
$55 billion from various programs over the next six years,
with most of the reductions in the later years.
Even so, the Pentagon budget is projected to exceed $500 billion
The Pentagon intends to buy fewer FA-22 fighter jets, DD(X) destroyers,
Virginia-class attack submarines and LPD-17 amphibious ships, used
by the Navy to transport marines. It also plans to retire one of
the Navy's 12 aircraft carriers, which Navy officials have said
will be the carrier John F. Kennedy, based in Mayport, Fla.
The cuts are partly offset by $25 billion in increased spending
for the Army, as it restructures its forces to rely on more readily
deployable brigades instead of much larger divisions.
|LONDON, Feb. 5 (Xinhuanet) -- China
is very much on the track toward an exchange rate reform in response
to the demand of the world's richest nations for a more flexible exchange
regime, China's central bank chief told Xinhua on Saturday.
Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank
of China, however, cautioned that the reform will be carried out
in a measured way to guarantee stability of the renminbi, China's
China sticks to its long-term goal of convertibility of the renminbi
under capital account, he said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
To that end, China would reform the formulation mechanism of renminbi's
exchange rate and gradually relax control over cross-border capital
movement. But the Chinese currency must be kept stable at a rational
and balanced level, and potential financial risks must be fended
off, he emphasized.
Currently the renminbi is pegged to the US dollar at a stable
rate of about 8.27 per dollar.
Zhou said China, for a little more than a year,
has made substantive progress in preparing for a foreign exchange
It has made efforts to prepare its commercial banks for a more
flexible exchange rate in the future, relaxed foreign exchange controls,
and improved its domestic foreign exchange market to familiarize
its financial institutions and businesses with the environment of
an open foreign exchange market, said Zhou.
As for whether China has a timetable for its exchange rate reform,
Zhou said its pace will be in accordance with the need of China's
overall economic reform.
The adjustment of renminbi's exchange rate depends on a stable
macroeconomic environment, a healthy market scheme and a sound financial
system, Zhou said.
China has yet to draw up a suitable reform plan to keep the renminbi
stable at a rational and balanced level and has to take into account
the impact of such a reform on regional and global economy, he said.
Zhou denied that the renminbi is significantly undervalued. China's
international trade balance has only a modest surplus, he argued.
In 2004, China had an estimated trade surplus of 20 billion dollars,
representing only less than 2 percent of its foreign trade total
or its GDP, Zhou said.
On China's foreign exchange reserves, he said there are several
factors behind their relatively rapid increase: China had a moderate
current account surplus; the good performance of China's economy
attracted both foreign direct investment and reinvestment of foreign-funded
companies in China; the trend of capital outflow from China was
"These were nothing but normal," he explained.
On concerns that the possible appreciation of the Chinese currency
might result in a mass inflow of hot money into China, he said the
problem should not be exaggerated because China is exercising strict
controls on capital account.
He said his country would work to ease restrictions on cross-border
capital movement in a selective, step-by-step manner, creating conditions
for renminbi's convertibility under capital account.
Zhou arrived in London to attend the Group of Seven (G7) finance
ministers' and central bank governors' meeting.
He held bilateral talks with US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan
Greenspan and Treasury Under-secretary John Taylor as well as other
G7 finance officials.
In talks with Greenspan and Taylor, Zhou reaffirmed China's policy
on reforming its exchange rate mechanism and briefed them on progress
made in this endeavor.
The two American officials said they understood the Chinese stand
and its cautiousness in the reform, said Zhou.
| BEIJING, Feb. 6 -- Chinese
authorities on Saturday again declined to set out a time-table to
make their currency more flexible on the world's money markets and
said they had not come under international pressure to revalue the
Major nations and especially the United States have
repeatedly urged China to allow its currency to rise and the Chinese
foreign exchange regime was also in focus at the Group of Seven
"We are determined to move towards a flexible exchange rate,
but no timetable," Chinese central bank deputy governor Li
Ruogu told reporters.
When asked if China will widen the currency band or swap the peg
for a currency basket, Li said, "We will do whatever I think
| BEIJING, Feb. 6 -- China's
auto production is expected to grow by 20 percent this year to 6 million
vehicles, possibly passing Germany as the world's No. 3 producer,
an industry association said Saturday.
China is the world's fastest-growing auto market as rising incomes
make it possible for millions to buy their first cars. Foreign auto
makers are investing billions of dollars in expanding production
in China to meet booming demand.
China produced 5.1 million vehicles last year, and the figure
is expected to grow by 20 percent this year, said Zhang Xiaoyu,
vice president of the China Federation of Machinery Industry, quoted
by the official Xinhua News Agency.
Germany produced 5.5 million vehicles in 2004, the No. 3 producer
behind the United States and Japan.
Auto sales grew by 15 percent last year, though that was below
the growth rate of the previous year as customers waited for lower
prices as China allows in more imports.
Prices are believed to have hit a low point, so sales should rise
again this year, Zhang said.
"The market potentials have been delayed, which does not
mean the lack of market demand," he was quoted as saying.
British intelligence officials played a crucial
part in the secret abduction of UK citizen Martin Mubanga to Guantanamo
Bay. There, he reveals today in an exclusive interview, he endured
33 months of ill-treatment and often abusive interrogation.
Documents seen by The Observer disclose
that even the Pentagon's own lawyers now accept that the intelligence
that consigned him to Guantanamo may have been deeply flawed.
Mubanga, who was released without charge after his return to Britain
on 25 January, now plans to sue the British government.
In his interview today, the first by any of the four Britons who
returned from Guantanamo last month, Mubanga, 32, describes a horrifying
catalogue of abuse:
- In one interrogation session, he was forced to urinate in the
corner of the interview room while chained hand and foot.
- He was treated to a regime known as 'BI [basic item] loss'. This
meant his thin mattress, trousers, shirts, towel, blankets, and
flipflops were all taken away, leaving him naked except for boxer
shorts in an empty metal box.
- Last autumn, while Pentagon lawyers were writing memos suggesting
that Mubanga may not have had any involvement in terrorism at all
and may not have been given a fair hearing, the Guantanamo authorities
subjected him to the harshest treatment in his 33 months in Guantanamo,
with three brutal assaults by the 'Instant Reaction Force' riot
squad for trivial violations of the camp rules.
- Mubanga's worst moment came last March, when the first five British
detainees were sent home. He had at first been told he would be
joining them, but was instead confined in a block with prisoners
he could not communicate with, and told he would be held there for
many more years.
The disclosure that British intelligence
was instrumental in consigning Mubanga to Guantanamo raises serious
questions about the consistency of British policy towards the controversial
US camp. In public, ministers, led by Lord Goldsmith, the
Attorney-General, negotiated for months with the Pentagon for the
release of British detainees.
Mubanga's solicitor, Louise Christian, said yesterday that she
planned to take legal action against the government. His arrest,
detention and transfer had clearly breached British, Zambian and
international law, she said. 'We are hoping to issue proceedings
for the misfeasance of officials who colluded with the Americans
in effectively kidnapping him and taking him to Guantanamo.'
Mubanga, a former motorcycle courier, says he went to Afghanistan
at the end of 2001 to study Islam. He was never, he insists, a sympathiser
with al-Qaeda, and he condemned the 9/11 attacks. 'I do not approve
of the killing of innocent men, women and children,' he said.
He says he fled to Pakistan after the beginning of the war against
the Taliban, but says that someone stole his passport. A dual British-Zambian
national, he phoned his family from Karachi and asked them to post
him his Zambian passport. He says he used this in February 2002
to go to Zambia, where he was joined by his sister and stayed with
However, on 2 March the Sunday Times claimed Mubanga had been arrested
in Afghanistan, fighting with the Taliban - presumably this referred
to the man who stole or was handed his passport. Soon afterwards,
he was seized by Zambian security men.
He was held in a series of guarded motels, where he was interrogated
for days by a female American official and a Briton who called himself
Martin and said he worked for MI6. 'Martin' produced Mubanga's British
passport, together with a list of Jewish organisations in New York
and a military training manual that he claimed Mubanga had handwritten.
They had been found with the passport in a cave in Afghanistan,
he said. Mubanga pointed out that his handwriting was nothing like
that in the manual, and said he had never seen the documents before,
or been to any caves.
A few days later, Mubanga was loaded on to a plane by men in balaclavas
and flown to Guantanamo. For more than two
years, the claims made by the MI6 man - that he had been on a mission
to reconnoitre targets in New York and had travelled to Zambia on
false documents - were the main grounds for his detention.
Last October, this was confirmed by a Guantanamo Combatant Status
Review Tribunal, a panel of military officers. Later, however, this
decision was reviewed by a US military lawyer, who found it deeply
flawed. His report shows that Mubanga had asked to call members
of his family in his defence, saying they prove that he had not
travelled to Zambia on false documents for a terrorist mission,
but to visit relatives on his own passport.
Last night a Foreign Office spokesman said he could not comment
on the activities of British intelligence or security agencies.
He said Mubanga's 'transfer to Guantanamo Bay is a matter for the
Zambian and American authorities'.
Catholic hero now faces Vatican
It was nearly 50 years ago, but José Barba winces as he
remembers Father Marcial Maciel, founder and icon of the Legion
of Christ, the secretive Roman Catholic order said to be second
only in papal influence to Opus Dei.
'Oh, I felt so very unhappy,' he said, after describing one incident
just before the priest said Mass one Easter Sunday. 'I wanted to
run, but he was everything to us. He was Our Father and we thought
he was a saint. I went to my room and I cried and cried, and then
I went to Mass.'
The fear, pain, humiliation and resentment that Barba says once
tormented him have faded over the years, but for the Catholic church
the abuse he and others claim to have suffered threatens to erupt
into a child abuse scandal that reaches the highest Vatican ranks.
Barba wants the church to recognise publicly the crimes he and
many others claim Maciel committed. 'We want
people to know that the founder of an institution so close to the
Pope and who has written so much about chastity is in fact a pederast.'
Along with seven other former seminarians - all now in their sixties
- this mild-mannered university lecturer has been trying to get
the Vatican to investigate Maciel for years. Several of the eight
plaintiffs approached bishops as early as the 1960s, only to be
told to leave it all in God's hands. One of the group, Juan José
Vaca, sent several complaints to the Vatican and got no response.
The group lodged formal charges at the Vatican in 1998. A
year later they were informed the case had been shelved with the
extra-official justification that their suffering could not compare
to the risk of disillusioning thousands of Catholics.
In December, however, the group was told that a prosecutor at the
Vatican's Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is to head a
formal probe that could lead to a trial. If it goes ahead, this
could take the scandal over paedophilia in the church to a whole
'This is a very delicate case,' says José Luis González,
a Mexico-based expert on the Catholic hierarchy. 'None of the other
scandals has involved someone so close to the Pope.'
Maciel, now 84, formed the ultra-conservative Legion of Christ
in Mexico in 1941 in the wake of religious wars that pitted Catholics
against the anti-clerical revolutionary regime and ended with an
uneasy mutual tolerance. The order grew quickly, fed by deeply religious
families happy to put their boys under the protection of its charismatic
young leader. The recruits, too, were enthused by the prospect of
a life fighting for God.
'At the time the idea of missionaries conjured up images of hunters
and explorers and it sounded adventurous to us boys,' recalled Barba,
who was 12 when he joined the Legion in 1949. 'We were told we were
going to save the world from the communists, and that gave us a
sense of importance.'
Maciel picked out his favourite pupils and took them to study,
first in Franco's Spain and then in Rome. They lived in tightly
controlled isolation, instilled with the belief that their leader
was the epitome of holiness. But at the same time as preaching the
strictest moral code for others, Maciel allegedly indulged an addiction
to morphine and a warped sexuality.
Initiation typically began, the plaintiffs claim, with Maciel saying
he had an illness in his groin. 'He would say he had received special
dispensation from the Pope to have nuns massage out the pain, but
that his total commitment to his chastity vows obliged him to ask
us for help instead,' recalled Vaca, in a telephone interview from
New York, where he teaches psychology in Mercy College. Vaca claims
he was abused from the age of 12 until he was 24. He became a priest
and stayed in the legion for a further 15 years.
The defining moment came, he says, when he was promoted to be head
of the Legion in the US as a reward for successfully covering up
a case of abuse involving one of his colleagues. [...]
Last November Maciel received a series of elaborate
tributes in Rome for the 60th anniversary of his ordination. John
Paul II congratulated him on his 'intense, generous and fruitful
priestly ministry' and 'integral promotion of the person'.
A week later the group received a letter from their lawyer in Rome
telling them the case had been reopened and 'is now being taken
seriously'. The Vatican, however, will not even confirm the existence
of an investigation.
In January, Maciel stepped down as head of the Legion, citing his
The streets are filled with
vipers who've lost all ray of hope
You know it ain't even safe no more in the palace of the Pope
- Bob Dylan
Is everything a conspiracy? No. Just the important stuff.
Since there's a lot of speculation these days about who will succeed
Pope John Paul II, it seems a good time to recall the circumstances
of the last papal succession. Because Luciani Albini, Pope John
Paul I, was almost certainly murdered, by an international network
of fascists and money launderers, with ties to far-right elements
within military and intelligence agencies. (And isn't it just amazing,
how often we find that convergence?)
He only served 33 days; what could he have done in that short time
to deserve death? What kind of Pope was he becoming?
To the second question, there's the suggestion of an answer in
this passage from David Yallop's In God's Name:
On August 28, the beginning of his papal revolution was announced.
It took the form of a Vatican statement that there was to be no
coronation, that the new pope refused to be crowned. There would
be no sedia gestatoria, the chair used to carry the pope, no tiara
encrusted with emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds. No ostrich
feathers, no six-hour ceremony.... Luciani, who never once used
the royal "we," was determined that the royal papacy
with its appurtenances of worldly grandeur should be replaced
by a Church that resembled the concepts of its founder. The "coronation"
became a simple Mass. The spectacle of a pontiff carried in a
chair...was supplanted by the sight of a supreme pastor quietly
walking up the steps of the altar. With that gesture Luciani abolished
a thousand years of history.... The era of the poor Church had
That right there would have been enough to make the Vatican's power
elite nervous, but surely not enough to seek the Pope's death. Not
even his expressed interest in reconsidering the Church's position
on birth control would have been enough for that. What was enough,
was his intent to overturn the tables of the corrupt Vatican Bank,
and purge the Vatican of the P2 Lodge.
This is one of those things that make being a "conspiracy
theorist" seem entirely superfluous. Just try imagining P2:
an elite, ultra-secretive, neo-fascist, Masonic cabal, involved
in money laundering, assassination and false-flag terrorism. (The
"Strategy of Tension," to discredit Italy's Communist
Party. For instance, the engineering of Aldo Moro's kidnapping and
murder, and the Bologna train bombing.) P2 counted among its members
the future Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, and reputedly boasted
honourary members like Henry Kissinger, George HW Bush and arch-neocon,
I mentioned P2
last August, with regard to Ledeen's long history with the Italian
far right and the linchpin of Italian military intelligence to the
Niger "Yellow Cake" forgery. [For more on the significance
of P2 to US intelligence and the "Octopus," refer to David
Guyatt's excellent articles "Operation
Smoke and Mirrors" and "The
Licio Gelli was P2's Grandmaster, and can't even be called a neo-fascist.
He was Old School: a member of the Italian Black Shirt Brigade which
fought for Franco in the Spanish Civil War. During World War II,
he spied on partisans in his native Italy for the Nazis, and obtained
the SS rank of Oberleutenant. This same Gelli was a honoured guest
of George HW Bush after the 1980 inauguration, and there is evidence
that Gelli and P2 played a role in the October Surprise; even that
Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was murdered on Gelli's orders
because he'd refused to provide Swedish cover for the covert transfer
of money and arms. In her October Surprise, Barbara Honegger writes
that a P2 informant claimed to her that before Palme's death, Gelli
sent a message to former Republican National Committee advisor (and
also alleged "honourary" P2 member) Philip Guarino, assuring
him that "the Swedish tree will be felled," and to "tell
our good friend Bush."
Your head exploding yet? There's more. GHW Bush's reputed code
name for October Surprise was "The White Rose," which
was also the name of a far-right Cuban exile group with which the
CIA's Bush was reportedly engaged during the ramp-up to the Bay
of Pigs. Honneger reports that when Italian police uncovered the
P2 control cell responsible for terrorism in Italy, they learned
that its code name was "The Rose of Twenty." Gelli seems
to have had a weakness for the flower.
And this may mean nothing, or I know what you did: in 1988, on
the 25th anniversary of John F Kennedy's murder, Ted Kennedy marked
the occasion in Runnymede England by placing, at the foot of his
brother's memorial, a single white rose.
Gelli's network financed itself in part by purchasing and plundering
banks, thanks to the likes of P2 brothers Michele Sindona and "God's
Banker," Roberto Calvi. Mafioso Sindona, in 1968, had become
a financial advisor to Pope Paul VI; Calvi was running Banco Ambrosiano;
and another P2 member, American Bishop Paul "You can't run
the Church on Hail Marys" Marcinkus, who bore the nickname
"the Gorilla," was heading the Vatican Bank. For a while,
it was a sweet operation.
As cardinal of Venice, Albini had butted heads with the bankers.
As Pope, he could finally do something more. Most revelatory, he
became privy to the secret list of Freemasons in the Vatican. For
the first time, he learned of P2's penetration of the Church.
If the information was authentic, then it meant Luciani was virtually
surrouded by Masons.... The secretary of state, Cardinal Villot,
Masonic name Jeanni, lodge number 041/3, enrolled in a Zurich
lodge on August 6, 1966. The foreign minister, Monsignor Agnostino
Casaroli. The cardinal vicar of Rome, Ugo Poletti. Cardinal Baggio.
Bishop Paul Marcinkus and Monsignor Donato de Bonis of the Vatican
Bank. The disconcerted pope read a list that seemed like a Who's
Who of Vatican City.
Here's a good summation of what happened next:
With his bright intelligence and naive fearlessness, John Paul
I penetrated to the heart of this maze of corruption within weeks
of his coronation. On the evening of September 28, 1978, he called
Cardinal Villot, the leader of the powerful Curia, to his private
study to discuss certain changes that the Pope proposed to make
public the next day.... Among those whose "resignations"
would be accepted by the Pontiff the following day were the head
of the Vatican Bank, and several members of the Curia who were
implicated in the activities of Sindona and P2, and Villot himself.
Moreover, Villot was told that John Paul I would also announce
plans for a meeting on October 24 with an American delegation
to discuss a reconsideration of the Church's position on birth
When Pope John Paul I retired to his bedroom on the evening of
September 28, clutching the paperwork that would expose the Vatican's
financial dealings with the Mafia and purge the Curia of those
responsible, a number of very ruthless individuals had a great
interest in seeing to it that he would never awaken to issue these
When the Pope's housekeeper knocked at his door at 4:30 a.m.,
she heard no response. Leaving a cup of coffee, she returned fifteen
minutes later to find the Pope still not stirring. She entered
the bed chamber and gasped when she saw the Pope propped up in
bed, still holding papers from the night before, his face contorted
in a grimace. On the night table beside him lay an opened bottle
of Effortil, a medication for his low blood pressure. The housekeeper
immediately notified Cardinal Villot, whose first response to
the news was to summon the papal morticians even before verifying
the death himself or calling the Vatican physician to examine
the body. Villot arrived in the Pope's room at 5:00 a.m. and gathered
the crucial papers, the Effortil bottle, and several personal
items which were soiled with vomit. None of these articles were
ever seen again.
Although the Vatican claimed that its house physician had determined
myocardial infarction as the cause of death, to this day no death
certificate for Pope John Paul I has been made public. Although
Italian law requires a waiting period of at least 24 hours before
a body may be embalmed, Cardinal Villot had the body of Albino
Luciani prepared for within 12 hours of his death. Although the
Vatican refused to allow an autopsy on the basis of an alleged
prohibition against it in canon law, the Italian press verified
that an autopsy had in fact been performed on one of the Pope's
predecessors, Pius VIII. Although the conventional procedure for
embalming a body requires that the blood first be drained and
certain internal organs removed, neither blood nor tissue was
removed from the corpse; hence, none was available to assay for
the presence of poison.
There's an old Kris Kristofferson song, entitled "They Killed
Him." I learned it from a Dylan cover, on almost certainly
his weakest album, Knocked Out Loaded. To be honest, it's pretty
lousy. (If you haven't heard it, all you need to know is it has
a children's chorus.) And yet, it chills me.
Another man from Atlanta, Georgia
By name of Martin Luther King
He shook the land like the rolling thunder
And made the bells of freedom ring today
With a dream of beauty that they could not burn away
Just another holy man who dared to make a stand:
My God, they killed him!
My point here hasn't been to rehash the case for assassination.
My point, I suppose, is simply my exasperation: that My God - they
killed him, too!
This material can lead to despair. If they can whack the Pope,
and get away with it, what hope do we have? I don't find it consoling
to know of what they're capable; that they are, as Dylan sang in
another song, "bound and determined to destroy all the gentle."
That's not about justice. That's about being forewarned, and forearmed.
And these days, that's almost as important as justice.
But it is a consolation of sorts to remember that these people
are flesh, just as we are. Gelli is still alive, but since his extradition
from France in 1998, he has been serving a 12-year sentence for
his role in the Banco Ambrosiano affair. Marcinkus received Vatican
immunity from Pope John Paul II, when it became apparent Italian
authorities intended to prosecute him for his criminal stewardship
of the Vatican Bank, and eventually left Rome for Sun City, Arizona.
(A fascinating glimpse of Marcinkus today, here.) Sindona died in
prison drinking poison coffee, possibly the same administered to
the Pope. Calvi, after his string played out, met a peculiarly Masonic
fate, hanging from a rope beneath London's Blackfriar's Bridge,
his hands tied behind his back and 12 pounds of bricks stuffed in
his pockets. (Naturally, originally deemed a "suicide.")
Our advantage is that there are more of us than there are of them.
Our greatest disadvantage: most of us still can't admit there is
| 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
"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 Nuran die in front of her? Every night she wails out in
her sleep: 'Bring me my sister, bring me my sister'".
Fifth child killed
Nuran was the fifth Palestinian child to be shot dead or maimed
by Israeli occupation forces while on the premises of their UN-flagged
schools in the past two years. She was also one of 172 children
killed in Gaza this year alone - and one of 644 killed in Gaza since
the start of al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. [...]
A day after the incident, Israeli authorities said their initial
investigation indicated it was fire from jubilant Palestinian police
celebrating the return of Hajj pilgrims, not Israeli sniper fire,
that killed Nuran.
But the pockmarked wall of the UNRWA school, which stands 600m
away from an Israeli sniper tower and far away from residential
blocks, tells a different story.
"There is nothing around us here, and there were no pilgrims
that we know of celebrating that day. There is just an outpost a
few hundred metres away - one from which sniper fire has frequently
hit our school," school principal Siham al-Ghoff said.
Al-Ghoff says if the fire was indeed Palestinian, the bullet would
not have hit Nuran in the face but rather landed on top of her head,
as rifles fired in celebration usually point upwards.
Both Palestinian security sources and UN officials confirm the
account, saying that the way the bullets were scattered, along with
witness testimonies, point to Israeli gunfire.
"Everything is pointing to the fact that it was the Israelis.
There were a number of shots, and the way they were scattered gives
us an indication of the direction where they came from, and that
corresponds with witness reports that the firing came from an [Israeli]
APC or tank in the area," one official said.
For those wondering
how much distance new Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales will
keep from the White House, here's an early clue: He's taking three
White House lawyers with him to be his top aides at the Justice
Gonzales, confirmed Thursday, said during his
confirmation hearings: "I will no longer represent only the
White House, I will represent the United States of America and its
people. I understand the differences between the two roles."
But now comes word that Gonzales plans to name Ted Ullyot to be
his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson as his deputy chief of staff,
and Raul Yanes as counselor, according to a person with knowledge
of the situation. All three have been lawyers in the White House
counsel's office under Gonzales.
If the names sound familiar, it may be because
Ullyot and Yanes were the coordinators of the White House's response
to the investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's
identity. That investigation is being handled by, uh, the Justice
Gonzales, who had been called before the grand jury in the case,
has recused himself in the Plame probe, as promised during his confirmation
and as predecessor John D. Ashcroft had done. It remains to be seen
whether Gonzales will also have Ullyot, Sampson and Yanes recused,
or whether he will take further steps to shield Patrick J. Fitzgerald,
the special prosecutor in the case, from political influence.
PARIS - French President Jacques Chirac's
conservative government faced a major challenge to its economic
policies on Saturday as tens of thousands of public and private
sector workers protested over labour laws, pensions and schools.
With more than 50,000 taking to the streets in provincial cities,
organisers said they hoped for a national turnout of at least 300,000
nationwide to ram home their message.
"The government would do well not only to hear but to listen
to the workers," said the secretary-general of the CGT union,
Bernard Thibault, at the start of the rally in Paris.
The protests come as parliament debates
a government plan to allow staff in the private sector to increase
overtime and work up to 48 hours a week, the maximum allowed under
EU law. But managers must first agree the changes with unions.
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin says rules must be relaxed
to help cut stubbornly high unemployment, currently close to 10
percent, and make the world's fifth largest economy more competitive.
Four of France's five major unions called Saturday's protests against
reforms they say would sound the death knell of the 35-hour week
and result in longer hours without extra pay.
"Chirac, Raffarin, are you sleeping? Your workers are in the
street," chanted demonstrators in Toulouse in southwest France.
The 35-hour week was introduced in 1998
by the previous Socialist administration in an effort to reduce
joblessness. The party has called on Raffarin to abandon
his reform and re-open negotiations with the unions.
"This reform will have very unfortunate
consequences on the labour market as, at a time when we have three
million unemployed, overtime will be increased which will deprive
even more people of jobs," said Socialist party leader
Francois Hollande at a demonstration in the western city of Rennes.
| 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.
In the accompanying diagrams, the most likely
trajectory of asteroid 2004 MN4 is shown as a blue line that passes
near the Earth on 13 April 2029. The second of the two figures is
an enlarged view of the Earth close approach circumstances. Since
the asteroid's position in space is not perfectly known at that
time, the white dots at right angles to the blue line are possible
alternate positions of the asteroid. Neither the nominal position
of the asteroid, nor any of its possible alternative positions,
touches the Earth, effectively ruling out an Earth impact in 2029.
Based on albedo contraints by Andrew Rivkin and Richard Binzel (MIT),
the diameter of the object is about 320 meters. At
the time of the closest approach, the asteroid will be a naked eye
object (3.3 mag.) traveling rapidly (42 degrees per hour!) through
the constellation of Cancer. On average,
one would expect a similarly close Earth approach by an asteroid
of this size only every 1300 years or so.
Like most people my opinion of
flying saucers and aliens was programmed by the mass media.
I thought they were possible but highly unlikely and speculative.
Now I know better, thanks to Dr. Stephen Greer's book "Disclosure:
Military and Government Witnesses Reveal the Greatest Secrets in
Modern History." (2001) His web site is www.disclosureproject.org
Stephen Greer is a country doctor from North Carolina who has a
wife, four children, a dog and a faith in American values. Since
1992, he has collected video and written testimony from some 400
retired members of the U.S. military, intelligence and aeronautics
industry including Presidential advisors, generals, pilots and two
astronauts many of whom had Top-Secret clearance.
The gist of this overwhelming evidence is that every year we have
thousands of visits from UFO's, which are tracked on radar at speeds
ranging from 5000 to 20,000 mph. There are also thousands of signals
reaching the earth from outer space.
Over the last 60 years many UFO's have crashed or have been shot
down by missiles or laser beams. The US has recovered these spaceships
and replicated some of the technology. It has recovered aliens both
dead and alive.
The revelations contained in "Disclosure" have profound
implications for the fate of humanity. They reveal that the laws
of physics as we know them are obsolete. Space is not empty but
an energy field that can provide an infinite supply of free energy
Thanks to extraterrestrial contact, the technology already exists
to release humanity from its dependence on its dwindling reserves
of polluting fossil fuels, which is the cause of war.
I am not asking you to believe this right away. People think they
must either accept or reject a new idea. There is a third alternative:
Keep in mind that your attitudes to UFO's were shaped by "experts"
like Dr. Carl Sagan, who was on the CIA payroll. The CIA employs
a small army of people to mislead you.
I urge you to get Dr. Greer's 570-page book. It may be one of the
most important you ever read. You can send your address and $22
(incl. shipping) to this pay pal address: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is also available from Amazon.
Nick Cook, the Aviation Editor of Jane's Defense Weekly, also confirms
these conclusions in a book "The Hunt for Zero Point."
He traces the development and suppression of zero gravity technologies
over the last 80 years.
Witnesses describe a massive and coordinated cover-up. People
who have had UFO contact are ridiculed and warned that their career
will end if they speak. Their lives and their family's lives are
threatened. Many people have "disappeared."
A network of military and intelligence agencies along with major
defense contractors is responsible for the cover-up. Generally speaking,
they are not accountable to the President and Congress. Dr. Greer
has met with many Senators who frankly admit they are "not
in the loop."
The purpose of this cover-up is both economic and political. At
the end of the Nineteenth Century, London-based bankers established
their power and wealth on the basis of large international cartels.
In the US, they used their control of the railroad to favor their
agent J.D. Rockefeller with low rates enabling him to eliminate
The same principle applied to the coal and steel cartels. Later
they expanded to defense, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and media.
They run the US from London through their American partners.
As my readers know, the goal of these bankers and their allies
is to formalize a thinly veiled totalitarian world government. The
presence of extraterrestrials and new technology is interfering
with this plan. The bankers have trillions of dollars invested in
old technology. They will release the new technology only if and
when it suits them. In the meantime, they use it to keep us enslaved,
and to ward off more advanced civilizations.
How do they coordinate a cover-up that extends to so many countries?
I don't know the answer to this but there is a disturbing possibility
that national differences may be more apparent than real. Through
Communism they took control of Russia and China. After World War
Two, they took over Japan and continental Europe.
Witnesses describe secret meetings dedicated to the subject of
extraterrestrials that involved an international cast. The New World
Order has been here a long time. They are unveiling it gradually.
In the US alone, the cover-up must extend to hundreds of government
agencies, military units, research labs and corporations. How is
Again, I do not know, but if I had to guess, I'd venture it is
controlled by Freemasonry through their network, which I understand
is well represented in these areas.
Dr. Greer quotes Senator Daniel Inouye: "There exists a shadowy
Government with its own Air Force, its own navy, it's own fundraising
mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national
interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law
Indeed the emerging picture is that the London bankers use this
occult secret network to control the planet. This Satanic "religion"
is indeed the secret guiding principle behind our ideas of "progress"
and what is "modern."
Many civilizations in the universe may be thousands of years in
advance of ours. Increasingly they appear to view banker-controlled
mankind as a potential menace, with reason. Strange as this may
sound, the focus of UFO attention has been the bankers' nuclear
installations. They appear to be actively resisting the US plan
to put weapons in space.
Space-based weaponry is presented to the public as a deterrent
against "rogue nations" like North Korea. In fact, it
seems to have a dual purpose that has nothing to do with this. It
is designed to prevent "alien influences" from liberating
us from our mental, spiritual and economic bondage, at the same
time as controlling us physically.
Apparently this scenario has been in place at least since the 1970's.
According to the testimony of Dr. Carol Rossin, which is on line,
Werner Von Braun warned her about it in 1974. He said the aim was
"to control the Earth from space and space itself."
Dying from cancer, Von Braun enlisted Rossin, a fellow executive
at Fairchild Industries, to help educate the public and decision-makers.
He regarded space-based weapons as "dumb, dangerous, destabilizing,
too costly, unnecessary and unworkable."
Significantly he outlined the five-step "scare tactics"
used to justify them. First the public has been made to fear the
Communists; then "terrorists"; then "rogue nations";
then "asteroids" and finally "extraterrestrials."
"Remember Carol, the last card is the alien card. We are going
to have to build space-based weapons against aliens and all of it
is a lie," he told her.
The program is slowly unfolding as Von Braun predicted. We are
at the rogue nation, terrorist stage.
A 2002 report concludes: "The continued development of these
space systems seriously undermines the claim that the U.S. missile
defence project is purely defensive in nature. Instead, the dual
use capability of both the SBL and kinetic kill vehicles makes them
inherently threatening to the space assets and national security
of other countries. ... The possibility of sparking an arms race
in space, with seriously detrimental effects on global commerce,
communications and security, should not be underestimated."
The "dual use capability" of US space weapons might also
be designed to deter advanced civilizations that pose a threat to
the Masonic banker's monopoly of power and wealth, and their satanic
New World Order agenda.
Yes, it would be better if a large flying saucer landed on the
during half time at the Superbowl and ETs emerged. But Dr. Stephen
Greer's book is credible. Don't dismiss it without reading it first.
Far fetched as it sounds, at the rate we're going,
could represent degenerate mankind's best hope. Who knows what form
Divine intervention can take? If we won't represent God, maybe a
more advanced civilization will.
A Waikato resident is puzzled by a mystery
dumping on her house.
Margaret Porter says the roof and windows of her Scotsman Valley
home are covered in a substance which appears to be faeces
She has no idea where it has come from, but called in a Civil Aviation
Authority inspector as her home is below a flight path.
Ms Porter says he told her the mess could not have been dumped
from an aircraft, as it would have been reported.
Similar mystery muck has appeared on rooves around the country
in the past two years, but no-one has found the official cause yet.
Mrs Porter says the substance is definitely some type of faeces
which is splattered all over the place.
She says recent rain is helping her wash the muck off, and now
she just wants to know where it came from.
Efficient Human to Human Transmission
of H5N1 in SE Asia
There have been probable cases of human-to-human transmission
before but this is the first in which the person infected - the
mother - contracted severe illness and died. It proves the virus
can be passed from person to person without losing its lethality.
The above comment, with regard to the case cluster in Thailand,
published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is not true. The
current H5N1 pandemic, which began in December, 2003 has generated
at least 9 familial clusters of cases, resulting in 11 likely human
to human transmissions, and 8 of the 11 have died (one was in critical
condition Jan 22). Unfortunately, the efficiency of human to human
transmission of fatal H5N1 influenza is much higher than transmission
of H5N1 from birds to humans.
The misconception quoted above, comes from repeated comments from
WHO that human to human transmission of H5N1 is very rare. These
comments are supported by a flawed database. Collecting and testing
of samples, especially for index cases of familial clusters, is
poor. Of the 9 clusters, no sample was collected from the index
case in 4 instances, including the cluster published in the New
England Journal of Medicine. However, the clinical presentation
is quite clear and in each cluster a relative has been laboratory
confirmed, so there is little doubt that the fatal cases of children
or young adults were due to H5N1. However, WHO excludes these cases,
thereby eliminating the cluster. These clusters however, answer
many questions about human to human transmission of H5N1 this season
and last, in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia.
The clusters have been described previously. Three are from Vietnam
from the beginning of last season. Two are from last summer (one
from Thailand and one from Vietnam). Four are from this season (1
from Cambodia and 3 from Vietnam). In all 9 clusters the index cases
died with bird flu symptoms and in each cluster there is at least
one confirmed H5N1 case. Remarkably, all 9 clusters have a bimodal
distribution of disease onset dates, separated by a week or more.
The 9 clusters are composed of 21 cases. Of the 21 cases 18 have
died (1 was in critical condition Jan22) and 15 have been laboratory
confirmed as H5N1 positive. Of the 12 patients who were not index
cases, only 1 developed symptoms on or about the same time as the
index case. The other 11 developed symptoms a week or more later,
strongly suggesting that they are human to human transmissions.
This transmission is far more efficient than transmission from
birds to people. As has been noted previously, such a process is
extremely inefficient. Last season over 100 million birds were culled,
but there were only 44 official cases in Vietnam and Thailand. Adding
in the missed cases as well as those members of a positive cluster
keeps the total far below 100, so there were over 1 million birds
culled for every reported human H5N1 case. This season, the culling
has been limited, but since 1.1 million birds have been culled and
there have been only 11 cases not tied to human transmission, the
ratio is still 100,000 birds culled for each reported case. Thus,
the efficiency of human to human transmission, 11 cases from less
than 100 human cases, was over 1000 fold more efficient than bird
Since the virus that is transmitted bird to human is virtually
identical to the virus transmitted human to human, the difference
in efficiencies is due to interactions between the hosts. Most of
the culled birds had limited interactions with people. Many were
culled by a limited number of workers, and none of the workers were
reported as being infected. In contrast, the infected humans were
related to an index case and in general they were caregivers and
had unprotected close contact with the infected family member.
The transmission chain was limited because the disease was so severe.
Most of the index cases were initially not diagnosed with bird flu
so much of the contact with other family members was unprotected.
However, after the index case died, the suspicion index was raised
significantly when the next family member developed symptoms, so
the H5N1 was not transmitted further because family members used
more care to avoid infection and / or brought the subsequent case
to the hospital where they were put into isolation.
However, the virus was quite lethal. All 10 cluster members infected
at the time of the index case died, but 8 of the 11 infected by
a family member also died (1 was in critical condition Jan 22),
so the failure to transmit further was limited by better infection
control, not by significantly reduced lethality of the transmitted
Thus, it would be useful to issue a warning that H5N1 can be transmitted
to close family members quite easily, especially if unprotected
care is given. This is quite clear from the cluster data, when analyzed
Floods, storms and droughts.
Melting Arctic ice, shrinking glaciers, oceans turning to acid.
The world's top scientists warned last week that dangerous climate
change is taking place today, not the day after tomorrow. You don't
believe it? Then, says Geoffrey Lean, read this...
Future historians, looking back from a much hotter and less hospitable
world, are likely to play special attention to the first few weeks
of 2005. As they puzzle over how a whole generation could have sleepwalked
into disaster - destroying the climate that has allowed human civilisation
to flourish over the past 11,000 years - they may well identify
the past weeks as the time when the last alarms sounded.
Last week, 200 of the world's leading climate scientists - meeting
at Tony Blair's request at the Met Office's new headquarters at
Exeter - issued the most urgent warning to date that dangerous climate
change is taking place, and that time is running out.
Next week the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty that tries
to control global warming, comes into force after a seven-year delay.
But it is clear that the protocol does not go nearly far enough.
The alarms have been going off since the beginning of one of the
warmest Januaries on record. First, Dr Rajendra Pachauri - chairman
of the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
- told a UN conference in Mauritius that the pollution which causes
global warming has reached "dangerous" levels.
Then the biggest-ever study of climate change, based at Oxford
University, reported that it could prove to be twice as catastrophic
as the IPCC's worst predictions. And an international task force
- also reporting to Tony Blair, and co-chaired by his close ally,
Stephen Byers - concluded that we could reach "the point of
no return" in a decade.
Finally, the UK head of Shell, Lord Oxburgh, took time out - just
before his company reported record profits mainly achieved by selling
oil, one of the main causes of the problem - to warn that unless
governments take urgent action there "will be a disaster".
But it was last week at the Met Office's futuristic glass headquarters,
incongruously set in a dreary industrial estate on the outskirts
of Exeter, that it all came together. The conference had been called
by the Prime Minister to advise him on how to "avoid dangerous
climate change". He needed help in persuading the world to
prioritise the issue this year during Britain's presidencies of
the EU and the G8 group of economic powers.
The conference opened with the Secretary of State for the Environment,
Margaret Beckett, warning that "a significant impact"
from global warming "is already inevitable". It continued
with presentations from top scientists and economists from every
continent. These showed that some dangerous climate change was already
taking place and that catastrophic events once thought highly improbable
were now seen as likely (see panel). Avoiding the worst was technically
simple and economically cheap, they said, provided that governments
could be persuaded to take immediate action.
About halfway through I realised that I had been here before. In
the summer of 1986 the world's leading nuclear experts gathered
in Vienna for an inquest into the accident at Chernobyl. The head
of the Russian delegation showed a film shot from a helicopter,
and we suddenly found ourselves gazing down on the red-hot exposed
It was all, of course, much less dramatic at Exeter. But as paper
followed learned paper, once again a group of world authorities
were staring at a crisis they had devoted their lives to trying
I am willing to bet there were few in the room who did not sense
their children or grandchildren standing invisibly at their shoulders.
The conference formally concluded that climate change was "already
occurring" and that "in many cases the risks are more
serious than previously thought". But the cautious scientific
language scarcely does justice to the sense of the meeting.
We learned that glaciers are shrinking around the world. Arctic
sea ice has lost almost half its thickness in recent decades. Natural
disasters are increasing rapidly around the world. Those caused
by the weather - such as droughts, storms, and floods - are rising
three times faster than those - such as earthquakes - that are not.
We learned that bird populations in the North Sea collapsed last
year, after the sand eels on which they feed left its warmer waters
- and how the number of scientific papers recording changes in ecosystems
due to global warming has escalated from 14 to more than a thousand
in five years.
Worse, leading scientists warned of catastrophic changes that once
they had dismissed as "improbable". The meeting was particularly
alarmed by powerful evidence, first reported in The Independent
on Sunday last July, that the oceans are slowly turning acid, threatening
all marine life (see panel).
Professor Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey,
presented new evidence that the West Antarctic ice sheet is beginning
to melt, threatening eventually to raise sea levels by 15ft: 90
per cent of the world's people live near current sea levels. Recalling
that the IPCC's last report had called Antarctica "a slumbering
giant", he said: "I would say that this is now an awakened
Professor Mike Schlesinger, of the University of Illinois, reported
that the shutdown of the Gulf Stream, once seen as a "low probability
event", was now 45 per cent likely this century, and 70 per
cent probable by 2200. If it comes sooner rather than later it will
be catastrophic for Britain and northern Europe, giving us a climate
like Labrador (which shares our latitude) even as the rest of the
world heats up: if it comes later it could be beneficial, moderating
the worst of the warming.
The experts at Exeter were virtually unanimous about the danger,
mirroring the attitude of the climate science community as a whole:
humanity is to blame. There were a few sceptics at Exeter, including
Andrei Illarionov, an adviser to Russia's President Putin, who last
year called the Kyoto Protocol "an interstate Auschwitz".
But in truth it is much easier to find sceptics among media pundits
in London or neo-cons in Washington than among climate scientists.
Even the few contrarian climatalogists publish little research to
support their views, concentrating on questioning the work of others.
Now a new scientific consensus is emerging - that the warming must
be kept below an average increase of two degrees centigrade if catastrophe
is to be avoided. This almost certainly involves keeping concentrations
of carbon dioxide, the main cause of climate change, below 400 parts
Unfortunately we are almost there, with concentrations exceeding
370ppm and rising, but experts at the conference concluded that
we could go briefly above the danger level so long as we brought
it down rapidly afterwards. They added that this would involve the
world reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2050 - and rich countries
cutting theirs by 30 per cent by 2020.
Economists stressed there is little time for delay. If action is
put off for a decade, it will need to be twice as radical; if it
has to wait 20 years, it will cost between three and seven times
The good news is that it can be done with existing technology,
by cutting energy waste, expanding the use of renewable sources,
growing trees and crops (which remove carbon dioxide from the air)
to turn into fuel, capturing the gas before it is released from
power stations, and - maybe - using more nuclear energy.
The better news is that it would not cost much: one estimate suggested
the cost would be about 1 per cent of Europe's GNP spread over 20
years; another suggested it meant postponing an expected fivefold
increase in world wealth by just two years. Many experts believe
combatting global warming would increase prosperity, by bringing
in new technologies.
The big question is whether governments will act. President Bush's
opposition to international action remains the greatest obstacle.
Tony Blair, by almost universal agreement, remains the leader with
the best chance of persuading him to change his mind.
But so far the Prime Minister has been more influenced by the President
than the other way round. He appears to be moving away from fighting
for the pollution reductions needed in favour of agreeing on a vague
pledge to bring in new technologies sometime in the future.
By then it will be too late. And our children and grandchildren
will wonder - as we do in surveying, for example, the drift into
the First World War - "how on earth could they be so blind?"
What could happen? Wars break out over diminishing water resources
as populations grow and rains fail.
How would this come about? Over 25 per cent more people than at
present are expected to live in countries where water is scarce
in the future, and global warming will make it worse.
How likely is it? Former UN chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali has long
said that the next Middle East war will be fought for water, not
What could happen? Low-lying island such as the Maldives and Tuvalu
- with highest points only a few feet above sea-level - will disappear
off the face of the Earth.
How would this come about? As the world heats up, sea levels are
rising, partly because glaciers are melting, and partly because
the water in the oceans expands as it gets warmer.
How likely is it? Inevitable. Even if global warming stopped today,
the seas would continue to rise for centuries. Some small islands
have already sunk for ever. A year ago, Tuvalu was briefly submerged.
What could happen? London, New York, Tokyo, Bombay, many other
cities and vast areas of countries from Britain to Bangladesh disappear
under tens of feet of water, as the seas rise dramatically.
How would this come about? Ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica
melt. The Greenland ice sheet would raise sea levels by more than
20ft, the West Antarctic ice sheet by another 15ft.
How likely is it? Scientists used to think it unlikely, but this
year reported that the melting of both ice caps had begun. It will
take hundreds of years, however, for the seas to rise that much.
What could happen? Global warming escalates to the point where
the world's whole climate abruptly switches, turning it permanently
into a much hotter and less hospitable planet.
How would this come about? A process involving "positive feedback"
causes the warming to fuel itself, until it reaches a point that
finally tips the climate pattern over.
How likely is it? Abrupt flips have happened in the prehistoric
past. Scientists believe this is unlikely, at least in the foreseeable
future, but increasingly they are refusing to rule it out.
What could happen? Famously wet tropical forests, such as those
in the Amazon, go up in flames, destroying the world's richest wildlife
habitats and releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide to speed global
How would this come about? Britain's Met Office predicted in 1999
that much of the Amazon will dry out and die within 50 years, making
it ready for sparks - from humans or lightning - to set it ablaze.
How likely is it? Very, if the predictions turn out to be right.
Already there have been massive forest fires in Borneo and Amazonia,
casting palls of highly polluting smoke over vast areas.
THE BIG FREEZE
What could happen? Britain and northern Europe get much colder
because the Gulf Stream, which provides as much heat as the sun
in winter, fails.
How would this come about? Melting polar ice sends fresh water
into the North Atlantic. The less salty water fails to generate
the underwater current which the Gulf Stream needs.
How likely is it? About
evens for a Gulf Steam failure this century, said scientists last
What could happen? Food production collapses in Africa, for example,
as rainfall dries up and droughts increase. As farmland turns to
desert, people flee in their millions in search of food.
How would this come about? Rainfall is expected to decrease by
up to 60 per cent in winter and 30 per cent in summer in southern
Africa this century. By some estimates, Zambia could lose almost
all its farms.
How likely is it? Pretty likely unless the world tackles both global
warming and Africa's decline. Scientists agree that droughts will
increase in a warmer world.
What could happen? The seas will gradually turn more and more acid.
Coral reefs, shellfish and plankton, on which all life depends,
will die off. Much of the life of the oceans will become extinct.
How would this come about? The oceans have absorbed half the carbon
dioxide, the main cause of global warming, so far emitted by humanity.
This forms dilute carbonic acid, which attacks corals and shells.
How likely is it? It is already starting. Scientists warn that
the chemistry of the oceans is changing in ways unprecedented for
20 million years. Some predict that the world's coral reefs will
die within 35 years.
What could happen? Malaria - which kills two million people worldwide
every year - reaches Britain with foreign travellers, gets picked
up by British mosquitos and becomes endemic in the warmer climate.
How would this come about? Four of our 40 mosquito species can
carry the disease, and hundreds of travellers return with it annually.
The insects breed faster, and feed more, in warmer temperatures.
How likely is it? A Department of Health study has suggested it
may happen by 2050: the Environment Agency has mentioned 2020. Some
experts say it is miraculous that it has not happened already.
What could happen? Hurricanes, typhoons and violent storms proliferate,
grow even fiercer, and hit new areas. Last September's repeated
battering of Florida and the Caribbean may be just a foretaste of
what is to come, say scientists.
How would this come about? The storms gather their energy from
warm seas, and so, as oceans heat up, fiercer ones occur and threaten
areas where at present the seas are too cool for such weather.
How likely is it? Scientists are divided over whether storms will
get more frequent and whether the process has already begun.
An earthquake measuring 4.8 on
the Richter scale hit the island of Samar on Sunday afternoon, the
Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported.
PHIVOLCS said the tremor was recorded at 5:28 p.m. with the epicenter
located at 38 kilometers east of Catarman, Northern Samar.
The earthquake was also felt in Tacloban City at about the same
time. No casualty or damage has been reported.
The origin of the tremor is tectonic and its possible source is
the Philippine Trench with depth of focus at 52.3 kilometers categorized
as shallow, the PHIVOLCS bulletin said.
Intensity 4 ground movements were felt in Catarman, Northern Samar;
intensity 3 in Tacloban City, Leyte; intensity 3 in Irosin, Sorsogon;
and intensity 2 in Legazpi City.
Nine people were found dead in two cars outside Tokyo, in
what were believed to be the latest in a series of macabre suicide
pacts involving charcoal burners that have swept Japan.
Six people, three men and three women mostly aged in their 20s,
were found in the morning in a rented minivan parked on a farm road
on the scenic peninsula of Miura at the mouth of Tokyo Bay, police
Hours later, the bodies of one man and two women, in their 30s
and 40s, were found in a rented sedan on the grounds of a villa
on a Pacific coast in Higashi Izu, some 100 kilometers (60 miles)
southwest of Tokyo.
Police found several charcoal burners inside the two vehicles.
In the Miura case, the six dead included a 40-year-old women, police
They had apparently died of carbon monoxide poisoning or an overdose
of sleeping pills a day earlier.
"We found four charcoal burners and sleeping pills as well
as a number of notes suggesting suicide inside the vehicle,"
a spokesman for the Misaki police station said.
"It is highly possible that the six people from different
domiciles have committed a group suicide," he added. One of
the notes said, "I am tired of living. I am sorry." Another
said, "Please spray my ashes around."
The two separate cases appear to be the latest in a string of such
group suicides using traditional terracotta charcoal burners in
Japan, many of which have involved strangers
who met over the Internet to die together.
The charcoal burner is rarely used in modern living in Japan except
at traditional-style Japanese or Korean restaurants.
Nearly 50 people have died in similar suicides
since early October.
In December, the British Medical Journal (BMJ)
warned that the rash of group suicides in Japan was a worrying sign
of the Internet's potential for encouraging suicide pacts.
In an editorial in the magazine, London consultant psychiatrist
Sundararajan Rajagopal noted that the trend was "in contrast
to traditional suicide pacts, in which the victims are people with
It could be the start of "a new, disturbing
trend in suicide pacts, with more such incidents, involving strangers
meeting over the Internet, becoming increasingly common," he
Japan has the highest suicide rate in the
industrialized world, with 24.1 suicides per 100,000 people
each year, according to the UN's World Health Organization (WHO).
Suicide rates rose after the economy began to slump in the 1990s.
The country registered a record high of 34,427 suicides in 2003.
KABUL - The wreckage of a missing Afghan jet
was found in mountains east of the capital Kabul with all 104 people
on board feared dead, an interior ministry spokesman said.
"So far we don't think there are any survivors," interior
ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said. "The plane is completely
But Transportation Minister Anayatullah Qasimi spoke of mounting
a search and rescue operation.
"We heard for the first time that the plane has crashed so
first of all our top priority is to make sure that if there are
survivors we have to get to them," Qasimi said.
"It is a rescue and search operation. First we will take the
passengers who are alive or injured, and then the bodies will also
be carried as well."
The wreckage was found in mountains 20 kilometres (12 miles) east
of Kabul at around 0930 GMT during a joint search operation by Afghan
police, army and peacekeeping troops from the International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF), he said.
The area has been blanketed by heavy snow this week and Afghan
officials said bad weather was preventing search teams from reaching
the wreckage on the ground to check for any possible survivors.
The private Kam Air Boeing 737 went missing on Thursday during
a domestic flight from the western city of Herat to Kabul.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The mother of three children
found dead in a Huntsville apartment has confessed to starving her
children, police said Saturday.
Nathshay Yvonne Ward, 33, was charged with capital murder Friday
in connection with the deaths of her son and two daughters. She
was being held without bail.
Officers found the bodies of Shanieka Y. Ward, 11; Latricia Ward,
9; and Christopher O. Ward, 8, on the floor in three bedrooms Friday,
police spokesman Wendell Johnson said.
Officials said the children had been dead for at least several
Investigators would not elaborate on the details of Ward's confession.
When the children were found, "they did appear malnourished,"
Johnson said. [...]
"It was just her and those kids," she said. "She
was quiet. Paid her rent on time."
The number of seafarers killed by pirates
surged last year, even though the overall incidence of armed robbery
on the high seas fell, an international watchdog said in its annual
report out Monday.
Thirty mariners were killed in attacks, mainly in Nigeria and in
the busy Malacca Strait separating Indonesia from Malaysia, the
Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Bureau said.
The figure represented a significant rise on 2003, when 21 seafarers
Nigeria had the most deadly waters, with 15 seafarers killed while
four people were killed in the Malacca Strait, the Malaysian-based
Worldwide actual or attempted piracy attacks declined to 325 from
445 in 2003, but violence against seafarers "continues and
remains at high levels," the report said. [...]
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