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Picture of the Day

Sunset - Late Summer
© 2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte



Can This Black Box See Into the Future?
Red Nova
Friday, 11 February 2005, 00:00 CST

DEEP in the basement of a dusty university library in Edinburgh lies a small black box, roughly the size of two cigarette packets side by side, that churns out random numbers in an endless stream.

At first glance it is an unremarkable piece of equipment. Encased in metal, it contains at its heart a microchip no more complex than the ones found in modern pocket calculators.

But, according to a growing band of top scientists, this box has quite extraordinary powers. It is, they claim, the 'eye' of a machine that appears capable of peering into the future and predicting major world events.

The machine apparently sensed the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre four hours before they happened - but in the fevered mood of conspiracy theories of the time, the claims were swiftly knocked back by sceptics. But last December, it also appeared to forewarn of the Asian tsunami just before the deep sea earthquake that precipitated the epic tragedy.

Now, even the doubters are acknowledging that here is a small box with apparently inexplicable powers.

'It's Earth-shattering stuff,' says Dr Roger Nelson, emeritus researcher at Princeton University in the United States, who is heading the research project behind the 'black box' phenomenon.

'We're very early on in the process of trying to figure out what's going on here. At the moment we're stabbing in the dark.' Dr Nelson's investigations, called the Global Consciousness Project, were originally hosted by Princeton University and are centred on one of the most extraordinary experiments of all time. Its aim is to detect whether all of humanity shares a single subconscious mind that we can all tap into without realising.

And machines like the Edinburgh black box have thrown up a tantalising possibility: that scientists may have unwittingly discovered a way of predicting the future.

Although many would consider the project's aims to be little more than fools' gold, it has still attracted a roster of 75 respected scientists from 41 different nations. Researchers from Princeton - where Einstein spent much of his career - work alongside scientists from universities in Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. The project is also the most rigorous and longest-running investigation ever into the potential powers of the paranormal.

'Very often paranormal phenomena evaporate if you study them for long enough,' says physicist Dick Bierman of the University of Amsterdam. 'But this is not happening with the Global Consciousness Project. The effect is real. The only dispute is about what it means.' The project has its roots in the extraordinary work of Professor Robert Jahn of Princeton University during the late 1970s. He was one of the first modern scientists to take paranormal phenomena seriously. Intrigued by such things as telepathy, telekinesis - the supposed psychic power to move objects without the use of physical force - and extrasensory perception, he was determined to study the phenomena using the most up-to-date technology available.

One of these new technologies was a humble-looking black box known was a Random Event Generator (REG). This used computer technology to generate two numbers - a one and a zero - in a totally random sequence, rather like an electronic coin-flipper.

The pattern of ones and noughts - 'heads' and 'tails' as it were - could then be printed out as a graph. The laws of chance dictate that the generators should churn out equal numbers of ones and zeros - which would be represented by a nearly flat line on the graph. Any deviation from this equal number shows up as a gently rising curve.

During the late 1970s, Prof Jahn decided to investigate whether the power of human thought alone could interfere in some way with the machine's usual readings. He hauled strangers off the street and asked them to concentrate their minds on his number generator. In effect, he was asking them to try to make it flip more heads than tails.

It was a preposterous idea at the time. The results, however, were stunning and have never been satisfactorily explained.

Again and again, entirely ordinary people proved that their minds could influence the machine and produce significant fluctuations on the graph, 'forcing it' to produce unequal numbers of 'heads' or 'tails'.

According to all of the known laws of science, this should not have happened - but it did. And it kept on happening.

Dr Nelson, also working at Princeton University, then extended Prof Jahn's work by taking random number machines to group meditations, which were very popular in America at the time. Again, the results were eyepopping. The groups were collectively able to cause dramatic shifts in the patterns of numbers.

From then on, Dr Nelson was hooked.

Using the internet, he connected up 40 random event generators from all over the world to his laboratory computer in Princeton. These ran constantly, day in day out, generating millions of different pieces of data. Most of the time, the resulting graph on his computer looked more or less like a flat line.

But then on September 6, 1997, something quite extraordinary happened: the graph shot upwards, recording a sudden and massive shift in the number sequence as his machines around the world started reporting huge deviations from the norm. The day was of historic importance for another reason, too.

For it was the same day that an estimated one billion people around the world watched the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey.

Dr Nelson was convinced that the two events must be related in some way.

Could he have detected a totally new phenomena? Could the concentrated emotional outpouring of millions of people be able to influence the output of his REGs. If so, how?

Dr Nelson was at a loss to explain it.

So, in 1998, he gathered together scientists from all over the world to analyse his findings. They, too, were stumped and resolved to extend and deepen the work of Prof Jahn and Dr Nelson. The Global Consciousness Project was born.

Since then, the project has expanded massively. A total of 65 Eggs (as the generators have been named) in 41 countries have now been recruited to act as the 'eyes' of the project.

And the results have been startling and inexplicable in equal measure.

For during the course of the experiment, the Eggs have 'sensed' a whole series of major world events as they were happening, from the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia to the Kursk submarine tragedy to America's hung election of 2000.

The Eggs also regularly detect huge global celebrations, such as New Year's Eve.

But the project threw up its greatest enigma on September 11, 2001.

As the world stood still and watched the horror of the terrorist attacks unfold across New York, something strange was happening to the Eggs.

Not only had they registered the attacks as they actually happened, but the characteristic shift in the pattern of numbers had begun four hours before the two planes even hit the Twin Towers.

They had, it appeared, detected that an event of historic importance was about to take place before the terrorists had even boarded their fateful flights. The implications, not least for the West's security services who constantly monitor electronic 'chatter', are clearly enormous.

'I knew then that we had a great deal of work ahead of us,' says Dr Nelson.

What could be happening? Was it a freak occurrence, perhaps?

Apparently not. For in the closing weeks of December last year, the machines went wild once more.

Twenty-four hours later, an earthquake deep beneath the Indian Ocean triggered the tsunami which devastated South-East Asia, and claimed the lives of an estimated quarter of a million people.

So could the Global Consciousness Project really be forecasting the future?

Cynics will quite rightly point out that there is always some global event that could be used to 'explain' the times when the Egg machines behaved erratically. After all, our world is full of wars, disasters and terrorist outrages, as well as the occasional global celebration. Are the scientists simply trying too hard to detect patterns in their raw data?

The team behind the project insist not. They claim that by using rigorous scientific techniques and powerful mathematics it is possible to exclude any such random connections.

'We're perfectly willing to discover that we've made mistakes,' says Dr Nelson. 'But we haven't been able to find any, and neither has anyone else.

Our data shows clearly that the chances of getting these results by fluke are one million to one against.

That's hugely significant.' But many remain sceptical.

Professor Chris French, a psychologist and noted sceptic at Goldsmiths College in London, says: 'The Global Consciousness Project has generated some very intriguing results that cannot be readily dismissed. I'm involved in similar work to see if we get the same results. We haven't managed to do so yet but it's only an early experiment. The jury's still out.' Strange as it may seem, though, there's nothing in the laws of physics that precludes the possibility of foreseeing the future.

It is possible - in theory - that time may not just move forwards but backwards, too. And if time ebbs and flows like the tides in the sea, it might just be possible to foretell major world events. We would, in effect, be 'remembering' things that had taken place in our future.

'There's plenty of evidence that time may run backwards,' says Prof Bierman at the University of Amsterdam.

'And if it's possible for it to happen in physics, then it can happen in our minds, too.' In other words, Prof Bierman believes that we are all capable of looking into the future, if only we could tap into the hidden power of our minds. And there is a tantalising body of evidence to support this theory.

Dr John Hartwell, working at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, was the first to uncover evidence that people could sense the future. In the mid-1970s he hooked people up to hospital scanning machines so that he could study their brainwave patterns.

He began by showing them a sequence of provocative cartoon drawings.

When the pictures were shown, the machines registered the subject's brainwaves as they reacted strongly to the images before them. This was to be expected.

Far less easy to explain was the fact that in many cases, these dramatic patterns began to register a few seconds before each of the pictures were even flashed up.

It was as though Dr Hartwell's case studies were somehow seeing into the future, and detecting when the next shocking image would be shown next.

It was extraordinary - and seemingly inexplicable.

But it was to be another 15 years before anyone else took Dr Hartwell's work further when Dean Radin, a researcher working in America, connected people up to a machine that measured their skin's resistance to electricity. This is known to fluctuate in tandem with our moods - indeed, it's this principle that underlies many lie detectors.

Radin repeated Dr Hartwell's 'image response' experiments while measuring skin resistance. Again, people began reacting a few seconds before they were shown the provocative pictures. This was clearly impossible, or so he thought, so he kept on repeating the experiments. And he kept getting the same results.

'I didn't believe it either,' says Prof Bierman. 'So I also repeated the experiment myself and got the same results. I was shocked. After this I started to think more deeply about the nature of time.' To make matters even more intriguing, Prof Bierman says that other mainstream labs have now produced similar results but are yet to go public.

'They don't want to be ridiculed so they won't release their findings,' he says. 'So I'm trying to persuade all of them to release their results at the same time. That would at least spread the ridicule a little more thinly!' If Prof Bierman is right, though, then the experiments are no laughing matter.

They might help provide a solid scientific grounding for such strange phenomena as 'deja vu', intuition and a host of other curiosities that we have all experienced from time to time.

They may also open up a far more interesting possibility - that one day we might be able to enhance psychic powers using machines that can 'tune in' to our subconscious mind, machines like the little black box in Edinburgh.

Just as we have built mechanical engines to replace muscle power, could we one day build a device to enhance and interpret our hidden psychic abilities?

Dr Nelson is optimistic - but not for the short term. 'We may be able to predict that a major world event is going to happen. But we won't know exactly what will happen or where it's going to happen,' he says.

'Put it this way - we haven't yet got a machine we could sell to the CIA.'

But for Dr Nelson, talk of such psychic machines - with the potential to detect global catastrophes or terrorist outrages - is of far less importance than the implications of his work in terms of the human race.

For what his experiments appear to demonstrate is that while we may all operate as individuals, we also appear to share something far, far greater - a global consciousness. Some might call it the mind of God.

'We're taught to be individualistic monsters,' he says. 'We're driven by society to separate ourselves from each other. That's not right.

We may be connected together far more intimately than we realise.'

Comment: The following are some comments that we think give some context to the article above

7-4-98

Q: (A) I understand that the main disaster is going to come from this comet cluster...

A: Disasters involve cycles in the human experiential cycle which corresponds to the passage of comet cluster. [...]

Q: (A) Do we know what is the distance to this body at present?

A: Suggest you keep your eyes open!... Did you catch the significance of the answer regarding time table of cluster and brown star? Human cycle mirrors cycle of catastrophe. Earth benefits in form of periodic cleansing. Time to start paying attention to the signs. They are escalating. They can even be "felt" by you and others, if you pay attention.

9-14-02

Q: (A) I want to know what kind of mechanism is behind this 911 number coming up in the NY lottery.

A: Warning. It ain't over!!!

Q: (A) Who was warning?

A: Mass consciousness signals to self about clear and present danger.

Q: (L)[C]lear and present danger of what?

A: Wait and see.

1-9-05

Q: (L) Regarding the recent earthquake and tsunami, there is a huge buzz on the net that this was not a natural phenomenon. Some say it could have been a meteor; others say it was a US nuke; others say it was India and Israel playing around in deep sea trenches. Then there is the speculation on an EM weapon of some description. The New agers are saying it was the start of the final 'Earth Changes". So what really caused this earthquake that happened one year minus one hour after the earthquake in Iran?

A: Pressure in earth. Not any of the proferred suggestions. But remember that the human cycle mirrors the cycle of catastrophe and human mass consciousness plays a part.

Q: In what way does mass consciousness play a part?

A: When those with higher centers are blocked from full manifestation of creative energy, that energy must go somewhere. If you cannot create "without" you create "within".

Q: (L) In other words the acts of the STS consortium in trying to suppress steal and control the creative energy from those with higher centers may be the cause of their own destruction because that energy is uncontrollable.

The three major events discussed in this article fall into three different categories. Diana's death was that of an individual. Diana's funeral, however, was an event where the consciousness of the public was afffected as the funeral unfolded, live, on international TV. The press had propgated the image of the Princess during the years of her marriage, troubles, and divorce, and she had become a symbol for millions.

9/11 was an event involving many people -- and we aren't talking Arab terrorists -- who had been planning the attacks for years. After the go-ahead had been given, these people would have been sharing a common mental state, and this state may well have been communicated to others as a generalise state of fear. Whatever it was, it was clearly different than Diana's funeral.

The third event, December's earthquake and tsunami, would have been preceeded by changes in the energy of the earth itself as the massive forces invloved reached their breaking point.

Further testing may well give a better reading of what the network of random signal generators are picking up. Might it be a way of sensing the 'signs', of reading the relationship between experience and the cycle of catastropehe?

We are quite confident that human relations being what they are in our mechanical world, there will be numerous other catastrophes which can be used to test the network.

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CNN Executive Jordan Quits Over Iraq Remarks
Fri Feb 11, 2005 10:51 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CNN's chief news executive Eason Jordan quit on Friday over remarks he made in Switzerland last month about journalists killed in Iraq, possibly by U.S. forces, the television network said.

CNN said on its Web site that Jordan conceded his remarks at last month's World Economic Forum in Davos were "not as clear as they should have been." Several participants at the event said Jordan told the audience U.S. forces had deliberately targeted journalists -- a charge he denied.

Jordan quickly explained that some journalists were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were struck by a bomb, while others died because American forces who mistook them for the enemy.

But his comments erupted into a controversy that he said threatened to tarnish the network he helped build, according to CNN.

"After 23 years at CNN, I have decided to resign in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq," Jordan said in a letter to colleagues.

The controversy gained steam last week, with Internet bloggers posting their accounts of what transpired at the Switzerland forum, an event attended by political, economic, academic and media figures from around the world, the CNN site said.

The Davos organizers have said the session, like most at the forum, was off-the-record, and they have refused to release a transcript to preserve their commitment.

The resignation sent shock waves through CNN, the network said, because Jordan has been long admired by his peers, from executives to the rank-and-file.

Jordan joined CNN as an assistant assignment editor in 1982 and rose through the ranks to become CNN's chief news executive.

Comment: An example of how the truth will get you fired in the US media. CNN, with its close relations to the Pentagon, can not allow an example of free speech to go unpunished.

The truth is too precious to be discussed with the great unwashed. It is reserved for 'off-the-record' discussions at retreats like Davos where the rich and infamous can go and share stories. The rest of us are kept in ignorance while those running the show can compare notes and plan for the future, a future that has little chance of improving the lot of the common man.

Closed doors, secrets, and off-the-record statements are part of the way that the media manipulate the people. If anything is ever going to change on this piece of space rock, then it is here where we must start: putting an end to secrets. Everyone must be told the truth about the situation on the planet.

Of course, that ain't ever going to happen, is it?

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9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings About Hijackings

By ERIC LICHTBLAU
February 10, 2005

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 - In the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal aviation officials reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations, according to a previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission.

But aviation officials were "lulled into a false sense of security," and "intelligence that indicated a real and growing threat leading up to 9/11 did not stimulate significant increases in security procedures," the commission report concluded.

The report discloses that the Federal Aviation Administration, despite being focused on risks of hijackings overseas, warned airports in the spring of 2001 that if "the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable."

The report takes the F.A.A. to task for failing to pursue domestic security measures that could conceivably have altered the events of Sept. 11, 2001, like toughening airport screening procedures for weapons or expanding the use of on-flight air marshals. The report, completed last August, said officials appeared more concerned with reducing airline congestion, lessening delays, and easing airlines' financial woes than deterring a terrorist attack.

The Bush administration has blocked the public release of the full, classified version of the report for more than five months, officials said, much to the frustration of former commission members who say it provides a critical understanding of the failures of the civil aviation system. The administration provided both the classified report and a declassified, 120-page version to the National Archives two weeks ago and, even with heavy redactions in some areas, the declassified version provides the firmest evidence to date about the warnings that aviation officials received concerning the threat of an attack on airliners and the failure to take steps to deter it.

Among other things, the report says that leaders of the F.A.A. received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch that mentioned Mr. bin Laden or Al Qaeda from April to Sept. 10, 2001. That represented half of all the intelligence summaries in that time.

Five of the intelligence reports specifically mentioned Al Qaeda's training or capability to conduct hijackings, the report said. Two mentioned suicide operations, although not connected to aviation, the report said. [...]

Comment: 52 intelligence reports warning about an al-Qaeda attack, eh? So tell us, just how did those 52 reports transmogrify themselves into NO reports when Condi swore before the 9/11 commission?

[...] We did not have, on the United States, threat information that was, in any way, specific enough to suggest that something was coming in the United States.

The September 4th memo, as I've said to you, was a warning to me not to get dragged down by the bureaucracy, not a warning about September 11.

We wonder, just what part of the word "liar" don't Bush supporters understand?

You see, out problem is not with the fact that the entire Bush administrtation is made up of seemingly compulsive liars and psychopaths, but rather that these same people try to convince the world that they are "peacemakers".

It would probably be quite simple for the "elite" of this world to just come clean and tell everyone what their real intentions are, after all, who is going to stop them at this late stage? Yet we note that they have not chosen to do so, yet.

The fact that they go to such lengths to deceive the masses suggests that deception is a very important part of this grand game they are playing. At one level, co-opting the collective conciousness of billions of people and having them all believe a lie as truth, may actually shape the future somehow.

At another level however, perhaps the lies and deceit merely present an opportunity for individual human beings to refine their "reality reading instruments" and choose between the truth and the lie, between darkness and light, between entropy and creativity.

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Bush team tried to suppress pre-9/11 report into al-Qa'ida

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
11 February 2005

Federal officials were repeatedly warned in the months before the 11 September 2001 terror attacks that Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida were planning aircraft hijackings and suicide attacks, according to a new report that the Bush administration has been suppressing.

Critics say the new information undermines the government's claim that intelligence about al-Qa'ida's ambitions was "historical" in nature. [...]

The report, withheld from the public for months, says the FAA was primarily focused on the likelihood of an incident overseas.

Kristin Bretweiser, whose husband was killed in the World Trade Centre, said yesterday the newly released details undermined testimony from Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser, who told the commission that information about al-Qa'ida's threats seen by the administration was "historical in nature".

She told The Independent: "There were 52 threats that were mentioned. These were present threats - they were not historical. There were steps that could have been taken. Marshals could have been put on planes that spring. Condoleezza Rice's testimony is undermined." To the consternation of members of the commission who published the original report last year, the administration has been blocking the release of the latest information. An unclassified copy of this additional appendix was passed to the National Archives two weeks ago with large portions blacked out. [...]

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Report showed FAA failure to prevent 9/11
Friday February 11, 11:32
by Mark Riley

US Federal Aviation Commission had enough information to prevent 9/11 events, 9/11 panel said in a revealed report.

FAA officials are now accused of being indifferent while tens of warning reports have been sent to it prior to the tragedy. The report said the FAA received at least 52 intelligence reports between April and Sept. 10 that warned about Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda.

But the agency denied the accusation saying a lot of improvements were made before the attacks, such as new rules for managing airport screening. It also added that without specific information about means and methods they had no chance to prevent possible attacks. Some of the nation’s largest airports received information about possible attacks just before the tragedy. The FAA’s office of civil aviation held classified briefings for 19 of nation’s largest airports, including Newark, Logan in Boston, and Dulles outside Washington, the departure points for the four hijacked planes, in the spring of 2004.

"The fact that the civil aviation system seems to have been lulled into a false sense of security is striking not only because of what happened on 9/11 but also in light of the intelligence assessments, including those conducted by the F.A.A.’s own security branch, that raised alarms about the growing terrorist threat to civil aviation throughout the 1990’s and into the new century," the report said.

The Bush administration is now accused of hiding the report for 5 months before it became public. The White House explained it with “classification issues.”

Comment: That's right. Blame it in the FAA. We wonder if it was the FAA that ordered the stand-down of the US military? Unlikely, isn't it?

The article does not discuss the other breaches of US airspace security that occured during 2001 and that were handled according to the playbook. Isn't it funny that it is only on 911 that the system didn't work? ISn't it funny that every other time it did?

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Rumsfeld Calls for NATO Unity in Fight Against Terrorism
By VOA News
12 February 2005
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has called for unity among NATO countries in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Rumsfeld told the 41st annual international security conference in Munich Germany, Saturday that the battle should not be confined to issues where there is NATO consensus. He said it must be clear that one nation cannot defeat extremists alone.

Earlier, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder proposed creation of an independent panel of experts that would review cooperation structures between Europe and the United States and propose reforms by 2006. German Defense Minister Peter Struck delivered the remarks after illness prevented Mr. Schroeder from attending the meeting. The call followed strong German-American disagreements over the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Two years ago, Mr. Rumsfeld dismissed Germany and France as "old Europe" for their refusal to join the U.S.-led war. Today, the defense secretary light-heartedly attributed those comments to the "old Rumsfeld."

Comment: Funny guy, the "new Rumsfeld". Passing off his lies and slander with a joke. He can afford to do that now that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has taken place.

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11 die at Iraq bakery, 12 at mosque

February 12, 2005

Insurgent activity rises as Rumsfeld visits Mosul to see security training

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents shot into a crowd of people in a Baghdad bakery with a burst of AK-47 gunfire yesterday, killing at least 11, and a car bomb outside a mosque north of the capital killed 12 and wounded at least 20.

Both attacks, which were in neighborhoods with large Shiite populations, stoked fears of widespread sectarian strife as violence continued to increase after national elections last month.

In western Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed an American soldier.

At the bakery yesterday, three cars carrying gunmen wearing ski masks pulled up and stopped traffic. The men ran inside and shot the bakery's workers, mostly men in their mid-20s, in the head and chest.

In the aftermath, blood was splattered across the walls and floor. Men stood outside and wept and screamed.

While the gunmen could not be identified, they are assumed to be Sunni extremists.

"The people who were at the scene said this bakery had the [United Iraqi] Alliance banner hanging up," said an Iraqi police investigator, who asked that his name not be used because of safety concerns. "They had received threats from people who said they would kill them for it."

The police investigator handling the bakery killings said the police station where he works is unable to patrol the entire neighborhood on a regular basis because it has just three patrol cars.

Northeast of the capital, the car bombing took place outside a Shiite mosque in the town of Balad Ruz as prayer services were ending.

Witness accounts and police reports differed about what delivered the blast - a car or a fruit truck. At least 12 people were killed, including four Iraqi soldiers, and at least 20 were wounded.

The explosion came as Shiites began the holiday of Ashura, which culminates with pilgrims walking to the holy city of Karbala to commemorate the death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, al Hussein, on a battlefield near the town.

More than 140 were killed in bombings in Baghdad and Karbala on a single day during Ashura last year.

At Shiite mosques across Iraq, those leading Friday prayers warned their audiences that more violence was to come as insurgents try to provoke civil war.

Their messages were a mix of determination and fatalism that has marked the struggle of the Shiites.

Comment: The fact is that the differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq have NEVER been serious enough for the threat of civil war to be a real one. There are two possible scenarios as we see it.

The Neocons in Washington, being experts in rigged elections, have decided that they will install what will essentially be a proxy government in Iraq.

Or

Israeli and CIA covert operatives are mounting a campaign to promote ethnic strife among Shias and Sunnis in the hope that it will ultimately lead to civil war thereby requiring an indefinite US military presence in Iraq.

Either way, neither Israel nor the US governments are about to "up and leave" Iraq to the Iraqi people.

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Getting the Purple Finger

By Naomi Klein, The Nation. Posted February 11, 2005

Near-sighted election observers think the Iraqi people have finally sent America those long-awaited flowers and candies, when Iraq's voters just gave them the (purple) finger.

"The Iraqi people gave America the biggest 'thank you' in the best way we could have hoped for." Reading this election analysis from Betsy Hart, a columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service, I found myself thinking about my late grandmother. Half blind and a menace behind the wheel of her Chevrolet, she adamantly refused to surrender her car keys. She was convinced that everywhere she drove (flattening the house pets of Philadelphia along the way) people were waving and smiling at her. "They are so friendly!" We had to break the bad news. "They aren't waving with their whole hand, Grandma – just with their middle finger."

So it is with Betsy Hart and the other near-sighted election observers: They think the Iraqi people have finally sent America those long-awaited flowers and candies, when Iraq's voters just gave them the (purple) finger.

The election results are in: Iraqis voted overwhelmingly to throw out the U.S.-installed government of Iyad Allawi, who refused to ask the United States to leave. A decisive majority voted for the United Iraqi Alliance; the second plank in the UIA platform calls for "a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq."

There are more single-digit messages embedded in the winning coalition's platform. Some highlights: "Adopting a social security system under which the state guarantees a job for every fit Iraqi ... and offers facilities to citizens to build homes." The UIA also pledges "to write off Iraq's debts, cancel reparations and use the oil wealth for economic development projects." In short, Iraqis voted to repudiate the radical free-market policies imposed by former chief U.S. envoy Paul Bremer and locked in by a recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

So will the people who got all choked up watching Iraqis flock to the polls support these democratically chosen demands? Please. "You don't set timetables," George W. Bush said four days after Iraqis voted for exactly that. Likewise, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the elections "magnificent" but dismissed a firm timetable out of hand. The UIA's pledges to expand the public sector, keep the oil and drop the debt will likely suffer similar fates. At least if Adel Abd al-Mahdi gets his way – he's Iraq's finance minister and the man suddenly being touted as leader of Iraq's next government.

Al-Mahdi is the Bush administration's Trojan horse in the UIA. (You didn't think they were going to put all their money on Allawi, did you?) In October he told a gathering of the American Enterprise Institute that he planned to "restructure and privatize [Iraq's] state-owned enterprises," and in December he made another trip to Washington to unveil plans for a new oil law "very promising to the American investors." It was al-Mahdi himself who oversaw the signing of a flurry of deals with Shell, BP and ChevronTexaco in the weeks before the elections, and it is he who negotiated the recent austerity deal with the IMF. On troop withdrawal, al-Mahdi sounds nothing like his party's platform and instead appears to be channeling Dick Cheney on Fox News: "When the Americans go will depend on when our own forces are ready and on how the resistance responds after the elections." But on Sharia law, we are told, he is very close to the clerics.

Iraq's elections were delayed time and time again, while the occupation and resistance grew ever more deadly. Now it seems that two years of bloodshed, bribery and backroom arm-twisting were leading up to this: a deal in which the ayatollahs get control over the family, Texaco gets the oil, and Washington gets its enduring military bases (call it the "oil for women program"). Everyone wins except the voters, who risked their lives to cast their ballots for a very different set of policies.

But never mind that. Jan. 30, we are told, was not about what Iraqis were voting for – it was about the fact of their voting and, more important, how their plucky courage made Americans feel about their war. Apparently, the elections' true purpose was to prove to Americans that, as George Bush put it, "the Iraqi people value their own liberty." Stunningly, this appears to come as news. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown said the vote was "the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people." On The Daily Show, CNN's Anderson Cooper described it as "the first time we've sort of had a gauge of whether or not they're willing to sort of step forward and do stuff."

This is some tough crowd. The Shiite uprising against Saddam in 1991 was clearly not enough to convince them that Iraqis were willing to "do stuff" to be free. Nor was the demonstration of 100,000 people held one year ago demanding immediate elections, or the spontaneous local elections organized by Iraqis in the early months of the occupation – both summarily shot down by Bremer. It turns out that on American TV, the entire occupation has been one long episode of Fear Factor, in which Iraqis overcome ever-more-challenging obstacles to demonstrate the depths of their desire to win their country back. Having their cities leveled, being tortured in Abu Ghraib, getting shot at checkpoints, having their journalists censored and their water and electricity cut off – all of it was just a prelude to the ultimate endurance test: dodging bombs and bullets to get to the polling station. At last, Americans were persuaded that Iraqis really, really want to be free.

So what's the prize? An end to occupation, as the voters demanded? Don't be silly – the U.S. government won't submit to any "artificial timetable." Jobs for everyone, as the UIA promised? You can't vote for socialist nonsense like that. No, they get Geraldo Rivera's tears ("I felt like such a sap"), Laura Bush's motherly pride ("It was so moving for the president and me to watch people come out with purple fingers") and Betsy Hart's sincere apology for ever doubting them ("Wow – do I stand corrected").

And that should be enough. Because if it weren't for the invasion, Iraqis would not even have the freedom to vote for their liberation, and then to have that vote completely ignored. And that's the real prize: the freedom to be occupied. Wow – do I stand corrected.

Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies and Fences and Windows: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate.

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The Ambassador of Lies

By TOM BARRY
Counterpunch

Elliott Abrams: the Neocon's Neocon

President Bush's Inaugural Address was the sound of the second shoe dropping. Three years ago the president shocked the world with the announcement of the U.S. government's new doctrine of preventive war and global military engagement. Last month he proclaimed that U.S. power and influence had a soft side. Along with use of our military might, the U.S. government was committing the American people to an international campaign to promote freedom and democracy.

Minutes before his State of the Union Address, in which he repeated the promise to answer the call of freedom worldwide, the White House announced that Elliott Abrams would direct the new global democracy campaign as well as overseeing Middle East policy from his perch in the National Security Council.

Elliott Abrams embodies neoconservatism. Perhaps more than any other neoconservative, Abrams has integrated the various influences that have shaped today's neoconservative agenda. A creature of the neoconservative incubator, Abrams is a political intellectual and operative who has advanced the neoconservative agenda with chutzpah and considerable success.

As a government official, Abrams organized front groups to provide private and clandestine official support for the Nicaraguan Contras; served as the president of an ethics institute despite his own record of lying to Congress and managing illegal operations; rose to high positions in the National Security Council to oversee U.S. foreign policy in regions where he had no professional experience, only ideological positions; proved himself as a political intellectual in books and essays that explore the interface between orthodox Judaism, American culture, and political philosophy; and demonstrated his considerable talents in public diplomacy as a political art in the use of misinformation and propaganda to ensure public and policy support for foreign relations agendas that would otherwise be soundly rejected.

Abrams has moved back and forth between government and the right's web of think tanks and policy institutes, holding positions as a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), advisory council member of the American Jewish Committee, and charter member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Abrams has maintained close ties with the Social Democrats/USA, the network of right-wing social democrats and former Trotskyites who became the most vocal of the self-described "democratic globalists" within the neocon camp in the 1990s.

His family ties have helped propel Abrams into the center of neoconservatism's inner circles over the past few decades. In 1980 he joined one of the two reigning families of neoconservatism through his marriage to Rachel Decter, one of Midge Decter's two daughters from her first marriage. As a member of the Podhoretz-Decter clan, Abrams became a frequent contributor to Commentary and Norman Podhoretz's choice to direct the magazine's symposiums on foreign policy. As one of the leading neocons in the Reagan administration, Abrams also served as a liaison between government and the right wing's network, as exemplified by his appearances at the forums organized by Midge Decter's Committee for the Free World in the 1980s.

Emblematic of Abrams' visceral right-wing politics was his statement following the murder of John Lennon in December 1980. Setting the tone for the cultural and political backlash that would soon dominate U.S. politics, Abrams complained publicly about all the media attention given the famous singer: "I'm sorry, but John Lennon was not that important a figure in our times...Why is his death getting more attention than Elvis Presley's? Because Lennon is perceived as a left-wing figure politically, anti-establishment, a man of social conscience with concern for the poor. And, therefore, he is being made into a great figure. Too much has been made of his life. It does not deserve a full day's television and radio coverage. I'm sick of it."

Abrams as Anti-Communist Gladiator

As an aide to Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson in the 1970s, Abrams began his political career mixing the soft and hard sides of the neoconservative agenda­as both a proponent of Jackson's strategically driven human rights policies and as an advocate of his proposals to boost the military-industrial complex. Through Jackson, Abrams became involved in a group of Cold Warriors called the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, which was associated with the Democratic Party and led by the neoconservatives.

Among former members of Jackson's staff to find positions in the Reagan administration's foreign policy team were such neoconservative operatives as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, Charles Horner, and Ben Wattenberg. Other Jackson Democrats who secured appointments in the Reagan administration included Jeane Kirkpatrick, as UN ambassador, and neoconservatives on her staff, such as Joshua Muravchik, Steven Munson (like Abrams a Podhoretz-Decter son-in-law), Carl Gershman, and Kenneth Adelman.

Abrams joined the neocon exodus from the Democratic Party in the late 1970s led by members of the Committee on the Present Danger and the Coalition for a Democratic Majority. His first position in the Reagan administration was director of the State Department's Office for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. But he was appointed only after Reagan's first choice came under fire in the Senate.

During the Reagan years, the neocon human rights program was a velvet glove tailored for the iron fist side of foreign and military policy. During the Reagan administration, Abrams was at once a human rights advocate, a manager of clandestine operations, and a bagman for the Nicaraguan contras­calling himself "a gladiator" in the cause of freedom.

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Although he entered the Reagan administration scandal-free, he left as a convicted criminal. Abrams, who entered the administration as its human rights chief and in 1985 became assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for intentionally deceiving Congress about the administration's role in supporting the Contras, including his own central role in the Iran-Contra arms deal.

The U.S.-backed and organized Contras were spearheading a counterrevolution against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Congress had prohibited U.S. government military support for the Contras because of their pattern of human rights abuses. Abrams pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses (including withholding information from Congress) to avoid a trial and a possible jail term.

Abrams and five other Iran-Contra figures were pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on Christmas Eve 1992, shortly before the senior Bush left office. By pardoning Abrams, John Poindexter, and other former Reagan officials, Bush was in effect protecting himself. At that time media and congressional investigations of Iran-Contra scandal were threatening to expose the role of Bush himself, who was Reagan's vice president during the executive branch's program of illegal support to the Nicaraguan Contras.

During the Reagan administration, Abrams was the government's nexus between the militarists in the National Security Council and the public-diplomacy operatives in the State Department, White House, and National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Abrams worked closely with Otto Reich, who directed the White House's Office of Public Diplomacy, which was in charge of disseminating "white propaganda" to the U.S. public, media, and policymakers to build support for the Reagan administration's interventionist policies in Latin America and elsewhere.

Abrams in the 1990s

After Reagan left office in 1989, Abrams, like a number of other prominent neoconservatives, was not invited to serve in the Bush Sr. administration. Instead, he worked for a number of think tanks and in 1996 became president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. With EPPC as his new base, Abrams wrote widely on foreign policy issues, especially on Middle East policy, and on cultural issues, including about the threats posed by U.S. secular society to Jewish identity.

Created in 1976, EPPC was the first neocon institute to break ground in the frontal attack on the secular humanists. For nearly three decades, EPPC has functioned as the cutting edge of the neoconservative-driven culture war against progressive theology and secularism, and the associated effort to ensure right-wing control of the Republican Party. It explicitly sought to unify the Christian right with the neoconservative religious right, which was mostly made up of agnostics back then. A central part of its political project was to "clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy." Directed by Elliott Abrams from 1996-2001, EPPC counts among its board members well connected figures in the neocon matrix including Jeane Kirkpatrick, Richard Neuhaus, and Mary Ann Glendon.

Abrams remained an integral part of the tight-knit neoconservative foreign policy community in Washington that revolved around the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Abrams was also a charter member of the Project for the New American Century, which issued its statement of principles about the need for a "neo-Reaganite" foreign policy in 1997.

Elliott Abrams, when serving as EPPC president, said that human rights should be a "policy tool" of the U.S. government. Working closely with Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress, EPPC together with the Christian Coalition and Family Research Council lobbied for the creation of a new permanent commission that focused on religious persecution. The main countries of concern listed in the congressional deliberations were China, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, as well as general condemnation of Muslim nations. Abrams became a founding member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and served as its chairman until mid-2001, when he joined the Bush administration.

Regarding Abrams's biased stance on Middle East affairs, Dr. Laila al-Marayati, a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, wrote: "From the vantage point of the [U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom], as an American and as a Muslim, I had the unfortunate opportunity of witnessing­clearly and unequivocally­the deep bias that Abrams brings to his new position. ...As chairman of the commission at the time, Abrams led the delegation to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but did not go to Jerusalem with three of us as he was of the opinion that there are no problems with religious freedom in Israel that would warrant the attention of the commission. ...Bypassing Israel was not the only way Abrams undermined the Commission's visit to the Middle East. ...Abrams managed to snub the leading Islamic cleric in Egypt... which nearly created a diplomatic nightmare that was only narrowly averted by the intervention of the U.S. ambassador."

The New Freedom Fighter

Since Bush's reelection in early November, Abrams has become one of the administration's most high-profile officials. He has acted as Bush's envoy to Europe and Israel as part of the administration's new attention to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Abrams participated in an hour-plus meeting in the Oval Office with the president and Natan Sharansky, Israel's minister for Jerusalem and diaspora affairs. Sharansky, the author of The Case for Freedom, subsequently met with Rice. Both Bush and Rice have repeatedly referred to Sharansky's book in their pronouncements about the U.S. government's new commitment to ending tyranny and spreading democracy, frequently using the same phrasing as Abransky.

Also in November, Abrams arranged conference calls with the leaders of the major national Jewish American organizations in advance of formal meetings with Rice. Last week, Abrams traveled to Israel and met with Ariel Sharon's top adviser Dov Weisglass to smooth the way for Secretary of State's visit with Prime Minister Sharon.

After the scandals involving neoconservatives in the late 1980s and the end of the cold war, many foreign policy observers wrote off the neoconservatives as a spent force. The same dismissal of the enduring influence of the neoconservative camp became widespread among pundits and analysts when the Iraq invasion proved a quagmire rather than a liberation "cakewalk."

It's likely that Elliott Abrams, who has established a close working relationship with Condoleezza Rice, will become the leading administration architect of Middle East policy during the second Bush administration. Like the Middle East policy of the first administration, the regional initiatives of the new administration will continue to be guided by neocon notions about the centrality of Israel, the U.S. mission to restructure the Arab world, and the use of public diplomacy gloss of spreading freedom and democracy to advance U.S. national security strategy.

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'SCORCHING HELL' 'DEATH TO AMERICA'
AWAIT IN IRAN

ISRAELI NUKES PROPEL ARMS RACE

MIDDLEEAST.ORG - MER - Washington - 11 February 2005

The Americans and their Israeli ally are running very short now on both credibility and options. Using military force to bomb either or both North Korea and Iran would bring on considerable backlash around the world and could well have very unforeseen consequences, even potentially igniting some kind of World War III. Using additional 'international sanctions' against either of these countries, especially Iran, could well push them further and faster into the kinds of things the Americans insist they are trying to prevent. This dangerous situation is 2005 is the price now being paid for U.S. and Israeli policies of the past, albeit hardly anyone is allowed to seriously discuss these past and present connections in the corporate-controlled government-fearing American media.

Meanwhile the American war on Iraq is faltering and soon the U.S. will face a new Baghdad regime only partly of its making.

Meanwhile as well the U.S.-Israeli 'roadmap' ploy to end the Palestinian Intifada has largely been fake from the start. With settlements still expanding and no real Palestinian State on the horizon this situation too remains out of control and in all likelihood the tenure of the U.S.-Israeli-annointed Mahmoud Abbas may not last very long.

Back at home popular American T.V. programs have become pretty much extensions of government policies extra-heavy on cinematic propaganda and flag-waiving patriotism. JAG on CBS makes joining the military look like going to a singles bar with super-attractive guys and gals all dressed up in carefully creased military uniforms. ALIAS on FOX makes joining the CIA the in-thing to do; after all what red-blooded American doesn't want to chase around the globe with Jennifer Garner. And just a few nights ago on NBC's THE WEST WING the case for the U.S. and U.K. to together take on IRAN was featured; as usual with no mention of past pro-Shah policies nor of Israel's considerable nuclear weapons and vast military power coupled to outrageous policies that have inflamed the region for decades.

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Militants attack Jewish settlement in Gaza
www.chinaview.cn 2005-02-11 10:35:18
BEIJING, Feb. 11 -- Palestinian militants have fired more than a dozen mortar bombs at Jewish settlements in southern Gaza Strip. Some buildings were destroyed.

The Israeli military radio reported Thursday that some buildings in the settlement were destroyed, but it did not report the number of casualties.

An Israeli military official condemned the attack, saying it was in defiance of a new Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire agreement.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to an agreement at the Mideast summit in Sharm el-Sheikh that both sides should stop attacks against each other.

It is reported that Abbas will be in Gaza later Thursday to discuss a cease-fire with Palestinian factions.

Comment: Sharon knew he could go off to Egypt and shake his opponent's hand because the Israeli intelligence forces had the new "Palestinian" breaches of the truce all planned out. The US media, ever the lapdog of the neocons and the Likud -- gee, we wonder why -- will continue their rants about "Palestinian terrorists" and tie Israel's slaughter of the Palestinians to the "war on terror".

Haven't we seen this before? Over and over again?

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Iraq hospital bomb kills 17
Agencies
Saturday February 12, 2005

A car bomb exploded in front of a hospital south of Baghdad this morning, killing 17 and wounding 16, police said, a day after 23 were killed in two attacks aimed at the Shiite community.

A police captain, who refused to give his name, said today's blast occurred in front of the Musayyib General Hospital, about 55 kilometres (35 miles) south of the capital.

Elsewhere, a prominent Iraqi judge under Saddam Hussein, Taha al-Amiri, was assassinated this morning by two gunmen in the southern port city of Basra, said Lt. Col. Karim al-Zaidi.

Al-Amiri, a former chief judge at Basra's highest criminal court, is one of several former Ba'ath Party figures assassinated in the Basra area during the past 18 months.

Police in Mosul said they discovered the bodies of six men dressed in Iraqi National Guard uniforms dumped on a main highway near the city.

The men had been shot in the chest and head, said police Lt. Ali Hussein. They were found in the area of Intisar, east of Mosul.

Police in Kirkuk said they were on the trail of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who has claimed responsibility for many of the worst attacks in Iraq, including the beheading of several foreign hostages. "He came to Kirkuk from Mosul," a source in the Kirkuk police department said. "There's a possibility that he might be captured at any moment."

Attacks against Iraq's security forces have steadily risen following the January 30 national elections. Insurgents have vowed to intensify their attacks against the Iraqi forces at a time when the United States is trying to pass those forces more of the responsibility of securing the country.

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Russia Plays Down U.S. Protest Over Weapons Sales to Venezuela

Created: 11.02.2005 16:51 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 18:17 MSK
MosNews

Russian officials called U.S. fears that Moscow’s plans to sell weapons to Venezuela could be used by leftist rebels “unfounded.”

“Moscow has been puzzled by the State Department spokesman’s concerns,” the Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry official as saying.

Russian officials on Friday rejected U.S. objections to Moscow’s plans to sell automatic rifles and helicopters to Venezuela, dismissing as “unfounded” concerns that the weapons could be used by leftist rebels.

According to Reuters, U.S. State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said on Thursday that Washington was concerned that 100,000 Kalashnikov guns and a number of helicopters due to be sold to the Latin American state could fall into the hands of leftist guerrillas in the region.

“U.S. protests should be viewed as nothing but a dishonest form of competition and an attempt to squeeze Russian producers from the arms market,” Interfax quoted a senior official in the Russian military-industrial complex as saying.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, was quoted by Reuters as saying, “Our bilateral cooperation does not violate laws and obligations. There is nothing to comment on.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry official said the armed forces of the South American OPEC member had weapons supplied by the United States and other NATO countries.

“No one seems to be raising questions about the legality of those arms sales,” he said. “Concerns that specifically Russian weapons could end up in terrorists’ hands look unfounded and, one may say, biased.”

Apart from the purchase of Kalashnikov guns and helicopters under an arms pact announced last year by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela is also evaluating Russian MiG-29 fighters as possible replacements for its F-16s.

U.S. administration officials have suggested the new rifles could allow Chavez, who has strained relations with Washington, to export small arms to rebel movements, including guerrilla groups in neighbouring Colombia.

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Russian Foreign Minister Blames Western Media for New Cold War

Created: 11.02.2005 10:59 MSK (GMT 3), Updated: 11:33 MSK
MosNews

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blasted Western media Thursday for trying to bring back the Cold War with overt criticism of Russia.

In a column published by the Izvestia daily, Lavrov expressed his dismay at “voices of those who have for several months been hammering out that that relations between Russia and the West are cooling, in an attempt to sculpt a new ”enemy“ out of our country.”

Lavrov went on to praise Russia’s attempts at creating a stable and predictable foreign policy and strong diplomacy, and strengthening the country in general, noting that the international community has said this is the kind of Russia it would like to see.

At the same time, he pointed to “evil wishers”, the existence of which was “no news for us.” Attempts by European and American media to “whip up suspicions and hatred toward Russia,” according to Lavrov, “surpass all bounds of journalistic and simple human ethics.”

Calls to restrain the strong ties between President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart George Bush were particularly “odious,” Lavrov wrote.

“All the same,” he wrote, “I think that it does not make sense for us to give in to irrational anti-Western emotions, to create an atmosphere of a ’besieged fortress’ in the country. Russia does not need a new Cold War.”

He noted, meanwhile, that Russia has critics inside the country, whose right to voice dissent has not been curbed, as opposed to what was alleged in the Western media.

Much of Western criticism in the recent past has dealt with what observers call a worsening human rights atmosphere in Russia, with centrist reforms passed by parliament concentrating more power in the Kremlin.

Putin, meanwhile, meeting with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour in the Kremlin on Thursday, said that Russia is ready for a constructive dialog on human rights with the international community.

Comment: And as if right on cue, we found the following article today on CNN....

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Official says hundreds of U.S. citizens likely died in gulags

Friday, February 11, 2005 Posted: 1436 GMT (2236 HKT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. military service members may have been imprisoned and died in Soviet forced-labor camps during the 20th century, according to a Pentagon report to be released Friday.

Researchers for the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs have been investigating unconfirmed reports of Americans who were held prisoner in the so-called gulags.

"I personally would be comfortable saying that the number [of Americans held in the gulags during the Cold War and Korean War] is in the hundreds," said Norman Kass, executive secretary of the commission's U.S. section.

Comment: Curious timing of the release of this report. While we do not doubt that Americans may well have been held in Soviet camps, given that this story is over 50 years old, we find the timing very interesting coming as it does when the US is stepping up its anti-Russian and anti-Putin rhetoric.

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Did stardust trigger snowball Earth?
Philip Ball
Nature
Clouds of interstellar molecules may have plunged our planet into a deep freeze.

Researchers think interstellar dust could cause a reverse greenhouse effect on Earth.

Our planet may have frozen over in the past as it drifted though giant dust clouds in space. The result of the dust-bath would have been an almost complete overcoat of ice for the world, according to a new theory.

A group of US and Russian researchers argue that interstellar dust might have accumulated in Earth's atmosphere and cooled the planet, tipping the climate towards a 'snowball Earth' event in which ice sheets keep growing until they cover almost the entire globe.

But the idea does not persuade some geologists. "It conflicts with the geological record," says Daniel Schrag, a geochemist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He points out that there seem to have been dramatic changes in the Earth's carbon cycle up to a million years before known snowball Earth events, which the dust-cloud hypothesis is at a loss to explain.

Alexander Pavlov, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and his colleagues counter that their climate-cooling mechanism is almost inevitable, however. They say that on at least two occasions in the past 2 billion years, the Solar System must have passed through clouds of dust thick enough to cause a snowball Earth1,2. They think it is possible that two such ultracold episodes, 600 million and 750 million years ago, might have been triggered in this way.

Dusty answer

Snowball Earth events are much more severe than normal ice ages. They occur through a runaway process in which growing ice sheets reflect ever more sunlight back into space, resulting in further cooling and more ice. Eventually, the ice advances from the Poles virtually all the way to the Equator, trapping the planet in a deep freeze.

There is strong evidence in the geological record that Earth may have iced over in this way several times during its history. Various causes have been proposed, but Pavlov and his colleagues say that none is fully convincing.

They argue that their dust trigger is more plausible. Our Galaxy contains many giant molecular clouds, which are huge clusters of molecules that can clump into dust grains. As the Solar System moves through the galaxy, it passes through such clouds roughly once every 100 million to 1 billion years.

Pavlov and colleagues have calculated how much of this dust might be captured by Earth's gravitational field, filling the atmosphere with dust. Dust particles reflect sunlight, but they let Earth's heat out into space. In other words, they act as the precise opposite of greenhouse gases, cooling the planet.

On reflection

Such a cooling effect was observed after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, which scattered volcanic dust into the atmosphere. The researchers calculate that the cooling effect of a passage through a dense molecular cloud could be at least two or three times greater.

That, they say, would be sufficient to trigger snowball cooling. If the planet were already on the verge of an ice age, even a molecular cloud of modest density could push it over the edge a larger freeze. The snowball Earth could then persist for about 10 million years, much longer than it would take the Solar System to cross a typical molecular cloud. The ice would thaw only when enough greenhouse gases from volcanoes had built up in the atmosphere.

International Human Genome enth International Human Genome
The researchers suggest that there could be a detectable geological signature of such an event. Interstellar dust is enriched in the isotope uranium-235, relative to its natural abundance on Earth. This dust would gradually settle out of the atmosphere and find its way into sedimentary rocks laid down at the time of the snowball freeze.

Schrag doubts that such evidence, if it were to be found, would be conclusive. And he does not see how an extraterrestrial trigger for the cooling can explain the apparent timing of such events. "Why would you get two of them close together [600 and 750 million years ago], and then nothing?" he asks.

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Tsunami throws up India relics
By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Delhi
The deadly tsunami could have uncovered the remains of an ancient port city off the coast in southern India.

Archaeologists say they have discovered some stone remains from the coast close to India's famous beachfront Mahabalipuram temple in Tamil Nadu state following the 26 December tsunami.

They believe that the "structures" could be the remains of an ancient and once-flourishing port city in the area housing the famous 1200-year-old rock-hewn temple.

Three pieces of remains, which include a granite lion, were found buried in the sand after the coastlin

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Supersize virus scare
13feb05

A NEW superstrain of the virus that causes AIDS has been diagnosed in New York. So far only one case has been found -- a New York man in his mid-40s.

Experts believe it progresses in just months from HIV infection to AIDS, a process that normally takes at least 10 years. In this man's case, it took two months.

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Death Toll Rises in Pakistan Dam Break
By VOA News
12 February 2005
At least 60 people are confirmed dead and more than 400 remain missing after the Shadi Kor dam ruptured in southwestern Pakistan Thursday.

More than 1,500 people have been rescued from the floodwaters after the two-year-old dam failed. Primarily used for irrigation, the 25-meter-high, 150-meter-long dam was destroyed by a wall of water after a week of heavy rain and snow that has caused over 120 storm-related deaths in the region.

Members of Pakistan's army, navy and coast guard are leading relief efforts at the disaster site in Baluchistan Province. An estimated 50,000 people in the province have been affected with the loss of roads, bridges, houses, crops and telecommunications, much of which remains under water.

Several more days of severe, wet weather are expected.

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U.S. Scientists Say They Are Told to Alter Findings
By Julie Cart, Times Staff Writer

More than 200 scientists employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they have been directed to alter official findings to lessen protections for plants and animals, a survey released Wednesday says.

The survey of the agency's scientific staff of 1,400 had a 30% response rate and was conducted jointly by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

A division of the Department of the Interior, the Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with determining which animals and plants should be placed on the endangered species list and designating areas where such species need to be protected.

More than half of the biologists and other researchers who responded to the survey said they knew of cases in which commercial interests, including timber, grazing, development and energy companies, had applied political pressure to reverse scientific conclusions deemed harmful to their business.

Bush administration officials, including Craig Manson, an assistant secretary of the Interior who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, have been critical of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, contending that its implementation has imposed hardships on developers and others while failing to restore healthy populations of wildlife.

Along with Republican leaders in Congress, the administration is pushing to revamp the act. The president's proposed budget calls for a $3-million reduction in funding of Fish and Wildlife's endangered species programs.

"The pressure to alter scientific reports for political reasons has become pervasive at Fish and Wildlife offices around the country," said Lexi Shultz of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Comment: When the Bible is the law of the land, de facto if not in law, science will take a backseat. We have seen this happen over and over again during the reign of Bush Jr. But in an administration where "we create our own reality", what use is science?

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Woman Made Up Tossed Baby Story
Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Feb 12, 2005 — A woman lied about finding a newborn that had been thrown from a moving car because she wanted to abandon the child and conceal her pregnancy from her family, authorities said.

"It's not as horrible as we first thought," Sheriff Ken Jenne said Friday. "The baby was never thrown out of a moving car. This is the case of a disturbed woman who gave birth and did not want to keep her child."

Patricia Pokriots, 38, was committed for psychiatric evaluation under a law that allows for people who are a threat to themselves or others to be held for 72 hours. She was not charged with any crime.

On Thursday afternoon, Pokriots dropped an hour-old baby off at a sheriff's station, telling authorities that she had scooped the boy up after seeing him tossed out of a car onto the grass, Jenne said. Pokriots told investigators she saw a couple arguing in a car, then witnessed the woman throwing the child from the passenger side.

Eventually, investigators found inconsistencies in Pokriots' story, and on Friday she acknowledged that she had lied, the sheriff said.

"She has indicated that she does not want the child," Jenne said.

The 8-pound, 2-ounce boy, whose umbilical cord was still attached when he was brought in, had no injuries. Nurses at the hospital nicknamed him Johnny.

The sheriff said the woman had kept her pregnancy a secret, and had initially planned to take the baby to authorities. State law allows a mother to abandon a baby at any medical facility or fire station within three days of birth.

But she came up with a cover story after seeing two people argue inside their car, the sheriff said. A boy who was playing nearby did see a couple arguing, but never saw them throw anything out, Jenne said.

Pokriots is a barmaid and has an arrest record including an aggravated battery charge. "She said she may be a threat to herself," Jenne said. He said she has a 10-year-old child who will be taken from the home Pokriots shared with her mother.

No one answered the door at the home on Friday.

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Uncertain world
Kyoto protocol heats global warming debate
CNN
Friday, February 11, 2005 Posted: 1639 GMT (0039 HKT)

OSLO, Norway (Reuters) -- When bears wake early from hibernation, Australia suffers its worst drought in 100 years and multiple hurricanes hammer Florida should we believe the end is near?

That's the nub of a debate over the human impact on global warming that pits scientists who say such anomalies are signs of impending doom against those who say they are evidence that the earth's climate has always been chaotic.

Amid those signs of warming, for instance, Algeria had its worst snow in 50 years last month.

This month 141 countries will attempt the best effort to arrest a forecasted continued rise of global temperatures by bringing into force the Kyoto protocol. The treaty is an agreement aimed at curbing emissions of gases from cars and industry, blamed for trapping the earth's heat.

"Dealing with (global warming) will not be easy. Ignoring it will be worse," the United Nations says.

At issue is how humanity should deal with global warming, the risks of which are not yet fully understood despite broad consensus among scientists that people are heating the planet with the emission of such heat-trapping gases as carbon dioxide.

Not everyone is convinced of Kyoto's importance. U.S. President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of Kyoto in 2001, reckoning it will be too costly and that it wrongly excludes developing countries from cuts in emissions until 2012.

Bush accepts there are risks from climate change but says more research is needed -- exasperating even allies who say that the time for Kyoto-style caps on emissions is now.

"We're talking about spending perhaps $150 billion a year on Kyoto with fairly little benefit," said Bjorn Lomborg, Danish author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist."

Lomborg said that money would be better spent on combating AIDS and malaria, malnutrition and promoting fair global trade.
Biggest threat?

Many climate scientists say that floods, storms and droughts will become more frequent and that climate change is the most severe long-term threat to the planet's life support systems.

Rising temperatures could force up ocean levels, swamping coasts and low-lying Pacific islands and drive thousands of species to extinction by 2100.

But full proof is elusive.

A Caribbean hurricane season last year, when Florida was the first U.S. state to be hit by four hurricanes in one season since 1886, might be a fluke. Bears are waking in Estonia in the warmest winter in two centuries, again a possible climate freak.

"Imagine a pot of boiling water on the stove. If I turn up the heat I can't say that each bubble is from the extra heat," said Mike MacCracken, chief scientist for climate change programs at the Climate Institute, a Washington think-tank.

"But there are more bubbles and they're larger," he said, adding it was best to act now rather than risk disaster.

The warmest year at the world's surface since records began in the 1860s was 1998, followed by 2002, 2003 and 2004, according to the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization.

World surface temperatures have risen by 0.6 degrees centigrade (1.1 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s when the Industrial Revolution started in Europe.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 2,000 scientists which advises the United Nations, projects a further rise of 1.4-5.8 degrees centigrade by 2100. Even the lowest forecast would be the biggest century-long rise in 10,000 years.
Beyond doubt?

Yet the evidence for a human impact on the climate falls short of being "beyond a reasonable doubt," the standard of proof needed in a criminal court.

"It is really for a legal mind to decide whether the scientific consensus of the IPCC provides findings that are beyond reasonable doubt," said IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri.

Many so-called skeptics concede that carbon dioxide stokes global warming but say U.N. models of what will happen in 2100 are about as reliable as tomorrow's weather forecast.

Other factors, like variations in the sun's radiation, ash from volcanoes or other natural effects may have a bigger role, they say. The IPCC tries to account for all such effects.

"My bottom line is that natural variations are much larger than the human component," said George Taylor, state climatologist for Oregon state.

Backers of Kyoto say it is a blueprint for regulating the climate by cutting rich nations' emissions of carbon dioxide by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Supporters say that much deeper cuts will be needed after 2012.

In a landmark phrase in 1995, the IPCC said that the balance of evidence suggested a discernible human influence on the global climate. And its 2001 report spoke of "new and stronger" evidence that humans had caused warming in the past 50 years.

Pachauri said that he hoped the next report, in 2007, would fill in gaps in knowledge. But Washington has given no signs of being won over to Kyoto, preferring to focus on funding new clean technologies like hydrogen.

The Environmental Protection Agency says:

"The fundamental scientific uncertainties are these: How much more warming will occur? How fast will this warming occur? And what are the potential adverse and beneficial effects? These uncertainties will be with us for some time, perhaps decades."

Comment: When a system jumps from one phase to another, the jump is signaled by turbulence. Think of the tiny bubbles beginning to form in water just prior to it beginning to bubble. If a small amount of energy is added during the period of the turbulence, the system will jump to its new state. Once the system has changed its state, it acquires a new equilibrium, and it takes a great deal of energy for it to change again.

The signs of climactic turbulence are everywhere. We may very well be on the verge of a great change.

There may well be other forces at work than hydrocarbon emissions. Bush and his advisors may well know that we are facing other changes even greater than that of the climate, and it may well be for this reason that they are ignoring the Kyoto accords.

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Kyoto targets cut, say sources
Feb. 12, 2005. 08:24 AM
PETER CALAMAI
SCIENCE REPORTER

OTTAWA—The country's biggest greenhouse gas emitters have been handed a near 20 per cent break on their reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, according to sources familiar with the federal negotiations.

The sources said the oil and gas industry, electricity sector, heavy manufacturing and mining companies will together have to reduce annual emissions of carbon dioxide by only 45 million tonnes annually, instead of the target of 55 million tonnes announced in the government's 2002 Kyoto plan.

These so-called large final emitters account for more than half of the country's total emissions of greenhouse gases, which reached about 750 million tonnes in 2003. The companies lobbied hard to have their cumulative target cut to 37 million tonnes, claiming the technology didn't exist to make larger reductions economically.

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NASA: 2005 could be warmest year recorded
Friday, February 11, 2005 Posted: 1626 GMT (0026 HKT)

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A weak El Nino and human-made greenhouse gases could make 2005 the warmest year since records started being kept in the late 1800s, NASA scientists said this week.

While climate events like El Nino -- when warm water spreads over much of the tropical Pacific Ocean --affect global temperatures, the increasing role of human-made pollutants plays a big part.

"There has been a strong warming trend over the past 30 years, a trend that has been shown to be due primarily to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," said James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, based in New York.

The warmest year on record was 1998, with 2002 and 2003 coming in second and third, respectively.

Short-term factors like large volcanic eruptions that launched tiny particles of sulfuric acid into the upper atmosphere in 1963, 1982 and 1991 can change climates for periods ranging from months to a few years.

Last year was the the fourth-warmest recorded, with a global mean temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit (14 Celsius), which was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the middle of the century, NASA scientist Drew Shindell said in an interview.

Average temperatures taken from land and surfaces of the oceans showed 2004 was 0.86 degrees Fahrenheit (0.48 Celsius) above the average temperature from 1951 to 1980, according to Hansen.

The spike in global temperatures in 1998 was associated with one of the strongest El Ninos of recent centuries and a weak El Nino contributed to the unusually high global temperatures in 2002 and 2003, NASA said.

Carbon dioxide, emitted by autos, industry and utilities, is the most common greenhouse gas. Hansen also said that the Earth's surface now absorbs more of the sun's energy than gets reflected back to space.

That extra energy, together with a weak El Nino, is expected to make 2005 warmer than 2003 and 2004 and perhaps even warmer than 1998, which had stood out as far hotter than any year in the preceding century, NASA said in a statement.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday the current weak El Nino will diminish and end during the next three months.

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