Sunday, February 13, 2005

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Principal bans 'anti-military,' 'anti-American' materials
by Chris Jones
Associated Press
Feb. 2, 2005

A Cookeville (Tenn.) High School administrator said Veterans for Peace and a Quaker group can't come back into his school with materials considered ''anti-American'' and ''anti-military.''

The groups plan to go before the Putnam County school board tomorrow with claims that they're being denied privileges afforded to other organizations, including military recruiters.

The war veterans, some who also belong to the Quaker group, were allowed into the school during a September fair for organizations. They set up a table with books about U.S. wars and offered photocopied fliers and pamphlets from both organizations about the war in Iraq and military careers and alternatives.

Quaker and veteran Hector Black said several students stopped by the table and asked questions, and a couple of teachers even thanked them for coming.

He said there wasn't any indication of a problem until later that evening, when he got a phone call from Principal Wayne Shank.

Shank told Black that some of the groups' materials may be proper for adults, but he thought they were inappropriate for the students.

''The information was brought to the attention of administrators because of the influence it may have had,'' said Shank, who restricted future visits by the groups. ''I felt, from a principal's viewpoint, that the students were being put into a position that they shouldn't.''

Black said Shank specified some quotes in the literature that he objected to, including one from a 1953 speech by President Eisenhower that said, ''Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed. Those who are cold and are not clothed.''

Another quote from an unknown author said, ''The Army that can defeat terrorism doesn't drive Humvees, or call in airstrikes. ... It undermines military dictatorship and military lobbyists. It subverts sweatshops and special interests.''

County School Director Michael Martin said, ''Parents found the materials to be anti-American, anti-military. That didn't come from us. That came from the parents who saw the materials when their kids brought it home.''

Shank said in a phone interview from Cookeville that he couldn't recall everything he found offensive. He said he received a complaint call from a parent a day after the event and made an administrative decision to ban their ''offensive materials.''

Shank said he didn't tell the groups that they couldn't come back into the school.

He required that all their materials get advance approval, a rule he said also applies to military recruiters.

The principal also said their literature could be shown only in a classroom setting that would allow an opportunity for a ''balanced'' presentation. Military recruiters and other groups don't face that restriction, the peace activists said.

Veteran Charlie Osburn said his group doesn't understand why military recruiters and others such as the Association of Christian Athletes are allowed into Cookeville High School without the same restrictions.

His group aims to inform students, he said.

Comment: Perhaps that is the problem right there: "His group aims to inform students". In the age of creeping fascism, unprecedented government deception, and official propaganda, the last thing that will be allowed is anyone or any group that aims to inform the American people about anything.

Note that while the county school director said that parents (i.e. more than one parent) found the material presented to be "anti-American" and "anti-military", principal Shank remarked that he received a complaint from a parent that prompted him to take action. Perhaps he simply misspoke...

It is curious that a statement from former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower could be viewed as "anti-American". Doesn't that mean that the former president is a "traitor"? Doesn't that mean that Americans have been duped before, and are therefore most likely susceptible to being duped again by the likes of Bush and his neocon associates?

The school also claims that the materials from Veterans for Peace and the Quaker group were anti-military. Consider the following excerpt:

''The Army that can defeat terrorism doesn't drive Humvees, or call in airstrikes. ... It undermines military dictatorship and military lobbyists. It subverts sweatshops and special interests.''

Are we to understand that it is a better idea to teach our children that they should support military dictatorships and military lobbyists? Are sweatshops acceptable as long as Americans can continue to buy products at rock-bottom prices? What about special interest groups that push for war, unsafe food products, fewer environmental controls, and lethal drugs to dope up the population - even children? Are we honestly supposed to teach our families that as "patriotic" Americans, they should accept all this deadly serious nonsense?

Apparently, the answer to all these questions is an emphatic "YES". Black is now white, up is now down. As the US stumbles towards fascism, drunk on its own power and convinced of its invincibility, it seems the idea that one can create one's own reality is an illusion shared by many Americans with their president, commander in chief, and primary uplink to the Almighty, George W. Bush.

And to those who don't shut up and get in line with everyone else, the penalties can be harsh...

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Battle Heats Up Over Academic Freedom
By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer
Sat Feb 12, 9:30 PM ET

DENVER - Academic freedom has never completely protected professors who make unpopular statements. One was fired in 1960 for suggesting that premarital sex among students could be a good thing. Three decades later, a department chair was demoted for saying a Jewish conspiracy denigrated blacks in the movies.

Now experts say the Sept. 11 attacks have put new fire in the battle over just where academic freedom ends and misconduct - or even treason - begins.

University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill could be fired pending an investigation prompted by his 2001 essay suggesting some World Trade Center victims were toiling away like efficient Nazi bureaucrats.

There are no exact figures on attempts to fire or discipline professors since Sept. 11, but experts say they have probably increased. The fight is especially fierce at state universities, where some question whether taxpayers must pay the salaries of professors they find unpatriotic or outrageous.

Comment: It's all rather simple: If Americans support the right to free speech, then they should have no problem with paying the taxes that fund the salaries of state university professors who hold different views.

"We have never been free of the issue of professors coming under intense scrutiny or attack for having written something somebody finds utterly loathsome," said Jonathan Knight of the American Association of University Professors in Washington.

Knight said firings are relatively rare, with 50 or 60 losing their jobs each year for a variety of reasons out of some 800,000 tenured and untenured professors nationwide. Tenure, a protection normally granted after several years of probation, is designed to allow teaching and research without fear of political reprisals.

Comment: It is quite clear that in New America, tenure guarantees nothing.

Overall, challenges to American professors today are mild compared with the attacks academics suffered during the anti-communist investigations spurred by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, said Robert O'Neil, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, Va.

Comment: There, see? Nothing to worry about...

But, Knight said, the intensity of attacks on academic freedom have increased since the Sept. 11 attacks. [...]

O'Neil said universities have handled most post-Sept. 11 complaints about professors properly by submitting them to formal review, as Colorado is doing with Churchill and as the University of New Mexico did for Richard Berthold, a former history professor.

Berthold told students hours after the Sept. 11 attacks: "Anyone who can blow up the Pentagon has my vote." The university resisted enormous pressure to fire him, instead conducting a review and eventually issuing a letter of reprimand after he apologized.

Berthold says the discipline system worked only because he caved in under pressure.

"I look back on it, and I just ate too much crow and apologized too much. I'm ashamed," he said. "It wasn't, 'Let's applaud the killing of innocent people,' it was my expression of my revulsion for the leadership of this country."

He retired two years later.

"Bitter? Oh yes, I'm bitter," he said. "I thought I served the institution and my society very well for 30 years."

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From Burroughs to Bruce to Churchill

Right to Remain Silent; Duty to Speak

February 12 / 13, 2005

"You have the right to remain silent?
F*ck that right
I want the right to talk; I want the right to speak
I want the right to walk where I wanna, yell and
I'm gonna tell and rebel every time I'm on a
microphone on the stage cold illin'
The knowledge I drop will be heard by millions
We ain't the problems, we ain't the villains
It's the suckers deprivin' the truth from our children"

-Ice T, "Freedom of Speech" (1989)

Submitted for your consideration: "He was prosecuted because of his words. He didn't harm anybody; he didn't commit an assault; he didn't steal; he didn't engage in any conduct, which directly harmed someone else. So, therefore, he was punished, first and foremost, because of the words he used."

That's not Colorado's Governor Bill Owens taking about Ward Churchill. These are the words of a former assistant district attorney who helped prosecute comedian/social commentator Lenny Bruce. The last line of that quote reads: "We drove him into poverty and used the law to kill him."

The repressive wrath of state power played a major role in Bruce's premature death...but Bruce and Churchill are but two of many who have endured the time-honored American tradition of stifling dissent.

From the Founding Father's Alien and Sedition Act to today's PATRIOT Act...Ice T has it right when he raps: "Freedom of speech? Just watch what you say."

Another fine example of gagging opposition was the case of Eugene V. Debs. America's entrance into World War I provoked a tightening of civil liberties, culminating with the passage of the Espionage and Sedition Act in June 1917. This totalitarian salvo read in part: "Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than 20 years, or both."

One year after the Espionage and Sedition Act was voted into law, Debs was in Canton, Ohio for a Socialist Party convention. He was arrested for making a speech deemed "anti-war" by the Canton district attorney. In that speech, Debs declared, "They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people."

These words led to a 10-year prison sentence and the stripping of his U.S. citizenship. (While serving his sentence in the federal penitentiary, Debs was nominated for the fifth time as the Socialist Party's presidential candidate, campaigned from his jail cell, and remarkably garnered 917,799 votes.)

Some forty-odd years later in 1965, as Lenny Bruce was just beginning to wilt from the relentless heat he was facing, William S. Burroughs' novel, "Naked Lunch" was prosecuted as "obscene" by the state of Massachusetts (soon followed by other states). First published in 1959 by Maurice Girodias and Olympia Press, "Naked Lunch" quickly became infamous across Europe...even in countries where it was banned.

Among those who served as an expert witness in defense of Burroughs and his vision was Norman Mailer (Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Eugene Hudson famously asked Mailer if any of his own novels involved "sex in the naked sense.") [...]

A year later, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared the work "not obscene" thus upholding the U.S. Supreme Court's Brennan doctrine" (the decision that cleared Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" of obscenity charges and holds that only works "utterly without redeeming value" could legally be banned). It would prove to be the last time a work of literature was prosecuted on obscenity charges in the United States.

Today we have Ward Churchill taking a hit for words of a different kind...words deemed obscene for their political weight. You may agree or disagree with his thesis and/or his method of articulating that thesis, but to support the witch hunt is to contribute to the current zeitgeist of fear and conformity. To those who call Churchill's opinions "treasonous," I declare that the genuine treason we Americans can engage is to accept the silencing of others (most recently Lynne Stewart) and to remain silent ourselves.

Eugene Debs had replied when the same charge of treason was leveled at him: "Do not worry over the charge of treason to your masters, but be concerned about the treason that involves yourselves. Be true to yourself and you cannot be a traitor to any good cause on earth."

William Burroughs had this to say about keeping our opinions to ourselves: "Modern man has lost the option of silence." [...]

Mickey Z. is the author of several books and can be found on the Web at:

Comment: Many people don't believe that the state of the US could deteriorate to the point of detention camps and widespread political persecution. One of the more interesting aspects of this article is the story of Eugene V. Debs. For making an anti-war speech after the start of World War I, Debs was jailed for ten years and stripped of his US citizenship. During World War II, Japanese-Americans were shipped off to internment camps. There is in fact a precedent for such fascist activity in the Land of the Free. A real, brutal clampdown cannot be that much farther down the road... But don't expect "True Patriots" to rise up and save the country. This time around, the methods of control and brainwashing have gone high tech. See Laura Knight-Jadczyk's new article The Canary in the Mine for a glimpse...

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We Have Nothing to Fear But Bush Himself
February 12, 2005
by Paul Craig Roberts

Suppose you are the party responsible for invading a country under totally false pretenses. Suppose you had totally unrealistic expectations about the consequences of your gratuitous aggression.

What do you do when, instead of being greeted with flowers, you find your army is tied down by insurgents and you have no face-saving way to get out of the morass? If you are the moronic Bush Administration, you blame someone else.

Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Cheney and Bush blame Syria and Iran for the troubles that they brought upon themselves. The Iraqi insurgency, say the Five Morons, is the fault of Syria and Iran.

Here is Rumsfeld excusing himself for his dismal failures in Iraq: "Partly it's [the insurgency] a function of what the Syrians and the Iranians are doing."

You see, the facts that the US invaded Iraq on false pretenses, killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis, shot down women and children in the streets, blew up Iraqis' homes, hospitals and mosques, cut Iraqis off from vital services such as water and electricity, destroyed the institutions of civil society, left half the population without means of livelihood, filled up prisons with people picked up off the streets and then tortured and humiliated them for fun and games are not facts that explain why there is an insurgency. These facts are just descriptions of collateral damage associated with America "bringing democracy to Iraq."

The insurgency, according to the Five Morons, is because Syria and Iran won't close their borders, thus letting in "terrorists" who are responsible for the insurgency. Some might think that this accusation is an example of the pot calling the kettle black coming as it does from the US, a country that has not only proven itself incapable of closing its own borders but also has demonstrated no respect whatsoever for the borders of other countries.

The Bush administration, which already held the world record as the most deluded government in history, has now taken denial to unprecedented highs by blaming Syria and Iran for its "Iraqi problem." Why didn't Americans realize that it is dangerous to put a buffoon in charge of the US government who hasn't a clue about the world around him, what he is doing or the consequences of his actions?

Why is Secretary of State Rice trying to set Iran up for UN sanctions – which the US can manipulate to justify invading another Muslim country – when the US has proven to the world that it cannot occupy Baghdad, much less Iraq?

Are Iran and Syria going to quake in their boots after witnessing the success of a few thousand insurgents in tying down eight US divisions? The bulk of the US force in Iraq is engaged in protecting its own bases and supply lines. It was all the generals could do to scrape up 10,000 Marines for their pointless assault on Fallujah.

What is the point of the Bush administration's bellicosity when it has been conclusively demonstrated that the US has insufficient troops to successfully occupy Iraq, much less Syria and Iran? The American people should be scared to death that they have put in power such deluded people.

Are Americans going to fall for the same set of WMD lies a second time? Are Americans going to deliver up their sons, and perhaps daughters as well, to be drafted and sent to the Middle East to be killed and maimed for no American cause?

The US Treasury is empty. The once "almighty" dollar is tottering. The US military is stretched to the breaking point. Former allies look askance at America. Hatred of America has reached an all time high.

The Bush administration must bring its policies in line with its means before it leads our country into greater disaster. The Bush administration and its deluded sycophants must stop poking fun at "reality-based" experts and listen to a reality-based message.

There is no possibility of the US imposing its will on the Muslim world. By its behavior the Bush administration is confirming Osama bin Laden's propaganda and breeding more terrorists. Much better to address the causes of Muslim discontent, i.e., America's enabling of the Israeli government's mistreatment and dispossession of the Palestinians.

It does not serve America for Bush to impose Ariel Sharon's agenda on the Middle East. Bush's insane policy is producing rising anger that endangers Israel and America's puppet governments in Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan along with the Saudi regime. Ironically, this is recognized by Egypt's Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah, who was unable to refrain from pointing out that Bush has managed to create a Shi'ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon.

What, King Abdullah wonders, will be the next unintended consequence of the moronic administration that the American people in their superior wisdom and virtue have seen fit to empower in Washington? "If our aim is to win against terrorism, we can't afford more instability in the area," warned the king prior to the ill-fated US invasion of Iraq. "It's the potential Armageddon of Iraq that worries all of us."

It should worry Americans, too.

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Most Americans Don't Know How Many Have Died in Iraq War
Feb 12, 2005, 06:44

Most Americans guess wrong when asked to estimate how many troops have died in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, a sign that many are giving scant attention to the nation's most dangerous military operation since the Vietnam War.

A new survey of 1,001 adults conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University found that fewer than half said they "very closely" follow news coverage of the military occupation. Less than a third named "the war on terror" or "peace in the Mideast" as the most important issue facing America. Most others preferred domestic concerns like the economy, Social Security, education or health care.

So far this year, soldiers and Marines have died at a rate of about three per day in the conflict. More than 1,450 military personnel and several dozen civilian employees of the Defense Department have died since Operation Iraqi Freedom began nearly two years ago.

Forty percent of people in the poll gave the correct answer when asked, to the nearest 500, how many have died in the six-week war and the bloody military occupation that followed. Thirty-two percent guessed that 1,000 or fewer have died, 21 percent said 2,000 or more have died and 7 percent could not make a guess.

People who oppose the war tend to overestimate the number of fatalities in Iraq while those who support it are more likely to underestimate the death toll.

Participants in the poll were asked, "How often would you say you think about America's military occupation of Iraq?" About 5 percent said they think about it "almost every hour," 35 percent said "several times a day," 35 percent said "about once a day," 15 percent said "several times a week" and 10 percent said "about once a week" or "less than once a week."

The survey also asked, "How carefully would you say you follow news media coverage of America's military occupation of Iraq?" Forty-two percent said "very closely," 47 percent said "somewhat closely" and 11 percent said "not closely."

People who said they are following war news closely are much more likely to know how many Americans have died in Iraq than people who don't read or watch war accounts in newspapers and on television. The proportion who correctly identified that "about 1,500" have died in Iraq was 51 percent among people who follow war news "very closely," 34 percent among those who follow news accounts "somewhat closely" and 25 percent who are "not closely" following news from Iraq.

The decision to commit American troops to Iraq has never been especially popular, according to a series of six previous surveys taken during the past two years.

In the latest poll, people were asked, "Despite everything that has happened, do you think the United States has done a good thing or a bad thing by sending our military to occupy Iraq?" Forty-seven percent said the United States has done "a good thing," 44 percent said it's "a bad thing" and 9 percent were undecided.

The recent elections, widely heralded by President Bush and other political leaders as a historic milestone for Iraq, produced only a temporary boost in America's public support for the U.S.-led occupation. Sixty percent of people interviewed during the election and the two days after it said the military occupation was "a good thing." But the support level dropped to about 49 percent in the next two days, then settled to the mid 40s thereafter.

The survey was conducted by telephone from Jan. 30 through Feb. 10 at the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University. It has a margin of error of about 4 percentage points. It was funded through a grant from the Scripps Foundation.

Comment: Given the generally apathetic state of the American populace in regards to their government's actions in the Middle East, it seems understandable that many would remain dismally unaware as to the number of casualties the war on terror has produced. And if only a small minority can accurately name the number of American casualties, then consider how few will be cognizant of the enormous loss of life on the Iraqi side; with over 100,000 dead and counting.

With superbowls and reality TV designed to distract citizens from the true horrors of the world and entrain them with fuzzy dreams of pop-lite entertainment, where all one's problems get resolved in a 30 minute sitcom, it doesn't seem likely that the pain and degradation experienced daily by the Iraqi people would be able to burst their bubble of illusion and wishful thinking.

It's probable that many will only be able wake up to their government's nefarious agenda once the war on terror comes home to roost and starts appearing on U.S. soil. It may take tanks in the streets of American cities and soldiers firing on their own citizens to quell civil unrest in order for the sleeping masses to really see what has become a daily reality for people in Iraq. By that time, many may have wished they paid closer attention to the Signs of the Times.

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Slaughter In Iraq And ITN's Descent Into Absurdity

David Edwards, MEDIA LENS
February 11, 2005

It is easy to overestimate the role of media distortion of facts in the pacification and control of modern society. In reality the imposition of absurdity and mindless distraction is at least as important. If we can be persuaded to ignore serious issues, then it hardly matters if facts relating to those issues are distorted beyond recognition or blanked. Thus, ITN's headline on January 29, 1999:

"And the main headline this lunchtime: Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles have appeared as a couple, in public, for the first time." (ITV 1 O'Clock News, 29.1.99)

The previous year, ten minutes, or thirty-three per cent, of the BBC's 6 O' Clock News on January 26, 1998, had dealt with the Queen Mother's fall and fracture of her left hip.

These examples might seem merely comical, but in truth real issues and real suffering are buried by nonsense of this kind.

On ITN's main lunchtime news today, anchor Andrea Catherwood reported that 22 people had been killed in Iraq in two attacks on a mosque and a bakery. The report lasted exactly 22 seconds - one second per victim. Only the basic facts were given and the carnage was not included in a summary of the day's major stories at the end of the programme.

The 22 seconds were followed by a 5 minute 30 second report on the planned wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles - a story also covered ad nauseam yesterday. This included some six interviews, a straw poll of public opinion, and a discussion of constitutional issues surrounding the marriage.

ITN had no time to mention that three children had been killed in the attack on the Iraqi mosque alongside 40 people wounded. It had no time to mention that no less that 50 Iraqi security personnel have been killed in three massive suicide bombings this week in the wake of Iraq's fraudulent elections on January 30. You would not know from media reporting that this has been one of the country's worst weeks for violence. A police officer in Salman Pak, a town fast becoming a focus of the conflict, said:

"We have never seen such fighting." ('Eleven dead in Iraq bakery attack,' Jenny Booth, Times Online, February 11, 2005)

This follows the killing of 10 Iraqi police during a fierce gun battle late on Thursday. Insurgents ambushed a police convoy searching for those responsible for an earlier car bomb attack - shooting went on for two hours. US attack helicopters were sent to the scene and opened fired to dislodge the insurgents.

Who is it that is deciding that the British public should be subjected to current levels of absurdity and indifference to suffering in TV news performance? Who are the people who determine what we are and are not told about the world? What are their credentials for such an important task? What are their backgrounds, connections, vested interests, likely biases?

The truth is that almost no one has the remotest clue - ITN is a massive, unaccountable business that responds far less, and far less honestly, even than the BBC to public complaints. How ironic it is that we so certainly believe we live in a free society when we have almost zero understanding of, and zero control over, the means of mass communication.

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US gladly puts Iraqi forces in the line of fire
Anthony Loyd, Baghdad
February 12, 2005

HOT on the heels of Iraq's successful election, US forces have begun discreetly withdrawing from one of the country's worst combat zones, leaving it in the hands of Iraqi security forces.

Five days ago, two Iraqi battalions began assuming control of an infamous area of inner Baghdad surrounding Haifa Street that has become a battle zone between insurgents and coalition forces. The handover should be completed in a week.

The move is the first step in a post-election plan to scale back the US military presence in towns across rebellious central Iraq, leaving behind "advisers" to help the Iraqi army to take over security duties.

If it works, British and US troops can look forward to a relatively swift exit from Iraq. But if the Iraqi forces cannot control the situation, the US withdrawal strategy could be thrown back by years.

The Haifa Street handover "is a very big step for Iraqi security forces and will probably serve as a model for what is to come," said Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Macdonald, commander of the 1st Battalion 9th Cavalry Regiment.

"These guys are our ticket out of here. A successful security force, Iraqi-led and manned, equals American forces going home," said Captain Chris Ford, a company commander who has had 60per cent of his troops wounded during their tour in the al-Karkh district surrounding Haifa Street.

The key question for coalition commanders is how well the inexperienced Iraqi units will fare against a committed and professional insurgent force in the centre of Baghdad.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew into northern Iraq yesterday to see for himself how the high-risk strategy will play out, review the new Iraqi recruits and recognise the January 30 elections.

The handover plan is bold. Within a week the 1600 men of the Iraqi 302nd and 303rd battalions will have assumed responsibility for an area within a 4km radius of Haifa Street. By summer, a 25sqkm swath of central Baghdad is due to be handed over to the Baghdad Division, comprising three brigades of Iraqi troops.

Haifa Street has "consistently been the city's toughest area, one of continual resistance centred on former regimists, Wahabis and Salafists," said Lieutenant-Colonel MacDonald. US advisers will remain attached to each Iraqi battalion to communicate with coalition command and, if necessary, call upon US airpower and quick-reaction forces as decisive back-up.

The 302nd Battalion, which has taken control of the southern end of Haifa Street, still has 50 US troops attached to it. But the plan is for future Iraqi battalions to have as few as nine US advisers.

As yet the Iraqis lack the sophisticated equipment of the US soldiers they are replacing. They are deploying with little more than 150 rounds of ammunition and an assault rifle each. For transport they have Japanese utilities and soft-skinned trucks instead of American armoured personnel carriers.

Civilian contractors will supply their bases with food and water and their serious casualties will be treated in lightly guarded civilian hospitals.

However, the Iraqi units have the advantage of being able to communicate with the locals and glean intelligence.

"We could walk around here for three years more and not learn what these guys pick up in a week," said squad leader Sergeant Bert Walton.

The US and Iraqi forces have a shared interest in the latter's success.

"The day I want to see is the one when I say 'thank you' to the US," said Colonel Alla Mohsine, executive officer with the 302nd Battalion. "'Thank you very much, but now we can defend ourselves so please can you leave and go home'."

Comment: The 6 months of life in war-torn Iraq that you have so far experienced sure haven't been anything to write home about, but you share it all anyway with your wife in your weekly letter. Searing heat in the Summer, below freezing nights in the Winter, sand storms in Spring and Autumn. Rations from the canteen that taste like bullshit, communications from the Company Commander that smell like bullshit. Of course, there is also the painfully acute awareness of the fact that each day really could be your last. You have heard and even seen it happen to others, but so far, you and your closest buddies in your platoon have managed to avoid the IEDs and car bombs and remain in one piece - literally.

This particular evening, you and a dozen others from your platoon, along with your Lieutenant, receive orders to accompany a column of four trucks that are delivering munitions to a base in Northern Iraq. It will be one more routine assignment, hopefully without incident.

Two hours into the journey and on a stretch of road dividing two parts of the same desolate and isolated desert, a massive explosion almost blows you out through the back of the truck. You pick yourself off the floor and jump outside. The first truck in the column, or rather what's left of it, is engulfed in flames, the second truck is badly damaged. You rush forward but are immediately forced back by the searing heat and exploding munitions that the truck was carrying. All you can do is watch. This was one IED that the jammers missed.

Three hours later the fire has died down and the sun peeks over the horizon, its first rays illuminating the charred, skeletal remains of your two buddies that were travelling in the first truck. You look at them, and find it hard to believe they are the same guys that you were joking and laughing with just a few hours before. Hell, you find it hard to believe that they were once human beings. Your grief and shock quickly turns to rage, you're gonna exact a heavy price for this one. It doesn't matter who, because they're all responsible. Every man woman and child. You've seen they way they look at you. Last time you saw a waving hand was when you left your wife and kids at the door. So much for the promises of our commander in chief. These people hate you, it's obvious, and until now you could live with that, but they just made it personal.

Like so many others, you finally realise what those years of boot camp were for. They weren't joking when they said they would make you into a killing machine. The only missing ingredient was the right environment. You always joked about those guys in their leather chairs and fancy air conditioned offices. You called them wusses, you figured they knew nothing about real combat. Now it seems you were wrong. Most of 'em may never have been on active duty, but they seem to have a knack for getting people to kill each other, and they sure as hell seem to know what makes a human being tick, better even that we know it ourselves.

Maybe that's why they we're doing all the dying and killing, while they sit in their fancy air conditioned offices.

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Courting the UN as Stalking Horse for US Unilateralism
Condi's Euro Tour
February 12 / 13, 2005

In case you missed it, Condi's Euro-tour was a complete flop. Far from being the "triumph" celebrated by FOX News, the trip was just another opportunity to parrot the belligerent policies of the Bush Administration to our former allies. Unlike her predecessor, Rice never deviates from the White House script she has painstakingly memorized. Powell, however lacking in candor, was known to diverge from the hard-right fanaticism of his superiors from time to time. That will never be said of Condi, who flatly refuses to engage in any impromptu conversation that might take her off message.

The press coverage was nearly as abysmal as her lackluster diplomatic performance. Of the 1,200 or more articles entered on Google, at least half of them use the term "fence mending" to describe her trip. It's clear that the media had decided on a strategy for their coverage long before Rice had left Washington. The stories invariably shower praise on the Ice Princess for her magnanimous gesture of reconciliation. In fact, Rice has simply mastered the art of giving directives through a frigid grin. There was no sign of compromise whatsoever.

The real purpose of the trip was to enlist more support for the occupation in Iraq and to prepare the Euro-leaders for war in Iran. Now that the elections are over, the Bush administration is free to divide up Iraq's oil wealth among competing oil companies. Condi's excursion is meant to coincide with the issuing of leases to those lucky Lotto winners whose countries are willing to get on board the Bush gravy train. This is precisely the scenario that the neocons anticipated before the war when they said that after the conflict "others would follow our leadership." The energy-dependent Europeans now have to figure out how to gracefully manufacture a reason for involvement without upsetting public opinion. The massive media campaign aimed at showing "thawing relations" between the US and Europe is designed with that very purpose in mind. Even anti war activists could potentially be persuaded by a strategy that promises greater security for the Iraqi people. Regrettably, Iraq's resources will continue to be plundered regardless of whatever aid is provided by Europe.

In any event, cunning European politicians are not duped by Condi's charm offensive or by the glowing press reports. They have the tough assignment of measuring America's inducements to join the colonial adventure against their moral qualms about supporting aggression. Their final determination will depend to great extent on how well the tsunami of anti American sentiment in their own countries can be successfully controlled. Nothing is certain, but we should expect to see greater incremental involvement in the occupation behind the mask of stabilizing the region.

Iran, of course, is a much thornier issue. The Bush administration has telegraphed its intentions to invade Iran regardless of public opinion or the will of the international community. Rice's trip only confirms what we already know from reports of fly-overs, covert operations and a long written record of plans to put the resources in the Caspian region under the American control.

"I think a diplomatic solution is in our grasp if we have unity of message and unity of purpose," Rice opined. But, "the Iranians need to hear that if they are unwilling to take the deal, really, that the Europeans are giving ... then the Security Council referral looms."

Once again, the US is trying to disguise its unilateralism behind the skirts of the UN. The motive, however, could not be clearer. When Rice says that the present situation "cannot go on forever", we should expect an attack within the year. The fact that Iran has complied with its treaty obligations under the NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) and willingly undergone extensive inspections by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) makes no difference. Even the allegations of a nuclear weapons program are nothing more than a pretext for initiating hostilities. America is going to war again and Europe had better prepare itself.

Condi's Euro-journey informs us of how the State Dept will function in the future. Rice will provide a carefully worded digest of administration policy, and the media will convey the message in language aimed at managing public perceptions. One hand washes the other. In truth, the State Dept is nothing more than an annex of the War Dept, which is now under the guidance of industry's chief ambassador, Don Rumsfeld. Condi may be an effective spear-carrier for the empire, but there's no doubt about who's running the show.

When foreign policy experts analyze the Rice junket, they'll see it was just more war-mongering belligerence dolled up in a lacquered helmet and toothy grin. Condi came with ultimatums not friendship. Her shabby attempts at civility and compromise are just part of the latest White House subterfuge. Behind the empty words and starched smile, the same menacing forces are at play; trying to dragoon Europe into the Iraqi quagmire and edging the US closer to a region-wide conflagration. Condi's feeble attempts at rapprochement will amount to nothing. The Transatlantic Alliance is in tatters and won't be stitched together with Rice's flaccid bromides.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:

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Flashback: Powell Re-Buffed by NATO
December 9, 2004

US Secretary of State Colin Powell's "charm offensive" in Europe bore little fruit on Thursday. NATO officials dashed US hopes the alliance would significantly boost contributions to Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the first day of his trip to Europe, what many are calling a "charm offensive" to sooth over tense transatlantic relations, US Secretary of State Colin Powell received disappointing news. Despite US hopes European members of the alliance would contribute to a larger officer training facility in Iraq and expand peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, he came up empty-handed.

At Thursday's meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer hailed the decision on the part of certain members of the alliance, including Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland, to send more staff to an existing training facility in Baghdad, thereby boosting the total number from 60 to 300.

But that contribution falls well below US expectations, and prompted an angry outburst from Powell at a press conference. He specifically took issue with certain NATO members' decision to prevent staff seconded to the alliance from taking part in military training missions in Iraq, namely Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, and Spain.

"When it comes time to perform a mission, it seems to us to be quite awkward for suddenly members of that international staff to say they are unable to go," he said, claiming such actions undermine the credibility and cohesion of NATO.

Powell makes final lap around Europe

In what will likely to be his last European trip as US secretary of state, Colin Powell arrived in Brussels hoping Washington and Europe could come together again to respond to new threats and promote democracy.

Ahead of the NATO meeting, he said he was aware that some of President George W. Bush's key decisions in the last four years had been controversial in Europe, especially those concerning Iraq.

"Whatever our differences about the past and about Iraq, we are looking forward," Powell said in a speech to the German Marshall Fund in Brussels on Wednesday. "We're reaching out to Europe, and we hope that Europe will reach out to us."

"We can handle the bumps and bruises."

Powell pointed out that Bush would make his first trip abroad in his second term to Europe to visit the EU and NATO on Feb. 22 and that the first official visitor he received at the White House after winning re-election in November had been NATO chief de Hoop Scheffer.

He offered both as evidence of new US overtures to Europe, where Bush is widely perceived as a belligerent unilateralist and remains deeply unpopular.

Powell stressed that the United States and Europe were tied by deep cultural and ethical bonds and, in time, relations would get smoother.

"We can handle the bumps and bruises of transatlantic political life that can come along from time to time," he said. "Transatlantic politics has its blustery days, but the weather eventually improves. It's improving as I speak and will improve further when President Bush visits Europe."

Helping Iraq is in Europe's interest, too

According to Powell, victory in Iraq is in everyone's interests, even those European nations that vehemently opposed the war. This includes successful elections in January for a transitional parliament.

"It seems to me that Europe, whatever disagreement we had last year with respect to the war, should see it (also) on the basis of principle to help the Iraqi people safely go to the polls and have an election to put in place a democratic government," Powell said.

At the NATO meeting on Thursday, the members of the alliance opposed to the invasion of Iraq did not show any indication that they agreed with Powell. "There will be no (French) officers or soldiers in Iraq," French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told reporters.

On Friday, Iraq is on the agenda when Powell meets a trio of senior EU officials in The Hague.

Comment: So what changed when Condi took over as Secretary of State?

Nothing, actually...

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France will not forget Iraq rift, says minister
Feb 10, 2005

NICE, France - French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Thursday that Paris will not forget its divisions with the United States over Iraq, even if everyone had learned to love each other again.

"That everyone loves each other, that is fundamental," she said, when asked if everything was forgiven and forgotten two years after the transatlantic crisis triggered by the Iraq war.

"But that everything be forgotten? No," she said. "I don't think it should be forgotten," she continued. "I think that in the end these periods of tension are part of our transatlantic relations, and have been for a long time.

"There have been many of them and I think it is on the contrary our
ability to know how to overcome our differences, that we have sometimes, which provides the solidity of our relationship."

France led a group of anti-war countries along with Germany during the 2003 transatlantic split.

Alliot-Marie was speaking after a day of informal talks with her counterparts from NATO, which was plunged into one of its worst ever crises by the Iraq conflict.

The talks in the Riviera city of Nice were the first such meeting in France for at least four decades, after French president General Charles de Gaulle pulled his country from NATO's integrated military command in 1966.

The French minister referred to the symbolic nature of the meeting when she welcomed her fellow ministers Thursday morning, declaring: "NATO is at home here."

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UN's Annan Warns of Nuclear 'Cascade' Risk
Sun Feb 13, 3:50 AM ET

MUNICH, Germany - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Sunday the world could soon face a cascade of countries acquiring nuclear weapons unless it took action to tighten existing controls.

Annan did not mention any country by name in his speech to a security conference in Germany. But he spoke in the same week that North Korea said it had nuclear arms and as the West struggles to win assurances from Iran on its nuclear activities.

"For decades, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has helped prevent a cascade of nuclear proliferation," Annan said.

"But unless new steps are taken now, we might face such a cascade very soon," he cautioned.

Annan said the only way to deal with the threat was joint action. He urged governments to study and respond to recent recommendations put forward by a senior panel of experts he commissioned to look at such threats.

Its proposals included tougher inspection rules, incentives for states to forgo domestic uranium enrichment and closer cooperation between the U.N. Security Council and the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

North Korea said on Thursday it had nuclear weapons and that it was pulling out of multilateral talks on curbing its atomic ambitions. International reaction has been restrained, with some officials casting doubt on the nuclear claim and others seeing the disclosure as a negotiating tactic.

The United States and Europe have failed so far to resolve their differences on how to deal with Iran and its suspected development of nuclear arms, which Tehran denies.

Germany urged the United States on Saturday to back European Union diplomacy on Iran, days after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Europe to send Tehran a stronger message and emphasized it faced referral to the Security Council.

Comment: Despite the new-and-improved warm and fuzzy "Dear Condi" and "Old Rumsfeld", it seems this round of the war on terror is already quite similar to the last one...

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Annan Says Hard for UN to Mount Iraq Peacekeeping
February 13, 2005

MUNICH, Germany - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Sunday it would be hard for U.N. peacekeepers to replace U.S.-led troops in Iraq, saying the world body could make other contributions to postwar stability.

Asked if security operations in Iraq could eventually be transferred to the U.N.'s blue-helmeted peacekeepers, Annan said this posed a "real problem."

"Will the U.N. get the right troops, and the troops they need to go to Iraq to do the right amount of work?" he told a security conference in Munich, Germany.

"You've had a very robust presence. If it is going to be followed by a weak, ill-equipped force, it brings its own problems. But of course if the (Security) Council, in its wisdom, were to decide that we go this route, obviously we would have to consider."

Annan said "lots of countries" had said they would be willing to take part in Iraq peacekeeping if such operations were under a U.N. mandate.

But he stressed that the world body was not now in a position to provide security in Iraq, where it still needed protection for its own staff.

U.S.-led forces are fighting to defeat a raging insurgency that broke out after they toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein nearly two years ago and has continued despite wide participation in landmark Jan. 30 elections.

Iraq's interior minister said last week he believed the country could establish internal security within 18 months, potentially allowing the United States to reduce its presence.

Earlier, Annan told the BBC in an interview: "At this stage I do not see U.N. peacekeepers replacing the U.S. and the UK troops on the ground. But the circumstances permitting, there's much more that the U.N. can do and we would want to fulfill our mandate fully."

He said this could include helping with reconstruction and developing a new justice system and democratic institutions.

Comment: Funny that Annan offered UN assistance in all the areas where the US would never accept outside help...

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There Will Be No Middle East Peace Without Justice

Robert Fisk The Independent

So, the Palestinians will end their occupation of Israel. No more will Palestinian tanks smash their way into Haifa and Tel Aviv. No more will Palestinian F-18s bomb Israeli population centers. No more will Palestinian Apache helicopters carry out "targeted killings" — i.e.: murders — of Israeli military leaders.

The Palestinians have promised to end all "acts of violence" against Israelis while Israel has promised to end all "military activity" against Palestinians. So that’s it, then. Peace in our time.

A Martian — even a well-educated Martian — would have gathered that this was the message, supposing he dropped in on the fantasy world of Sharm El-Sheikh on Tuesday. The Palestinians had been committing "violence", the Israelis carrying out "innocent" operations. Palestinian "violence" or "terror and violence" — the latter a more popular phrase since it carried the stigma of Sept. 11, 2001 — was now at an end. Mahmoud Abbas — who told a close Lebanese friend this year that he wore a suit and tie so that he would look "different" to Yasser Arafat — went along with all this. Just which people were occupying the homes of which other people remained a mystery.

Silver-haired and wisdom-burdened, Mahmoud Abbas looked the part. We had to forget that it was this same Abbas who wrote the Oslo Accords, who in 1,000 pages failed to use — even once — the word "occupation", and who talked not of Israeli "withdrawal" from Palestinian territory, but of "redeployment".

At no point on Tuesday did anyone mention occupation. Like sex, "occupation" had to be censored out of the historical narrative. As usual — as in Oslo — the real issues were put back to a later date. Refugees, the "right of return", East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital: Let’s deal with them later.

Never before have we been in such need of the caustic voice of the late Edward Said. Settlements — Jewish colonies for Jews, and Jews only, on Arab land — were not, of course, discussed on Tuesday. Nor was East Jerusalem. Nor was the "right of return" of 1948 refugees. These are the "unrealistic dreams" that were referred to by the Israelis on Tuesday.

All this will be discussed "later" — as they were supposed to be in Abbas’s hopeless Oslo agreement. As long as you can postpone the real causes of war, that’s OK. "An end to violence," that has cost 4,000 deaths — it was all said on Tuesday, minus the all-important equation that two-thirds of these were Palestinian lives. Peace, peace, peace. It was like terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. It was the sort of stuff you could buy off a supermarket shelf. If only.

At the end of the day the issues were these. Will the Israelis close down their massive settlements in the West Bank, including those which surround Jerusalem? No mention of this on Tuesday. Will they end the expansion of Jewish settlements — for Jews, and Jews only, across the Palestinian West Bank? No mention of this yesterday. Will they allow the Palestinians to have a capital in Arab East Jerusalem? No mention of this on Tuesday. Will the Palestinians truly end their "intifada" — including their murderous suicide bombings — as a result of these non-existent promises? Like the Iraqi elections — which were also held under foreign occupation — the Israeli-Palestinian talks were historic because they were "historic". US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "warned" Palestinians that they must "control violence" but there was, as usual, no request to "control" the violence of the Israeli Army.

Because the sine qua non of the equation was that the Palestinians were guilty. That the Palestinians were the "violent" party — hence the admonition that the Palestinians must end "violence" while the Israelis would merely end "operations". The Palestinians, it seems, are generically violent. The Israelis generically law-abiding; the latter carry out "operations". Mahmoud Abbas went along with this nonsense.

It was all too clear in the reporting of Tuesday’s events. What was on offer, said CNN, was "an end to all violence" — as if occupation and illegal colonization was not a form of violence. The American Associated Press news agency talked gutlessly about "towns that, for now, continue to be under Israeli security control" — in other words, under Israeli occupation, although they would not tell their readers this.

So Mahmoud Abbas is going to be the Hamid Karzai of Palestine, his tie the equivalent of Karzai’s green gown, "our" new man in Palestine, the "tsunami" that has washed away the contamination of Yasser Arafat, whose grave Condoleezza Rice managed to avoid. But the tank-traps remain: East Jerusalem, Jewish settlements and the "right of return" of 1948 Palestinians to the homes they lost.

If we are going to clap our hands like the Sharm El-Sheikh "peacemakers" on Tuesday, we’d better realize that unless we are going to resolve these great issues of injustice now, this new act of "peacemaking" will prove to be as bloody as Oslo. Ask Mahmoud Abbas. He was the author of that first fatal agreement.

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Israeli Intelligence-Linked Sex Spy Ring Busted

Sunday Mail

ASIO has uncovered a sex spy ring in Canberra after tailing a diplomat and suspected agent from the Israeli Embassy.

Amir Lati, the second secretary at the embassy, was secretly expelled from Australia last month after the Howard Government threatened to declare him persona non grata.

Mr Lati seduced a senior official at the Defence Department who had access to classified material.

It is believed he intended to use the woman to gain US intelligence and military technology given to Australia under a special agreement.

The Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation only discovered Mr Lati was having a sexual relationship with a woman from the Defence Department after he visited New Zealand.

ASIO had put the 30-something junior diplomat – and other embassy officials – under surveillance after two suspected Israeli spies were arrested and tried in NZ.

What they discovered has rocked Canberra's intelligence community. The scandal has concerned the intelligence agencies of Australia's closest ally, the US.

Senior political sources said details of the affair were being closely guarded for several reasons.

The expulsion threatened the impending visit on February 28 by Israel's President, Moshe Katsav. And it has caused ructions with US intelligence agencies, which fear their secrets have been compromised again.

The Defence woman is believed to have had a national security clearance, allowing her to view classified documents. That clearance, however, would require her to have notified Defence she had been in contact with a foreign diplomat or military official.

The Defence Security Agency does regular checks on officials with security clearances. If the woman had failed to tell her superiors about the affair, it would be grounds for dismissal.

Mr Lati had popped up on ASIO's screen after he visited two Israeli spies, Eli Cara and Uriel Kelman, who were arrested in NZ.

The pair had been found guilty of fraudulently trying to buy NZ passports and were sentenced to six months in jail. They have returned to Israel but their activities prompted ASIO into an inquiry about a possible Israeli spy ring here.

Believed to be an agent of Mossad, Israel's spy service, Lati was said to have been seeking military and technology secrets, and intelligence, passed to Australia by the US.

Israel's embassy spokeswoman, Orna Sagiv, would not comment on the affair, except to say it had not affected the warm relations between Israel and Australia.

Comment: While it is certainly true that more or less every intelligence agency involves itself in scurrilous behavior such as this, it seems that the Israelis excel at it. There are no levels that the Mossad will not stoop to in order to get the job done. Their appetite for information seems insatiable and the drive and zealousness they exhibit in attempting to obtain it can only be borne of some sort of extreme collective paranoia or fear.

As agents acting in the interests of "Zionist" Israel, the MO of the Mossad can give us an insight into the 'flavor' of "Zionist" thought processes in general.

Over recent decades, the actions of the Mossad have been characterised by a viciousness that is unrivalled in the world of covert intelligence. Along with their task masters in the Israeli government, they have gone about their job of securing the right of Israel to arbitrarily murder anyone that stood in their way. Inside Israel this took, and continues to take, the form of the daily slaughter of innocent Palestinians. Abroad, where the Mossad mainly plies its trade, innumerable foreign politicians, scientists, historians, film makers and innocent civilians have all met an untimely end at the hands of a Mossad "suicide squad".

In a conflict situation it is often the case that the level of brutality exhibited is directly proportional to the level of fear being experienced, and fear is usually related to a perceived threat.

Israel is a tiny, contrived, illegal nation bordered on three sides by Arab nations and on the fourth by water. Since its establishment Israel has gone to significant efforts to antagonise its Arab neighbors as much and as often as possible. It seems that there is (and always has been) a visceral (if not factual) awareness among Israel's political leaders that they have no legitimate claim to the land which the Israeli state currently occupies. These same leaders also realised that if they were going to be successful in their defence of the indefensible, they could never, even for a moment, drop their guard.

The problem is that, as the years pass, Israel finds itself having to fight ever more and increasingly large "fires" in order to maintain the illusion of a justified and democratic nation. These "fires", in the form of an increasingly outspoken Arab and world public, threaten to expose the reality of Israel to an audience large enough that a critical mass may be reached and an Israeli state, as desired by Sharon, would no longer be possible.

From its inception then, Israeli 'leaders' have adopted the only policy available to them - offence. At every opportunity they have utilised any and all means necessary to ensure that their dirty little secret remains festering in the dark.

The "Zionist" mind-set embodied by Sharon and Mossad, can be accurately described as: 'baroque, contradictory, morose, filled with the fear of being discovered any minute now.' It is exactly this fear, and the reckless brutality that it gives rise to, that makes the state of Israel a clear and present danger to us all. And like the cornered rat that sacrifices its own life and goes for the throat, a point may finally come when, faced with imminent exposure, Israel's 'leaders' may decide that if they are 'going down' they will take as many of the rest of us along with them.

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Resistance attacks Zionist Mossad office in downtown Baghdad

Iraqi Resistance forces attacked an office set up under an assumed name that was in fact the headquarters of the Zionist secret police Mossad near the al-Hamra’ Hotel in the al-Jadiriyah area of downtown Baghdad on Thursday. Informed sources told Mafkarat al-Islam’s correspondent that four Zionists, three Iraqi collaborators with the Mossad, and a man named ‘Wardan’ who was the office director, were killed in the attack.

The correspondent of Mafkarat al-Islam reported that the Mossad office was opened in December 2004 under the name “Ikal” ostensibly a recruiting and employment agency. In reality, the office was run by a number of Zionist Mossad officers and a group of Iraqi collaborators. It was in direct contact with the office of the Zionist prime minister Ariel Sharon.

According to information obtained by the correspondent of Mafkarat al-Islam, the office had so far provided departures outside the country for more than 450 Iraqi scientists, including physicians, nuclear engineers, and academics. The intellectuals were sent to countries like Greece, Sweden and the United States.

In addition, the office published a magazine called al-Hayat “Life” and another called at-Tamarrud “Rebellion” directed at Iraqi women and encouraging them to debauchery and rebelliousness. The magazine al-Hayat published fabricated stories claiming to report on Iraqi women rebelling against their social condition.

The Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent wrote that an issue of the magazine, that was distributed to political parties and foreign organizations so that they could take it out to the Iraqi countryside.

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Israeli FM to petition Britain, France to blacklist Hezbollah
Sat Feb 12, 9:22 AM ET

JERUSALEM - Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom will visit Britain and France next week to shore up support for an Israeli proposal that Hezbollah be added to an EU list of banned groups, public radio said.

Silvan Shalom will lobby British and French officials to support an Israeli proposal, submitted to the European Union earlier this week, which would see the Lebanese-based movement added to the EU "terrorist" blacklist at a debate on the issue by the end of the month.

No foreign ministry official was immediately available to confirm the minister's proposed trip, which public radio said would begin on Sunday.

Until now, the group as a whole has been excluded from the EU list as Brussels has made a distinction between Hezbollah's political and military wing, although some of its leaders have been blacklisted.

Hezbollah's inclusion on the list would damage the standing of its militia and make it difficult for the group to raise funds in Europe.

In September 2003, EU foreign ministers agreed to blacklist the political arm of the radical Islamic Hamas movement. The group's military wing had been on the list since 2001.

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Israel downed 2 Syrian MiGs last September over sea
Friday, February 11, 2005

Diplomatic sources said Israel Air Force F-16 multi-role fighters intercepted and downed two Syrian MiG-29 fighter-jets last year. The sources said the dogfight took place in September 2004 over the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

This was the first engagement between Israeli and Syrian fighter-jets since the 1980s. The sources said the air battle took place when Israel Air Force fighter-jets buzzed the Syrian city of Latakia, a port used by Iran for the shipment of weapons to Hizbullah.

The Washington-based Reform Party of Syria first provided details of the Israeli-Syrian dogfight. RPS said the air battle took place on Sept. 14, 2004, adding that both downed pilots were rescued by Syrian military helicopters, Middle East Newsline reported.

RPS, quoting a European source, said the Israeli fighter-jets used an Israeli-origin Python-4 air-to-air missile to down one of the MiG-29s. The other Syrian MiG-29 was shot down by a U.S.-origin AIM-9M Sidewinder.

The pilots of the MiG-29s were identified by RPS as Maj. Arshad Midhat Mubarak and Capt. Ahmad Al Khatib.

Diplomatic sources said the Syrian losses led President Bashar Assad to accelerate efforts to procure advanced anti-aircraft systems from Russia.

Syria has requested a range of anti-aircraft systems, including the SA-18, TOR-M1, S-300PMU2 and the S-400 systems.

The most likely Russian sale to Damascus is that of the SA-18, the sources said. They said Russia would supply the first SA-18 short-range systems - either directly or through a third country - within several months.

In January, Russia and Syria - overriding objections from Israel and the United States - agreed on the sale of the SA-18 to Damascus. Russian officials said the sale of the SA-18 would not violate any international arms agreement.

"Russia has cooperated with Syria for decades, and my country is convinced that Syria has a strong right to get defensive weapons," Russian ambassador in Tunisia Aleksei Tserub said.

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Iran starts production of torpedoes 2005-02-13 05:03:44

TEHRAN, Feb. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Iran Saturday launched a production line of torpedoes in order to promote its defense capability at sea as the United States has recently escalated its threats on Tehran, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said at the launch ceremony that the production marked completion of "the Islamic Republic'sdefensive cycle at sea."

"Iran's marine units have now achieved an effective weapon with a complicated and modern technology in confronting surface and under-sea threats," Shamkhani said, adding the torpedoes could bemounted on helicopters, surface vessels and submarines."Some of the important features of this weapon are the possibility to use it in shallow waters, without being spotted by radars, as well as its extraordinarily high speed, while being notably cost-effective," he said.

Since mid-January, US President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have made harsh comments against Iran.

Iran has vowed to defend itself with deterrent power.

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North Korea warns of naval skirmishes with South
Feb. 12, 2005, 11:17AM
Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea urged its impoverished people today to rally around Stalinist leader Kim Jong Il, after Washington rebuffed the communist North's demand that the two sides hold bilateral talks to curb nuclear tension.

Pyongyang's state-run daily newspaper Rodong Sinmun allotted the whole front page of its Saturday edition to an editorial saying "the single-minded unity serves as the strongest weapon," said the official news agency KCNA.

"At a time like today, when the situation gets tense, no task is more important than to strengthen our single-minded unity," the editorial said.

Minju Joson, another state-run daily, said that "devotedly protecting the leader is our life and soul."

North Korea also repeated warnings of military clashes on its loosely defined and tense western sea border with South Korea. It accused the South of infiltrating a warship into the communist state's waters Saturday following "a grave situation created due to the U.S. imperialist warhawks' invariable hostile policy toward the (North)."

North Korea's navy command said "such dangerous military provocations may entail a very serious disaster," according to a news release carried by KCNA.

The accusations, repeated several times in recent weeks and denied by the South, coincided with the worsening nuclear standoff. The two Koreas fought bloody naval skirmishes in western waters in 1999 and 2002.

The surge in communist rhetoric followed North Korea's announcement Thursday that it had nuclear weapons for self-defense.

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Expelled diplomat linked to US secrets
By Lincoln Wright
February 13, 2005
From: Sunday Herald Sun

ASIO has cracked a spy ring in Canberra after tailing an Israeli diplomat who was suspected of being an agent of Mossad, Israel's espionage service.

Amir Lati, the second secretary at the Israeli Embassy, was secretly expelled from Australia last month.

He is known to have seduced a senior Defence Department official who is believed to have had access to classified documents.

It is believed he intended to use the woman to gain US intelligence and military technology given to Australia.

The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation put the junior Israeli diplomat – and other embassy officials – under surveillance after he visited two suspected Israeli spies who were arrested in New Zealand.

The scandal has rocked Canberra's intelligence community, and Defence has launched a major investigation into the affair.

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Russians protest against benefit cuts
Last Updated Sat, 12 Feb 2005 18:03:34 EST
CBC News

MOSCOW - Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in several cities Saturday in an ongoing protest against cuts to social programs.

The revolt, largely led by pensioners, has spread across Russia's 11 time zones and confronts President Vladimir Putin with his biggest domestic challenge to date.

Protesters are angry over a law scrapping benefits for millions of pensioners and other groups and replacing them with cash payments.

The benefits included free public transportation and subsidized medication and heating. The opposition says the cash payments are much too low to cover costs.

The government has watered down the reform package, making public transportation once more free for retirees. It also promises to raise pensions slightly.

But many pensioners say they're still not able to cover their most basic needs.

To counter the marches, the pro-Kremlin United Russia party organized a march by pro-Putin demonstrators in Moscow Saturday.

They carried the blue party's flags and a huge banner, which read: "We'll preserve stability and support the president."

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Castro warns of attack on Chavez

Says United States will be responsible

February 12, 2005

HAVANA (AP) - Fidel Castro warned that the life of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in danger, and said he would blame the United States if his close friend and ally is killed.

Castro's remarks came during a six-hour speech that lasted until 4 a.m. Saturday and closed an international globalization conference in Havana attended by hundreds of economists.

"If Chavez is assassinated, the responsibility will lie entirely with the president of the United States," Castro said, neglecting to provide details, but noting that U.S. President George W. Bush has encouraged Chavez's opponents in the past.

The Cuban leader said Chavez's left-leaning "revolution" threatens the interests of powerful people who tried to oust him with a short-lived coup in 2002 and several political campaigns against him.

An eventual attempt to kill Chavez would aim to halt the changes happening in the South American nation, Castro said - the same way the United States and others tried to eliminate him as he turned Cuba into a socialist country.

"With me they've already lost their time, this has become too advanced," the 78-year-old said of the Cuban revolution. "But that (the situation in Venezuela) is in a crucial stage."

Countless assassination plots against Castro and his closest advisers have been disclosed throughout the more than four decades of his rule.

Chavez on Saturday thanked the Cuban leader for his remarks.

"Thank you Fidel, it is true there are rumours, it is true there is information," he said while visiting areas affected by heavy rains outside Caracas.

"They are not going to succeed, my dear friend, you will see they will not," added the 50-year-old. "I will become an old man, like you."

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Thousands abandon homes, flee fighting in Congo
Last Updated Sat, 12 Feb 2005 16:00:10 EST
CBC News

GENEVA - About 35,000 people have fled fighting in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past three days, according to United Nations reports.

This brings the total number of people who have fled ethnic fighting in Congo's Ituri Province to more than 80,000 since the beginning of the year.

Land disputes between the Lendu and Hema tribes reportedly triggered a new spate of fighting between the two ethnic groups last month.

UN observers say the Lendu-majority is mainly targeting Hema civilians. UNICEF spokesperson Damien Personnaz says aid workers, who recently conducted an assessment mission in the area, describe a scene of desolation and destruction.

The refugees have told of villages looted and burned down, children kidnapped and girls and women raped, he said.

Some are staying at four camps protected by UN peacekeeping forces. But thousands of others who have fled their villages are hiding in the bush and jungle, unable to receive assistance.

The UNICEF spokesperson notes people arriving at the UN sites aren't in bad physical condition. But they are heavily traumatized, and children, in particular, are likely to suffer from psychological problems for some time.

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American nun shot to death in Brazil's Amazon
Feb. 12, 2005, 4:36PM
Reuters News Service

BELEM, Brazil -- A 74-year-old American nun was shot to death early today in Brazil's Amazon rain forest where she worked to defend human rights and the environment despite frequent death threats, federal police said.

Unknown assailants shot U.S. missionary, Dorothy Stang at point-blank range at an isolated agricultural settlement in dense jungle 50 kms (31 miles) from the town of Anapu in the state of Para, police and fellow religious workers said.

"It was three shots at point-blank range," said sister Betsy Flynn of Stang's order the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. "She received so many threats, I never thought it would happen."

Stang had worked in the area around a decade defending the rights of landless peasants and small farmers and promoting sustainable use of the rain forest, according to the Brazilian Order of Lawyers (OAB), a national lawyers' association.

She recently won a human rights award from the OAB for reporting abuses by land speculators, illegal loggers and large landowners in the area.

Only weeks ago she warned federal human rights authorities she faced continual death threats for her work. She was on an OAB list of people who faced possible assassination.

"This death is just more encouragement to continue her work to confront the people who are destroying the forest," said Meire Cohen of the OAB.

Brazilian media earlier reported Stang's age as 73.

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Blast at U.S. Diplomat's Home in Ex-Soviet Georgia
Friday, February 11, 2005; 6:02 PM

TBILISI (Reuters) - A grenade exploded outside the home of a U.S. diplomat in Georgia's capital late on Friday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The U.S. diplomat's wife and child, who were the only people in the house at the time, were unhurt, said spokesman Guram Donadze.

The grenade was thrown into the yard of the private house which is in an area near the center of Tbilisi where many foreigners and diplomats live, he said.

It was not clear who carried out the attack. The U.S. embassy made no comment.

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Two Wal-Marts in Quebec province evacuated after receiving bomb threats
Associated Press
February 11, 2005

MONTREAL (AP) - Police evacuated customers and employees at two Wal-Mart stores in Quebec on Friday, after the stores received bomb threats, Radio-Canada TV reported Friday.

The stores were in the town of Gatineau, according to the report. The threats come just days after the U.S. retail giant announced it would close another Wal-Mart in Quebec in response to unreasonable demands from union negotiators.

Some 200 Canadian workers were close to winning the first-ever union contract from the company, the world's largest retailer.

Comment: Last week the first Wal-Mart in the world to be unionized was suddenly shut down by corporate headquarters, and now they have announced that a second store is being closed because workers there are also poised to join a union. Of course Wal-Mart executives were quick to blame poor retail sales on the closings and deny that they are related to to union activities. These obviously self-serving actions by a super-rich, predatory, third-world exploiting multinational conglomerate to intimidate and bully their employees, adds further proof that if corporations were human they could easily be classified as psychopaths.

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Thousands spend night in open after quake scare in Afghanistan, Pakistan
12 February 2005

KABUL - Tens of thousands of residents scared by rumours of an earthquake spent a chilly night in the open in the Afghan capital Kabul and Pakistanís northwestern city of Peshawar, residents said Saturday.

The rumours spread after relatives and friends in Peshawar called people in Kabul telling them an earthquake was likely to hit the region, but it was not known what caused the people to expect a tremor.

"ìHearing noises in background, I woke up and pulled the curtain of my room and was surprised to see several dozen families standing in snow and some people in their vehicles with engines on," said Fawad Akbari, a resident in Macrorayon neighbourhood of Kabul.

"ìI went down to ask what happened, people laughed at me why I was not aware of the prediction of a strong quake."

"My cousin called me from Peshawar at 3:00 (2230 GMT) and told me that people in Peshawar were staying outdoors despite rain fall due to fear of a quake and advised us to do so," university student Mohammed Osman told AFP.

Kabul, which is normally deserted at night was full of people camping out of their apartment buildings, with police everywhere and streets crowded with vehicles rushing from one neighborhood to another in search of a safer place.

TV cameras were visible in the dark in the early hours of Saturday morning interviewing people about what was happening.

"I donít know from where and how the rumours spread in the city, I came out of my house and asked people to get back to their homes to avoid sickness," said a journalist, Mohamed Nesar Haris.

"Hearing of the earthquake prediction, I took my family down and spend four hours in our mini van," another Kabul resident Zabihullah told AFP.

Normalcy was restored after announcements were made on radios dismissing the rumours. [...]

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Low-intensity earthquake hits Myanmar 2005-02-11 10:03:14

YANGON, Feb. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- An earthquake measuring 2.3 on the Richter scale hit Myanmar capital of Yangon Thursday night, state-run newspaper the New Light of Myanmar reported Friday.

Quoting the Meteorology and Hydrology Department, the report said the epicenter of the undersea quake, which occurred at 9:39 p.m. (local time), was about 17.6 kilometers south of Yangon.

Despite low magnitude, it was obviously felt. Experts said it would not cause casualties and loss of properties.

It was the second quake which jolted the capital during this month. The first undersea quake on Feb. 3 measuring 3.5 in magnitude stroke the capital at 9:28:25 a.m. (local time) with itsepicenter of about 25.6 kilometers south of Yangon.

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Moderate Earthquake Rattles Alaska-Yukon Border
Fri February 11, 2005 6:15 PM GMT-05:00

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A moderate 5.3 magnitude earthquake and aftershock rattled the Alaska Panhandle and the southwestern Yukon Territory in Canada on Friday, but there were no reports of damage.

The quake at 1:00 p.m. PST (2100 GMT) was centered near Yakutat, Alaska, on the Pacific Coast, and was felt as far as 200 km (125 miles) inland at the Yukon territorial capital of Whitehorse, according to the Geological Survey of Canada.

The quake was followed about 30 minutes later by a magnitude 5 aftershock, geologists said.

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Earthquake Felt in Six States
KHQA News 7

A moderate Earthquake felt in six states could be a reminder that the Tri-States area sits on the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

The quake which happened Thursday started with a roar and ended with steady shaking but didn’t cause much damage.

The tremors could be felt as far south as Tunica, Mississippi, and as far north as Southern Illinois.

Officials say the quake’s epicenter was about 50 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee, at a depth of 10 miles.

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Visitors warned to stay away from Dominica's Boiling Lake as water rises
September 5, 2004

ROSEAU, Dominica - The water in Dominica's Boiling Lake, which mysteriously stopped boiling three months ago, is rising and could abruptly spew out toxic fumes, making it dangerous for visitors to approach, officials said Friday.

The Boiling Lake, actually a volcanic crater in the heart of a rainforest, stopped boiling Dec. 24 and the water level dropped about 12 metres. The Agriculture Ministry warned visitors not to approach the lake, saying the water has since risen about six metres.

Scientists said they cannot predict when it might start bubbling again.

It was the third time in a century the lake - perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in Dominica - stopped boiling. In 1901, toxic fumes killed two people when the lake suddenly filled up months after it emptied. The crater also stopped boiling in 1977 and 1999.

Scientists don't know for sure what has caused the lake to stop boiling. But one theory is a 6.3-magnitude earthquake Nov. 21 clogged underground fissures where hot gasses rose through the surfaces and heated the water, said Allen Smith, the chairman of the geology department at California State University in San Bernardino, California.

At the same time, the earthquake may have created other fissures that drained the lake, Smith said. He said the lake could be refilling with rainfall and underground seepage.

"If the lake is filling up with surface water and there is hot water beneath, being blocked, the hot water could be building up pressure," Smith said.

"It would blow out suddenly."

Although Watt Mountain, where the lake is located, might erupt one day, the fluctuations in water level are not related to volcanic activity, said Richard Robinson, a geologist with the Seismic Research Unit of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.

Scientists believe the crater was created from an explosion when a head of steam built up in fissures, bringing water vapour and volcanic gas to the surface. The vapour and volcanic gas make the water boil.

Sulphuric fumes from the lake have destroyed much of the rainforest around it. The lake is so hot it can boil an egg in five minutes.

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Floods leave 11 dead, 22,000 homeless in Colombia 2005-02-13 05:01:55

BOGOTA, Feb. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Heavy downpour which has flooded northeast Colombia since Tuesday has left at least 11 dead and 22,000 homeless, a report by the office for the prevention and management of disasters of Santander said Saturday.

It said the adverse weather has completely cut off communications in the Giron municipality, a neighbor of the city of Bucaramanga, capital of the northeastern Santander state.

The heavy downpour has produced an overflow of rivers in Santander.

Rescue personnel indicated that the inhabitants of 50 neighborhoods of Giron and 15 of Bucaramanga are being evacuated in the face of the risk of landslides and floods. [...]

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Ariz. Storm Causes Rock Slides, Heavy Rain
February 13, 2005

PHOENIX - A strong storm lashed parts of Arizona with heavy rain on Saturday, forcing authorities to close portions of four highways because of rock slides and flooding and driving dozens of people from threatened homes.

Some 40 residents of two mobile home parks in Punkin Center, about 80 miles northeast of Phoenix, were evacuated because of rising water from Tonto Creek. People living east of the creek were stranded by flooding at low water crossings.

Some precautionary evacuations were ordered in at least three other communities for residents living near rivers.

Authorities blocked portions of four state highways near Globe because of rock slides and flooding. It was not clear when the roads would reopen.

Heavy rain and melting snow caused many rivers and streams to swell to near flood levels on Friday, but most peaked and started to decline by Saturday, said Judy Kioski, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management.

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Snow cuts off 700 villages in northern Iran
February 13, 2005

TEHRAN - Snow has cut off more than 700 villages in northern Iran and damaged thousands of houses and schools, including more than 150 whose roofs collapsed under the weight of the falls.

After 10 days of snowstorms, roads were buried under between two and four metres (between about six and 13 feet) of snow in Gilan province off the Caspian Sea.

A break in the weather enabled helicopters to be sent on Sunday to help in the worst affected mountainous areas of the province.

The state news agency IRNA reported that some 20,000 houses, schools and government buildings had been damaged in the province. Schools had been closed for the past week.

"No-one was reported dead from cold," Asghar Shokr-Gozar, mayor of Rasht, the provincial capital, told AFP, denying some press reports of deaths.

"We have managed to re-open the main roads of the city but due to the lack of sufficient snow-plowing machinery the process is slow ... In some areas (in the city) we are faced with more than one metre of snow," he added.

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Avalanche kills 33 in Pakistan's Kashmir
12 February 2005

ISLAMABAD - An avalanche killed at least 33 people in a small hamlet in the Neelam Valley of Pakistan-held Kashmir, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas Faisal Saleh Hayat told Reuters on Saturday.

The minister said 18 houses in Mathawali Siri hamlet had been buried by the avalanche which struck overnight.

Rescuers were still trying to reach the site of the disaster, ploughing through snow drifts more than 2 metres (6 ft) deep, but they could see the bodies of 20 women and 13 men from a vantage point overlooking the hamlet. Four injured had been rescued. 

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UFO sighting may have educational explanation
WebPosted Feb 11 2005 08:22 AM CST
CBC News

IQALUIT - Several Iqaluit residents claimed they saw strange lights in the sky Wednesday night near the Road to Nowhere.

Witnesses say they saw up to eight lights they claim were not airplane lights.

Jeremiah Veevee says his brother called him about the mysterious lights.

Veevee says he watched the show with binoculars from his home near the cemetery.

"I went to our backdoor area, started watching the lights come in, probably from the direction from the Road to Nowhere," he says.

"Something orange like light moving towards this area with one single light further back from the first one there were two of them flying side by side at about same speed."

Veevee says he called the air traffic control tower at the Iqaluit airport.

He says he was told that the strange objects were not showing up on the radar screen.

Other witnesses called the Iqaluit RCMP.

RCMP Sergeant Dale MacLeod says someone called about the lights just before 8 p.m., and police investigated.

He says the French school students were conducting experiments with balloons and candles at about the same time.

He believes that's what several people in Iqaluit witnessed, not UFO's.

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UFO sighted over Washington DC, 10 Feb

This latest UFO report was brought to our attention by

Whilst doing some maintenance on another site, they came across "something odd about the Washington image feed". Some screen shots were taken and a UFO appears in the image. Click here to go to their site and view the full details.

There are a number of screenshots taken at various times, in one, the sky appears to darken considerably in just a few minutes (following the appearance of the object).

The UFO sighting was reported to the National UFO Reporting Center who seem to agree that it was unusual, but obviously without further investigation it will be difficult to say exactly what it was.

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