Wednesday, February 23, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Media Wars

Since the story of James Guckert (aka Jeff Gannon) broke, the mainstream media has been in full damage control mode. The fact that the story was first covered by bloggers has certainly touched a nerve not only in the White House, but also in the power structure of the controlled US media.

The worry and panic expressed by the mainstream media and the powers that be is definitely not without reason. The number of blogs is increasing dramatically, along with the quality of the content provided in many cases. A Pew Internet report noted the following on January 2, 2005:

By the end of 2004 blogs had established themselves as a key part of online culture. Two surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in November established new contours for the blogosphere: 8 million American adults say they have created blogs; blog readership jumped 58% in 2004 and now stands at 27% of internet users; 5% of internet users say they use RSS aggregators or XML readers to get the news and other information delivered from blogs and content-rich Web sites as it is posted online; and 12% of internet users have posted comments or other material on blogs. Still, 62% of internet users do not know what a blog is.

The popularity of blogs, coupled with the increasingly "cutting edge" nature of the information reported, is perceived as a direct threat to the information monopoly long held by mainstream news outlets. Of course, not all blogs present alternative news to their readers; there are countless personal and pornographic blogs that add quite a bit of noise to the mix. Despite its increasing popularity and status in the internet community, sixty-two percent of internet users still do not understand the definition or potential utility of a blog.

It is for this shrinking minority that the controlled media presents articles like the following in an attempt to instill in the reader a negative bias towards blogs. The powers that be certainly can't have more and more people acquiring information that is dangerous to the plans of the puppetmasters. In a "post-Gannon" reality, the damage control operation is in full swing in more ways than one.

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Bloggers' Internet obsession
By K. Oanh Ha
Mercury News
Tue, Feb. 22, 2005

Amy Sherman recently woke up at 4 a.m. in a panic. Why wasn't her food blog getting as much traffic as others?

"I daydream about the blog throughout the day. . . . I worry about it at night. I sometimes put as much energy into it as my job,'' said Sherman, 40, a self-employed marketing consultant in San Francisco who makes no money from her blog, Cooking With Amy (

Sherman and many others who publish the online journals known as Weblogs, or "blogs'' for short, have discovered the addictive nature of blogging. What starts out as a hobby for some can end up permeating their lives and minds. Some of the diarists post repeatedly throughout the day, juggle several blogs and feel anxious if they don't write. Most dedicated bloggers say the endeavor has enriched their lives, but some worry about finding balance and keeping their obsession in check.

"There is a narcotic quality to it,'' said Anil Dash, a prominent 29-year-old San Francisco technology blogger ( "The more you post, the more readers you get. It's easy for people to get sucked into it.'' [...]

For most people, blogs are a healthy means of self-expression and validation, said Boston psychologist John Grohol, who studies online behavior. Most digital diarists find gratification in connecting with readers. Some feel the need to apologize to readers if they have not updated enough.

But blogging can become so all-consuming that it overshadows reality. "They spend enormous amounts of time blogging rather than living,'' Grohol said. [...]

For some, keeping a blog subtly colors every aspect of life. Renee Blodgett carries a digital camera wherever she goes to capture images for Down the Avenue (, which mixes notes on San Francisco, technology and poetry. She walked into a cafe recently and caught herself paying attention to the colors, sounds and people. "I was thinking how I could turn it into a post,'' said Blodgett, who is in her mid-30s. "Before, I'd just sit down, have my bowl of soup and zone out.''

Yet Blodgett worries whether the blog will make her less social. "Will I become more engaged with my laptop, more engaged with my blog than I am with people?'' she said. [...]

Comment: Note how blogging is associated with narcotics, obsession, and anti-social behavior. All of the bloggers interviewed run sites that are more personal in nature. What the author does not mention is the type of blogs that were responsible for breaking the Guckert affair: news blogs.

The Boston psychologist's "expert opinion" on the matter is also particularly interesting. What activity cannot become an obsession for someone who is perhaps predisposed to such behavior for psychological reasons? Such individuals should certainly not be used as the rule by which to judge all other bloggers.

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Blogging 'a paedophile's dream'
Wednesday, 26 January, 2005, 16:40 GMT

Online journals and camera phones are a "paedophiles' dream" which have increased the risk to children, the Scottish Parliament has been warned.

The Justice 1 Committee is examining a bill to create the specific offence of "grooming" and bringing in 10-year jail terms for meeting children for sex.

A forensic psychologist spoke about the dangers of online journals, or blogs, and pictures posted directly online.

Rachel O'Connell said adults could use weblogs to learn about children.

Dr O'Connell said that the emergence of moblogs - mobile weblogs - allowed even faster transfer of pictures to the internet using mobile telephones with cameras.

She said: "This is just a paedophile's dream because you have children uploading pictures, giving out details of their everyday life because it's an online journal."

The psychologist, whose research and work with police and other agencies has included posing as a child on internet newsgroups, said predatory adults could use an RSS feeder program - a syndication tool - to be instantly e-mailed any picture when it was added to a blogging site.

"The parameters of grooming are now about to alter whereby they don't necessarily have to have contact with the child," she said.

'New dimension'

Dr O'Connell is director of research at Central Lancashire University's Cyberspace Research Unit.

She described a scenario where a group of paedophiles could exchange information on a child's movement, potentially leading to an abduction.

"This is what we're facing, in that situation you have no prior contact with the child," she added. [...]

'No guidance'

Ms McNeill said the committee may have to consider issues beyond the current bill, a view echoed by Nationalist and Tory members.

Dr O'Connell said there was "absolutely no internet safety information or guidance whatsoever" on most blogging sites as their whole point was about giving out personal information.

"It's going to become a huge issue," she said. [...]

Comment: Now blogging is associated with pedophilia. Never mind that there have not yet been any reported instances of a child's blog playing a part in her abduction - the connection between "blog" and "pedophile" has been made in the minds of the masses.

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NYT Journalist Talks Journalism
By Amanda Erickson
Spectator Staff Writer
February 21, 2005

On the state of print journalism in America today, Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, said, "This is not a time when editors swear off alcohol."

Keller was the keynote speaker at Friday night's Blue Pencil Dinner, an annual Spectator fund-raiser held in Low Rotunda. The event served both as a chance for Spectator staffers to learn about journalism from insiders and for alumni to reconnect with the paper.

Keller's speech focused on the struggle of print journalism to maintain its relevance in the face of constant cable news updates, increased blogging, and failures in credibility.

He noted that, according to a recent opinion poll, the public's trust in journalists is at its lowest point in decades. He attributed this in part to the increasingly polarized nature of the American public, who look to the press for support of their viewpoints.

"At the moment," he said, "the major press is under attack from ideologues on the right and left."

Keller also sees "blogging," or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger's ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog's inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. "A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole," he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a "one man circle jerk."

Comment: Another common tactic is to accuse the enemy - in true psychopathic fashion - of exactly those crimes or misdeeds of which the accuser himself is guilty. How many reporters were in regular contact with James Guckert at White House briefings? Why didn't any of them research his background, especially considering the obviously biased questions he was asking? Again, it was bloggers who broke the story of Jeff Gannon. Doesn't it seem far more likely that it is the mainstream media that views and filters the world through a pinhole before presenting it to the public?

"There is a pressure to feel well informed without ever confronting an opinion that confronts your prejudices," he said of blog readers. [...]

Comment: Which is exactly why so many Americans turn to the controlled US media for their daily dose of lies, propaganda, and wishful thinking...

Bloggers are a threat because they generally have no corporate buddies, no politicians to please, and no editor looking over their shoulder threatening them with their livelihood if they write the wrong words. That is not to say that all blogs are factual. There is most definitely a lot of noise out there. As with all information, one must check the facts for oneself and separate the wheat from the chaff.

As an example of the bias inherent in the mainstream media, consider the following article from a Pennsylvania newspaper that presents itself as critical of the White House press corps and Gannongate:

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The strange story of White House reporter 'Jeff Gannon'
Donald P. Russo
The Morning Call
February 19, 2005

Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's ''The Daily Show,'' returned recently to the Lehigh Valley for two appearances at Easton's State Theatre. During his stand-up routine, Stewart said, ''Bush's presidency is like 'The Truman Show,' it's a world of his own creation.'' (He was referring to the 1998 Jim Carrey movie.) Based upon recent events, it appears that George W. Bush creates not only his own reality, but also, his own news media.

There was a time, not long ago, when the media would have taken a president to task for launching a pre-emptive war under false pretenses. Media pundits of yesteryear may have actually questioned the notion of a president leading a nation into a protracted war based upon spurious assumptions about the provenance of a prior terrorist attack, or manufactured hysteria over weapons of mass destruction that failed to materialize.

Such skepticism today, though, is viewed as unpatriotic. Many White House reporters have become good puppies, eager to serve as cheerleaders for Bush's policies. Many of them refused to hold Bush accountable for misdirecting us about Iraq's alleged WMD and connections to 911. Now, they sanguinely carry water for Bush's new Iranian agenda. We are hearing news reports about Iran possibly constructing heavy water nuclear reactors. No one is asking why we should believe these accusations, given the sloppy prognostications about Iraq. [...]

Comment: Yes indeed. Not even The Morning Call is asking the important questions on the latest news in the war on terror. A Virginia man is accused of plotting to assassinate Bush. The Morning Call ran the story on their front page online today. While the article does contain the fact that the government has presented no real evidence in the case, that is where the "critical analysis" ends.

Note also the author's comment above:

Many of them refused to hold Bush accountable for misdirecting us about Iraq's alleged WMD and connections to 911.

"Misdirecting"?? Is Russo afraid to simply call Bush a liar? In this day and age, calling Bush a liar is grounds for dismissal, no matter how many facts back up the claim - and, as regular readers of Signs of the Times know, there are a lot of facts to back up that particular claim.

The difference with news sites like this one or news blogs is that they are, by their nature, independent. We receive no financial backing from anyone, except for the donations from our readers. We pay for the rest. As for blogs, anyone can set one up and maintain it - and they are completely free.

But money is not the only thing that distinguishes alternative news sites from the major media organizations...

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Blogs or Blotto?
by Butler Shaffer
February 21, 2005

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
- Lord Kelvin (1895)

"Video won't be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."
- Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox (1946)

"I can assure you on the highest authority that data processing is a fad and won't last out the year."
- Business books editor at Prentice-Hall (1957)

The foregoing quotations are to be found in a delightful book, The Experts Speak, by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky. Described as a "compendium of authoritative misinformation," it illustrates how even highly respected authorities in their fields of endeavor can get tripped up and embarrassed by the unpredictabilities inherent in a complex world.

If another edition of this book is forthcoming, the authors would be well-advised to pay attention to the whining coming from members of the established media, who are doing their best to convince us that Internet "blogging" is just another fad that will soon go the way of the hula-hoop and the hokey-pokey. A recent CNN news feature on "blog power" was such an exercise, with one speaker focusing on the fact that there are so many sources, so much conflicting data and analysis, and so much error inherent in the blogging process that readers are burdened in their efforts to discover the truth of things. No mention was made, of course, of the lying, distortions, and propagandizing that has long infected traditional news outlets; nor was credit given to blog-sites for catching and correcting a number of these institutional deviations from truthfulness.

Comment: The media would never shoot itself in the foot by giving credit to blogs, especially when Bush and the gang need the controlled press to continue propagating the deceptions on which the war on terror so desperately depends.

As for the idea that blogs are just a passing fad, we will let the bloggers speak for themselves:

The mainstream media has finally acknowledged what has been obvious for quite some time; that the internet web logs, or "blogs", are here to stay. Far from being a passing fad, blogs like the present one existed before the word "blog" was coined to describe them. After nearly 12 years, and a readership that exceeds that of most city newspapers, the suggestion that blogs like this one are a passing fancy is at best wishful thinking.

Continuing on with the current article:

The search for truth and understanding depends upon a constantly energized mind that searches, weighs, and analyzes, all with an enduring skepticism as to what one finds.

In the face of so much competing and conflicting information, CNN hostess Judy Woodruff pondered, would people not be better advised to rely on the "mainstream media" for their news? She might just as well have added: "you have been content to let us do your thinking for you; why do you want to undertake such tedious and unceasing work? Let us continue to tell you what we think you should know!" That CNN is one of the "mainstream" institutions, the self-interested nature of her question expresses the empty desperation of the practitioners of an information system model that is rapidly dying.

The image that comes to mind when I think of the present institutional order, is that of the stegosaurus, the bell-curve-shaped dinosaur with plated armor along its spine. The stegosaurus was so large that it had two brains, one in its head the other in its tail. It is said that a stegosaurus might have been fatally attacked at its backside, while the frontal brain – due to the sluggish nature of the animal's nervous system – might have continued munching tree leaves, not knowing that its fate was already sealed.

So it seems with denizens of the institutional order, particularly those in the news media. The minds at the major television networks, newspapers, and other "mainstream" purveyors of information, either (a) don't understand that the vertically-structured information model – which operates from the premise "we will tell you what we think you ought to know" – is in as terminal a state as our stegosaurus; or (b) they do understand this, but hope that, by denying the inevitable, they can forestall the fatal consequences.

There is nothing "faddish" about the collapse of vertically-structured institutional systems, and the emergence of horizontal networks of interconnected individuals. Centralized systems are rapidly becoming decentralized – a matter about which I have written before – producing a fundamental change in how people will organize themselves in society. Because of the Internet, the information-genie has escaped its institutional confines – where it has been controlled, manipulated, and hidden from view, in furtherance of institutional interests to monopolize the content of the minds of subjugated men and women. [...]

American television, in particular, has so diluted the substance of "newscasts" as to render them virtually meaningless to thoughtful men and women. While bloggers, Internet websites, and individual e-mailers were often making factual and analytical challenges to political policies and programs, network television was anesthetizing minds with prolonged coverage of the Scott Peterson trial, entertainment world gossip, or trivial events writ large as the "lead story" of the day. [...]

The establishment media is so intellectually bankrupt that the most informative television news program is "The Daily Show, With Jon Stewart" on the "Comedy Central" channel. When satire becomes the most effective means of understanding human events, it is a sign that established society may be in an irreparable state of collapse. [...]

Established interests have always been discomforted by innovation and change. In the face of the Internet challenge, I suspect that many media chieftains would find comfort in the sentiments of a Michigan banker who, in 1903, opined that "the horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad." Because, as the study of chaos informs us, complex systems generate unpredictable outcomes, "blogging" may, indeed, be a short-term phenomenon. But as long as the channels for the flow of information remain unrestricted, today's blogs will likely evolve into more sophisticated, horizontal processes that allow individuals to freely communicate their understanding to one another, without the need for institutionalized oversight and control. [...]

Comment: Perhaps it is these new "horizontal processes" that so threaten the established system. The powers that be will stop at nothing to ensure that control of the masses rests in their hands. We have witnessed the lies about 9-11, the lies about Afghanistan, the lies about Iraq, and now we are watching as the same old story unfolds regarding Iran. Meteors and fireballs, earthquakes, and strange weather plague the planet, and yet we are told that everything is normal - please continue living your lives as if nothing is amiss.

Vertically-structured institutions, or hierarchies, are by their very definition based on control. Horizontally-structured entities, otherwise known as networks, are based on the freedom to share information. It is essential, however, that as in a computer network, each node verifies the integrity of the information received before passing it along. That is why we repeatedly stress to our readers the importance of verifying for themselves the information we present each day.

Networks of computers have long been used to create supercomputers. The possibility of a huge network of truly independent and rational news sites and/or blogs whose only purpose is the determination of what is true and what is a lie must be seen as an enormous threat to those who currently manipulate us from behind the facade of "democracy" and "freedom".

From Gannongate, we have all seen that the idea of a network can work. Now the only question is: What are each of us going to do about it as individuals?

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US military denies conducting spy flights over Iran
Wednesday, February 23, 2005. 12:45pm (AEDT)

The US military is not conducting spy flights over Iran and "to the best of our knowledge" neither are other elements of the US Government, a Pentagon spokesman says, denying Iranian and US reports to the contrary.

"It's not happening," Lawrence DiRita, the chief Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.

Mr DiRita said he could not speak for the US government as a whole, but he said the US Defence Department was not flying reconnaissance missions over Iran and he was satisfied they were not being flown by others in the government, an allusion to the US intelligence agencies.

"Nothing I'm saying here is meant to leave any other impression than it's not happening in the Department of Defence and to the best of our knowledge it isn't happening period," he said.

Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported US drones have been overflying Iran since April 2004, gathering intelligence on Iran's nuclear program and probing for weaknesses in Iran's air defences.

Iran's Intelligence Minister Ali Younessi said last week that the United States has been spying on Iran from the sky for a long time.

The reported spy flights have raised concerns about US military preparations for possible strikes on suspected Iranian nuclear weapons sites.

US President George W Bush has refused to rule out a military option, but during a visit to Europe sought to allay fears of an attack.

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous," Mr Bush told reporters at the end of a summit in Brussels with European Union (EU) leaders.

"Having said that, all options are on the table," he said.

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By Mark Jensen
February 19, 2005

Scott Ritter, appearing with journalist Dahr Jamail yesterday in Washington State, dropped two shocking bombshells in a talk delivered to a packed house in Olympia's Capitol Theater. The ex-Marine turned UNSCOM weapons inspector said that George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and claimed the U.S. manipulated the results of the recent Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

Olympians like to call the Capitol Theater "historic," but it's doubtful whether the eighty-year-old edifice has ever been the scene of more portentous revelations.

The principal theme of Scott Ritter's talk was Americans' duty to protect the U.S. Constitution by taking action to bring an end to the illegal war in Iraq. But in passing, the former UNSCOM weapons inspector stunned his listeners with two pronouncements. Ritter said plans for a June attack on Iran have been submitted to President George W. Bush, and that the president has approved them. He also asserted that knowledgeable sources say U.S. officials "cooked" the results of the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

On Iran, Ritter said that President George W. Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005. Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran's alleged program to develop nuclear weapons, but Ritter said neoconservatives in the administration also expected that the attack would set in motion a chain of events leading to regime change in the oil-rich nation of 70 million -- a possibility Ritter regards with the greatest skepticism.

The former Marine also said that the Jan. 30 elections, which George W. Bush has called "a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom," were not so free after all. Ritter said that U.S. authorities in Iraq had manipulated the results in order to reduce the percentage of the vote received by the United Iraqi Alliance from 56% to 48%.

Asked by UFPPC's Ted Nation about this shocker, Ritter said an official involved in the manipulation was the source, and that this would soon be reported by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in a major metropolitan magazine -- an obvious allusion to New Yorker reporter Seymour M. Hersh.

On Jan. 17, the New Yorker posted an article by Hersh entitled The Coming Wars (New Yorker, January 24-31, 2005). In it, the well-known investigative journalist claimed that for the Bush administration, "The next strategic target [is] Iran." Hersh also reported that "The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer." According to Hersh, "Defense Department civilians, under the leadership of Douglas Feith, have been working with Israeli planners and consultants to develop and refine potential nuclear, chemical-weapons, and missile targets inside Iran. . . . Strategists at the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, have been asked to revise the military's war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion of Iran. . . . The hawks in the Administration believe that it will soon become clear that the Europeans' negotiated approach [to Iran] cannot succeed, and that at that time the Administration will act."

Scott Ritter said that although the peace movement failed to stop the war in Iraq, it had a chance to stop the expansion of the war to other nations like Iran and Syria. He held up the specter of a day when the Iraq war might be remembered as a relatively minor event that preceded an even greater conflagration.

Scott Ritter's talk was the culmination of a long evening devoted to discussion of Iraq and U.S. foreign policy. Before Ritter spoke, Dahr Jamail narrated a slide show on Iraq focusing on Fallujah. He showed more than a hundred vivid photographs taken in Iraq, mostly by himself. Many of them showed the horrific slaughter of civilians.

Dahr Jamail argued that U.S. mainstream media sources are complicit in the war and help sustain support for it by deliberately downplaying the truth about the devastation and death it is causing.

Jamail was, until recently, one of the few unembedded journalists in Iraq and one of the only independent ones. His reports have gained a substantial following and are available online at

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Beware of the Dog!  
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, February 21, 2005

It is not very flattering to be paraded like a Rottweiler on a leash, whose master threatens to let him loose on his enemies. But this is our situation now.

Vice President Dick Cheney threatened a few weeks ago that if Iran continues to develop its nuclear capabilities, Israel might attack her.

This week, President George Bush repeated this threat. If he were the leader of Israel, he declared, he would have been feeling threatened by Iran. He reminded those who are a little slow that the United States has undertaken to defend Israel if there is a threat to its security.

All this adds up to a clear warning: if Iran does not submit to the orders of the US (and, perhaps, even if it does) Israel will attack it with American help, much as it attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor some 24 years ago.

The same week, something quite unexpected happened: Ariel Sharon sent the Chief-of-Staff, Moshe Ya'alon, packing. His successor will most probably be General Dan Halutz.

Halutz is, of course, a pilot, and one who played his part in the 1981 attack on the Iraqi reactor. If he succeeds Ya'alon, it will be the first time in the annals of the Israel Defense Forces that an airman is appointed Chief-of-Staff. That is rather curious. In the coming year, the army will be called upon to carry out a very difficult operation on land: the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements. The appointment of an Air Force general as Chief-of-Staff may hint that the IDF is planning something even more important in the air.

(Entr'act: Nobody will shed a tear at the removal of Ya'alon. As Chief-of-Staff, he bears responsibility for all the terrible things that happened in the army during the last three years, from the "killing verification" of a 13-year old girl to the "neighbor practice" – compelling a Palestinian civilian to walk in front of soldiers on their way to kill a militant. But if Ya'alon is succeeded by Halutz, it will confirm the pessimistic dictum that for every bad man removed there is an even worse one to succeed him.

For those who have forgotten: Halutz ("pioneer", in Hebrew) aroused a public storm after the Air Force dropped a one-ton bomb on the house of a Hamas leader and killed him together with 15 civilians, including nine children. Asked what he feels when dropping such a bomb, he answered "a slight bump", adding that he sleeps well afterwards. On the same opportunity he vilified Gush Shalom for its actions against war crimes and demanded that we be put on trial for treason.)

Back to Bush-Cheney and the Rottweiler.

When Bush came to power for the first time, the Neo-Cons laid before him a coherent plan for the extension of the American Empire in the Middle East. It contained three chapters:

One, to conquer Iraq in order to take control of its immense oil reserves and place an American garrison at the critical junction between the Caspian Sea oil and the Saudi resources.

Two, to break the Iranian regime and return Iran to the American bloc.

Three, to do the same to Syria and Lebanon. It was not yet decided whether Iran would come before Syria, or the other way round.

It might have been assumed that the experience of the American adventure in Iraq would cancel the next chapters. The Iraqi people did not receive the occupying army with flowers. The pretext for the invasion – Saddam's weapons of mass destruction – was exposed as a blatant lie. The armed insurrection continues. The future of the Iraqi state hangs in the balance, even after the recent elections. The country may well break up into three parts, creating shock waves all around the Middle East.

Naive people believe that after all this, Bush would not risk more adventures of this kind. They are wrong.

First, because a primitive and vain person like him never admits to failure. When one of his adventures fails, this just drives him on to even more ambitious ones.

Second, the failure does indeed cost a lot of lives and destroys the infrastructure of life in Iraq, but that doesn't matter for the planners of the operation. The main aim – establishing a permanent garrison in the country - has been achieved. Outside of Iraq, nobody is demanding that the American soldiers leave. And, whatever the acts of sabotage, the Iraqi oil is controlled by the US. The oil barons, who are the patrons of the Bush family, can be well satisfied.

The Europeans and Russian are trying to block Bush's path. He is now going to pay a state visit to the EU and NATO, trying to convince them by sweet talk and threats to cooperate in his adventures.

Therefore, one must take seriously Bush's and Cheney's threats to unleash the Rottweiler. The moment they feel that the way is clear, they will give the sign to Sharon. Sharon will do his duty, in return for an American agreement to allow him to gobble up some more pieces of the Palestinian territories.

Will military action cause the regime of the Ayatollahs to collapse? I doubt it. It is, indeed, a detestable regime, but faced with an attack from the outside, especially from "Crusaders and Zionists", the Iranian people will unite behind it. A proud people, with a glorious history like the Iranians, will not break easily.

Syria is a different target. Unlike Iraq and Iran, it has no oil resources. But without it the American Empire will not be contiguous and it is an obstacle to Israel. [...]

This week, the Muslim leader Fariq al-Hariri, who lately joined the opposition, was assassinated in Beirut. It is not yet known who did it. The huge American propaganda machine, which includes the Israeli media, has pointed at the Syrians. If they are indeed guilty, it was an act of supreme folly, since it was obvious that it would help the Americans build up the Lebanese opposition and arouse a storm of anti-Syrian sentiment. It happened at exactly the right moment for anyone interested in starting a campaign against Syria, under the slogan "End the Syrian Occupation!"

There is something laughable about this demand, coming as it does from two occupying powers: the Americans in Iraq and the Israelis in Palestine. But Rottweilers are not renowned for their sense of humor, any more than those who parade them around on a leash.

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Dissecting Al-Hariri assassination
Mike Whitney

To understand who assassinated Rafik al-Hariri we don't need to look any further than the $1.5 billion US Embassy currently under construction in Baghdad. The new embassy, the largest of its kind in the world, will facilitate 1,800 employees and serve as the regional nerve center for American political and economic activity. What does this have to do with al Hariri?

It demonstrates that the US is establishing a massive command center for its future domination of the entire Middle East. This suggests that Lebanon must be entered into the family of client states who accept a subservient role to American military and economic power, and who willingly comply with the requirements of the regional constable, Israel.

Al Hariri's assassination provides the raison d'etre for severing ties with Syria and for transforming Lebanon into a US vassal. This conforms nicely with Israel's ambition to surround itself with non-threatening states as well as affording access to the vital water resources of Lebanon's Wazzani River. In other words, the murder of al Hariri has created some extremely fortunate opportunities for both Israel and the US; merging seamlessly with their overall objectives in the region.

The likelihood that Syria was involved in the assassination is zilch. One can hardly imagine a greater disaster for poor Syria who has been scrambling to avoid the American bludgeon for the last four years. Few people realize that Syria provided more assistance in the first year of the war on terror after 9-11 than any other nation. That's of little consequence now, as the US is on a mission to quickly integrate the entire region beneath the American standard and prove that it can be trusted with its continued stewardship of the world economy.

Fortunately, there are cracks and fissures appearing everywhere in the US artifice and new alliances between former allies of America are forming almost by the day. This creates a dangerous new threat to the empire and violates the "three grand imperatives" of imperial strategy: "to prevent collusion and maintain dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together." (Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, p. 40) Alliances between the major players (India, Iran, Brazil, Venezuela, Russia, China and the EU) demonstrate that the "barbarians" are coming together more swiftly than imagined, creating a potential roadblock for Middle East consolidation. This explains why this risky gambit was put into play.

We should also consider the assassination in terms of the drooping dollar. If Washington's plan to control Middle East oil does not succeed, the dollar is headed for the landfill. There's no way that the world will continue to hold paper that represents $8 trillion worth of debt unless that happens to be the only way they can purchase the oil that's essential to their industries. The Bush administration is on a tight "time-line" which requires ham-fisted tactics to play out on city streets in foreign capitals. The murder of al Hariri fits conveniently within this regional strategy.

It's a marvel to see how quickly the forces of empire swing into action when a major event like this transpires. Less than 10 hours after the assassination, Washington was withdrawing its ambassador without even scant knowledge of who was responsible. The press, of course, was immediately deployed to perform its task of "finger-pointing" at Syria and to create the spurious narrative of why such a suicidal action would be in their interest. The US organized small demonstrations in Beirut to march around in front of adoring camera lens to create the impression that the Lebanese masses held Syria accountable. (A nice touch that the US used effectively in both Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia) And the Bush team worked feverishly to frame Syria with an onslaught of prepared accusations and innuendo. By now, we should all know the drill: the main players like Bush stay above the fray and make no reckless claims of guilt on Syria's part, while his emissaries in the media and the Congress heap suspicion on the target state. (Isn't this what happened with the "Swift-boat" fiasco? Bush pretended not to be involved while his underlings and the media devoured Kerry in full view of the national audience.)

The next phase of this farce is to expel Syria's 15,000 soldiers from Lebanon so that Israel-America can begin the arduous task of establishing another client regime.

As for Syria, Russia has entered the breach announcing that it will go ahead with a "controversial sale of weapons despite the objections of Ariel Sharon." (Russian made surface-to-air SA-18 missiles. Russia made a similar deal with Venezuela just last week)

Is this just the beginning of an arms race in the Middle East to counter American and Israeli ambitions?

It appears that at least some of the "vassals" are beginning to tire of Washington's murderous antics and are willing to counter with the only thing that will discourage further aggression - a viable deterrent.

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The final stroke will come this year when Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez Frias switches to the Petro-Euro
Published: Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Bylined to: Bob Chapman

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias has stressed the importance of a South American union. He said a union is the only answer to stop the USA from "eating us up one by one." He said higher levels of freedom could only be attained via South American integration. That would be achieved through common projects together.

The integration between Brazil and Venezuela should be seen as an example of what can be achieved.

We believe such a union is important to the Americans because it will short circuit US elitists' efforts for FTAA, which the elitists need to eventually amalgamate all of North, Central, South America and Mexico in preparation for a final move to world government. Anything Latin America can do to this end helps the American people.

Last week the US government sent a message to South American countries using the recent Colombian ruse of the Granda affair, to pressure Venezuela to cut its alleged ties with the neighboring country's guerrillas, as reported in the Brazilian press.

The US is pretending to stop a crisis they created. The matter is currently being mediated by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The US government is, of course, supporting Colombia as they prepare Colombia for war against Venezuela. Colombia said eight rebels are hiding in Venezuela.

So what, we have 18 to 20 million illegal aliens in the US and many of them are from Colombia.

The American government has no business meddling in Venezuela's internal affairs. In addition, we might mention the protection that the American government gives to people involved in terrorist acts, who are wanted by Venezuelan authorities.

The Bush administration makes its own laws and anyone who disagrees with them is a terrorist. Thus, regime change has been ordered by George and the neocons.

They could not get Mr. Chavez thrown out of office; they could not assassinate him, so now it is political confrontation as a prelude to war via their proxy Colombia.

Now that Venezuela has signed bilateral oil agreements with Iran, Russia and China, Jorge Boosh is seeing red. George takes these sovereign acts as a declaration of war - of open terrorism, as being sufficient evidence to include Venezuela in the coming holocaust of the "axis of evil."

The final stroke will come this year when President Chavez switches to the Petro-Euro, or creates a Latin American currency. In as much as the US is preparing Colombia to invade Venezuela, the faster Mr. Chavez acts the better.

A good time to make the switch would be in June when Iran opens their oil exchange, which we understand will trade oil in dollars and euros.

At that point, we believe it would be too late for the US-Colombia to invade either Iran or Venezuela. They could well bring on nuclear war with China and Russia.

Mr. Bush is playing chicken with both countries, and we can assure you China and Russia will call Mr. Bush's bluff. Then again, there is nothing normal about George Bush and he may just take the game all the way. If he does, half of the American population will end up as crispy critters.

Venezuela may get a little unexpected help.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are shorting the dollar and central banks have been shifting out of dollars and will continue to do so for financial preservation.

Of course, Venezuela should join them if they have not already.

Do not feel bad for America, they reelected George W. Bush, so they are getting the kind of government they deserve. Seventy percent of central banks are moving out of dollars. Venezuela has every reason to denominate oil and gas in euros. The time is right and it will preempt an invasion.

As we explained in the last issue, anyone who holds dollars has to contend with a 9-1/2% inflation rate plus depreciation of the dollar. If that isn't lose-lose, we do no know what is. There is no question that the Bush cabal is a criminal enterprise; lies to justify invasion for profit; torture, abuse, ritual rape by perverts from the CIA and the Mossad.

The murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and tragic loss and maiming of tens of thousands of young American soldiers, so Bush and his cronies can get richer. Hugo Chavez is right.

The US will knock off those who disagree with George one by one. You must keep in mind we do not come from the left side of the political equation, but from the far, far right. We know disaster when we see it. We know what George and the neocons are doing is threatening the very existence of the American people and many other nations.

Venezuela had best move fast or they will become a foot-note of history.

The recent Granda kidnapping was a transparent excuse to start a war. It does not get any more complicated than that. The crisis is calculated not only to embroil Venezuela and Colombia, but all of South America.

The Colombian government is doing exactly what George and his elitist neocons have done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Invade any country you want on any pretext and justify it over some flimsy lying excuse. Deliberate provocation for war.

Mr. Chavez did not take the bait from the US-Colombia to invade or react recklessly. Mr. Bush just might meet up with Chinese and Russian military elements. That would certainly up the ante. Colombian forces are doing exactly as they are being told by US advisers. [...]

Venezuelans are willing to fight to keep their government, but they have to be trained. This means a crash course has to begin soon.

The public, no matter how motivated, cannot defeat a well-trained, well-equipped and well- disciplined army.

The days ahead are going to be very difficult ones, get prepared.

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Half of Russia's nuclear materials not accounted for: US senator
21 February 2005 1026 hrs - AFP

WASHINGTON : Half of Russia's nuclear materials that can be used by terrorists plotting new attacks against the United States remain unaccounted for, a US senator with access to classified intelligence information charged.

John Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the situation with Russian loose radioactive materials and other possible components of nuclear weapons made him wonder whether Russia was a greater proliferation threat than North Korea, which has publicly claimed to have a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Members of the committee received last week a detailed briefing from Central Intelligence Agency officials on security threats faced by the United States.

"In the sense that half of the nuclear materials, pieces and parts of it, are unaccounted for by the Russians -- and a lot of them, these places are in rural areas -- I think you can ... have a real debate as to which is more threatening to the world right now," said the Democratic senator, appearing on the "Fox News Sunday" television program.

The warning came as US President George W. Bush arrived in Europe as part of a fence-mending visit aimed at smoothing over disagreements with allies on the Iraq war and strengthening transatlantic security cooperation, including in nuclear non-proliferation.

Bush is scheduled to discuss this and other issues with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, when the two meet in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava on Thursday.

Rockefeller questioned Russia's ability to guard its nuclear arsenal and other radioactive materials due to widespread corruption in the country.

"The point is that a lot of those people who protect those places can be bribed," he argued. "Terrorists can come in and buy part of those."

He insisted "a lot of those lost nuclear weapons can be out circulating in the terrorist community" and president Putin "ought to be very worried" that these weapons or materials could end up in the hands of Chechen separatists.

The CIA, which monitors proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, declined to comment on the senator's remarks.

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Israeli Occupation Troops Wound Several Palestinians Protesting the Apartheid Land-Grab Wall
February 22, 2005 (IPC Agencies)

RAMALLAH, Palestine, --  Ten Palestinian residents from the West Bank village of Bal'een, west of the Ramallah City, were shot and wounded with rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters, by Israeli occupation troops on Monday, in a peaceful anti-Apartheid Wall protest.

Local sources and witnesses said that the Israeli government endorsed yesterday an adjusted track of the Apartheid Wall, including the Green Line that is cutting between the West Bank and Israel, rating about 10 percent of the West Bank city territories including the occupied east Jerusalem and the settlement blocks in there.

The new wall's track includes  of the West Bank lands, excluding the east Jerusalem, after the Israeli government had adjusted the wall's track upon a ruling by the Israeli high court.

In a similar protest, hundreds of residents from the Safa village in Ramallah, will take part in a peaceful march, protesting the Israeli bulldozing of their arable lands.

In the meantime, the Israeli occupation troops arrested yesterday night Palestinian resident Said Al-Akhras from Rafidia neighborhood of Nablus, and took him to unknown destination.

Gaza Strip

Israeli occupation troops opened heavy fire on Tuesday morning at Palestinian-owned houses , just close to the Palestinian-Egyptian borders in Rafah city, causing grave damages to several houses.

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'Dangerous' Jewish settlers will be disarmed ahead of Gaza withdrawal
4:17 a.m. February 22, 2005

JERUSALEM – Israeli police will confiscate the arms of some Jewish settlers ahead of a planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.

Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra was quoted as saying that the police and the Shin Bet internal security service had information about "dangerous" settlers, and there were plans to take away their weapons ahead of the pullout.

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Banks target UK Palestine groups
By Christian Henderson
Monday 21 February 2005, 22:52 Makka Time, 19:52 GMT

The British Palestinian Solidarity Campaign has had its account closed by a British bank without explanation, and the group says the reason behind the closure is political.

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) had their account at the UK bank Alliance and Leicester closed at the same time as the Friends of al-Aqsa (FoAA), another British group that campaigns on behalf of Palestinians, had their account closed by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Royal Bank of Scotland rescinded the decision after protests by FoAA and other Palestinian support groups. PSC's bank account with the Alliance and Leicester has remained closed, however.

Neither of the groups is proscribed by the British government.

A number of Arab and Muslim charities in Europe say they have been unfairly scrutinised by US authorities recently, and some have even been accused of funding terrorism. 

No explanation

"In July we received a letter from Alliance and Leicester that they were closing our account with 30 days notice, because they were reviewing accounts of clubs and societies," Betty Hunter, general secretary of the PSC, told on Monday.

"We appealed. We wanted to know what was the basis of this was. They refused to tell us anything until just before Christmas when they told it was for commercial reasons," she said.

"We think it is political. We have never been in the red. We have never had any complaints," she added.

Zoe Mars, PSC's treasurer, told "We thought that maybe anything to do with Palestinians was problematic with them. They have never given us any explanation."

In 2003 PSC had a $2900 donation to Mustafa al-Barghuthi's medical charity that was transferred through the Alliance and Leicester stopped by the US Treasury.

Human error

Ismael Patel, the chair of FoAA who also had his personal and business accounts closed, told that the Royal Bank of Scotland also refused explanation for their actions.

"We had absolutely no joy - they wouldn't talk to us," Patel said.

"We turned to public support and we had overwhelming support. After about five days we had a response - they called it a human error," he said.

Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign told that his group's plans to hold a protest outside the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland may have been a factor in the bank's decision to backtrack.

"We organised a large protest outside the banks headquarters. The day before the protest they call FoAA and rescinded their decision. They were very keen for protests not to go ahead," he said.

Bank's denial

PSC is considering suing the Alliance and Leicester, saying the closure of the account will cost the group up to $20,000, as well as hours of time for the group's volunteer staff.

A spokeswoman for the Alliance and Leicester told the reasons behind the closure of PSC's bank account was neither "political or racial"

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American accused of plotting with al-Qaida to assassinate Bush
Julian Borger in Washington
Wednesday February 23, 2005
The Guardian

An alleged al-Qaida plot to assassinate George Bush was revealed yesterday when an American man who spent 20 months in a Saudi jail on suspicion of terrorism was charged with conspiring to kill the president.

According to the indictment, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 23, conspired with al-Qaida members in Saudi Arabia to carry out the assassination, either by getting "close enough to the president to shoot him on the street" or with a car bomb.

The US attorney leading the prosecution, Paul McNulty, said Mr Abu Ali had "turned his back on America" and "now stands charged with some of the most serious offences our nation can bring against supporters of terrorism".

The indictment does not say what evidence the prosecution has against Mr Ali, other than the FBI's discovery of al-Qaida literature, gun magazines and general information about surveillance and counter-surveillance at his home in Falls Church, a Washington suburb.

The charges provoked laughter in the US district court in Washington from over a hundred of Mr Abu Ali's supporters, and were later rejected by his father, Omar, who claimed they had been "cooked".

One of his lawyers, Ashraf Nubani, said he had been tortured while in Saudi prison. "He has the evidence on his back. He was whipped," Mr Nubani told the court, according to the Associated Press.

Mr Abu Ali, who was born in Texas and came top of his high school class in Virginia, was picked up by the Saudi authorities in Medina in June 2003, a month after a wave of al-Qaida bomb attacks against residential compounds for foreigners in Riyadh.

His family and supporters mounted a lawsuit last July de manding he be released or charged. They claimed his arrest had been initiated by the US and that the US was keeping him in Saudi Arabia "to avoid constitutional scrutiny by US courts". The lawsuit triggered a court battle with the administration over its use of secret evidence against Mr Abu Ali.

Under legal pressure, the US state department presented a formal request to the Saudi government in January to charge Mr Abu Ali, or allow him to be brought back to the US. According to a legal source, his parents were told only on Monday that he was being flown back and would appear in court.

The charges against Mr Abu Ali included six counts of conspiracy and material support for al-Qaida. The indictment claims he met his unnamed co-conspirators when he travelled to Medina in 2000 for religious studies. He returned home in August that year but stayed in touch with one of those contacts before returning to Saudi Arabia in September 2002, where he met the contact again and announced "his interest in joining al-Qaida".

"It was defendant Abu Ali's intent to become a planner of terrorist operations like Mohamed Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, well known al-Qaida terrorists associated with the attacks on September 11 2001," the indictment said.

Between September 2002 and his arrest on June 9 2003, it was alleged, he discussed ways of assassinating Mr Bush with at least three other co-conspirators, including one who gave him a religious blessing for the assassination.

He is also said to have attempted to travel to Iran with the intention of slipping into Afghanistan to join the jihad against US-led troops, but was denied a visa.

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HST Says Farewell
"He Was a Crook"
February 21, 2005

DATE: MAY 1, 1994


"And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is becoming the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."--REVELATION 18:2

Richard Nixon is gone now and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing--a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon."

I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.

Nixon laughed when I told him this. "Don't worry," he said. "I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you."

It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he's gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive--and he was, all theway to the end--we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.

That was Nixon's style--and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don't fight fair, bubba. That's why God made dachshunds. [...]

Comment: Ah, Nixon was a family man. As is George the Third. America itself believes it is founded upon "family values".

We are all in great trouble.

Few people have looked into the heart of America, seen it for what it was, and written about it with such clarity of venom and horror as Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Almost as few are those who read Thompson and understand how bad the situation really is, who see that the extreme language was only extreme because it was accurate. He was simply describing what he saw.

His readers laughed, but how many of them felt that subsequent shudder in the gut that tells them they are in danger? The warning was given over three decades ago during the Nixon years. We read and laughed, did nothing, and now the trap has sprung.

The praise for Thompson has been sung loudly since his suicide on Sunday. Yet how many of those really see how bad it is out there?

How many of those who praise Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are willing to look seriously at the idea that 9/11 was an inside job? Cockburn and St-Clair from CounterPunch, the online journal that posted Thompson's Nixon article in tribute, are not willing to look seriously at the truth about 9/11. Do they think the good doctor was kidding when he described the scenes of American law enforcement officers morphing into reptilian forms? Do they stop to consider the profound esoteric truth embodied in that description?

But they don't want to go there. They do not want to look into the heart of darkness and see how foul it really is, how rotten lies the American Dream when you scratch its surface...

If a sitting president was responsible for an attack on US property that killed 3000 Americans, while the blame was placed on innocent patsies thousands of miles away in order to justify the invasion, occupation, and control of the Middle East, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people whose only crime is to be Arab or Moslem, well then, Thompson's descriptions of Las Vegas would have a reality that these lefty scribes would be unable to stomach.

If it were so and you stood by and did nothing... like Cockburn and Chomsky and the other heroes of the progressive movement in the US... what does that make you? What would you see when you looked in the mirror?

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson saw US reality. He described it accurately. He also saw that it was part of himself, that insane, drug-addled, gun-toting persona that we were never certain was altogether real or just part of a public image to keep people away. But it is part of us all, and it was Thompson's admission that it lived within him, too, that was the clincher that he had SEEN it.

Once you've seen it in yourself, you either get violently ill, or you keep swallowing it back down and get about your business. But you can't beat it alone. There is always another bucketful of the "it's not as bad as that" bacteria being brewed inside.

But how much horror can one take? His public laughed at his descriptions, but they didn't really buy into it, not all the way. And they won't see what Hunter saw until they start to suffer, until the reality of it becomes physical and hits them in their stomachs and bank accounts and the repo man comes round to drive off with the SUV. For the moment, it is still only happening to other people, to someone else. Who is going to ACT when it is "only" happening to someone else?

Did Thompson see this, too? Did he recognise that it was too late, that with four more years the horror would begin to outstrip even his picturesque prose? We don't know and wouldn't even wish to speculate. Thompson is gone. It is up to you to decide for yourself. We know our answer.

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Indonesian plane crash kills 15, injures 3

United Press International
Feb. 22/05

JAKARTA, : An Indonesian National Police aircraft crashed off the coast of the eastern province of Papua Tuesday, leaving 15 people dead and three injured.

The survivors were rescued after the Casa-212 airplane, with 18 people on board including four crew members, crashed as it was trying to land at the Sarmi airport on the north coast of Papua, about 2,100 miles east of Jakarta, at about 7:30 a.m. local time. They were taken to hospital in critical condition.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known. But an airport official said the pilot, identified as Adjunct Commissioner Garuda and who was among the dead, reported to the airport's tower that one of the plane's engines was malfunctioning shortly before the crash.

In Jakarta, national police spokesman Commissioner General Sunarko said four police officers -- two captain pilots and two mechanics -- were killed in the crash.

The plane was flying from Sentani airport outside the provincial capital of Jayapura and reportedly crashed about 20 meters off the coast and about 500 meters from the airport runway in Sarmi.

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Pilots die in mission plane crash
By Lloyd Jones in Port Moresby
February 23, 2005

TWO New Zealand pilots have been killed in a plane crash in the mountains of western Papua New Guinea.

Captains Chris Hansen, 37, and Richard West, 40, were piloting a Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) Twin Otter aircraft when it crashed near Wobegon in the Star Mountains early yesterday afternoon.

The cabin attendant and 10 passengers on the twin-engined aircraft survived the crash with only minor injuries. [...]

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2 officers killed in military plane crash in Turkey 2005-02-22 21:44:49

ANKARA, Feb. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- One colonel and one lieutenant were killed on board on Tuesday when a military training plane crashed near Manisa province in western Turkey, the semi-official Anatolia News Agency reported.

Manisa's Acting Governor Akin Yilmaz was quoted as saying that the plane crashed near Tilkisuleyman village of the Aegean city of Manisa at about 14:00 local time (1200 GMT).

Turkish military officers rushed to the scene to make investigation into the cause of the plane crash, said the report.

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Plane's engine fails over Saskatoon
Last Updated Feb 22 2005 02:34 PM CST
CBC News

SASKATOON – A small aircraft experienced engine failure and had to make an emergency landing in a field west of Saskatoon Tuesday morning.

The pilot and one passenger were on board a privately owned Cessna 172 when the engine stopped just after 9 a.m.

The two men had just taken off from Saskatoon and were heading for Regina.

Saskatoon police said neither man was injured as the plane plowed through the snow to stop in the field.

The abrupt landing happened about five kilometres west of the city near Chappel Drive and 11th Street.

Police said there was only slight damage to the landing gear.
It's not yet known what caused the engine failure.

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Plane crash injures six in Bromont
Last Updated Feb 22 2005 03:10 PM EST

MONTREAL – Three people remain in hospital after their plane crash-landed at Bromont airport in the Eastern Townships.

Four American tourists and two pilots were on board the Hawker business jet as it made its approach Monday night.

The plane was en route from Chicago and had made a stop-over in Montreal, just 10 minutes by air from Bromont.

The runway lights were out as the plane was landing, says Marc Fernandez, who is heading the investigation for the Transportation Safety Board.

"The pilot, knowing that, still decided to do the approach and land in Bromont," Fernandez said Tuesday.

The runway lights at the Bromont airport haven't been working since late last week.

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A Dark Age Mystery Unravelled

Academics blame a comet for the 6th-century 'nuclear winter.'

Scientists at Cardiff University, UK, believe they have discovered the cause of crop failures and summer frosts some 1,500 years ago. The answer? A comet colliding with Earth.

The team has been studying evidence from tree rings, which suggests that the Earth underwent a series of very cold summers around 536-540 AD, indicating an effect rather like a nuclear winter.

The scientists in the School of Physics and Astronomy believe this was caused by a comet hitting the earth and exploding in the upper atmosphere. The debris from this giant explosion was such that it enveloped the earth in soot and ash, blocking out the sunlight and causing the very cold weather. This effect is known as a plume and is similar to that which was seen when comet Shoemaker-Levy-9 hit Jupiter in 1995.

Historical references from this period, known as the Dark Ages, are sparse, but what records there are, tell of crop failures and summer frosts.

The researchers study, published in the February issue of Astronomy and Geophysics, the in-house magazine of the Royal Astronomical Society, show how small a comet is needed to cause such dramatic effects. The scientists calculate that a comet not much more than half a kilometre across could cause a global nuclear winter effect. This is significantly smaller than was previously thought.

One of the researchers said, "One of the exciting aspects of this work is that we have re-classified the size of comet that represents a global threat. This work shows that even a comet of only half a kilometre in size could have global consequences. Previously nothing less than a kilometre across was counted as a global threat. If such an event happened again today, then once again a large fraction of the earth's population could face starvation."

The comet impact caused crop failures and wide-spread starvation among the sixth century population. The timing coincides with the Justinian Plague, widely believed to be the first appearance of the Black Death in Europe. It is possible that the plague was so rampant and took hold so quickly because the population was already weakened by starvation.

Comment: If they had read Mike Baillie's From Exodus to Arthur, they would have had this answer years ago. Better late than never.

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Earthquake quake rocks Taiwan
Posted 02:57pm (Mla time) Feb 22, 2005
Agence France-Presse

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- An earthquake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale rocked Taiwan Tuesday, the Seismology Center said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The quake hit at 14:33 p.m. (0633 GMT) with an epicenter 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northeast of the northern coastal town of Ilan. The earthquake originated 84 kilometers underground.

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Earthquake shakes India's Andaman islands
Posted on Tue, Feb. 22, 2005
Associated Press

HONG KONG - A moderate earthquake jolted India's remote Andaman islands, an area repeatedly hit by aftershocks following December's massive quake and tsunami, Hong Kong seismologists said Wednesday.

There were no immediate report of casualties or damage from the 5.6-magnitude quake that hit near the Andamans Wednesday morning, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

The observatory said the temblor's epicenter was about 440 miles northwest of Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia's Aceh province that was ravaged by the 9.0-magnitude temblor on Dec. 26.

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Death toll up to 9 and rain keeps coming in California
11:32 PM EST Feb 22

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Californians braced for even more rain Tuesday as they struggled to recover from storms that have left at least nine people dead, triggered mudslides and tornadoes and washed away roads and runways.

Among the victims was a Nevada woman caught in an avalanche while cross-country skiing near Lake Tahoe and a 16-year-old Orange County girl doing homework on a computer when a mudslide crashed through the wall of her home.

In Ventura County, officials closed the small Santa Paula airport Tuesday after more than 47 metres of runway collapsed into the rushing Santa Clara River. Chunks of concrete crumbled into the water throughout the day.

"We've lost nearly the entire west third of the airport," said Rowena Mason, president of the Santa Paula Airport Association.

"This is millions and millions of dollars worth of damage."

Forecasters said another strong system expected early Wednesday could bring severe winds and drop an additional 2.5 centimetres or more of rain on southern California.

Despite brief glimpses of sun, a flash-flood watch was in effect across much of southern California on Tuesday. A tornado warning was also issued for coastal areas.

Authorities said dozens of homes were evacuated or red-tagged - marked as uninhabitable - because they threatened to collapse from sliding hillsides.

Mudslides forced Amtrak officials to suspend train service north of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara at least through Thursday.

The wild weather came from a series of storms that began battering the state Thursday, dumping more than 20 centimetres of rain on downtown Los Angeles. [...]

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Lightning Strikes Bay Area - Tornado Hits Sacramento
Feb 21, 2005 5:19 pm US/Pacific
(CBS 5)

Severe weather moved through the Bay Area Monday night, bringing lightning, hail, and heavy rain.

Thunderstorms hit the South Bay, the East Bay, and the North Bay, with hundreds of lightning strikes in the area. There were also scattered reports of hail and strong downpours of rain.

In West Sacramento, a rare tornado ripped through a shopping complex. The roof of a gas station and a neighboring supermarket suffered minor damages. A nearby residential area was also hit by the powerful winds. No one was hurt.

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Powerful thunderstorms rattle through metro area
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/22/05

(Georgia) - Powerful thunderstorms rolled across the northern metro area late Monday evening, contributing to a fatal wreck in DeKalb County and prompting storm and flash flood warnings from the National Weather Service.

The storms ended around midnight, after dumping as much as 3 inches of rain in parts of North Georgia, where some places also got hail. The Weather Service issued a dense fog adivisory until noon today. Visibility as low as 1/16 of a mile was reported at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport about 6:30 a.m., but by 8, the fog had lifted.

The fog thickened again around 9 a.m., and at 10:30, the Federal Aviation Administration reported delays averaging 30 minutes on some arriving flights at Hartsfield. [...]

Residents in Cherokee County reported seeing hail, some the size of golf balls. In Cobb, 911 call dispatchers said police had responded to several accidents but without serious injuries. Cobb firefighters responded to at least nine house fires caused by lightning.

Thunder, lightning and high winds were also reported in Gwinnett County around 7:15 p.m.

Golfball-sized hail pummeled eastern Canton, shattering car windshields and piling up in the gutters. [...]

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Hot, dry summer feared on Island
SourceLast Updated Feb 22 2005 11:08 AM PST
CBC News

CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. – There are concerns that the lack of snow in the mountains on Vancouver Island could mean a very dry summer for residents, with a higher fire hazard in the woods.

Vancouver Island mountains haven't had the normal amount of snowfall this winter, and a series of warm weather systems dubbed the "pineapple expresses" have cut further into what little snowpack there is.

B.C. Hydro's Stephen Watson says the snowpack in the Campbell River watershed has hit a new low for this time of year.

"The snowpack that we measure is about 16 per cent of where it should be for this time of year," he says. "So that's the lowest it's been in 22 years of historical readings."

Coastal Fire Centre manager Phil Taudin-Chabot is also concerned. He says that without that moisture, there could be a hot dry summer in the woods.

"Certainly we're concerned with how fast the snowpack has diminished and how warm temperatures have become for this time of year," he says.

But Taudin-Chabot also notes that Island reservoirs are generally high at the moment, and water tables have refilled after last summer's drought-like conditions.

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Panel to Advise Testing Babies for 29 Diseases
Published: February 21, 2005

In influential federal advisory group plans to recommend in the next few weeks that all newborns be screened for 29 rare medical conditions, from the well known, like sickle cell anemia, to diseases so obscure that they are known to just a handful of medical specialists and a few dozen devastated families.

But while no one argues with the idea of saving babies, the proposed screening is generating fierce debate.

The dispute centers on how useful the test findings would be. Would going ahead with the full list of tests result in more good than harm, physically and emotionally? Or would it be better to forgo most of them?

Proponents say that the diseases are terrible and that an early diagnosis can be lifesaving. When testing is not done, parents often end up in a medical odyssey to find out what is wrong with their child. By the time the answer is in, it may be too late for treatment to do much good.

But opponents say that for all but about five or six of the conditions, it is not known whether the treatments help or how often a baby will test positive but never show signs of serious disease. There is a danger, they say, of children with mild versions of illnesses being treated needlessly and aggressively for more serious forms and suffering dire health consequences.

And both sides agree that the tests unintentionally pick up about 25 other conditions, in addition to the 29 that the screening is intended to find. These additional conditions show up as abnormalities, but no one knows what they mean. It is not known whether they are associated with a disease or, if so, what the effects will be.

The federal advisory group recommended informing the parents of such results. But that advice, too, is controversial. [...]

Comment: Knowing the hearts and minds of those representatives of the PTB in the medical community, one can only wonder if these recommendations are not so much about preventing disease but perhaps the establishment of a permanent DNA database of all newborn American children.

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'Loch Ness' eel frightens tourist
Wednesday, February 23, 2005. 8:58am (AEDT)

A monster eel, which is believed to have taken up residence at a Warburton trout farm, east of Melbourne, has reportedly been sighted this morning.

The eel, which is said to be at least three metres long with a head the size of a football, has been scaring fishermen at Tommy Finn's trout farm.

Farm manager Gary Wales says an Irish tourist got the fright of his life when he encountered the eel early this morning.

"Next thing he's banging on me bloody wall on the door of the house, banging, saying 'Gary, Gary I've seen it'. So I flew out of bed right, I said 'how big is it mate?' He said 'big as my bloody car'," he said.

The operators of a trout farm are offering a $1000 reward to anyone who catches what has been described as Melbourne's own Loch Ness monster.

It is believed the eel washed into the farm's ponds during this month's record breaking storms.

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